Category Archives: Woodturning

Newly turned woodcarver’s mallet and pepper grinder

I’ve managed to spend a little time in the shop over the past two weeks and “turned” out a couple of small projects (pun intended).

First is a woodcarver’s mallet.  I needed a traditional round faced woodcarver’s mallet for an upcoming hand-cut dovetail class that I will be taking at Ernie Conover’s wood shop in Ohio.  He recommends this style of mallet (rather than a square faced carpenter’s mallet)  in his tool list for the class, and I just couldn’t see buying a mallet when I could make one.  Besides, I wanted a tradition lignum vitae wood head, and you can’t buy those easily now-a-days.  Hard maple seems to be norm for purchased mallets these days unless you get one with a man-made material wrapped head.  Ernie does not recommend those due to “bounce.”

I turned this one with a hard maple handle attached to the head with a  wedged through tenon.  The head is made from Argentinian lignum vitae wood that I got from the local Rockler.  I was surprised to find a large enough block of the lignum for this project.

The wedge is a scrap of ebony, and then I buffed on a carnauba wax coating.

The mallet is about 10″ long with a 3″ radius at its widest point.  It weighs 20 ounces overall.

Turning the lignum was easier than I expected given its incredible density.   BUT….don’t try and saw through it  with your delicate Japanese hand saw.  The teeth of the  saw with lose the battle with the wood.  Don’t ask me how I know.

Below is my first attempt at a pepper grinder.  I turned it from Kingwood and then buffed on a carnauba wax coating.  I used a “crush grind” ceramic mechanism for the internals.  This type of mechanism allows for you to adjust the grind from the bottom of the mill, so that you do not have to have an adjustment know sticking through the cap.  I found the mechanism to be first-rate.

I enjoyed doing the mill, and will likely do more of these.  They are fast , fun and useful.

New Router Table Fence

Well, I made my decision on my previous post and decided to buy the Incra router table fence to make the drawers for the desks.  Totally necessary?  No, but should make this and future projects easier and I too know a good opportunity to buy a tool when I see one.

I bought the Incra LS positioner (see and once it arrives and is installed on my router table I will sell my current like-new 36" Bench-Dog ProFence to help to defray the cost.  If anyone is interested in buying it before it goes to e-bay, email me an offer.

I have already extended the back of my router table to allow for the mounting of the Incra jig (it requires a lot of room behind the bit), and the table is now ready to go.

I will post my opinion of the Incra once I have had time to experience it.


This website has a really cool idea for something called a “Pirolette”!

I’m going to put this on my list on things to make someday….looks like a fun challenge for the lathe.

If you aren’t going to make one yourself, order one from Tom Beshara at his website.


Oneway Mastercut Handle

I replaced the handle on the bowl gouge that I broke a few posts ago with a metal handle made by Oneway.  I love it!  It is heavy and stable and gives the tool a great feel.  This is one handle that will never break.  Click on the link below for info on the handle:

Oneway Mastercut Handle

Woodworking Magazine and Blog

I have really enjoyed the four issues of the new Woodworking Magazine produced so far.  It is not sold by subscription and is not on a regular publishing schedule…yet.  It accepts no ads, similar to "Cook’s Illustrated" magazine which is my wife’s favorite magazine (and I like it too).  It blends power-tool woodworking with traditional hand tool methods just like I like to do.

Even better, I enjoy Chris Schwarz’s new blog that is hosted on the magazine’s website.

Click here for  Woodworking Magazine‘s site for the blog.

Sioux Right-Angle Sander Repair

I bought a handheld right-angle sander last year at Edric’s recommendation.  I use it sand pieces while they are still on the lathe (with the lathe turned off).  I bought a Sioux brand sander and the unit has worked great and I would recommend it…but, I broke the trigger a few weeks ago by bumping the trigger side-ways during a sanding operation.  The trigger is long and fragile and has no lateral strength.  Cracked right in half.

I ordered a new part from Sioux and fixed it myself.  At least it is easy to fix, but they need to make the trigger stronger.

UPDATE FROM 8/2008:  This unit continues to be a real workhorse for me and runs like a champ. Recommended in spite of the trigger issue in 2005

Mulberry bowl complete except for drying and finish

I finished turning the large mulberry bowl (green wood from my in-law’s tree) on the lathe on Sunday.  It has turned out well so far.  A few early drying cracks that I have tried to stabilize with instant glue…otherwise looks good (Maybe 15" diameter and 5" deep). 

It now needs to dry the rest of the way before final finishing.  I am going to try to use the microwave to speed the drying, but I need to watch out for cracking as it is an end-grain bowl that includes the pith.

This was the bowl that "injured" me a few posts back, so I am determined that it will be completed properly.

A Close Call

I had a close call last night.

I was turning the interior of a green 19" mulberry wood end-grain bowl when suddenly the shaft of my 1/2" Crown brand bowl gouge split from its hardwood handle and kicked back toward my face.  My face and left hand got hit with shards of wood from the handle, leaving some scratches, but otherwise I am OK…Thankfully I was wearing safety glasses (I always do) and so my eyes were protected.  The tool’s metal shaft is OK, just the handle broke.

I am not sure if I had a bad catch on the bowl (I don’t think so), or if the handle was cracked when I started and the turning caused the split to occur.  Since the bowl is undamaged and the lathe did not hesitate, I don’t think that I had a bad catch.  When I have had a catch before, it has always caused damage to the work piece…

Well, it scared me enough that I will now purchase a face-shield for my woodturning rather than just safety glasses…and again remind myself that woodworking should not be done when you are tired. 

Now I need to fix the handle on my bowl gouge.

Progress on the CNC Wood Lathe Project

I’m not happy with the way the initial rails turned out for my CNC wood lathe-mill project. The long rails are held to the short cross-rails with screws and nuts and small L-brackets. I just can’t seem to get them to hold together as tightly as I would like, and I am afraid the vibration of the final machine will shake the screw/nut combinations apart too quickly.

So, I’ve scrapped the original design and I’ve begun making a new design for the side pieces of the railbed using plywood. I laminated the hardwood-plywood up to 1" thick, and then I used the hollow-chisel mortiser to cut 1" square openings for the long square rails. Seems like it will work, but we’ll see tonight. I’m still working out the best way to secure the rails to the plywood ends with the adjustable-accuracy and a minimum of movement that I want. I’m over-building the rails a bit because my plan is to modify John Kleinbauer’s design (after I have it working as John did) to allow for several different tools to ride on the tool-sled. Also, I intend to install a 3rd stepper motor on the lathe’s axis through the lathe’s hollow handwheel to allow for rotary motion. Will it work??? Maybe…I am sure it can be done, the question is whether "I" can do it. I’m a woodworker, not a machinist. Software to operate the rotary motion may be the hard part. Rube Goldberg, watch out!

I also made the anti-backlash nut according to John K’s instructions, and I really like his design. It is simple, sturdy and I think it will work very well. I made it out of the plastic from an old router table insert that I had laying around that doesn’t fit my current router table. The antibacklash-nut is ready to be mounted to the rail assembly as soon as I complete the new rails.

The stepper motors and Economy FET-3 controller board arrived from over the weekend and the parts look good. Now I need to get the old computer that I have stored somewhere in the basement functional again to drive it. According to all I have read, any old computer will do, no real computing power needed. This is good, because the old computer that I intend to use is at least 8 years old, maybe more. It hasn’t even been turned on in at least 3 years.

To keep them straight in my head, I’m calling the CNC Lathe attachment that I am currently making the "Mark 2" as the "Mark 1" was the machine that I built last year with unsatisfactory results (too much vibration and wiggle in the cutter head). The "Mark 1" was not CNC, it used a fixed template for guidance. The "Mark 2" is largely a clone of John K’s Wood Turtle CNC. After I have the Mark 2 operational to the point that John K took it, I will build a new tool sled for it of my own design. This will be the "Mark 3" and is my ultimate goal.

First “Hollow-Turned” Bowl

I put the finish on my first hollow-turned bowl last night.  I made it out of a piece of still “green” black walnut from my in-laws tree pruning, so it needed a couple of weeks to dry after turning.  I had actually done the turning a couple of weeks ago, but couldn’t finish it till now.  I used standard turning tools, and they limited my reach inside the bowl a bit, but for a first effort it turned out OK.  A couple of drying cracks formed near the rim from my microwave drying.  I got a bit impatient.

Chairs Finished

The two Adirondack chairs rolled off of the assembly line this weekend and are ready for paint.  My wife is going to take care of that part of the job…a shade of blue.

Its time to clean up the shop and get to the next project.  This week I hope to produce enough of the garden railroad trackbed in the shop that my son and I can begin laying it over the upcoming weekend in the yard.  Constuction of the track bed should go pretty fast with the jig that I made before doing the chairs.

Additionally, I am once again looking to work on my experimental “design” for a twist-milling jig for the lathe that I attempt a few months ago with limited success. The prototype that  I made had way too much wiggle in the router to make clean cuts.   I am going to disassemble the prototype #1 and try to make a second prototype that is based on John Kleinbauer’s CNC design for the lathe called a “wood turtle.”   I’m not sure if I am going to go the full “CNC” route as John does, or stick with the modified manual design like prototype #1 (who am I kidding, I want to play with the CNC!)  This is a low priority project that is really just for fun.  I bought John’s plan over the internet and they look good.  I might not get to it for a while.

For now, the shop’s main projects are:

1. garden railroad trackbed
2. two Greene & Greene desks
3. modified Wood Turtle

Baker’s Pin Trick Works!

I’ve solved the problem of getting the diameter of my baker’s pins to be consistent to within 1/16th of an inch across their entire length.  Free-hand turning was only getting me to within a 1/16th and a "sizing tool" left too much tear-out.  I could feel the 1/16th in difference with my hand, and for pastry, it was too much.

I came up with a method that gets the deviation to within one thousandth of an inch.  More than consistent enough…

Just turn the baker’s pin to within a 1/16th free-hand, and then loosen the tool rest on the lathe (the longer the tool rest the better, I used a 12" rest).  Now take some coarse sandpaper (60 grit) and wrap it over the leading edge of the tool rest and attach with some spring clamps so that the entire front edge is covered.

Now, with the lathe running at about 3000 rpm and the tool rest loose(not tightened at all) push the tool rest forward into the wooden pin until it makes FLAT contact across its whole length.  Now slide the tool rest back-and-forth in a planing action until it is perfectly flat. Repeat until you see no light under a straight edge (with the lathe off!). Perfect!

Rock Maple French Baker’s Pin

I turned a French Baker’s Pin out of Rock Maple for my wife this
weekend.  It is a simple 2" diameter rod that is 20" long.  It must be
perfectly straight to function properly for rolling pastry.   I
completed it with no more than 1/16 inch deviation in diameter from
end-to-end.  After finishing it, I think that the tolerance should
have been even tighter.  Not sure how to do that though….may take
some experimentation on my part to refine the method beyond free-hand
turning.  After my wife uses this prototype, I will know if the 1/16"
deviation is acceptable or not.  No finish, just sanding to 400 grit
on the lathe.

Otherwise, it was a simple project that has a nice heavy feel.  I like it.

Edric Florence

Attend another gallery opening (Bird-in-Hand in Sewickley, PA) by my wood turning teacher, Edric Florence.  Edric has turned out some incredible new pieces (pun intended). 

Edric has developed a new method of stabilizing green turnings that have many natural voids (not sure he would want me to post it here!).  He had several new turning done in this manner with root-stock.  Click here to view them.


Upgrade the NOVA DVR Lathe Handles

I love my Nova DVR lathe by Teknatool (, but like other Nova owners I found that the various handles that came with the lathe did not live up to the quality of the rest of the tool.

Luckily, this is easily fixed by replacing the handles with better ones.  Someone on the MSN Nova owners group recommended the following parts from (sorry, I can’t find the post to credit the originator!).

Just go to Reid Tool and search on these part #s.

ONE of part #KHX-60 95MM ZINC HANDLE to replace the quill-lock handle.

ONE of part #KHX-345 95MM ZINC HANDLE to replace the tool-rest handle.

TWO of part #ESP-85 PUSH-FIT SOFT HANDLES to use as soft covers for the steel tool rest base handle and the tail-stock base handles.  You will need to slightly drill out the plastic on these handle covers to make them fit, but it is easily done.

If you have the outrigger assembly on your lathe, get another of the KHX-345s so that you can replace the tool rest handle on the outrigger also.

These changes may work on the standard Nova 3000 lathe too, but I’m not sure.

This is a great upgrade to the tool and worth the $25 or so. See finished handles in photos above.