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Tips for better spindle turning

Even if you use the lathe only occasionally, you can quickly and easily learn to turn out shapely spindles -- anything turned between centers -- with these essential guidelines to lead you.

Things to know before turning on the lathe

Things to know before turning on the lathe

  • No matter how complex it might look, every turned spindle consists of four basic shapes, shown below -- bead, cove, vee, and straight -- used alone or in various combinations. In this article, you'll learn to make each shape individually; then you can begin blending them to create more complex profiles.
  • After roughing a blank round, define each shape's width with top and bottom limits (side-to-side when mounted on the lathe) by making pencil marks on the turned cylinder.
  • When shaping a profile, always work from the greater diameter to the smaller. So divide each shape in half, and cut each segment with a "downhill" motion to prevent catches and tear-out.
  • Regardless of the tool, you use one or more of four tool motions, shown right, for making shapes. Lifting the tool handle makes the tool cut deeper, reducing the spindle diameter; swinging the tool handle side-to-side creates curved profiles; rolling the tool in a circular motion optimizes the cutting edge to the task and fine-tunes shapes; and sliding the tool on the tool rest cuts shapes laterally.
  • And remember, practicing on scrap stock helps hone your skills, saves your good wood, and proves just as much fun as turning the final project.

Continued on page 2:  Starting from square one: Turning a pommel


Comments (2)
gguess2285978 wrote:

The swing on the spindle gouge appears to be in the wrong direction. Could you check on this?

11/20/2014 08:55:34 PM Report Abuse
huntnigo73 wrote:

Thanks for the refresher course !

7/19/2014 05:52:21 AM Report Abuse

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