Windsor chair spindles - best way to make?


Can anyone provide a better work method for producing Windsor chair spindles besides spokeshaving? A typical spindle would be about 9/16 inch diameter at the butt end tapering to 5/16 at the top end and 24 inches long.. Hickory or white oak. Too thin for turning in the lathe. Regards, Dave
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David Anderson wrote:

HI David,
I'll be surprised if there's a better way than w/ a spokeshave. What exactly is it that you don't like about the spokeshave?
The reason a lathe is an inappropriate tool (and the spokeshave is appropriate) is not that the spindle is too thin; it's that the spindle must be strong, which it cannot be if you start cutting across the grain, as per turning. Spindle stock must be riven, not (rip) cut, then shaved, not turned, for optimum strength. Maintaining the grain is what keeps the strength.
Sorry to bear the news you didn't want to hear, but that's how I see it anyway... H
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I don't see this - or at least only half of it. You need straight-grained stock for strength, but once you have it, then it doesn't matter whether you turn or shave it. Riving doesn't make straighter grained stock than sawing either, although it does show you the stock that's straight grained and will effectively filter out your fragile spindles before you turn them, rather than after.
I'm not a good turner, so I usually get my spindles made by a guy across town. When I do make them though, the trick seems to be the turning technique - use the skew and a real paring cut, not by scraping. Both remove timber, but it's scraping that puts the force into the timber and causes bowing and vibration.
I'd never wear a glove near a rotating shaft or lathe. Instead use a sailmaker's palm or similar - the leather wear pad of a glove palm, but without wrapping around your fingers and possibly trapping them, if the glove gets tangled in the work.
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Andy Dingley wrote:

You're right, although in this case the spindle is small enough that it could do no harm. It will break, or the spur center will spin, before anything serious happens. I wouldn't get it near the center, though.
John Martin
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You can use a rounding plane (stail engine) and a trapping plane to add shape the spindles.
Try http://www.ashemcrafts.com /.
Alternatively, you can make traditional wooden versions from which Fred Lambert's cast versions were derived.
My chair on my web site - Projects - Plans of a Chair of the High Wycombe School (foot of the page) was made entirely with wooden rounders and my own version of the trapping plane.
Unless you have a willing helper to turn the wood by hand (see the hand crank/twizzler) a powered turning head is essential for use with the trapping plane.
Jeff G
--
Jeff Gorman, West Yorkshire, UK
email : Username is amgron
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David, Actually, they can be turned on a lathe. You need a steady rest, which is a set of soft wheels that are set in the center of the spindle to prevent the 'whip' action of a thin spindle. If you don't have a steady rest, you can use your hand, but this is requires some experience; if your holding hand is getting hot, you are using too much pressure. You can also do it like Norm; start with a dowel and use a wood rasp and slower speeds. robo hippy
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Robo: Thanks for your comments. I do have a steady rest consisting of three pre-lubricated ball bearings (two fixed in a V-formation, and the third bearing adjustable according to diameter) - interesting that you mentioned "soft" wheels. Can you describe "soft" wheels in more detail? Also, I have found a fairly successful method by using a leather glove on one hand as a moving steady rest, with the other hand holding a VERY sharp gouge, moving them together from left-to-right as the diameter decreases. High rpm's and a light touch work best. I begin with 3/4x3/4 inch square stock with all four edges rounded to 3/8 inch radius on the over-arm router - a quick job to prepare for turning. Dave

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David, Well since I never use a steady rest, I have always been under the assumption that there are harder and softer wheels, depending on the type used. I don't know if that comment was appropriate or not. I had a show last weekend, and another one this weekend, so I am somewhat fried. When turning thin spindles, start at the tailstock end, and work back to the headstock. Try to turn it to finish thickness in small sections. It is harder to go back for one long pass. Also, there is less whip if the headstock end is in a chuck rather than on a star drive. Some guys say never use gloves. I don't, just because I want to feel the work. As far as the leather goes, I asked a blacksmith why he used a cotton apron instead of a leather one. He said something along the lines of it takes the leather longer to get hot, and longer to cool down. By the time you feel the heat, it can already be on fire. robo hippy
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David, Actually, they can be turned on a lathe. You need a steady rest, which is a set of soft wheels that are set in the center of the spindle to prevent the 'whip' action of a thin spindle. If you don't have a steady rest, you can use your hand, but this is requires some experience; if your holding hand is getting hot, you are using too much pressure. You can also do it like Norm; start with a dowel and use a wood rasp and slower speeds. robo hippy
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