Five Lathe Projects You Can Build
I’ll give you fair warning—woodworking lathes are addictive. Although they appear daunting to first-time users, lathes are fun and can be used to create a wide range of projects. Lathes are commonly used for small projects such as bowls, platters, even pens, as well as furniture parts and cabinetry. Several techniques are used, with two basic turning methods, spindle turning and faceplate turning. The five projects included use both methods as well as duplicate turning, and something quite different.
A number of manufacturers make lathes. They range from small to super-size heavy-duty models. The lathe shown is a Craftsman Professional 15-inch, variable speed model. It’s a mid-range size, but well designed with cast iron construction for heavy-duty work. Features include a one-horsepower motor to provide plenty of power. The motor maintains full power even at the slowest speed. The headstock swivels 90 degrees allowing for 20-inch outboard turning. A 24-index stop at 15-degree intervals allows you to use the lathe for router fluting and beading. The lathe has a 37-inch maximum spindle length and 15-inch inside bowl-turning capacity. The lathe comes with a 6- and 12-inch tool rest, spur center, bearing center, 4-inch faceplate and lathe center removal rod. In addition, we added accessories including the Craftsman Bowl-Turning Kit and Craftsman scroll chucks, as well as a work arbor with chuck and key.
You will also need turning woods, which you may be able to purchase locally. Turning blanks are also available from a number of mail-order sources. Packard Woodworks carries all types of turning supplies from tools to wood to finishes.
Editor’s Note: The instructions in this article are for specific woodworking projects. All blueprints are at the end of this article. If you’re new to lathe work and want to learn the basics, check out “A Lesson in Lathes” by Monte Burch at www.extremehowto.com.
Turned Stone Candle Holder
Of course you can’t turn stone on a wood lathe, but with today’s “textured” spray paints such as Rustoleum MultiColor Textured Spray Paint you can easily simulate a stone “sculptured column.” The candle holder shown was turned from scraps of red cedar. Any scrap materials you have will work, but softer woods that turn easier and don’t show the grain are the best choice. The turning combines both spindle and face-plate turning.
Draw diagonal lines across the ends to locate the centers. Using a fine-toothed handsaw, make cuts in one end following the diagonal lines to about 1/16-inch deep. Tap the spur center into the slots. The first step is to enlarge the squared drawing and create a pattern for the spindle portion. You can speed up the rough-in by cutting the corners off the stock on a table saw set at 45 degrees. Rough cut the stock to round with a gouge chisel. Use a straight skew chisel to smooth up and create a straight-sided cylinder.
Locate the beads and mark their locations on the block with a pencil. Turn on the lathe and add more to the pencil marks for easy definition. Use a spear-point chisel to rough-cut the beads and finish the beads with a skew chisel. Sand the turning smooth in the lathe with progressively finer grits of sandpaper cut into strips. Part the stock from the lathe with a parting tool to about 1/2-inch and finish cutting off with a fine-toothed handsaw.
Cut a 3-by-3-inch square block of 3/4-inch stock for the base. Mark diagonally from corner to corner to establish the center and use a compass to mark the circumference of the base. Mount the stock on a faceplate with screws. Turn the base to round, and cut the decorative edge on it. Sand smooth.
You can leave the candlestick as is, or you can flute it with a fluting bit in a plunge router and using a hand-made fluting cradle set on the lathe bed rails. The fluting shown on this project was done with the Legacy Revo milling machine, which is extremely simple and precise. The machine has an indexing head and a tail and headstock to hold the work piece between centers. Cut the top sections on a bandsaw. Fasten all pieces together with glue and apply the textured finish.
A pepper mill is a fun, practical and challenging turning project that makes a great Christmas present. The grinding mechanisms are available from several sources, including Packard Woodworks. The mechanisms are available in several sizes, and come with full instructions for turning the mill and installing the mechanism.
This is basic spindle turning with a few added challenges. Spindle profile turning is the simplest and a great way to learn how to turn wood on a lathe. Start with a small spindle and a soft to medium-dense wood. Walnut is a good choice. A good size is a 2-1/2-by-2-1/2-by-12-inch turning block. Enlarge the squared drawing located at the end of this article and create a pattern. The mill body is turned between centers. Rough cut to round using a gouge chisel and then use a skew chisel to smooth the cuts. Use a gouge and skew to complete the profile.
A portion of the top end must be turned down to 1-1/2 inches and will then be placed in a four-jaw chuck for boring the holes in the body. Once the body has been turned and sanded, apply a finish while still in the lathe. Apply a coat of salad bowl finish, allow to dry, buff with extremely fine steel wool and apply a second coat. Or, you can use polyurethane varnish. Once the second coat is dry, buff with a soft cloth.
Place the body in the chuck, remove the tailstock and use a work arbor chuck with a forstner bit. Position the bit in place and turning at slow speed, use the tailstock to bore a 1-5/8-inch hole in the end. Then bore a one-inch hole as deep as you can into the body. Reverse the body and bore the top end 1-5/8 inches for the cap tenon. Then bore the hole in the body to complete the through-body hole. Use a fine-toothed handsaw or bandsaw to cut off the waste. Or, you can simply turn the body and use a drill-press to bore the holes. Make sure the stock is positioned perfectly parallel to the drill by clamping with a large c-clamp.
Turn the cap with a tenon on its end to fit in the recess in the top of the body. Assemble the mill mechanism and mill according to the manufacturer’s instructions.