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Spindle-Turning Warm Up Exercise

Last year I was contacted by a client who asked me to reproduce a c.1820 mahogany desk, entirely (or at least as much as was practicable) using the craft technology of the time period, and for the past several months I’ve been working on it.  I will blog in greater depth about the project, but recently I have begun to turn several spindles integral to the piece.


Since I did not have access to the original I used photogrammetry to ascertain the dimensions.  While I am told that programs such as SketchUp have this utility, I do not have enough interest in it to learn it.  Instead I use my Old Faithful program, CorelDraw 9.  I’ve been using CorelDraw since version 2 and it serves my needs just fine.


Importing an image into CorelDraw and then resizing it to fit some “known” dimensions available on-line I derived the patterns for the project, including the templates for the spindles.  With the dimensions and profile established I made this story board to keep a the lathe, and included the two main caliper measurements so I could easily and quickly judge the progress and end point.  Using it I fired up the lathe, to judge my ability to get back to work (the hand and wrist are still pretty stiff) and also to get a sense of the wood I was using and the fit of the turning chisels I had on-hand.  (I know you will be SHOCKED to learn I decided to purchase four more scrapers and purchase tool steel to make another half dozen if necessary).  Since this was a practice exercise I was simply trying some things out, I know it does not mimic the original exactly but I did learn what I needed to know to proceed.


The mahogany turns like a dream; it is very old swietenia I obtained specifically for this project, I think it wa milled around 1900 or so.  Once finished with the chisels I touched the surface lightly with sandpaper, then went at it with a wax-impregnated polissoir.  I was pleased with the result, but not the picture.  A new camera is in the works.


600 Posts on the Way to Forever!

I noticed this morning that yesterday’s post was my 600th over the last 3-1/2 years.  Who knew I had so much to say, about anything?  I guess folks who correspond with me on a variety of topics including history, technology, politics, economics, faith, art, etc., might not be so surprised.

c mondo dovetail

In response to some comment about why I liked to write thriller fiction as well (none published but the exercise is darned good catharsis), Mrs. Barn quipped, “That’s because you get to put words in everyone’s mouth!”

Harrumph.  And that’s my final word.

For today.

Restoring Infill #1 – Pursuing Purdy (& Pass-off for Finito)


With performance functionality assured — I’d flattened the sole, made sure all the parts fit together and worked well, and brought the plane iron to sharpness — it was time to turn my attention to making the infill plane pretty.


I disassembled the plane again and removed the infills to clean and apply a first coat of varnish.  Since the surface was a little friable and I did not want to grind away the wood to get down to uniformly solid wood for fear it would change the character of the infills I chose instead to coat the cleaned surface with a diluted application of West System epoxy, thinned about 25% with acetone to get the best penetration.


While that was happening I was cleaning the metal shell with fine sandpaper and 4F pumice.


Reflecting my personal aesthetic preference my plan was to use gun bluing in several applications to turn out as black as possible.


As I was doing an in-process reassembly I made a fateful decision that changed the course of the project irretrievably: I gave it away.  The problem was morphological, as my hand was simply too large to fit into the “D” tote with any degree of comfort, and I simply did not like the feel of getting only my pinkie and ring finger comfortably inside the opening.  Instead I packed it up and shipped it off to my brother-in-tools MikeM whose hands are, unlike my meaty Germano-Welsh mutt peasant mitts, are sinuous Mediterranean limbs that fit the opening more perfectly.

cInfill Plane 2

Mike took the project over the finish line and it is now both a showpiece and his introduction to the incurable fascination with infill planes.