Turned Oil Lamp

Comments (0)

This article is from Issue 72 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Seamless segmented turnings are a cinch, thanks to this 60° trick

Segmented turning work has more in common with quilting than most people might think. While quilters cut and sew scraps of fabric, I use a mitersaw to cut pieces of wood and join them with glue for similarly spectacular results. That said, I guess it’s not surprising that I look at quilts for inspiration. This pattern, called “a walk in the garden,” is easy to replicate and a perfect excuse to use up any special shorts in your lumber pile. The neat thing about this pattern is that it looks more difficult than it is. Once you know how to set your saw, you can assemble bunches of turning blanks, or use the segments to make a show-stopping cutting board.

Prep your parts

For a seamless top, mill your star and border strips (plus an extra for setup), and then set your mitersaw using the sequence shown at right. I used canary wood and paduak for the star and wenge for the border. The outer purpleheart band is the “star saver.” As you’ll see, it serves as a visual guide when shaping the lamp.

Set the saw to 30° and make the stop. Cut the end of your stop strip. The auxiliary fence and base reduce tearout and prevent parts from getting caught by the blade.
Use a strip to set the stop. Position a test strip between the stop and saw blade, and then clamp the stop to the fence.

Start with the star. Assembling the pattern on masking tape’s sticky side helps parts stay put. Arrange the segments so that the end grain on one touches the side grain on the next.

Piece the puzzle together

Assembling the “walk in the garden” pattern can be a walk in the park with a few tips. First, do your assembly on a flat, nonstick surface. Next, use tape instead of clamps. I use masking tape to tack the parts and stretchable packing tape to pull the pattern together (see Buyer’s Guide, p. 61). When the glue dries, sand the pattern’s bottom face to remove excess glue, and fix any unevenness. If you don’t own a thickness sander, simply stick a sheet of sandpaper to a flat surface.

Add the glue. After you’ve come up with a pleasing pattern, fold open each joint and apply glue.
Wrap it tight. After gluing on the star-saver strips, wrap the assembly with stretchable tape. No additional clamps are needed.

Tap it flat. Remove the masking tape, then fix any pieces that might have shifted.

Make your miters. Cut three pieces to test your miter setting. I use a hooked hold-down to keep the segment safely against the stop.

If the tips touch, you’re set. Test-fit the three pieces against each other. If the angle is off, adjust your saw, make a new stop, and repeat.

Stack and squeeze. Flat faces don’t require a ton of clamping pressure, but be sure to position the clamps evenly across the pattern.

Center the hole on the star. Blanks can vary in a production run, so I center the hole on the pattern and use tape to set the depth, rather than trust stops. To ensure that the Forstner bit doesn’t miss its mark, start the hole with a center punch.

Take it for a spin

As you can see, the finished lamp is a basic dome. I keep the shape simple because I don’t want to pull attention away from the top. A profile template really isn’t necessary; in fact, it may slow you down if your blanks vary in size.

The most important thing is not to turn too much, or else you might cut into your star. Pay attention to the “star keeper” strips. When those ends are flush with the outer lamp’s border, it’s time to move onto scraping, sanding, and finishing.

Use the lamp hole to hold the blank. Position the blank on the chuck, and then expand the jaws to hold the blank in place.

Now turn the foot. After flattening the bottom, I use a skew chisel to make a 1⁄4 × 3" tapered recess for the expanding chuck. (Now’s a good time to finish the bottom.)

Do the dome. Using the tailstock for additional support, I shape the top and sides with a 1⁄2" bowl gouge. Periodically stop the lathe and check the “star keeper” strips, to be sure that you don’t turn too much.

Scrape it smooth. Using a very light touch, run a round-nose scraper around the lamp to eradicate tearout and tool marks.

Sand it smooth. A close-quarter drill and a sanding disc finish up where scraping left off. Use a blast of compressed air to remove dark dust from the lighter pieces.

Now finish it up

Because of the variety of species and changing grain direction, turning a segmented blank often means dealing with a little tearout and tool marks. A right-angle sander quickly makes things right. I start with 100 grit and work up to 400.

A common problem with exotic woods is keeping the colors from bleeding when applying a finish. To prevent this, I seal the piece, apply lacquer, and then use superfine abrasives to polish the finish. After giving it a quick coat of wax, it’s ready to light the night.

Seal in the color. Fast-drying sanding sealer prevents the darker pieces from bleeding onto the lighter ones. Spray on 4 mist coats (wait a few minutes between coats) before scuff-sanding to remove nibs.
Spray it on, then buff it up. Spray lacquer dries quickly, but I give it a day to cure before polishing. For a soft sheen, press a white pad against the lamp and let the lathe do the work.

Polish and protect. With the lathe set to around 1000, squeeze a small dollop of sunscreen onto a paper towel, and apply to the lamp. Give it a few minutes to dry, then buff.


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page