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Spindle Turning Techniques

Brian Simmons demonstrates a few spindle turning techniques.

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Spindles often have square sections and round sections the transition between these two is called a pommel. When you're turning a spindle with a pommel you wanna begin with turning the pommel. Start with a square blank and begin by marking the length of the pommel. I like to do that with a saddle square. And mark all four sides of the blank. Now when the piece rotates, you can see your lines. With the pommel marked, we can begin by rolling a small bead between the two lines. It's best to start with a large skew. Using a long point, or the "toe", start with the skew tilted slightly to the left... handle low.... And then raise the handle while rolling slightly, well into your waste material. After you've made the first cut, proceed to the left making successive cuts, deeper and closer to your pencil lines. As you approach your pencil lines stop and check your progress. You want the pommel to begin on the corner of the blank at your first pencil line, and become round at the second pencil line. Once this is complete you can round the rest of the blank. You wanna accomplish this first; in case you make a mistake, you can always flip the blank over and use the other end. Or if both ends happen to be square you'll have to go to plan B, change the shape, or start with another piece. With the pommel completed, you can rough down the rest the blank into a cylinder. Use a spindle-roughing gouge and work from the pommel towards the tail stock. You can check your progress on the backside of the piece feeling if it's round. As you begin working closer to the pommel, turn your roughing gouge on its side, and utilize the corner of the tool to work closely to the pommel without touching the corners. Because of the uniform shape of the spindle-roughing gouge, and its square grind on the end, you can work in any direction with the tool turned... rolled... in any direction. So even though the tool is rolled to the left, I can still cut to the right. And I can flip the tool over and still work to the right. And as you approach the pommel, oftentimes I begin cutting right to left, again utilizing the corner to work right up to the pommel I cut, without touching. And with that you've got a cylinder: turned on this end, cleanly cut pommel with no tear-out. At each transition on a spindle there's a critical dimension or the diameter at that point. When making multiple spindles it's a good idea to make a story stick to mark the lines, then use calipers to set the diameter at each one of those points. I've made a story stick for the table leg that we're making today. Simply a scrap block of wood. Cut a notch on the end so it hooks over the end. This ensures that I get an accurate measurement off the end of the blank every time. Then I'll use my pencil at these notches I made on the band saw for each of my lines. With the piece rotating, simply hold the piece up, hook it on the end... and that ensures that the lines of the same on every piece. Then at each one of these points, there's a dimension or diameter. I find it best to use vernier calipers to set those diameters. You can use the old fashioned spring type calipers. I typically find those a little unreliable because the dimension can change a little bit over time and you may not notice that. Plus you need a ruler around to set their dimension. With a pair of vernier calipers, the scale's built right in and I can easily see if it's changed over time. I'll begin with a parting tool my first point.... simply raising the handle. I also like to write those dimensions on my story sticks so I can remember what they are. Work slowly and check your progress as you go. Perfect. Now repeat that for the diameters at each of the other points. And with that I've got the diameter at each point. With the dimensions set at each point, I'll make some V cuts both to remove waste around the bead and for some actual V shapes that are in the finished piece. This middle section here is a bead... I'll mark a centerline. Here I have the skew tipped just slightly to the left... simply raising the handle... produces a straight line, a V down to the bottom. Tip it to the right to cut the right side. Tip it to the left to cut the left. Make sure that you don't roll the tool any. Rolling produces a curve. Simply raising the handle will give you a straight line. To produce that bead, I'll start at the top of the bead, the flute of the spindle detail gouge flat. Then I will roll while raising the handle to create a curve... each successive cut getting closer to my pencil line. Rolling and raising, which just removes the corner. Same thing on the opposite side but rolling in the opposite direction. Now I'll produce a cove—this middle section of waste. At a large waste section I'll use either a parting tool or a roughing gouge, just to remove the excess quickly. And then producing the cove similar to the bead, but the motion is backwards. I start with the flute vertical... and I'm rolling to horizontal, still lifting the handle to change diameters. Anytime a spindle decreases diameter, the tool handle needs to be raised. You make a cove like scooping sand: You scoop down to the bottom and stop... down to the bottom and stop. Working in this manner ensures that you have no torn grain. It just takes a little practice to make the two meet in the middle. And if necessary I may come back with a skew and clean up the Vs using the same technique as before: Placing the bevel parallel to the cut I want to make, and then raising the handle, cutting with the tip of the tool down to the bottom of the V. This particular spindle has a small fillet here on this end, which I'll use a parting tool... again just removing some of that waste, then going back to skew finishing that pommel, all the way down to the bottom of that fillet. In keeping with the curve of the pommel, not only am I raising the handle of the tool, but I'm rolling just slightly. Now we've created a bead, a cove, a V on each side, and a small flat section (or fillet) joined to the pommel. Now there's just a round-over--that's half of a bead--and the taper of the leg. Since the shape of this piece is... That line that I parted to you is my largest diameter, and this is my largest diameter down here. I'm gonna use the roughing gouge to remove some of the waste. And to ensure that I don't lose. That line at a party to use the pencil. To make a line. That I can kind of smooth cylinder on this in right down to the pencil line. Then again -- said if you cut away pencil line just a little bit. Read -- can. Now back to that round over half of the -- From the pencil line to the bottom of the V. I use the spindle detailed gallons. Star with a -- horizontal. At the top of the -- -- if we go. And race in the handle. Around over the corner. You know work back to my pencil line. Now back to this then erupting gallons to remove a lot of material. For the -- the leg. This -- has a small cove down here on this and a half from a code. So all start well in the -- waste material. -- vertical. Rolling until X -- Arnold. And even though I'm not concerned about the waste material. At this point are still treat it like a normal -- We're both sides. And then back to this than the -- can -- Removes more of that waste. Since the diameter changes -- gets smaller re wanna work down hill from large diameter of the small. And just like working with the pummel. -- -- Roll tool for the right. That I can use the corner for work very closely to that code. So at the -- for almost complete. It's good idea idea to check your progress for the street edge to find out this surely is tapered straight liner it has curve. I just use ruler. And I can easily tell that it rocks back and forth. I could see light between several places it's not very straight has quite an -- to it and I want this one nice and straight. So I use my ruler. As a gauge to make sure that's completely flat. Just removing from the high spots. You're making long -- like this. You wanna make the motion with your body. Shifting your weight on your feet. Keeping the tool up against your side. That'll help keep the motion straighter. More even. Looks real good. With a spinal completely turned it's time to say and it -- you tips about sandy one. First remove the tourist safety first. Then I prefer using paperbacks. Sandpaper instead of claw. Cloth since her role over the details and you'll lose these crisp edges you worked so hard to create. With the paper folders and. Then I can easily hold the paper. Tight between my fingers. -- down into those tight details. Still roll over the curbs. Without any loss in detail. It's also a good idea to do all the -- details first for your paper still fresh. As a nice -- You can stick down in those -- areas. Once you've done all details. Thing you can folding curb your paper. Sit down into coves and you broad sections. -- can sand underneath you feel like. Or over the top. So when you're seeing -- across the grain. Oftentimes you get these course lines. -- just the -- of the paper going across the green it it's no different than taking a board insane against the grain. So to prevent that just stop the -- just saying those areas by hand. And working with a grain it. And lots -- are ready for finish. Upon polls you'll wanna stand by hand trying to -- and while the ladies rotating. Is dangerous with the corners. Plus she'll end up rounding over the corners. They won't look crisp anymore. So just work with a grain. The -- not rotating. At work around all four quarters. So as you can see with a few simple steps. Every spindle is simply being Scopes -- All put together to create -- shape. I gotta do is take it one step at a time.