In need of a number of duplicate spindles, I hit upon this method of turning them with the aid of a template. The challenging part was finding the right size post to fit the lathe’s banjo. I used a short length of 3/4” steel pipe wrapped with a bit of sheet metal to increase its diameter. Thread a floor flange on to the top of the pipe and then screw the flange to a 1-1/2 × 3” hardwood platform cut about 1/2” longer than the pieces you intend to turn. Screw a matching length of 3/16 × 1” band iron to one side to serve as a tool rest. To make the template, lay out half the shape of your spindle on a strip of 1/4” thick material, aligning the spindle’s centerline with one edge. Bandsaw the template to shape, then file and sand the curves true. Fasten the template to the platform with double-faced tape.
Before turning, add 1/4” thick followers to your scrapers. I find three tools—a flat, a round nose, and a diamond point—generally handle every situation. Shape the followers to match the ends of their chisels and fasten them with 5/8” electrical ground clamps.
To set up and calibrate the template, turn all your blanks round as usual. If the parts have a tenon(s), turn it to size on the last blank. Then swap your regular toolrest for the platform, aligning it parallel to the lathe’s axis. Rest your first chisel on the platform with its handle perpendicular to the axis. Extend the chisel until its tip just touches the tenon (or other established radius), then slide the follower until it touches the corresponding tenon portion of the template and tighten it in place. Repeat for the other tools. Now you should be able to scrape all the blanks to a uniform shape by guiding your chisels along the template.
Shop-made “locking” pliers
While I wouldn’t want to give up my traditional steel locking pliers, there are times when they just aren’t quite right for the job at hand. Their serrated jaws might damage a delicate part, their grip might be a little too tight, and even the needle-nose version can be too big at times. To make a more delicate version, I stretch a rubber band around the handles of a non-locking set of pliers that has jaws of the appropriate shape for what I need to hold. I can easily adjust the tension with my choice of rubber band and/or by how many wraps I make around the handles. One of my favorite uses for this trick is when I need to drive in very small brads. Here I use a set of jeweler’s pliers with round looping tips that let the brad slide easily when it is struck.
Corralling a belt sander
Belt sanders can make quick work of sanding parts. And when those parts are small, such as when I need to sand a chamfer on the end of a bunch of dowels, it is much easier and safer to move them past the sander instead of moving the sander past them. As much as I’d like to have a stationary belt sander, I don’t really have the space or budget for one. So when the situation arises, I turn my hand-held sander upside down and fix it to my bench. To make this easier, I devised a mounting plate that I can set up in a matter of seconds. It consists of a 3/4” plywood base with four protruding 1/2” dowels positioned to hold the sander. A single clamp is enough to hold it to bench, while gravity holds the sander in place.