Today I’ve been turning legs for some large globe stands. I used timber reclaimed from building demolition – some heavy pine beams about 125 mm square. The longest leg sections have to finish at 462 mm long, tapering from 108 mm to 89 mm, with a 12 mm hole down the middle. The hole is for steel tie bars that link the various components of each leg.
Preparing the blanks
The first job was to cut suitable blocks for turning legs from the beams. There was a lot of wastage due to some very large knots which I cut out. I could only use the bits between the knots. I cut them to length, a little oversize, on the bandsaw when possible.But I had to saw some sections by hand, because the saw could not reach to separate the longer sections. As well as the knots, there were some cracks and nail holes, but those were not so much of a problem. The cracks are acceptable in the finished pieces. They are to be used on facsimile antiques, and the nail holes will be filled. I use a metal detector to save the tools.
Drilling the long holes
The axial holes were next. I centre the turning on them later. But with each block about 475 mm long, I have to drill the holes in the lathe. An ordinary drill bit would wander too much, and my drill press has nowhere near enough travel. So I put the blocks in the lathe and turned off the corners to cut down the weight. Then I turned a spigot on one end, dovetailed to suit my lathe chuck.
With the blocks held in the chuck on my Graduate lathe and turning slowly without tailstock support, they looked a little alarming. As long as the speed remained low, they were safe enough. Being unbalanced, too high a speed would have thrown them out of the chuck. I was able to turn a small recess in the middle of the free ends to start the drill, and then go right through with an old cross-handled half-inch auger, held freehand. These augers stay on the axis and don’t wander much, but I find there is usually some drift. You can feel whether the auger is running true and it pulls itself straight at the beginning of the hole. I now had a stack of blanks, each drilled right through, ready for shaping.
Turning legs between centres
I used the taper drive insert that I made recently for my homemade insert chuck. The blanks go between the taper at the headstock end and the conical live tailcentre, so the hole stays central in the finished leg. I used my homemade wooden long tool rest too. At first, the blanks were not running true, because of the drift when drilling. Variations in the grain always send the drill off course a bit and with long blanks like these the error becomes significant.
After truing up the blanks, I trimmed the tailstock end and set the diameter using calipers and a skew chisel. Then I could mark off the finished length and use the chisel to peel away the waste and set the diameter at the headstock end. The next job was to rough down close to finished size, forming the long taper. Turning legs like these is straightforward – the leg sections are simple straight tapers without turned detailing. (I make turned and gilded mouldings separately that go between the tapered and cylindrical components. The legs will be ebonised later.) The only difficulty was getting an acceptable finish. I found the skew caused the grain to pick out, so used my wide, shallow roughing gouge with a fresh edge and light cuts.
The final jobs were to cut off the surplus length on the bandsaw. I cut the stubs of waste flush using my homemade counterbore. This goes in the lathe headstock and by pushing the leg against it with the tailstock the teeth trim off the excess. It makes a bit of smoke but does the trick. Then I fill the nail holes, sand, and they are ready for ebonising.