Turning the Corner

Recently, I blogged briefly about how I’d been approached by someone local to turn a replacement chair ‘strut’ to replace the broken one as shown in this photo. I honestly cannot remember the last time I used my lathe, prior to this small job so, I was a little concerned that I might be out of practice…

In truth though, I approached each stage with great care and it really didn’t take very long at all. I’m not even close to the speed of a professional woodturner and, I’m sure there are some stages to which a more seasoned ‘turner may have approached things in a different manner. I got the job done, it’s a pretty close resemblance to the original and the cusomter is very pleased…

In fact, he’s so pleased, he’s e-mailed me tonight to ask if I can make another to replace the other one that he’s just broken! 😉

As you may expect, I began by ripping a slice of 2in square beech from one of my offcuts, which happened to be a very convenient length with the minimal of waste on the end. Usually, I’d knock the corners off the square blank before mounting it on the lathe but, I’m trying not to use my table saw, as it’ll soon be leaving the workshop for good. There are other methods, of course, which I hope to explore in time… I may even make a dedicated 45° jig for my bandsaw, as I hate tilting the table for such obtuse angles.

Once I got it ’round’ and roughed it down to the near-identical diameter (give or take a little extra for sanding), I could offer the original/sample piece up for marking out.

I’ll admit that my control with the roughing gouge probably needs some more work. I’m sure I’ve seen skilled woodturners achieve a rather excellent finish with this tool… Mine was nice and sharp, thanks to the WorkSharp 3000 but, I had to resort to using abrasive paper and a cork block to get the finish I was hoping for.

With a nice, surprisingly even round, cylindrical shape formed, I decided I would next try to taper the ends down to the tenon shoulders. This was again done using my roughing gouge. Is there another tool I could have used?

I didn’t want to turn the tiny tenons down right away as I feared it could ‘weaken’ the structure too much, leading to vibration and the ever-present risk of the blank snapping while the motor is running! Still, I had to form most of the tenons initially so that I could get the gouge in close enough (more sanding did follow!).

Whenever I’ve seen someone turning a tenon or similar on a video or first-hand demonstration, many of them tend to use a configuration identical to what you see above; turning with a parting tool in one hand (3/8in), while measuring the diameter with a pair of callipers in the other hand. My callipers are only cheap ones and the vibrations upon contacting the spinning blank do alter the setting so, a lot of patience is required with regular checks made to the sample piece.

The final job to do on the lathe (before finish sanding) was to create the V-groove detail near to each end. This detailing separates the the flat part of the strut from the taper at each end and I made these cuts with a sharp skew chisel. In the past, I have tried using a parting tool but, even when it’s sharp, it only tends to burn, more than it actually cuts.

In a previous post, I did state that it might be better to drill these two holes first, before turning that square sawn blank in to a round spindle. As I was preparing the timber, I realised that, if I didn’t mount the blank between centres perfectly or, if my turning was off then, the holes may end up in the wrong positions. Maybe I was thinking about it too much… I’m not sure how I would’ve cut any temporary plugs to fill those holes while turning either. To get the right approximate angle, I placed a block under one end and gripped the blank firmly against the fence, using only hand-pressure (yes, I could and perhaps should’ve used a clamp).

There was one minor mishap towards the end of my time on the lathe. The shape was looking good and I was almost ready for sanding but, as I released the tool rest to readjust it for a final trimming cut, the rest rotated and its end left a large gouge in one of the tapered ends!! 😡 I wished I’d photographed it.

Despite that, I was able to produce a an acceptable replacement and there may be more to come. Not only do I have another part to repair but, I’ve got an inkling to do some more spindle work… I’d quite like to make a round-headed carving-style mallet, for one thing…

Thanks for reading.

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