Turning the bedposts of a four-poster bed may appear to be a daunting challenge, but the project is manageable if broken down into its component parts. The design of the posts is simple; each one comprises only a few recurring elements, such as pommels, beads, vases,
The pommel, or bottom section, of a four-poster bedpost is turned with the help of a story pole and calipers. A story pole can serve as a shop-made turning guide. Cut from a strip of plywood, it includes key dimensions and diameters as well as the location of decorative elements like beads. A French curve is a good design tool for drawing on the pole. The calipers are used to check the size of the blanks as turning proceeds.
and tenons. See the anatomy illustrations on page 51 for details of the posts’ diameters and the locations of the various elements. Each 6-foot-long post is turned in four individual sections, allowing for the 36-inch limit of most lathes. Since the sections are joined by tang joints, remember to allow for the
2- inch-long tenons when cutting your blanks to length.
Although the bottom sections of the footboard and headboard posts are different, the four posts are otherwise identical. To help keep them uniform, turn their matching sections one after another, rather than producing an entire post before moving on to the next one. Start with the bottom sections (below), and move up, turning the vase sections (page 55) next and the finials (page 57) last.
Cut the four pommel-section blanks to size, then outline the pommels—the transitions between the turned and square segments of the posts. Set the stock on a work surface and clamp the pieces together with their ends aligned so you can mark all the pommels at the same time. Although the upper pommels on the headboard posts are higher than on the footboard posts, the lower pommels are at the same height on all four pieces. Holding the edge of a carpenter’s square against
the outside of the blanks, run a pencil along the arm to mark the lower pommels (above, left). Mount one of the blanks between centers on your lathe and adjust the machine’s speed to slow. Starting about /г inch outside the lower pommel line, turn a V-groove into the corners of the blank with a skew chisel (above, right). Deepen the groove until it runs completely around the workpiece. To avoid kickback, cut with the point of the blade with the bevel rubbing against the stock.
2 Shaping the pommel
Once you have finished the V-groove, widen it gradually, cutting with the long point of the chisel pointed forward. Roll the chisel from side to side while raising the handle so the bevel continues rubbing against the edges of the groove walls as you cut them (left). Turn off the lathe after each cut to check the shape of the pommel.
Once the pommel is finished, use a roughing-out gouge to turn the cylindrical portion of the post below the pommel. Holding the gouge with an overhand grip, brace it on the tool rest. Cut very lightly into the blank, making sure the bevel is rubbing against the stock and moving the gouge smoothly along the tool rest. As the gouge begins rounding the corners of the
post (above, left), make successively deeper passes along the blank, raising the handle of the tool slightly with each pass, until the edges are completely rounded and you have a cylinder. Adjust the position of the tool rest as you progress to keep it close to the blank and periodically check the diameter of the bottom segment of the post with calipers (above, right).
Using preset calipers
Sinceyou are turning the various sections of the bedposts to different diameters, you can speed up the process by adjusting separate calipers for each feature of the blanks. For the turning shown at right, one pair is adjusted for the thicker part of the cylindrical segment, another is set for the bead below it, and a third is adjusted for the narrow section near the bottom of the workpiece. This will save you the trouble of continually readjusting a single pair of calipers. To avoid confusing the settings, attach a numbered strip of tape to each instrument.
1 Making sizing cuts
Once the lower pommel sections of the four posts are done, turn to the vase sections. Each post has three vase segments: one at the top of the pommel section and two more above it. Although the bottommost one is the widest and the next one up is longest, the vases are otherwise identical and have similar contours. They also feature a tenon at the bottom end and a matching mortise at the top. To produce a vase, turn the segment into a cylinder (page 53), then make a series of sizing cuts with a parting tool. Holding the parting tool with an underhand grip edge-up on the tool rest, raise the handle slightly so the blade cuts into the cylinder. Continue to raise the handle until the cut reaches the required depth (left). Each cut should penetrate to the finished diameter of the post at that point; check your progress with calipers periodically. Twist the tool slightly from side to side as you make the cut to minimize friction and to prevent the blade from jamming.
1 Turning the tenons
Once you have turned all the vases, it is time to produce the tang joints. Start by turning tenons at the bottom ends of the two separate vase sections and finial blank. Mark the tenon shoulder 2 inches from the end of the workpiece by holding a pencil against the spinning blank. Then, holding a parting tool with an underhand grip, make a series of sizing cuts to define the tenon (page 55). Use a roughing gouge to clear out the waste between the cuts. As the tenon begins to take shape, periodically check it with calipers, stopping when the tenon is% inch in diameter. Finally, use a skew chisel to undercut the shoulder slightly; this will ensure that the bottom ends of the vase sections sit flush on the sections below without wobbling. Hold the chisel edge-up so its long point and bevel are aligned with the shoulder line. Then slowly raise and twist the handle, slicing deeper into the shoulder as the cutting edge approaches the tenon (right).
1 Shaping the finials
The finials at the top of the bedposts combine vases and beads. After turning these elements, separate the top end of the finial from the waste wood used to hold the blank between centers. To avoid marring the finial’s rounded top, use a skew chisel to part off the workpiece. Holding the tool with an underhand grip, make a slicing cut with the long point of the blade as you would round a pommel (page 53). Make a series of deeper V-cuts (right). Before the finished turning breaks loose from the waste, support it with one free hand, keeping your fingers well clear of the tool rest and being careful not to grip the spinning workpiece.
Smoothing the finial
To remove any tool marks left on the finials by the skew chisel, sand their surfaces smooth. You can do the job by hand, securing the stock in a bench vise and using a sanding block. But a disk sander like the one shown at left will make quick work of the task. Holding the finial on the sanding table, ease it into the disk at an angle of about 45°. Applying light pressure, rotate the finial until it is smooth.
Laying out the mortises
The bedposts are joined to the end boards and rails with blind mortise-and – tenons. To ensure that all the mortises line up, mark them on the posts in a single setup. Clamp the posts together with their ends aligned and place the assembly on a work surface. Holding the edge of a carpenter’s square against the stock, mark on one post at a time. Mark the mortise length—3 inches—across the pommel; each headboard post has three mortises, including two for the headboard and one for the end rail, while each footboard post has two—one for the footboard and one for the rail. Next, mark the mortise width— /8 inch; center the mortise outline on the pommels. Use the square to align all the mortise length marks (left).