I am the last person in the world who should teach wood turning. I stink at it. I’m slow. I don’t do it enough to become proficient at it.
But even I can easily turn a leg for a Roorkhee chair using just one turning tool – a full-size Easy Rougher from Easy Wood Tools. (Standard disclaimer: I paid full price for every tool I use – blah, blah, blah for you haters out there.)
I’m in the middle of turning about 40 of these legs for Roorkhee chairs I’m making for customers, and I shot a short video that shows how I do this.
If you are a good turner, please don’t watch the video. This is not for you.
If you are a lame-o turner with little or no experience, this is how I get good results. I don’t have to sand my legs into submission. All my legs are pretty much straight from the tools.
If you are like me – a furniture-maker who has to turn at times – the biggest fear is catches. Then things get ruined – either your workpiece, your Underoos or both.
I first learned to turn on a spring-pole lathe, and it wasn’t until I switched to a high-speed electric lathe that I ever really had an exciting catch. So when I turn profiles that have some sharp sweeps, I slow the lathe down – something less than 900 rpm. Yes, you can get clean cuts at slow speeds. Just take smaller bites and make sure your tools are sharp. After you build up some confidence, slowly increase the speed.
Second tip: Take your time. Turning videos are amazing carnival rides. You don’t have to produce a leg in two minutes. Mine take about 15 minutes. Speed will come after about 30 legs.
Last tip: I roughed out the leg’s cylinder and the ankle using a dado stack in my table saw. This reduced my layout chores, removed a bunch of material and made it easy to figure out when to stop without constantly reaching for my calipers. As soon as the square is turned to a full round, that is the finished diameter.
Finally, don’t be intimidated by the lathe. It is a fun machine, and the legs for this Roorkhee chair are an excellent first turning for the beginner.
— Christopher Schwarz
What the heck is a Roorkhee chair? Then you don’t have the October 2012 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, which has complete plans for building this comfortable chair from 1898. Check out the issue here. Also coming next week: How to tune up a tool for making the tapered tenons used in this chair.
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