Lathe substitute or improvisation?

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  • #658341
    Colin Edmondson
    Participant

    As I near the end of making Pauls workbench drawer project, it irks me a little to go and buy a knob for it as I have no means of turning my own. It led me to wonder if there might be such a thing as a ‘poor mans lathe’ or method for making an occasional small turned item without one?

    #658342
    Jim Anders
    Participant

    I’ve not tried this, but I remember seeing it awhile back.

    https://www.finewoodworking.com/2014/04/01/how-to-turn-pulls-without-a-lathe-2

    #658353
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    Depends what tools you have available. If you have an electric drill, then you could get hold of a small sanding drum, put the drill in the vise, and assuming you have a 30cm or so piece of dowel, you can sand down one side of the profile, drill a pilot for a screw or small diameter dowel, the trim the dowel rod and chuck up the other end to do the second side of the profile. Or, if you are able to taper the dowel with a plane or draw knife, or spokeshave, trim it, then chuck that in to the drill, then you can gently file / sand the profile you want.
    You can also do something similar with a power router if you have one. Fix the router, build a simple workpiece controlling fixture.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #658354
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    If you want to hand tool only, then buy some dowel stock and some sheet sandpaper. Shape it roughly with a penknife, chisel etc, then using long strips of sandpaper, wrap that around the dowel and pull with alternate hands to round things nicely.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #658372
    Randall Cates
    Participant

    I built Roy Underhill’s pole lathe a couple of years back. It can be used to make drawer pulls, with a bit of further ingenuity. Here’s the article from Popular Woodworking Magazine that I followed.

    Roy Underhill’s Double Spring Pole Lathe


    Works great but does take some practice to get your hands with the tools and your foot making the rotation.

    #658473
    Colin Edmondson
    Participant

    Some ideas there for a bit of experimentation, I think. Thanks everyone. I’m not averse to occasional use of power tools – I just don’t have space to house very much.
    Sadly I don’t have a drill press though I do have a couple of electric drills so if I can figure out a way of clamping one in my vise, that may be a way forward – anyone have any pointers for this?

    Getting a piece of stock roughly round with a spokeshave then ‘turning’ with rasps & sanding blocks makes good sense too.

    #658481
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    Another way to hold a drill if you don’t have one of those cheapish drill stands is to use cable ties through holes in a piece of plywood. Then clamping the plywood in the vise or to the workbench becomes relatively simple. Just be aware of any vent slots on the sides. If you only have a cordless drill, this way can also work, if you also have a strip of velcro, or a releasable cable tie for the trigger.
    Just remember, if you do try to chuck the wooden part in to the drill and spin it, then you must be very gentle with the abrading tool.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #658547
    Colin Edmondson
    Participant

    Doh! I’d never been aware that so many cheapish drill stands existed ( having never had a need before) . I’ll order one & see how things go. Think I might use a bit of threaded rod both to fit the finished knob and to hold the unfinished version in the chuck..at least for a first attempt.

    #658614
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    I’m going to repeat that it really is better to mount the abrasive in the drill rather than the work piece. I speak from experience when I say that it is extremely frustrating when they break, and they do break very easily compared to doing it the other way around. Drill speed is important here.
    Look for a cheap drill press sanding drum, like the wolfcraft (other manufacturers also, of course) version on Amazon, or whatever larger kit suits your budget.

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #659019
    Larry Geib
    Participant

    To answer the original post, there is such a thing as a Poor man’s lathe, and you can turn something like a knob.

    Richard Maguire ‘ the English Woodworker’ posted about a ten minute build of a small spring pole lathe that mounts to your bench and can be used for occasional turning. Google bench top bungy lathe and you will find a whole series of builds, including his.

    I built one to turn tapered tenons for chair legs.

    So I had a go to see if it would do something as small as a knob and had some success at a shaker style knob.
    The lathe has no chuck, so you have to cut off the last 1/4” of the knob face and knife and sand it smooth. I had no use for the knob, so now the box that holds some sharpening kit sports a cherry knob.
    I only had a scrap of 3/4” cherry stock, so it’s tiny.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Larry Geib.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 7 months ago by Larry Geib.
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    #659031
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    Definitely gonna build one of these, just so that I can say I’ve built it 🙂

    Colin, Czech Rep.

    #681902
    Stephen Tyrrell
    Participant

    Not sure if the technique would work for a small knob, but the plane tote series includes making the front tote for a hand plane, which is a essentially a knob.

    #681915
    Colin Scowen
    Participant

    For small knobs, Lee Valley recently did an article on hand making the.
    https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/discover/woodworking/2020/september/how-to-make-knobs-and-pulls-quietly

    Colin, Czech Rep.

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