If your phone rings while you’re at the lathe, and you don’t hear it, does it make a sound?
On Monday morning, I began turning four tapered table legs at the lathe. When next I looked up, it was dark outside…and it was Wednesday. Turning wood, I found, is deeply absorbing and strangely addictive. Nestled in the back corner of our shop, all my tiresome worries and obligations shed away with the endless spray of maple shavings. But the lathe is no place to zone out – it demands constant focus and precision. Like meditation, a peaceful mind is only achieved once you’ve honed in on the rhythm and the repetition of the task. Sad that the summer’s end approaches and anxious for what comes next, the lathe’s steady whir was a welcome new tempo.
The Satterlee building’s lathe
Philosophy aside, my process began with four rectangular “blanks” – blocks of wood milled perfectly square and to my legs’ length. I turned these blocks into cylinders using a roughing gauge (the caveman club-like object I’m holding above), always cutting downhill – in this case from left to right. Having predetermined my desired taper, I cut down to the leg’s thinnest diameter with a pairing chisel. I then utilized a freshly sharpened skew chisel (thanks Mason!) to make my money cut, a slope gradually narrowing from 1 1/2 ” to 3/4”.
To clean up any remaining bumpiness, I used 100, 220 and 320 grit sand papers, sanding quickly across the wood to avoid any scratching. Maroon and white scotch brite pads were then applied to create a buffed finished. Lastly, upon Brian’s clever advice, I burnished the spinning legs by lightly pressing on a hand full of their own shavings. It’s the circle of life…and it turns us all.
The finished product