Wood turning is done on a lathe. In theatre this technique is used to make various prop and scenic items such as banisters, newels, as well as chair and sofa legs.

The best candidates for turning are usually hardwoods such as walnut, oak, mahogany, and cherry woods. The reason is their dense structure. They are carefully selected. Knot-free, tight-grained pine or fir are also often used, because they tend to be cheaper. To turn wood securely you must mount it in the lathe, and as the lathe spins the stock, carve it using special chisels called turning tools.

If the speed of the wood lathe is slowed and sandpaper is used rather than cutting tools, foam can be turned on the wood lathe. Foam can also be shaped with hot wire foam cutters. Urethane foam should not be turned, however, because of the toxic gas it emits when heated. Styrofoam sheets usually have to be laminated to provide stock of sufficient thickness for turning. Since Styrofoam is not very dense, pieces of one-quarter-inch plywood of the same size as the ends of the work will need to be securely glued to the ends of it so that the lathe’s spindle chucks (the device used to hold wood in a lathe) will have something to bite into and hold the work in the lathe. If the foam turnings are to be very narrow, a wooden armature may need to be sandwiched into the foam laminate to provide sufficient strength for turning. This wooden armature has to be absolutely straight.

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