Helpful Accessories for Turning
by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX
Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version.
I wanted to share with you a few items I have found to be useful in your turning. I am embarrassed to say that these
took me way too long to "discover." I thought others also might find them helpful.
I could come up with a clever pun about finally seeing the light, however, I will just cut to the chase. I
added an additional task light to my lathe.
This is not a unique idea. So, why did it take me so long to add an additional light? Well, I already had a light that I felt was adequate. In reality, I was
wasting time trying to reposition the light. After which, I would realize I was unable to fully light the
piece. Typically, I ended up with a shadow in the piece or a dimly lit item. I knew I needed to come up
with a better solution. However, this was just one of those things that were added to my long "to do
list." Then one day, I was in a big box store searching for something else when out of the corner of my
eye I see a display of lamps. Inspiration struck and in the shopping cart went the LED lamp.
I wanted this small LED lamp to mainly light up the interior spaces of my turnings. This auxiliary light would
allow me to leave my main lamp in position and place the new lamp in any position necessary to achieve
the optimum visibility.
Unfortunately, the lamp base was not acceptable for my needs. I decided to use a small block of oak to
create a stand that would support the lamp. I cut and planed the blank square. I drilled two holes into
which I glued two
Rare Earth Magnets
. I drilled two more holes for the lamp mount. I then
cut out an arch in the blank:
This arch also helps the base sit without rocking.
This modified lamp can be positioned on the banjo, bed of the lathe, or tailstock. So far, I really like
having it mounted on the banjo.
I have found that I use both lamps even when I work
on spindles. I am very pleased with this light mod, I just wish I had done this much earlier. It is safer to
have proper light at the lathe particularly when it comes to interior work. Fortunately, better options
for task lights are readily available with no modifications necessary:
The Center Punch
The second item is another one of those "why did it take me so long" moments. I have owned a
for many years, however, I rarely use it. Recently, while teaching at a woodworking school, I used a
Center Punch, only because I did not have my awl with me. I realized I had been overlooking a gem of a
Center Punches are spring loaded tools that punch a small hole into wood or other materials. When you place the
point on your mark, press down holding the tool in one hand.
This trips a spring
mechanism, and automatically punches a small hole into the wood. These are great for marking a
center on spindle blanks. The force helps to ensure the hole is on center and does not wander with the
grain of the wood. These are also handy for making a starter hole for drilling.
I teach at several locations and need to carry my tools on a regular basis. Consequently, I need to
frequently remove and replace tools in my tool roll. I am always extra careful handling tools around the
skew. The exposed edge of the skew is an accident waiting to happen. I realized I needed to come up
with a way to protect my students and myself, so, I created this simple edge protector:
I used pipe insulation to create a tight fitting pocket.
I sized the insulation to the skew and folded
over more insulation to create a padded end. I used a generous amount of tape to tie it all together. It
I also used a short piece of tubing to slide over my small spindle gouges.
centers sell a wide variety of tubing and pipe insulation that would be suitable for making your own
This is a simple, low cost way to avoid an accident. No one wants a nasty slice from a skew!
Curtis is a former President of
Central Texas Woodturners
, a member of the
American Association of Woodturners
, and a member of
Fine Woodworkers of Austin
. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at