Turning Legs for Shaker Rocker

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Forum topic by RickL posted 01-16-2010 02:27 PM 2170 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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253 posts in 3365 days

01-16-2010 02:27 PM

I have to ask this. I have been looking at drawings to build a Shaker rocker and side chair in a book by Robert Sonday (very nice Shaker examples) and both examples have 46” back legs. My lathe is 36” center to center, a Rikon with the extension, so finally the question. How can I make a 46 long leg? Do you make two halves and tenon it together? Or I dont and look at something else to build :) I’m sure they are out there but I haven’t seen a lathe that will take a length that long. Thanks, Rick

-- Rick, Union,KY

9 replies so far

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3317 days

#1 posted 01-16-2010 03:16 PM

dowel it together by turning one part down to a dowel, drill the other, glue and wedge ?

you could also do a “scarf” joint

otherwise….........good luck

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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253 posts in 3365 days

#2 posted 01-16-2010 04:49 PM

thanks roman

-- Rick, Union,KY

View fussy's profile


980 posts in 2475 days

#3 posted 01-18-2010 11:31 AM

Conventional wisdom is to turn two pieces and tenon them together. Trick is to locate the joint in a feature such as a bead so that the joint is hidden within the cove or whatever that preceeds the bead. Look at the pictures and you’ll see the possibilities to which I am referring.

By the way, do you work with or at Sonoco?

Hope this helps

-- Steve in KY. 44 years so far with my lovely bride. Think I'll keep her.

View amcharn's profile


5 posts in 2500 days

#4 posted 01-18-2010 08:10 PM

There is another way, but not necessarily the safest. I have removed the tailstock and mounted/clamped it to my workbench. Then, I moved and lined up my lathe to be in direct line with the tailstock, but further away than the bed itself allows. I clamped 2×4’s from the lathe legs to the workbench legs, making the lathe/workbench one piece.

I actually did 65” long pieces on my 36” lathe, flipping the piece end for end when one side was “done”. It is scary, but it can work. Hope this explanation makes sense.

-- Al, Indiana

View Hyperhutch's profile


63 posts in 2673 days

#5 posted 01-28-2010 04:34 AM

You could buy another bed extension too. The Rikon lathes are designed to take an unlimited number of bed lengths. They are not all that expensive, and it may be worth it if you want to make more than just one chair.

Also, you may try contacting members of your local woodturning club. Maybe a helpful individual would be willing to let you use their longbed lathe.


-- I hope the volume of shavings one creates is directly related to the probablility of one's success, cuz if so I've got it made!!

View RickL's profile


253 posts in 3365 days

#6 posted 01-28-2010 01:15 PM

great idea Hutch, you’re right, it’s not a lot to get another extension. thanks, Rick

-- Rick, Union,KY

View Chrmakr's profile


20 posts in 2452 days

#7 posted 02-10-2010 06:45 PM

Using tenons to join two pieces for a leg is not a good idea. Chairs are subject to considerable stress and failure would eventually occur.

If you think buying another extension will be useful for other turnings, then that would be your best option. However, if you are only making one or two chairs or don’t have the need for the additional extension, another option is to shape the legs with hand tools. I’m not familiar with the Robert Sonday chair so I don’t know if the rear legs you are making are straight or bent, but the process would be the same. I would dimension my legs and cut to length, drill a mortise in the top of each leg to accept the finial, shape and taper the legs using a drawknife and spokeshave and, if required, steam bend the leg. After allowing the legs to dry, do a finish shaping and sanding, drill mortises and assemble.

If you do not have a drawknife or spokeshave, you can square your stock to the leg diameter and make it into an octagonal by cutting the corners on your table saw or bandsaw. Then, using a block plane or rasps/files, make the leg round.

Hope this helps, let us know how your chairs turn out…Doug

-- Doug Roper Chairmaker and Instructor,

View Bob Casey's profile

Bob Casey

79 posts in 905 days

#8 posted 05-08-2014 10:34 AM

I know this was posted a while ago, but I thought I would say I had the same problem My Rikon Lathe now has 2 bed extensions and with steady rest I can turn up to # 7 back legs

-- woodnutbob

View RickL's profile


253 posts in 3365 days

#9 posted 05-08-2014 10:35 PM

Thanks a Bob, though I haven’t done so yet, I plan on adding another extension. Seems like every time Zi plan on starting a chair, another request comes in from a family member or snow occasional paying job pops up :)

-- Rick, Union,KY

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