Candle Stand and the Sliding Dovetail
Riving/Turning/The Column | The Top/Legs | Without a Lathe | Sliding Dovetails | Finishing  | Related Videos
The Woodwright's Companion: Exploring Traditional Woodcraft By Roy Underhill

The Top & Legs

The Top

Turn the block using the column as the mandrel.Turn the block using the column as the mandrel. The top is not easily done on a footpowered lathe except with care and preparation. Lay out the circle of the top with a compass, cut it out as closely as possible with your saw, and true up any obvious lopsidedness on the two faces with a plane or a drawknife. Now take the block and drill three holes for the brass screws that will hold it to the top. The screwheads must be countersunk into the block, and brass is best if you don't want to damage your turning gouges. If you don't want to use screws at all, you can join the two pieces with pegs secured by wedges, glue, or both. Center the previously turned block as precisely as possible on the point made by the compass center on the underside of the top and fasten it down. Push the assembly onto the tenon on the end of the column. You may need to saw off part of the tenon to get the block to sit tight.

Set the whole arrangement back in the lathe and work the face of the top about to find its center by trial and error. When it looks right, bring the lathe slowly up to speed. If there are problems with vibration, turn the piece slowly while holding a scribe against it to mark any out-of-round or off-center places. These should be removed by saw or shave, for any vibration will absorb a large portion of the energy you need for the turning. Remember that although the entire assembly—column, block, and top— is rotating at the same number of revolutions per minute, the surface speed is much greater at the larger diameters. A light touch is in order. Turn the top with an upturned lip around the edge. Do your finishing while it's still on the lathe and then take it all out and trim off the center bump.


Now for the legs. First bring the blanks to the appropriate thickness by planing one face level and then using a gauge to mark the parallel thickness and planing on the other side. Mine measure IVs inches thick. Trace around a leg pattern copied from the photograph or a candle stand which you like on to one side of the blank. You need to arrange the pattern on the wood so that the narrowest part of the leg has the greatest run of straight, unbroken grain. Usually you can squeeze the legs quite close together in an intermeshing pattern to conserve material.

Separate the waste from the outlines of the legs with a turning saw, something like an oversized coping saw. Lacking a turning saw, you can use a coping saw with the coarsesttoothed blade you can get.

Set one of the sawn-out blanks in the vise and begin shaping and smoothing the upper surface with the spokeshave. You will have to change directions of attack at the knee and instep of the leg to match the change of the grain. Usually this causes you to neglect the actual point of change, making a knobby knee, but you will notice and remedy this if it gets ugly.

The sweep of the curves on the upper side of the leg is usually gentle enough to allow you to reach the bottom of any concavity with a normal spokeshave. The underside, which will need trimming too, however, has a very tight inside curve which is best dealt with by cross-grained slicing with a gouge, preferably an in-cannel one with the bevel on the inside of its radius. The underside of the leg need not be rounded over like the top, but can be left somewhat unfinished. You may wish to do just the edges of the underside; the profile of the leg will appear finished to all but someone lying flat on the floor.



"The Woodwright's Companion: Exploring Traditional Woodcraft" By Roy Underhill
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press

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