When I mentioned to Pleas McKee that I was going to make a tool handle he suggested that I drill the hole in the handle before I start turning. Find the correct size drill bit; make the hole, then leave the drill in the hole. Take to the lathe and using a Jacobs chuck, mount the drill bit and using a live center tail stock, turn the handle. By leaving the bit in the wood, the entire handle is kept in alignment throughout the process. When done the handle is perfectly aligned. Works great!
Graphite / Mainenance
My chuck slowly gets clogged up with fine wood dust and the key operation becomes quite sticky. So I will occasionally blow out all the dust with the shopvac, and lubricate the mechanism with graphite lubricant. This is a fine graphite dust and is sold in hardware stores for lubricating door locks, amongst other things. After I turn the jaws in and out a few times, they become noticeably easier to operate. And when I put it back on the lathe I get a much better feel for the amount of gripping pressure I apply. I have been turning a lot of bottle stoppers lately, and before cleaning I was finding the dowel had a tendency to come out of the jaws at the slightest provocation. After cleaning the mechanism I get a much better grip. I assume that more of the key torque is transferred to the jaws when the gears are operating smoothly. The investment of few minutes of maintenance time has paid off well by reducing frustration.
Getting a Blank to Run True on a Chuck
Have you ever started a blank between centers, getting a real nice surface on the outside and forming a nice tenon or recess for the chuck to grab, but then discover that it no longer runs true when you mount it on the chuck? Or, have you ever been part way through a piece, find out you temporarily need the chuck for something else and then when you try to rechuck the piece, it won’t run true? Here’s a possible solution. When chucking up a blank, most times turners will put the chuck on the spindle and then hold the blank up to the chuck with the right hand and tailstock while tightening the jaws with the left. Frequently, this will work fine and the piece will run true, but sometimes there’s some wobble that wasn’t there before. Now you’ll have to re-turn what you’ve done so far. Try this. Put the chuck on a flat surface with the jaws open wide enough to accommodate the tenon or recess. Now lower the piece onto the jaws and tighten enough to hold it while you move to the headstock. You’ve just used gravity to level the wood with the jaws and should get a true running piece. One last thought. Nothing will help if the tenon or recess is deeper than the jaws. The wood should always contact the jaws at the top of the jaws, not rest on the bottom surface of the jaws. Also, a wet blank may warp if it’s not cared for properly.
Increasing the Shelf Life of Oil/Varnish Finish
I often use a commercial Tung oil/varnish mixture as finish on wood projects. Unfortunately, this product’s shelf life after the initial opening is limited. I usually end up throwing a good portion of the product away because it thickens and becomes difficult to apply when stored in the original container after opening.I’ve tried many reseal able containers without success. Lately I have begun pouring the unused oil/varnish into an empty wine bottle after the initial opening. I then use a manual vacuum pump and rubber cork designed specifically for wines bottles. A few pumps to evacuate the air remaining in the bottle is all it takes. The next time I need to use the finish I pour the required amount into an appropriate container for application, usually a small tin bowl.When no longer needed, I pour the unused portion back into the wine bottle and once again evacuate the air with the pump. So far this process has more than doubled the shelf life of my oil/varnish finish and the clock is still ticking. I obtained my pump and stoppers at Bed Bath & Beyond. The pump and one stopper cost around $12. Additional stoppers are about $4 a pair.
Beginner's tip: making chips!
I was told a long time ago, when I first started turning that the easiest way to learn turning is to make nothing but chips. No bowls, no candlesticks, nothing but chips, mainly to get the feel of the tool and handling. Most of us crawled before we walked, woodturning is no different. Learn and listen to what the lathe does at the different speeds. Watch how you present the tool to the wood; get a feel of how different angles of tool presentation make the chips fly differently. So go out to the old wood pile, grab a chunk and put it on the lathe and have fun. Use common sense when mounting a log on the lathe. Get it as close to center as possible. I still do this if I have not turned for a time, just to keep from messing up the good stuff (which still happens). It seems to make the mind and hands get back in the groove.