Archive for the 'Tools' Category

Tool Making Meeting

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

Todays MWA meeting was at John Magnussen’s great place out in Buffalo. He also invited us to visit his private gallery, and there was some absolutely stunning work to be seen!

But back to the meeting: Duane Gemelke gave a great introduction to tool making, followed by an opportunity for us to make our own tools. Many type of tools could be made:

  • Texturing/Chatter tool
  • Straight and angled hollowing tools
  • Captive ring tools
  • Diamond tool
  • Small detail skew
  • Small gouge-like tool

and a number of other shapes that can be easily ground from a round tool steel. And of course tool handles for the newly-made tools. Duane gave a rundown how to make each of these tools, then we started making whichever tools we liked. Duane and several MWA members were at hand to help.

I will not go into the details of making the specific tools as it depends a lot on the available materials and tools. Instructions for many tools can be found on the internet. But there were a number of tips and jigs that were very helpful and which I list below.

Hidden jaws in Talon chuck

This was a very valuable tip: If you remove the jaws from a Talon chuck, the now exposed ‘jaw holders’ (for lack of a better name) can be used as jaws for small-diameter items! In the tool making session we used it to chuck the tool steel to work on the front.

Splitting pipe fittings into ferrule blanks

Copper pipe fittings are a popular base material for making ferrules. But the have to be cut in half, in the plane where in ‘real life’ the pipes would meet. Thus each pipe fitting provides material for two ferrules. Duane had a very helpful jig for this: 2 Wooden blocks with a square cross section, one end each turned to a diameter so the pipe fitting would just fit over it. One of these blocks on each end of the pipe fitting, the blocks clamped down to the table, and there is a handy holder to hold the pipe fitting while cutting it.

De-burring jig

The above splitting of the pipe fittings leaves one end of each ferrule to be with a rather sharp burr. Duane had a special-made chuck for the ferrules: A block of wood turned round on one end to fit into a chuck, the other end turned down to just fit about 3/4 deep into the ferrule. This end is then cut with a thin blade about halfway towards the chuck end, and a second cut at a 90 degree angle. Now with the ferrule mounted, a screw is screwed into the center from the front, expanding the four quarters slightly and securing the ferrule.

Now with the lathe at slow speed a file can be used to true the swan edge and round over the outside edge. The inside edge can be de-burred using a small tool. As copper is relatively soft pretty much any turning too may be suited for this.

While on this jig one can also sand and polish the surface of the ferrule if so desired.

Tool handle turning jig

It is a lot easier to drill the tool handle blank for the tool steel before turning it. But that makes it tricky to mount the blank between centers. A small piece of wood as adapter between the blank and the life center makes this easy. One end of the wood is turned to just fit into the hole in the blank, the other side flat with a small indentation in the center to rest on the tip of the life center with the flat resting on the cup makes that a lot easier. In addition the blank end has a second radius turned on it that just fits the ferrule. That serves as guide for how far down to turn the blank, and the ferrule can be test-fitted on the blank without having to remove it!

Belt Change on a Harbor Freight 34706 Lathe

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

Today I changed the belt on my Harbor Freight 34706 Lathe. That was a lot harder than it should have been: The clearance between the pulley and the cast-iron housing was about 1/4”, not enough to get the new belt through without damaging it. So the pulley had to come off for the belt change.

The outer half of the two part pulley (it is a variable diameter pulley to allow for speed changes) is secured on the axle with a c-ring and two set screws. Problem was that the pulley was stuck on the axle. I guess a pulley puller or maybe some heat could have helped the situation, but alas I had neither available.

I started tapping the pulley with a mallet, but after a few taps I realized that this would probably damage the bearings. I ended up wedging a piece of wood between the pulley halves, using the speed-control handle to apply some pressure, release, rotate the pulley a bit and repeat. It took about 15 minutes, but the pulley came off fraction by fraction.

I cleaned the axle and the opening in the pulley by sanding them lightly, and applied a small amount of White Lightning bicycle grease on the axle. The pulley went together a lot easier (yes I remembered to put the belt in first), and hopefully next time this procedure will be a lot easier.

Various ways of chucking

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

At tonight’s MWA meeting Jim Jacobs and Steve Tiedman demonstrated many ways to chuck wood onto a lathe. Drive centers, face plates, scroll chucks, even a vacuum chuck were presented. While I knew many of these from the various catalogues and web sites, it was great to see them in person and to get comments from people who have used them.

Of special interest to me were the various home-grown recipes. For example Steve showed how a low cost old fashioned dead center could be modified and used as a drive center. It is similar in performance to a Sorby steb center, but at a much lower cost.

For small objects it sometimes is sufficient to just cut one end into a rough taper. That can then directly be mounted into the morse taper, no chuck required at all!

Another method: turn a taper to fit the morse taper, with a plate on the thick end. Mount into the morse taper, drill a small hole, glue in a nail and fashion the head of the nail into a point. This can be used as drive center for small projects or spindles. It is very save, should the wood catch it would just stop spinning. It is also a great training tool to learn to work with light pressure.

To turn the body part of miniature birdhouses, Jim fashioned a mandrel. While for the body of a miniature birdhouse could simply use a dowel and drill a hole through it, it is hard to get that hole perfectly concentric. Jim’s mandrel solves that problem: It is square on one end to allow it to quickly mount into a scroll chuck. The remainder is turned round to the diameter of the hole drilled into the future birdhouse body. The other end of the mandrel has perpendicular cut through the center. The tail stock will slightly pry the wood apart, and thus securing the body of the birdhouse on the mandrel. A simply but effective solution!

To turn the perches for those miniature birdhouses Jim has another trick: A block is chucked into a scroll chuck, and a hole drilled into the wood block, easiest with a Jacobs chuck in the tail stock as Steve demonstrated. Now a dowel, slightly tapered is pushed into the wood block. Et voila, a simple way to chuck very small items.

Another MWA member demonstrated how simple (and cheap!) PVC endcap from the plumbing department can be mounted onto a chuck. Wrap some non-skid fabric from the home department around it, and it can be used to reverse-chuck a bowl to finish most of the bottom.

Jim used another type of endcap to turn spheres. That endcap was about 5” in diameter, and the closed end has a square protrusion, which fit perfectly into a chuck. A spherical body would fit perfectly into the open end. To support the tail-stock end, Jim removed the point from a live center, leaving just the cup. To prevent the wood from marring he used a hose washer between the cup and the sphere.

Another really helpful gadget: When turning a tenon for a scroll chuck, I like it to be as big as possible while at the same time being not so wide that the jaws protrude sideways from the chuck to reduce the danger of injury. Also for some types of chucks the tenon should be sized such that the jaws of the chuck form a circle, that maximizes the surface area on which they grip. I used to always set the chuck to the proper width, measure it with calipers and use that to gauge the size of the tenon. Jim and Steve had a handy little jig to make that easier: made from wood it looked like one end of an open ended wrench, the width of the opening being the perfect width for the tenon. And when made from wood of the proper thickness it can also be used to gauge the depth of the tenon. It should be deep enough to allow for maximum surface area, but it should never bottom out in the chuck. Handy little gadget, I’ll make one next time I’m in the shop!


Yours truly also got invited to show the Longworth Chuck. If you came to find out more about that chuck, click here to see my original post along with links to instructions.

All in all another very informative meeting. I learned a lot, and will have to visit the plumbing department soon!

1/2” Robert Sorby Fingernail Bowl Gouge

Sunday, November 27th, 2005

I have been very happy with my 3/8” Henry Taylor Bowl gouge. It cuts very well and holds it’s edge amazingly well. Sometimes though I wanted a slightly more substantial tool to remove more material or to have less chatter when the tip is farther from the tool rest. So making use of a coupon I picked up the Robert Sorby 1/2” Fingernail Bowl Gouge at Rockler.

I have not used it much yet and maybe it is me or my technique, but the initial impression is a bit disappointing. It does not cut as willingly as the Taylor gouge, and when grinding the cutting edge just does not want to get as fine as the Taylor gouge. I’ll have to collect a bit more experience with it.

Beall 3-On Lathe Buffing System

Wednesday, August 10th, 2005


While on special at Woodcraft I picked up the Beall 3-On Lathe Buffing System. I liked the idea of having all buffing wheels right there next to each other without having to change tools. I had never buffed my turnings before, so I was pretty amazed what a shine this simple device can create. For my taste using the third wheel with the Carnauba Wax creates even a bit too much of a sheen, though my wife likes it.

In general the system works well, though one really has to hold on to the wood. The wheels really like to grab it and fling it across the room. For larger pieces the wheels are a bit close together and get in the way. And obviously the wheels will not get into the inside of bowls or boxes, I guess for that I’ll have to look for alternatives like the bowl buffs. Lastly sometimes it is a bit hard to get the mandrel out of the lathe, the taper really likes to jam in there.

Had I to do it again I probably would look for the individual wheels.

Longworth Chuck

Sunday, March 27th, 2005

Inspired by this thread on I built a Longworth chuck (see here, here and here). I modified it a bit to have 6 instead of 4 slots to improve holding power. DSC01972.JPG DSC01973.JPG The bolts are from one of Rockler’s T-Track kits, and I used rubber feet and nuts also from Rockler. DSC01974.JPG This was a much cheaper solution than jumbo jaws, and has the advantage of not blocking a chuck or having to swap jaws frequently.

Addendum: I have used it for some time now. It works fairly well, though the holding power could be a bit better, any little catch will cause the work piece to fly right of the chuck. I am contemplating a couple of enhancements:

  1. Some kind of grip or handle that would allow me to get a ‘tighter squeeze’. The problem is that it would need to be done in such a way that it does not upset the balance of the chuck, and it also should not have any protruding edges which would increase the risk of injury (the chuck alone is scary enough when it turns at any speed).

  2. Use different feet, possibly a little bigger and softer so when they are tightened they would have a larger contact patch with the work piece.

But when being careful to take light cuts, this chuck is easy to use and has vastly improved the quality of my bowls bottoms!