Gavel And Block archive

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Nick Arnull shares his design for an English sycamore gavel and block


Several years ago, while exhibiting at one of my regular craft events here in Norfolk I was approached by a very smart gentleman, who asked if I made gavels and blocks. The answer at the time was, no, but I later told him I could.

I had some idea as to what was required and the gentleman liked the quality of my work and asked me to come up with some samples. To cut a long story short, the man turned out to be the president of the Institute of Toastmasters of Great Britain.

I have made many gavels for this man over the years, and the one I make today is tailored to his specific requirements. A Toastmaster needs to carry his gavel and block in the coattail pocket so it needs to be a certain size and also needs to make a good sound when struck - this is achieved simply by hollowing the base of the block. It must also be durable, taking into account the situation it will be used in/on, so a simple melamine finish is what is used.

The original design I came up with had a bead on the top edge of the block but this is no longer used. On a few early blocks this proved to be somewhat fragile and fractured if struck by an over-enthusiastic novice, hence the blended shape that I use today on both the edge of the block and the end of the gavel head.

Tools used: 32mm (1 1/4in) round-nosed scraper, 3mm (1/8in) super thin parting tool, 12mm (1/2in) skewchigouge, 10mm (3/8in) point tool, 10mm (3/8in) round skew chisel, 10mm (3/8in) beading tool, 6mm (1/4in) beading tool, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge, 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge

Step 1

The timber for this project needs to be prepared accurately as the head marking out must be just so. Use a marking gauge here - this will allow the centreline to be accurately marked on the ends and top face. Firstly, find the centre on the top face and drill a hole through which measures 12mm (1/2in). Mount the blank between centres and make round to a diameter of 45mm (1 3/4in) using a 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge. Use odd leg dividers to mark 9mm (11/32in) to the left and right of the hole

Step 2

Create a 6mm (1/4in) bead on the outside of the lines using a beading tool

Step 3

Use a set of dividers set at 10mm (3/8in) to scribe a line on both ends - this will be the distance to the end of the cove

Step 4

Now repeat with a second set of dividers set at 16mm (5/8in). This is the overall length of the block

Step 5

Using a skewchigouge, create a cove at both ends beside the beads

Step 6

Round over the end of the head and repeat for the opposite end of the blank

Step 7

Use a round-nosed scraper to create the cove at the centre of the head, this allows the tool to work without worrying about the hole. With all the details finely tuned it is time to sand and seal the head using melamine - either sprayed on or applied with a brush

Step 8

With the head finished you can now part the ends until there is only around 8mm (5/16in) left at the centre - this can be removed carefully using a small saw

Turning the handle

Step 9

For turning the handle, start by centring the blank and drilling an 8mm (5/16in) hole at one end. Begin by mounting between centres and place the drilled end at the tailstock using a standard 60° live centre. Reduce to the round using a 20mm (3/4in) spindle roughing gouge then reduce to a diameter of 25mm (1in). Using a beading tool, at 55mm (2 1/8in) from the end create a 6mm (1/4in) bead. Taper the end to fit into the hole in the handle until it appears on the other side

Step 10

The next step is for you to turn the handle to the shape required

Step 11

Round over the end of the handle and refine the shape. Finally add the details with a small point tool or a skew chisel

Step 12

Mount a small piece of African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) between centres, make round, and then turn a small button to fit into the end of the turned handle. Use spanners to size the spigot accurately. Use a small scraper to create the cove behind the bead, then sand and polish before parting off


Step 13

Before assembly can take place you need to make a saw cut into the end of the handle using a bandsaw. Make sure the cut is covered when the head is fitted. The wedge, when driven in, will splay the saw cut section and will lock the shaft in position. However, it is very important that the wedge must be the same width as the opening/hole


Step 14

Fit the fox wedge with good quality wood glue, and when fitted, it will be impossible to remove. Drive the wedge on a solid surface to avoid damaging the handle. With the glue set, fit a sanding arbor into the Jacobs chuck mounted in the headstock spindle. Turn the lathe on slowly, then sand the ends of the hammer head

Step 15

Remove the waste material at the top of the hammer head. I use a grinding disc fitted to my flexible-shaft unit, then finish with hand sanding. Now, apply a coat of melamine finish - this usually requires several coats to get the coverage required. With the hammer finished the button can be fitted to the end

Step 16

Now take the blank for the block then centre and mount it on the chuck. Drill a 50mm (2in) hole with a sawtooth bit, and expand your chuck jaws into this to hold it securely. Now turn the base to create a dish - this makes a hollow that will help generate the sound when the block is struck by the hammer. In this area, cut a shallow groove with a parting tool to allow your chuck jaws to expand into and hold in this later. Sand and finish the base, then reverse chuck the blank

Step 17

Turn the base down to a diameter of 100mm (4in) and create a 10mm (3/8in) bead at the bottom. Reduce the diameter of the top to 95mm (3 3/4in) and face off the top to remove the previous chucking method. Now create a slightly domed top to the block - the section to be struck with the gavel - then turn a cove between the top and base section. Refine the details - note: the slight bead-like mushrooming around the domed face - then sand and apply a finish of your choice. Your gavel and block is now complete

Tegan Foley

Tagged In:

Nick Arnull , Gavel , Block , English sycamore

"Error reading XSLT file: cwsTerminology.xsltcwsTerminology.xslt

About The Author

Professional woodturner, author and demonstrator Nick Arnull produces decorative turned wood art and also turns spindles for furniture makers, cabinet makers, joiners and builders. He has demonstrated at symposiums all over the world and also offers tuition to those who are looking to improve their woodturning and explore decorative techniques.

Timber Requirements

Timber required: English sycamore
Head: 100 x 50 x 50mm (4 x 2 x 2in)
Handle: 25 x 25 x 190mm (1 x 1 x 7 1/2in)
Block: 100 x 100 x 50 (4 x 4 x 2in)
Button: 25 x 25 x 100 (1 x 1 x 4in) rod

Health & Safety

1. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times during this project
2. Do not allow your fingers to cross over the toolrest
3. Always work at a speed that allows you to feel both comfortable and safe

Time Taken & Cost

Time taken: 3 hours (approximately)
Cost: £5

Handy Hints

1. Use a close grained, durable timber for this particular project
2. Apply a good quality finish
3. When all is completed use a polishing mop to burnish the item, this will create a much softer feel
4. If making items with multiple components turn all the heads, handles, and then the blocks. This will make the process much easier for you
5. Regularly check calliper settings during this project

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge