Highland Woodworking
Turning the Corner: Turning Support Rollers for a Planer
By Temple Blackwood

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Turning the Corner focuses on using woodturning on the lathe as a way of enhancing cabinetry, furniture designs, and architectural installations. Each article also suggests an important woodworking book to read, reread or listen to, and a link to an appropriate article in The Highland Woodturner. Along the way, these articles seek to inspire woodworkers (cabinetmakers, carpenters, and housewrights) to extend their skills into basic, novice, and advanced woodturning while discovering for themselves this particularly sensual and spiritually rewarding dimension of working with wood.

Back in January, a while before we self-isolated, my friend Kenny Eaton, who owns Eaton's Boatyard in Castine, ME. stopped in for a visit and (as usual) an "emergency," need-it-this-afternoon turning project. Apparently, Kenny was making significant plank repairs to a beautiful, old, wooden sailboat, and he was building an upgrade for the in-feed and out-feed support rollers for his planer to accommodate the new, heavy, 18' long, rough-sawn planks.

Boatbuilders, like woodturners, deal in almost nothing flat or square. Similar to all of the boatbuilders I know and work for, Kenny has an enormous talent for fabrication, tool-use, and repairing boats. Following our long-established pattern, on this visit Kenny and I worked together to draw on paper his envisioned solution to be sure I understood what he wanted me to make.

This plan ended up being far more specific and detailed than our usual projects, probably because both Kenny and I wanted to be respectful of my short supply of 5" X 5" X 60" solid, dry white oak blanks left over from a different, previous boat-building project. He was also in his usual hurry and could not stay to supervise and make refinements during my turning, an aspect that actually improved my efficiency once I understood the goal.

Preparing the two blanks to the 28" length (no reason to allow for waste-blocks on the ends) at 4-1/4" X 4-1/4" at the band saw accomplishes an important efficiency. Square is fine and, in my experience, far safer to round on the lathe with the roughing gouge than trying to do more with additional sawing that I often see others try to do online.

Mounting the blank between centers and setting up the 24" tool rest with the second banjo takes only a few minutes.

The first step is to round the blanks with a large roughing gouge like this 30mm Sorby continental gouge. I prefer the continental grind because it is rugged enough to take the beating and even as a roughing tool it can leave a beautifully smooth surface for the skew.

Bringing the overall diameter to near the desired 4" is expedited by having a 24" or longer tool rest.

Surface smoothing with the skew prepares the emerging roller for checking the final measurements.

Using a caliper, laser-pointer, and pencil, makes it possible to get the cylinder a uniform 4" diameter across its 24" length.

Setting the caliper to a full 1" and using a 3/8" beading and parting tool (or a bedan) prepares the roller's tenon for final sizing. According to Kenny's plan, he wanted this slightly less than 1" so that he could pack it with grease and have it roll smoothly in the wooden, pillow-block drilled 1" hole.

Establishing a precise 7/8" final, smooth tenon is critical. I rarely depend on this caliper's dial because like the more adjustable spring-joint caliper it can move too easily and send an incorrect measurement. I prefer to set the points on a steel ruler. The digital calipers work more reliably because the user must first benchmark the zero point.

The easiest way to form the tenon on the opposing end is to flip the roller over between centers and work a tenon there where there is plenty of room. Make careful cuts without trying to deal with the drive center.

Another important feature is to smooth the exposed end gain to avoid having that impede the roller's action. While the skew does this most efficiently, the fluted parting tool is an adequate substitute for those newer to this cut.

This is a simple project and like most of the ultra-simple projects, getting the diameter consistent across the full length can be more problematic and important than if this turning had a number of beads and coves. The challenge here is to gain the advantage of having smooth, consistent surfaces on all features.

With the two rollers completed, I called Kenny in the early afternoon for his timely pick-up.

He later that day reported his success in making the blocks to hold the rollers, and his delight at how well his plan worked. Like our previous escapades, I believe my reward will at some point be another interesting project that needs to be done to a highly sophisticated, schematic scaled plan with limited tolerance.

The lesson here is to remind us all of the efficacy of thinking out a project and using our innate skills to build the solution, often a unique shop jig, rather than to rely on purchasing a manufactured solution.

Article Recommendation: The Highland Woodturner Archive includes a broad array of excellent articles dedicated to woodturning and woodturned projects that you might find interesting.

Click here to browse through Highland Woodworking's Woodturning department

Located in Castine, Maine, Highlands Woodturning gallery and shop offers woodturning classes and shop time, a gallery of woodturned art, custom woodturning for repairs, renovations, and architectural installations. You can email Temple at temple@highlandswoodturning.com. Take a look at Temple's Website at http://www.highlandswoodturning.com/

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