Once again, I said yes to a friend (it seems I say yes to lots of my friends) who wanted me to duplicate some woodworking in a house he is rehabing. This time it was something I’ve never done. But, of course, I said “No problem”. (Whenever I say that, I always hear this other voice telling me this WILL be a problem, but I always ingnore it.)
This little project involved making two balusters – with spirals. I own a lathe and can turn well enough, but I wasn’t sure how to cut the spirals. I asked a few folks and they all said, “Oh, you have to carve them by hand”. Yeah, right. I like hand using hand tools as much as the next woodworker but this seemed like a nightmare coming to life. How would I keep the grooves consistant and parallel to each other? How long would this take? I would need to practice on other woods before I broke out the mahagony (the wood used in the rest of the staircase). Seemed like this would be a problem.
So, I began a quest for the perfect way to make these balusters using power tools (the ones with cords). I began searching the internet for tools, clues and techniques that would make this task “easy”. I found a couple of tools that would do what I wanted, but one of them was extinct and the other cost a lot of money. I started reading some threads of conversations about such a tool. One chap from England said, “There’s a book out there titled …’Router Magic’ and it has plans for a rather sturdy looking tool called a router lathe.”
I got all excited because we have a copy of “Router Magic,” written by Bill Hylton, here at Popular Woodworking. I grabbed the book and there it was – the router lathe. All I had to do was build it. I just needed some plywood, a router and, what? – bicycle parts? Yup, I read it correctly. Well, I have 6 bicycles, so “Frankesteining” one of them would be okay.
Bill Hylton was still working at Reader’s Digest, writing about woodworking. He and his buddy, Fred Matlack, came up with this very clever tool and it looked like something I could make. I stripped my bicycle, found some plywood, bought some hardware and started the build. I had no idea it would be this much fun! The photo shows where I’m at now. It’s almost finished and I can’t wait to start turning balusters with my router.
I’ll show the final results in a couple of weeks and let you know if it works. Oh, and don’t forget to order Bill Hylton’s new book, “The Drawer Book”.
Senior Editor, Popular Woodworking books