Woodturning Books

Instructional books on practical activities like woodturning can be a bit tricky. In my experience it’s difficult to get a balance between providing useful information and disappearing down rabbit holes discussing the minutiae of things like bevel angles. The books below are the ones that I’ve repeatedly found to be useful both as a reference and as for inspiration for projects. However note that none of them would be suitable for learning from scratch, there’s no substitute for personal, hand-on tuition in that situation.

There are of course any number of instructional videos out there, some in the form of DVDs from professional turners and some by enthusiastic amateurs, usually on YouTube. I have some VHS videos from professional turners and generally they’re OK but not always inspiring. I would suggest caution when looking at YouTube, there are a number of well known channels all confidently presenting what I think are rather dodgy lathe techniques. However one channel that I can recommend in Frank Howarth. He does a lot of amazing things and his lathe technique looks pretty good to me.

Click on the images below to take you to the Amazon page for the book. Note that some of the books now come with DVDs which I don’t have so can’t comment on their usefulness.

Reg Sherwin

Reg Sherwin is a well known and well respected figure in woodturning circles. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him demonstrate a few times and been on a half day course with him. He’s written a few books and this one is a bit old now ( published 1988 ) but still relevant as it contains a wealth of information about all aspects of woodturning, not just tool techniques, and there are plenty of useful pictures and diagrams. Reg has also written a number of articles for woodturning magazines over the years, many of them discussing techniques in more detail. They’re mainly aimed at beginners but in reality they’re a useful reminder for everybody and it’s worth hunting these out.

I think that this book is now out of print but should be available online if you hunt for it

Mark Baker

Mark Baker is the editor of the Woodturning magazine and is a popular demonstrator in the UK and internationally. He’s written a number of books but this one is my favourite. Although it has some instructional content it’s more about ideas and inspirations. The projects cover bowl type work rather than spindle turning but there are about 50 different ideas described plus a number of variants on each one. I like the way that there’s just enough information to allow you to understand how to make each project but doesn’t descend into too much unnecessary detail. The complexity of the projects range from beginner through to expert and there’s something for everybody.

Keith Rowley

This is a similar book to Reg Sherwin’s but is not quite as wide in scope and covers the use of each type of woodturning tool in a little more detail. What I like about this book is that Keith explains and discusses the reasons behind the techniques so you can hopefully understand a bit better why things go wrong. Again there are plenty of pictures and diagrams which really add to the explanation. Throughout the book there are a few projects, aimed at all skill levels, to reinforce the information presented in that chapter.

Richard Raffan

This book is similar in approach to Mark Baker’s. It’s presented around a series of projects with both faceplate and spindle turning. There are fewer, slightly simpler projects but more instructional detail. Yet again there are numerous helpful pictures and diagrams. I’ve used this book mainly for inspiration for projects and shapes but also for suggestions on working processes and how to safely hold work in the lathe.


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Wind Farm Timelapse

Earlier on this year I spent several days trying to get some timelapse footage of wind turbines. I figured that by having a long exposure for each frame then the blur effect of the sped up blades could be quite effective.

I had some problems with capturing the footage because the wind that was necessary to spin the turbines also caused the tripod to wobble no matter how much I weighed it down. I had some success with using a Gorillapod tripod, either with the legs spread out on a handy rock or, as on the left, strapped round a sturdy post.

I eventually despaired of getting shake-free footage which is why I went down the route of investigating methods of stabilising the movie in software. This was well worth doing and enabled me to recover and use footage that would otherwise have been useless.

I decided to take this movie a little bit further when I edited the clips together and included titles and music. This is the end result and below are some of the problems and issues that I found.

Video Editors

FOSS on Linux does many things very well but video editing is not one of them unfortunately. However for this exercise I tried the latest version ( 2.4.1 ) of the OpenShot video editor and I was very pleasantly surprised. The UI is much improved over version 1, most operations were intuitive and I hardly had to resort to reading the manual at all. And, most importantly, it didn’t crash πŸ™‚ There were a couple of times when it seemed to lock up and I was too impatient to see if it would eventually recover so I shutdown the program. However I didn’t lose any data at any point which is a major step forward from other Linux video editors πŸ™‚

I used the simple UI setting with three panes – one for importing the movie clips etc, a preview pane and a timeline pane for arranging the clips. The features that I used were:

  • Import timelapse clips
  • Split those clips into shorter segments
  • Create start and end titles
  • Import the music
  • Arrange the various clips on a timeline and add some transitions
  • Export in the final format ( 720p )

Two small things that I had problems with were:

  • There is an option to display the waveform for the music but it’s too coarse a display for being able to sync the video to the music. More on this below.
  • Creating custom titles involves using an SVG editor ( Inkscape being the default ) which is not for the faint hearted so I stuck with the built-in options which were acceptable. I understand why it’s not sensible to rewrite an SVG editor in OpenShot but there may be a better way of creating custom titles.

Movie Composition

One can do degree courses on movie composition and there are numerous web pages giving advice ( good and bad ) on creating time lapses. One blog post that I found useful was – “21 time-lapse most common mistakes you should avoid“. It’s a bit opinionated at times but I think gives sound advice on a wider variety of topics than the usual regurgitated stuff.

In summary, things that worked OK:

  • Don’t film from just one point of view for the whole movie – I had 6 different views, but see below as well
  • Don’t film during the day without ND filters – adding ND filters allows you to blur movement otherwise everything becomes a little jerky.
  • Use manual settings on the camera not automatic – I also switched off the vibration reduction on the lens
  • Avoid flickering – even with everything on manual you can still get some differences in lighting. I use Perl script with Imagemagick to deflicker.
  • Use a stable tripod – or do some post-shooting stabilisation πŸ™‚

Thing that didn’t work so well:

  • Don’t make sequences with the same POV that last more than 5 secs – my original sequences were between 15s and 20s. Although I could easily convert these into several different, shorter clips it did tend to make the final movie a bit repetitive.

Adding Music

Adding music to a timelapse can greatly enhance the final experience but can also make it worse if the composition is not suitable or badly edited or not synchronised with the video. There are three possibilities for sourcing music:

  1. Compose it yourself
  2. Use a Creative Commons licenced music for free
  3. Buy commercially licenced music

As this was just a test project then option 3 was out and my composing skills are extremely limited so I went in search for something freely available. Google is your friend here but I found a couple of possible sources, ( other sites are inevitably available ):

  1. https://www.bensound.com/ – has some Creative Commons and commercial music. There’s a small but high quality selection which is easily browsable. However unfortunately all were a little long for my needs.
  2. http://freemusicarchive.org/ – has a much larger selection but is somewhat overwhelming. However you can search by duration and by sheer chance I came across Lee Rosevere who has a large list of suitable music.

Whichever you choose please check the licence carefully. It can be complicated.

One problem that I had was synching the film clip transitions to the music. The effect of music is certainly enhanced if the changes in scene happen on the first beat of the bar rather than at random times. ( See these rather fine examples from Joe Capra which demonstrate much better than my explanations ). The transitions don’t have to be every bar, for example in my movie they’re every second bar which equates to about 4.5s apart.

Even though OpenShot can display the music waveform it’s not sufficiently detailed to identify the beat. After some fiddling around I generated a separate “bleep” track which I could temporarily import in OpenShot to help me synch the clips. The basic process was:

  1. Open the music in an audio editor – Audacity is a very good cross-platform FOSS editor.
  2. Add an extra track of the same length as the music and fill it with silence ( Generate -> Silence … in Audacity )
  3. Play back the music and identify the start of the bars to be used for transition.
  4. At these points insert a short “bleep” tone into the extra track ( Generate -> Tone … in Audacity ) I used 0.5s of 440Hz with the start of the tone being the transition point.
  5. When all the points are identified then remove the original music track and export just the “bleep” track.
  6. When the “bleeps” are imported into OpenShot then the transition points become much clearer.

It’s a bit time consuming to set up the bleep track but it makes for easy editing once it’s done. Don’t forget to delete the bleeps before exporting the video πŸ™‚



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