Turning bosses

blank for turned "bosses"


Some of the applied turnings on the cupboard are nowadays called “bosses” (we have no idea what they were called in the 17th century). I make them by gluing two pieces of maple to a center strip, in this case, walnut. It takes a little fiddling around to get the thickness of the segments. In this one, I highlighted the circle that indicates the finished thickness of the bosses with a pencil – (the things I do for the blog, must be getting soft in my old age.) The glue is hide glue, which is easily reversible…

The next step is to turn it on the lathe; first the blank is made into a cylinder; then the length of the “bosses” is marked and then cut with a skew chisel.

turning in progress


skew chisel on ovals


For the skew chisel shot, I stopped the lathe & shot the photograph…but that’s the skew starting down to the end of that oval.

Then I split them off the center strip by striking a chisel with a mallet…after having steamed the finished turning a bit.

splitting the bosses off the blank


Now this batch is done, ready for painting & varnishing.

turned bosses in maple

4 thoughts on “Turning bosses

  1. Since you did a nice scribe to show us the circle, highlight the scribed line with chalk instead of pencil. That way, you can keep those nasty pencils out of the shop. :)

  2. The thickness of the half-columns on Plymouth county and Wethersfield “Sunflower” chests possibly indicate that they were turned without a center strip. Is that possible? I would think the pressure of the bit for the lath would split the glued up pieces apart.

  3. Erik
    If I remember the Wethersfield applied pilasters, I think those have the thinnest “necks” of all – so those have to have some support in the lathe. The Plymouth ones are the chunkiest; but I still think they are less than half-round. It’s an on-going issue. We really know little about the lathes used in 17th century. We know that three types (pole lathe, treadle, and great wheel) were possible, but which were commonly used is unknown.

    when things settle down, I will dig out pictures of the wethersfield turnings for folks to see. But first, to finish this cupboard this week…

  4. This debate is quite fierce. Some modern “reproducers” have been turning these whole and sawing them in half. Presumably with little Japanese saws. I have seen many early 20C restored ones that are a complete half and look like goiters. One 17C period term for these is “jewels” although bosses is more neutral. Strictly a boss is the center thing on a shield to deflect sword blows. We might ask those classical revival nuts what the correct term is for the decorative ends of Roman bolts that hold the brass sheathing on the wooden cradling of the doors of the Pantheon in Rome. Which reminds me how Wayne Wadhams and I used to say “keep your Pantheon” all the time.

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