marking the centers

marking the centers

The next step in the joined stools I am making is turning the stiles’ decoration. Here I am using a miter gauge to mark the centers on the stock. Once I locate the centers, I define them with a center punch and apply a bit of beeswax. Then they go on the pole lathe for turning.

 I wrap the cord twice around the midst of the stock, then line the stile up with the centers, & tighten the wedge that secures the tailstock.

 

wrap the cord

wrap the cord

Once I’m satisfied that the turning is mounted properly, then I check the toolrest, adjust it so it is as close to the turning as possible, and made tight. That can require some fumbling around with wedges & such, but only takes a minute.
Then I get the largest gouge I have, and begin to very lightly remove the corners off the stock. I have marked out the ends of the turned portion before it goes on the lathe – and at first the gouge is cutting well inside these marks. The idea is to get the stock roughed-out as quickly as possible. Once it’s round enough, it spins faster & easier on the lathe. My left hand moves the gouge laterally, my right hand rolls the gouge left & right, using the whole cutting edge in turn. Create the cylinder right up to the scribed lines, making a bevel up to these lines.
roughing cylinder with gouge

roughing cylinder with gouge

Now comes the hard part; cutting the transition from the square mortised blocks to the turned cylinder. Use a very sharp skew chisel, and with some practice it will come. First, I cut into the turned portion right up to the line of transition with the skew. Then I define the corners. I use the “long” point of the skew, and aim the tool just about directly in line with the mark I want to cut. My right hand is low, and the tool is aimed high at the stock. As it enters the wood, my right hand comes up, bringing the point of the tool down into the wood. Light cuts are key.

starting the skew cut

starting the skew cut

the skew cutting into the square

right hand comes up, tool begins cut in square

In general making this cut is a difficult one, but with practice it is manageable. There are a few movements that make it more predictable, and effective. Angling the handle left & right changes the relationship between the bevel and the wood, and this is useful as well.

After defining these transitions, I cut the rest of the pattern with a gouge and the skew.

shaping some of the details

shaping some of the details

The best thing to do is to turn the whole set in one session. That way you develop some consistency within the stool. I burnish the finished turning with a fistful of shavings when I am done.

turning stiles

turning stiles

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