Table Legs archive

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Become a leg fan with this simple guide to copy turning by Nick Arnull

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Copy turning is an area of turning that is often thought of as the domain of the professional turner. It is avoided by many amateurs with the statement, "I only want to turn bowls", but it is, however, the keystone to all turning. Every cut that is made is repeated every time we turn on the lathe to make anything. Repeating these cuts and techniques allows us to gain satisfaction from producing the best type of cut possible from our tools and reducing the amount of time spent abrading our work.

In this article I hope to guide you through a simple spindle, working from a sample or plan. Essential advice I always give to any student is that you should always have a clear idea in mind before you enter the workshop. For me, this was easy; one of my clients gave us a coffee table for Christmas, so Jane decided we needed a matching footstool.

When making components for furniture a major consideration is where the pummel cut starts and finishes. Leave enough space to make joints and allow for the rails to be fitted.

Reverse sanding

When staining furniture, you may be able to do less sanding than when finishing a bowl. But do spindles require reverse sanding and raising the grain to give a more even application of stains and finishes? Generally the answer is 'yes'.

Reverse sanding stumped me to begin with, until I thought about it. The answer is so easy! You do not need a lathe that runs in reverse, just use a matched pair of drive (live) centres, then remove the spindle from between centres and swap it end-for-end. Turn on the lathe and the timber runs in the opposite direction. I use steb centres as they give a better drive, having many teeth to grip the wood. Use these on dry wood only because if you try using them on wet timber they will slip, losing drive.

There is a different type of satisfaction at the end of turning a batch of hand-turned spindles. I find it enjoyable and rewarding knowing that my components are going to contribute in the making of new or reproduction furniture, maybe even antiques of the future. After all, how many hand-turned wooden bowls do we see on the Antiques Roadshow?

Health and safety

When working with spindles the usual safety issues apply. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times and work at a speed that you feel is safe and comfortable.

Woodworkers Institute

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Nick Arnull , Copy turning , Table legs

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"When making components for furniture a major consideration is where the pummel cut starts and finishes"

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