“Send out for some pillars…

& Cecil B. DeMille.”

the “Stent” panel, early 17th century England

Yesterday Michael Burrey dropped off some maple bolts – so today I got to turn a pillar, either for the cupboard or for practice. It’s been over 20 years since I turned one of these big pieces.

Maple isn’t my favorite riving wood by a long shot, but every now & then you find one that splits well enough. This section was fairly cooperative.

the larger section is the one I need

I scribed a 5” circle on the end and rived & hewed away the excess. Somewhere in there, I trimmed it to about 18” long. 

To prep it for turning, I wanted to make it as even as I could without getting too crazy time-wise. Last time I did this, I didn’t know Dave Fisher’s great methods for prepping his bowl blanks. This time, I used some ideas based on Dave’s work. I struck a line through the middle of my 5” circle, and shimmed the bolt on the bench til that line was plumb.

line up this end & that end

Then struck a related line on the other end. From there, I could measure how high the centerpoint of the first circle was (3” off the bench) and scribe one in the same position on the other end. And strike that circle. Then shave down to those circles. 

roughing it out w a drawknife

I then struck a new 3” circle on one end, to hew and shave a taper to the bottom end of the pillar. 

hewn taper at one end

Then it went on the lathe. At that point, it weighed 11 lbs 6 oz. (5.16 kg they tell me). Wrapping the cord around something even 3” in diameter means you’re turning slowly at first. So my objective early on is to determine the location of a cove and start to rough it out. That way I can move the cord there ASAP. Get more revolutions per tromp, and a smoother cut as the piece spins faster. 

well underway

I spent a long time on this piece; between being out of practice, out of shape, taking still photos & video, and checking dimensions – I plodded along. Hadn’t turned maple in so long, and I’m always astounded at the long ribbon shavings you get, even from a pole lathe.

a horrible photo

I live in a fantasy in which I’m about one afternoon’s cleaning away from being organized. Nothing is further from the truth though. And using the lathe drives that point home. My shop is on the small side, 12′ x 16′ – the local building codes allowed me to do it without permits & inspections if I kept it under 200 sq ft. The price I pay is that the lathe is tucked against the back wall, and I have to pull it out about 2 feet when I need it. And I don’t do a lot of turning, so often junk gets piled on the lathe temporarily. So this photo above shows some of the mayhem that ensues when I dig out the lathe. It’s one of the worst photos I’ve taken in the shop in ages – too cluttered and the photo of the pillar propped up at the lathe is extremely helpful to me, but so disorienting to look at here, with the open door beyond.

the pillar roughed out

I got the pillar to a good point for quitting for the day. About 1/4″-3/8″ oversized for now. I’m aiming for a greater diameter of 4 1/2″ and the coves are about 1″ plus. The bits just inside the tenons will be 2 1/2″. Overall length between the tenons is 14 1/2″. At this stage, the general form is established. I put it in a paper bag with some of the shavings to hopefully dry it slowly and not have it crack apart. I’ll put it back on the lathe in a few days to turn the final size and the details. Weight at this point – 5 lbs. (2.27 kg). I didn’t weigh the shavings. Tomorrow is that cleaning day, I’m going to get organized this time…

7 thoughts on ““Send out for some pillars…

  1. Peter! I hope all is well with you. I think of you often. Today was no exception as I was listening to the song this morning. Me? I’m finally in a motorized wheelchair and well you can figure out the rest.

    I miss our chats, your work is still amazing. Take care of yourself and be safe!

    Michael On Tue, Mar 9, 2021 at 7:44 PM Peter Follansbee, joiner’s notes wrote:

    > pfollansbee posted: ” & Cecil B. DeMille.” the “Stent” panel, early 17th > century England Yesterday Michael Burrey dropped off some maple bolts – so > today I got to turn a pillar, either for the cupboard or for practice. It’s > been over 20 years since I turned one of” >

  2. Michael – I’ve been planning that blog title for a while, with you in mind. I almost put the citation after the quote, but what fun would that be? I’m so glad to see you still don’t miss a beat. Well, the motorized chair is a step I know you didn’t want, but it beats the alternative I hope.

  3. This is going to be a great project, but I still can’t get my head around how you deal with the aftermath of the wood being so green once it starts to dry. This is going to be a large cabinet and once she starts to dry especially in a house that’s heated, checks and cracks will appear. How do you avoid that?

    • Hello Peter,
      I was attracted by your comment that the building being under 200 sq. ft. and did not require a permit or inspection. I’m code enforcement officer (CEO) in two small towns here in Maine. What’s the worry ??
      In our Ordinances, timber frame structures have no building code. (Probably because they are overbuilt ! )
      Therefore, no code equals no inspections. Maybe you should look into enlarging the place. However, the building still require a C of O = certificate of occupancy. I inspect for safe environment, you know, handrails, passages, egress, smoke alarms, etc. Would you flunk the test ??
      WES: Baldwin, Maine.

      • Hi Wes – different world down here in the suburbs. And, I’d flunk w flying colors. Even if I could enlarge it, IF I do any carpentry coming up, it has to be fixing up the house.

    • This project will span several months here in the shop. All that initial drying will take place here. I don’t get checks after the fact, except the one from the client.

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