lathes and table legs



There are two sorts of imbalance: bananas and wedges.
Bananas are logs that are basically circular, but curved. They can be seriously out of balance, and they're unpredictable. It takes a very practiced eye to see just what's obtainable from inside such a log, so the easiest way is often to mount it up in the lathe and take a quick skim. Very often you'll re-adjust the centre position, as you see how your best cylinder actually fits inside it. For sawing it lengthways to remove the lumps, the lathe is actually a better tool - especially as it's pretty much self-guiding for where to cut. If you do cut, it's usually to chop the length. Two shorter logs, of equal curvature radius, give a more useful middle.
Wedges are made by splitting a big log into quarters. This also avoids the central pith, which is often a good idea for stability. Historically such a billet would then be held in a shave horse and shaved round with a drawknife (traditional work for a bodger) before being turned in a semi-rotary pole lathe. As a drawknife along the grain removes wood with less effort than a pole lathe and gouge across the grain, that's worth the effort. With a motorised lathe, I can just be lazy. The off-balance from a wedge billet is generally small and predictable, so it's no big deal.
Then there are rough bowl blanks. The size of the biggest bowl you can turn is generally limited by your fear level when first roughing it. This is why smaller, but massively constructed, cast iron lathes of the '50s & '60s like Unions and Graduates are still so popular, especially for bowls.

It has two good features: a solid cast iron bed, also the variable speed drive. These are well worth the increment from 100 to 200. You also get a floor stand, which you'd have to provide somehow anyway.
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On Thu, 7 Jan 2010 15:53:06 -0800 (PST), Andy Dingley
Thanks for all the advice. I'm waiting for the books that were recommended earlier in the thread to arrive from Amazon.
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They do what they're designed to do. - Which for woodturning, isn't enough to be useful.
The CWL1000 is admittedly usefully long, but it's horribly crude and has almost no rigidity. It's OK for turning things that are already cylindrical, but I wouldn't like to start up an out-of-balance blank on it, let alone bowl turning.

Machine Mart are about 50 quid _more_ than Axminster. Compare the CWL20RV and the AWVSL900
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On Thu, 31 Dec 2009 15:49:10 -0800 (PST), Andy Dingley

Sorry, I've just hit send on another question asking how good they are before reading your reply.
So you think they are only designed to work on preformed cylinders then?
Is it just Clarke's lathes that you don't like or are all their tools just as bad?

Ill certainly check out the axminster ones. Thanks.
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Clarke's little yellow metalworking lathe is OK, but oddly their other lathes do seem poor. I'm also unimpressed by their corded power tools - it's a competitive market and their offerings aren't too good.
Otherwise I have a _lot_ of Clarke kit (mostly hydraulic) and don't manage to break much of it.
As to the woodturning lathe, then I don't see a 100 lathe as being such a good deal as a 200 lathe, when you can easily spend 100 on tooling, then 100 on a scroll chuck (as a "typical" starting point for a middle class hobbyist).
You don't need a 400+ wood lathe to start on, but you do need more than that 100 Clarke, unless you're never planning to turn much more than a candlestick.
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The hardest part is making four legs with the same pattern.
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On Tue, 29 Dec 2009 10:05:28 -0000, "Malcolm"
Yes, I was thinking that! How do you do that: experience or a jig of some sort?
Thanks for all the replies. I don't remember seeing anything about lathes here before but I could be wrong.
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One option not yet mentioned is to go the other way and use something like a pole lathe. Startup cost a few quid. There are many other minimal cost lathe designs too, that are good enough for a fair few jobs.
NT
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Sawn tapered legs (tablesaw and jig) are easier than turning.
Remember a lathe is for life, not just for coffee tables! For a long time I deliberately didn't own one, I just borrowed as needed, because once you have a lathe you're a woodturner and then you start turning stuff for the sake of it, not just to keep your tables off the ground. It's a slippery slope...
It's not trivial to learn turning. You need to _learn_ (book or demonstration) because some of the key rules and principles are far from obvious. For this reason a local turning club can be a very good idea. Then of course it's just a matter of cheap timber and practice.
A key part of turning is having a source of nice, free hardwood. There's no point in recycling pallets, the wood is too nasty. You need a lot of practice timber, so don't even think about using "turning blanks" until you're getting reasonable - they're too expensive to practice on. So instead you're hunting for prunings and fellings. So far this Christmas I've been given a sackful of ivy and a holly tree in kit-form. Bits of these will go back as the odd bowl or treen wine bottle stopper, and I'll hopefully get more from the same sources again. This also means you need access to saws, axes, rain-free storage racking and a bottle of wax emulsion for painting the ends. A woodburner is handy too, as you make a _lot_ of waste. You won't believe how much you cut off a log, but if it's all going on the fire, then who cares.
I turn much of this stuff roughly while it's green (i.e. to 1/2" walled rough bowls), wax it all over, leave it for a year and then finish turn them next year. In the meantime they shrink, go oval (that's why I leave the walls thick) and a couple split.
Main project for Christmas was a low table for a tiny nephew to draw at. The top was a frame of recycled pallet wood with a lot of round- over routering, but the legs needed inspiration. So one of the simplest "nice" turned legs is an 18th century pad-foot - the foot is circular, but the main leg is turned off-centre (easy). Fine Woodworking's web site has clear instructions on how to make one, and if you Google for it there's even a readable preview of the PDF if you haven't joined the site.
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Books:
Keith Rowley <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> and Richard Raffan <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> are two good authors for starters.
Some other books are OK, if you already have them - Tage Frid's excellent cabinetry book <(Amazon.com product link shortened)> tells you much of the spindle turning you'll need to make furniture, but not how to make bowls.
Otherwise go easy on books. Get these and read them (which means doing some turning too) before you buy any David Springett!
The spindle turning / bowl turning distinction is important. Spindles have their grain longways, parallel to the lathe bed, which makes their turning easy and their strength good for furniture. "Bowls" are _any_ shape, where the grain is crossways. This means that turning them is continually "uphill and downhill" with the grain, so technique changes. You also end up making bowls (and other stuff), but rarely furniture. Many turners turn one or the other, as the techniques, tooling and even the lathes can become so different.
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Tools:
As always, start out with some catalogues and a couple of magazines. Axminster & Record Power for starters.
Lathes need to be woodturning lathes, or else very heavily modified metalworking lathes (not worth the trouble).
You can't do woodturning on an engineer's lathe. You can "turn wood" on one, but it's different (and not much use).
Lathes are expensive, so again it's a good incentive to try them out on the club circuit. Mini lathes are of little use, except for making the sort of tiny treen that's its own reward, but no use as a table leg. Are you making tables, or occupying yourself turning fruit and mathoms? Table legs do often require a lathe that's longer than most.
Some of the better lathe deals around are Axminster's own-brand with the cast-iron beds. The AWVSLS900 (just over 200 quid) <http://www.axminster.co.uk/product-Axminster-AWVSL900-Woodturning - Lathe-780608.htm> or (better) the long-bed version with bundled chuck package deal <http://www.axminster.co.uk/product-Axminster-AWVSL1000-Woodturning - Lathe--PACKAGE-DEAL-807069.htm>
These are nice because they're good headstocks, on good beds and they use sensible headstock threads. There are 3 sizes of headstock thread: 3/4", 1" and 1 1/4" - if you use one of these (ie not 20mm) and ideally 1" or above, you can afford to buy expensive chucks for your first lathe, knowing you can use them after upgrading in the future. They also have variable speed, which is a really nice feature for woodturning.
They're cheap lathes, and the headstock to bed attachment is less rigid that you'd like for turning big bowls. Also the stands are tinny, but easily replaceable.
You might start out turning between centres (but get a 2-prong rather than a 4-prong) or on a faceplate for bowls. A small faceplate is handy (and cheap) too and gives more clearance around bowls. Pretty soon though, you'll want a 4 jaw chuck, which is 100+ Get a well known one, with different jaws available, that will still be available in a few years time when you want the extras. 4 jaws are often quicker and simpler to work with than centres, especially for squared timber in furniture making. Prong centres or pin chucks for turning green prunings.
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Or look up "pole lathe".
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On 29 Dec, 11:34, % snipped-for-privacy@malloc.co.uk (Steve Firth) wrote:

That's a good point.
Pole lathes are great fun, and if you get the chance, have a go on one - ideally for a green chairmaking course with someone like Gudrun Leitz.
A pole lathe is a back and forth lathe (rather than a "turns") that uses a bendy sapling and a rope, driven by a foot pedal. You provide the rest.
If you have a motor, then crap technique will scrape you there in the end. If you have to pedal it yourself, then it's a good incentive to learning carving technique straight off. You'll be a much better turner after a day on a pole lathe.
As a way of getting work done, bugger that.
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Well, you can make a bungee pole lathe which is slightly easier than working as a bodger in a copse. And as for getting work done, every spindle in my home was made on a pole lathe and there are lots of them.
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Tools:
Go easy on tools. They cost, and you don't need many.
The basic set is just a handful (4?), but you duplicate them in different sizes, according to the work, and also for bowl vs. spindle work. Then there's any number of bobbin furtlers and other gimmicks. Avoid those.
Start with the Axminster set <http://www.axminster.co.uk/product-Perform-HSS-Turning-Tools - Set-21761.htm> 60 quid for a sensible set of useful tools, in good metal, with good handles, and at a great price.
Then buy another of the big gouges and the scraper...
Your lathe tools should be solid HSS, as they do wear and HSS reduces your sharpening time. You'll need a grinder. One with the 10 inch geared wet wheel is now very cheap. Tormeks are lovely, but what a price! Woodturning grinding is _not_ the precision art that plane or chisel sharpening is.
For spindle turning you need a big gouge with a fingernail grind on it, not a bowl grind. So get the big Axminster bowl gouge and reshape it (angle grinder) before sharpening it to a fingernail shape (it's all in the Raffan book).
Also convert the supplied round scraper to a square scraper (cheaper than a square scraper of equivalent quality). You might even (if you have a chuck and are doing bowls) grind up another as a dovetail scraper.
Then you need some other tools: a toolrack (plywood with holes in) and a good worklight. I like to work with a 150W halogen on a stand (cheap Screwfix) over my shoulder. It's also a good place to hang my toolrack - the base is fixed rigid and made heavier too. The rack needs 6 or 8 holes, so that every tool for a job is there and in its own hole - saves hunting. Worklights are important - you need to put the light just where you need it, often swapping side to side.
Raffan and Frid will then explain the virtues of a carving cut rather than scraping, and the arcane art of "rubbing the bevel".
Sanding needs a bunch of decent paper. Cheap Hiomant rolls in a range of grits (I start 80, then go to 240) or Hermes J-flex (lovely stuff) for posh. Only use small pieces of sandpaper, in case of wrapping accident!
Finishes (IMHE) are mostly shellac (in tiny plastic drip bottles) or commercial friction polish, polished with wood shavings. Oil on figured timbers first, or waxes afterwards too.
Safety gear is a faceshield (check you can breathe easily without steaming up) and most importantly a turner's smock (easy home made). Short sleeves, no fastenings to catch, smooth fabric and high collar. I don't wear dust protection, because I don't make dust. When I do (scraping, tropicals, sanding) then I do.
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A couple of comments on Andy's excellent postings on wood turning.
I think he plays down a bit the problem of dust generation - dry wood produces a large amount of dust, particularly when sanding, much of it down in the particle sizes (<10u) that will get into the lungs and stay there! This dust is too fine to be seen. To protect your health, effort and money does have to be put into dust extraction and air cleaning. Bear in mind that you can't see the dust and it will remain in the air long after the cutting has stopped.
I think it's Andy that recommends the US site 'Fine Woodworking' - this is not one I know (my regular is www.ukworkshop.co.uk where there is a lot on all aspects of wood work) - I wasn't too enamoured when I clicked on one of the video clip to see the presenter using a table saw without any guards and even flicking off cuts away from the running blade with his fingers. Obviously the Americans have developed the ability to regrow their appendages !!
Rob
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Thanks

Dust is certainly a hazard, but making a lot of it is too often an indication of poor turning technique. How much dust do you think Steve Firth was making, pedalling out an entire house on a pole lathe? 8-)
The trick is to use slicing cuts, not scrape. If you're turning green wood by this means, you'll reduce your dust exposure far more than wearing a mask.
Now sanding is admittedly a dust source, so in that case, yes mask up. For the particularly irritating timbers (tropicals, triffid) then I tend to simply avoid them altogether. My biggest dust source is probably when turning large bowls in MDF (stacked rings) and for that I use vacuum extract.

That seems to be a US thing whenever they see a video camera. New Yankee Workshop is infamous for removing guards for clarity, but then hiding half the screen under a message "Don't remove guards" instead. Personally I'm less worried about unguarded blades than I am about the US lack of riving knives or splitters.
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On 30 Dec, 11:22, Andy Dingley wrote:
Could all these postings be turned into a Wiki article? With some nice pictures?
Owain
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Andy Dingley wrote:

What exactly is the difference between a riving knife and a splitter?
--
Ian White

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Ian White wrote:

Primarily the North Atlantic Ocean AIUI.
Bob
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