The other day I cut out some blanks of a very dense tropical hardwood and have been having fun carving spindles on the wood lathe. A little time spent carefully preparing the blank for turning makes the process of roughing the stock to a round shape as quick and pleasant as possible. Rounding off the sharp corners of the wood with a large gouge is at first is a violent business of vibration, splinters and tool chatter. The blank is held securely at two places on the lathe. The spur drive at the head stock and the live center at the tail stock. Using the drill press and swivel base vice I drill a small pilot hole as close as possible to dead center at each end of the blank.
Into these holes the sharp steel points of the spur drive and live center insert and hold the piece steady and square. In addition to a center point the spur drive has four short blades arranged in a cross pattern that bite into the end grain of the work piece. Torque is transferred from the shaft in the head stock and the four spurs keep the blank spinning slip free once resistance is encountered from the cutting tools. The wood is so hard I had to use the Dremel to cut grooves to engage the spurs at the drive end. Once prepped in this manner the blank can be chucked up in the lathe and the fun begins. As the wood is worked down from square to round the cutting action becomes less violent and smooths out until a light but carefully controlled pressure is all that is needed. When a perfect cylinder shape is machined the wood turner uses different shaped gouges and chisels to carve the artistic details of the piece.
LeeAnn came out to my shop while I was turning and took a few action shots with her camera. She captured the magic well.