Run one face of the rough ash board across the jointer. Then run the opposite face through the planer. That should take some of the twists out of the wood. Rip ¾” square, 31” long spindle blanks on the table saw. Make several extra blanks beyond the 14 that are needed.
Mark the center of the tailstock end of the spindle using a plastic center marking gauge. Make a pilot with an awl. Drill the hole about ¼” deep with a 1/8” diameter brad point bit. This step helps center the live center of the tailstock on the spindle.
I like to secure these spindles in a heavy lathe chuck. Even if the spindle departs the tailstock, there is time to turn the lathe off before the spindle breaks. I like to use my Super Nova 2 chuck with pin jaws attached. This method seems more reliable than using a spur center on the headstock.
I’m a big advocate of using some sort of center steady while turning long, narrow spindles. I used to use an old Delta steady that had adjustable steel blocks and no bearings. Plenty of Johnson’s Paste Wax took the place of bearings. I made six bowback chairs using that steady. I replaced my old Delta lathe and the swing is higher on my new Jet 1642. That put me in the market for a new center steady. I selected the
Oneway because of its great adjustability and quality wheels/bearings. It does a great job of steadying these chair spindles.
Turn the center 4” of the blank with a roughing gouge until it is round. Secure the center steady wheels to that portion of the blank.
Use a parting tool with a gauge set to 15/32” on each side of the steady’s wheels. This helps ensure a continuous taper on the final spindle.
Turn the rest of the spindle to final dimensions on either side of the steady.
My Secret to an Excellent Taper…A Sanding Block!
The rocker calls for 14 spindles for the back alone. Using the parting tool to set a reference depth at the midpoint of the spindle does wonders for uniformity. However, achieving a real smooth, even taper with a skew or gouge requires skills I don’t possess. Here is my secret method…
I use a Veritas sanding block with 100 grit sandpaper and the lathe turning at 1,000 to 1,500 rpm. It’s amazing how the sanding block evens out the bumps and voids in the taper. My lathe dust hood does a good job of keeping this a clean method.
Order of Cuts
Using a center steady makes the process of turning long, thin spindles a lot easier. However it does add extra steps. Here’s the flow of cuts that works for me.
1. I like installing the narrow end of the spindle at the headstock. The spindle runs truer at that end.
2. Round the middle several inches with a roughing gouge.
3. Install the center steady.
4. Round the rest of the spindle.
5. Set reference depth cuts with parting tool on either side of center steady and at narrow end.
6. Turn spindle to final dimensions.
7. Sand the spindle.
8. Move the center steady toward the tailstock.
9. Even the taper where the center steady had been.
10. Turn the tenon at the tailstock end.
11. Move center steady out of the way.
12. Sand the entire spindle to even taper.
I’ve completed 6 of the 14 spindles. I’ll complete the legs and arm rest spindles next. It might be over a week before my next blog entry.
Next blog…modeling a seat blank from pine.
-- Mark, Florida