Lathes enable a woodworker to turn blocks of wood of almost any irregular shape into beautiful, rounded creations. Woodturners often speak of how visual their art is; they see a chair leg, bowl, or pepper mill seem to grow from a spinning blank. Yet despite its visual element and the emphasis on “feel” for judging the progress of a turned workpiece, turning also depends on accuracy and careful measurement.
The jigs in this chapter will help you turn a workpiece with precision. Use one of the setup jigs shown on pages 70 and 71 to mount a blank properly on the lathe, even if the workpiece is irregularly shaped. A layout jig (page 73) is ideal for quickly and accurately outlining the location of the contours on a blank, while measuring jigs like the diameter gauge (page 73) or bowl depth gauge (page 77) come in handy for checking a workpiece’s dimensions.
The lathe can also be used for purposes other than turning; see the sanding drum (page 77) and the jig for routing flutes in columns (page 75).
Mounting hollowed-out workpieces on a lathe can he challenging. For the cocobolo bud vase being sanded at left, a conical bull-nose tailstock was positioned between the lathe’s metal tailstock and the workpiece, allowing the vase to be supported snugly without damage.
Center-finding jig (page 71)
Locates the center of irregularly shaped work for faceplate turning
Gouge-sharpening jig (page 72)
Used in conjunction with a bench grinder to sharpen turning tools; holds tool blade at the proper angle for grinding the bevel on the cutting edge
Sanding drum (page 77)
For smoothing contoured work; sandpaper is held in place by a hardwood strip screwed into a groove routed in the drum blank
Centering a spindle
Finding the center of a blank for spindle turning is traditionally done by marking two diagonal lines from corner to corner on either end of the workpiece. Still, for both safety and accuracy, it is a good idea to double-check the location of the center.
With the lathe switched off, position the tool rest close to the blank parallel to one of its corners. Rotate the blank by hand. The gap between the tool rest and the blank should be the same at each corner; adjust the position of the tool rest, if necessary. As an additional check, switch on the lathe, place a pencil on the tool rest, and scribe a circle on the end of the spinning blank, as shown. Turn off the tool. The circle should be centered on the end of the blank; if not, adjust the tailstock and repeat.