By Charles Bender
If you want to add a little punch to your next traditional furniture project, try adding quarter columns. They help narrow the look of any piece by drawing your eye inward. This usually gives the piece the appearance of being more compact and vertical, and gives it a more powerful stance.
So you’d like to give quarter columns a try but you only have a benchtop mini lathe? In 35 years of making furniture, I’ve only turned quarter columns once – and I’ll never do it again. I make my quarter columns at the router table.
Why? Well, the time-honored method for making quarter columns on the lathe has many drawbacks: You need to mill and accurately glue pieces together with paper between so you can easily separate them once you’ve turned the columns. And if you don’t get them precisely lined up in the gluing process, you need to start over or you won’t end up with four equal columns.
Once you get the columns turned, you need an indexing head for your lathe to make the flutes. And once you’ve got that handled, you need to either make a scratch stock with a guide box or a router jig in order to cut the flutes into the freshly turned column. All of this can take from several hours to a couple of days. The process is time-consuming, messy and prone to errors.
With just a few simple setups on the router table, you can make fluted quarter columns in no time – without all the fuss. The best part is, if you don’t like the layout or you make a mistake, it’s easy to start over and get exactly what you want with very little time invested.
Time to Buy Some Tools
To make quarter columns on the router table you’ll need only a few tools, some of which you probably already own. You’ll need a router and a router table, neither of which needs to be very big or expensive. A 1-horsepower (hp) router and a shop-made table should do the trick. I have only 11⁄2-hp routers in my shop.
From the April 2013 issue #203
Buy this issue now