There’s Never Enough Money

Welcome to this blog, centered on woodturning, but from the perspective of having little or no money.
It is all too common nowadays to see social media platforms awash with people pontificating about the biggest and best tools on the market, and how you are doing yourself an injustice by not selling your first-born to pay for what may be dipping your toe in a potential new hobby.
There is no need for bankruptcy to kit yourself out. It is very possible to get set up in this fascinating hobby with little or no money at all.


I began turning in early 2011. I had some exposure to lathe work at school. I am lucky enough to be that old, that we were actually taught technical subjects at school in fully kitted workshops.
I have wanted a lathe of my own since then, but only recently was able to realise this ambition.
I had nowhere to work, first and foremost. I managed to inherit a very old wooden garage, free of charge, back in 2010. It was in a frightful state of disrepair, with the frame well rotted and holes in the roof. Never one to be discouraged by hard work, I repaired it, made it wind and watertight, and started to use it as a workshop. I had no permanent power, and had to run an extension cable out when I was working. This cable has to pass over communal/public ground so cannot be left in-situ. This means unrolling, then re-rolling over 60m of flexible cable before I even switch on a light.
The roof full of holes
Outside view
Bottom corner
After one weekend

This old shed has since been replaced by a steel container, which was originally kitted out as a site canteen. Power is still provided via the same extension cable though.
I did have to spend a small amount of money to buy this container and have it transported to site. Even I can’t expect to have something like this FoC. I would recommend this way of working to anyone who needs a temporary structure due to planning etc. It is extremely secure, and should your circumstances change, it is reasonably easy to have it removed to another location.
2015-10-22 14.21.14
The container being picked up from the previous owners. As you can see, it is in need of a coat of paint. Structurally however, it is perfectly sound.

First Lathe and Tools

My first lathe was a Myford ML8. This lathe came to me via my local Freecycle network. Seriously. I posted a “wanted” ad and withing a few days a lovely lady contacted me offering this lathe which had belonged to her Father. It was the perfect lathe for my initial inept fumblings.
When I set it up in the shed, I had no turning tools, so started off practicing with some wood chisels I had in my toolkit.
I would caution! This is not a safe thing to do, and I would not recommend it. It did serve to whet my appetite however, and I immediately went on to Ebay and ordered a set of cheap turning tools.
Cheapo Tools
These were around £15GB and although they got me started, I would recommend steering well clear of these. The steel is extremely soft, and does not hold an edge very well. I managed to bend two of them, and snapped one. This was mainly due to my lack of experience, but the quality played a huge part also.
I don’t believe you need to spend huge amounts of money to get started in woodturning, but sometimes the cheapest option is a no-go area.

Danger Will Robinson!

Turning is an inherently dangerous procedure, and should be approached with extreme caution. The world is full of gung-ho idiots like me who throw themselves into things feet first with no thought of consequences. (I know a fellow who bought a hang-glider from Exchange & Mart and threw himself off a hillside with it {He lived to tell the tale})
If anyone reading this has a notion to start turning, but has a small budget, please pay attention to your personal safety. People have died doing this.
At the very least, invest in a full face safety visor, and a dust mask.
As a very wise man once said,
Norm Billboard

Stay With Me

Thank you for taking the time to read my mutterings and ravings thus far. Please look back occasionally, even if you don’t decide to follow this blog.

Tools & Machinery

Never underestimate the value of used tools and machinery if you are on a budget. This hobby attracts people from all walks of life, and often equipment becomes available from upgrades as people progress, or from estate sales.
Quite often partners of those who pass away have no idea of the worth of the equipment they are left with and decide to dispose of it all.
Last Summer I was lucky enough to be offered equipment from one such disposal. The widow asked a mutual friend if he would take all the equipment and tools to the tip. The mutual friend recognised many of the items and offered to sell the items on her behalf.
Can you imagine these going to land-fill?
This needed a drive belt because it had been unused for so long. I paid around a quarter of what it would be sold for new.
This came with a full set of accessories. I’ll be honest, had this not been as cheap as it was I would probably never have invested in something so extravagant.
Half of these still had the factory grind on them. I put an edge on them with the Tormek, and they’re like razors.
Again, only one had been used. The others were still in a brand-new condition.

It’s hard to believe these would have been sent to the tip if a third party had not recognised their worth.
Keep your eyes and ears open, and never forget Freecycle where “wanted” listings can return dividends.

My latest aquisition is a dust/chip extractor.
A turner on a Facebook group acquired an upgraded model and decided to part company with this one.
Again, the cost to me was less than ⅓ of what it would cost new – and it is in an as-new condition.
The bargains are out there to be had.

I should make it clear however:  When I first started turning, none of these would have been within my reach financially. I know what it is like to have no budget for tools and equipment.

Beauty from Waste

We recently had a wood burning stove installed, and naturally had to get some firewood to burn.
Some of it is simply too nice to go in a fire though.
Became this
Which became this
A gunmetal pen kit, which cost a few pounds is all that was required to turn something saved from the fire into a thing of beauty.

Became this
Which became this
This one is a Sharpie pen kit I was given by a customer at work.

Far too good to go in the fire in my opinion, but a triumph in frugality.

A Change of Venue

We recently moved home, and now have a garden, brick-built garage, and plenty space for a new workshop. I could have used the garage, and built a small shed for storage, but for the first time in my life I have the space to build what I want, rather than make do.

The whole cost of building a shed is frightening. Even preparing the site is costly. I have made the decision to build a steel structure, rather than a wooden one – to eliminate ongoing maintenance issues.
The original plan was to prepare a concrete base. This however proved to be unfeasible due to access. The compromise was to build a deck from pressure treated timber supported on brick footings. Coating the deck every so often is still better than having to continually treat a wooden structure.
The building itself is a 20’x10′ garage made from prefabricated sections. According to the instructions, it is “easily assembled by two or more people.” I would advise to err on the side of “more.”
The entire build from lawn to wind and watertight building took 4 days.
I built the deck myself in around a day and a half.
The shed was assembled by my Son and I over 2 days, then I took a few hours on my own to hang the doors.
From this

To this

The door has been extensively strengthened, and I added a couple of pad bolts for extra security.
There are 2 huge doors in the left hand gable, which have been screwed closed and will be paneled over inside.
My Son has christened the building “The Aircraft Hangar” because of the size.
It certainly looks massive when empty. As time goes on, the inside will be filled with cabinets and bench space so it will look much smaller.

From a frugality perspective, this wasn’t cheap. Between the deck, the building, and framing for the inside (which will be done in stages) I will be around £1500GB out of pocket. I expect this building to last >20 years so that can be broken down into around £75GB per year over 20 years. I was paying £60GB per year for the site my container sits on, so in real terms, the shed works out at an extra £15GB per year over 20 years.
I can swallow that for having permanent power and being able to use the shed any time I want.
The benches and cabinetry will be mainly recycled. All of my tools and machinery will be transported here and installed, so no additional costs there. I think I will have enough room to be able to set up both lathes too.

Padding out the shell

My original plan was to line the inside walls with dry-wipe marker boards. They are constantly being replaced at work, so I thought getting hold of them would be easy. Not so however. They are skipped by contractors, so we don’t have easy access to them.
Next plan was pin boards. These are insualting material, covered in foam backed fabric. Just the job.
Next step is box in the computer to keep it dust free.
After that, I can start to think about bringing in my cabinets and benches from the container.

Baby steps.