Top Tip: Live tail center for finials
I enjoy turning finials, ornaments, and other pieces with long, slender tips. However, supporting those delicate ends can be tricky, and a standard live center with a pointed end won’t do the job. Instead, I made up a live center with a hole to accept the finial tip. It consists of a standard ball or roller bearing inset into a wooden mandrel made from a 1-1/2" square × 6" long blank. First turn one end of the blank to match the Morse taper in your tail stock, making it long enough to self-eject when the spindle is fully retracted. Then pop the tapered end in the headstock, turn the bulb shape, and drill a shallow hole that is a snug fit for a machine bearing whose hole size suits the diameter of the work you typically turn. I used a 1/2" O.D., 3/16" I.D. bearing from a dead router, but you could use a router bit bearing or order any size you like from an online bearing dealer. Press the bearing into the hole and you’re done.
—Jeff Peters, Redgranite, Wisconsin
Skinning a crosscut sled
I love my tablesaw crosscut sled because it allows me to crosscut large panels and other workpieces that would be too unwieldy to feed with my saw’s miter gauge. Not only that, but the sled’s base serves as a zero-clearance backup to minimize exit tearout. Unfortunately, I recently used the sled with a cheap blade that had enough wobble to widen the kerf in the base, compromising its zero-clearance support. The real fix would have been to cut out and replace the central section of the base, but I didn’t have time for that yet. Instead, I discovered that you can use double-faced tape to attach a piece of 1/4"-thick hardboard or plywood to restore the zero-clearance support. For cutting accuracy, make sure to use enough tape to keep the thin panels from bowing. Keep in mind that the new “skin” doesn’t necessarily have to completely cover the sled base; it just has to provide sufficient support for your workpiece.
—Steve Wentworth, Salt Lake City, Utah
In need of a cheap but effective way for students to smooth the inside faces of their carved spoons, I hit upon this shop-made, lathe-mounted “sanding nub.” It is simply a block of hardwood turned to a small dome shape and covered with a disk of coarse sanding paper that’s held in place with a rubber band. Strategically placed radial slices allow the abrasive to conform well enough to the curved surface of the block. The sanding nub does a great job of smoothing out carving tracks, and prepares the surface for easier hand-sanding with finer papers. Obviously, you can turn a nub with a wider face for broader surfaces like bowls, using adhesive to attach the paper if necessary.
—Ken Burton, senior editor
Dying in small measures
When making custom dyes from powders or liquids, I blend together primary and secondary colors that I’ve mixed up in 8-oz. containers that I keep on hand. When trying to hit a color target, I combine very small amounts to test on my project wood. For best results, I use a cough syrup cup as a measure because it includes increment markings on the side, allowing me to keep accurate records of mix ratios that I can record in a notebook or on my stain samples.
—Jeff Peters, Redgranite, Wisconsin
Table top spray booth
The availability of water-based finishes and affordable small-scale spray units these days makes finishing moderately-sized projects easier than ever. If you’re spraying in your shop, however, you do need a spray booth of some sort to manage the overspray. I have a simple, inexpensive set-up that does the job nicely. I created a booth by slicing and taping together pieces of inexpensive 1/2"-thick rigid foam insulation, available at home centers. I cut out a ventilation window in the rear panel, to which I taped a small furnace filter. Placed on a table near an open window with a small box fan in between, the set-up safely corrals and evacuates water-based overspray. (I don’t recommend spraying solvent-based finishes through an electric fan.) When I’m done finishing, the booth is quickly disassembled for compact storage.
—Sarah Frank, Lake Charles, Louisiana