Little Staked Table #4: Turning the Legs (#0 ?)

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Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 10-06-2021 07:46 PM 633 reads 0 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Softening the Edges, Finishing Part 4 of Little Staked Table series no next part

I turned another set of legs this morning, and figured I would take pictures and describe the process.

With the square stock (5/4 square), turn it between centers to get a round tenon about 1.2” diameter on one end so I can put that in my chuck. I use a spindle gouge for that, since all I need to do it get things round and then a little more wood off. This is done with my lathe at a fairly slow speed. About 3 on the speed selector (out of 10).

I do this for all four legs, as I’m going to be putting a chuck on the lathe next, and turning the leg around.

I start by making a half-inch diameter bit with a parting tool, about three-quarter-inch from the end of the leg.

Then I use the roughing gouge (about an inch and a quarter, or 30mm) to round the lower half of the leg. I’m aiming for an almost straight taper from that ½” spot to the 1.2” tenon on the top end of the leg. I decided to flare the feet on this set of legs, and I do most of that with the roughing gouge, too.

Then I move the rest to the other end of the leg, and rough that out. On the end next to the chuck, I might not get too close right now. Depends on how daring I’m feeling. But having the chuck and a roughing gouge make contact is… disconcerting.

Then I crank the speed up to about 6 or so, and get my ¾” skew. I’m going to smooth out the leg, and try and make the taper look good to the eye at this point. That means the upper half will be a little thicker than ideal. I also touch up the end next to the chuck with the skew. It’s a lot easier to get right up to the chuck with the skew than with a roughing gouge.

I move the rest to the narrow end, and finish with the skew. Then I crank the speed up to max and get a chunk of 60 grit sandpaper to sand the leg.

Finally, I turn the speed down to 3 or so (because that’s the speed I’ll need next), then stop the lathe, and hand-sand along the length of the leg a little to remove any marks. It’s easiest to do this with the piece still on the lathe.

Then it’s time to chuck up the next leg. I hold the first completed leg up to the one I’m working on a couple times to try and make sure they look close to the same size.

This will be “good enough” most of the time, and if there’s any fine-tuning needed (usually at the top where the chuck kept me from getting everything perfect), I can do that with a knife and sandpaper, since it will be right next to the table, and won’t be very visible.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

11 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


8267 posts in 3447 days

#1 posted 10-06-2021 08:38 PM

Morning Dave,

Looks like good work, (I hope you covered your bike up before turning!)
Speaking of battery powered tools , ...they are yet to make a battery powered tyre lever!

Although I see Lightweight leftie has a battery Hammer!

A few shots on making the tenons would be good, ...hint hint!

Thanks for the picture link too! , maybe shot of the business end?

and wait there is more, Whats it actually called Who made it and, where did you get it?

keep up the good work

-- Regards Rob

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8424 posts in 1825 days

#2 posted 10-06-2021 08:45 PM

The bike is in the other half of the building, Rob. It gets some fines once in a while, but generally doesn’t get too dusty.

When I fine-tune the tenons on these legs, I’ll take more photos. Have to decide what sort of table-top they’re getting first, though.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View crowie's profile


5023 posts in 3194 days

#3 posted 10-07-2021 01:00 AM

I really appreciate folk who make things on a wood lathe as it’s a skill I’ve never learnt. Nice job Dave.

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8424 posts in 1825 days

#4 posted 10-07-2021 01:03 AM

Thanks, Peter! Wasn’t too hard, but I’m still learning. Lots of experimentation happens when I’ve still got a lot of wood to remove. These legs have gotten me a lot better with a roughing gouge, and a little better with a skew. But now I need to have a session of sharpening…

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Lazyman's profile


7961 posts in 2630 days

#5 posted 10-07-2021 03:11 AM

Nice Dave. You know…you really need to master the Devil’s toothpick (aka the skew) so you can avoid all that sanding. It was a game changer once I finally got the hang of it. With a little practice, it is amazing how nice a finish you can get with a skew.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Oldtool's profile


3322 posts in 3434 days

#6 posted 10-07-2021 11:16 AM

Nicely detailed procedure, good work. Why do you switch to the chuck rather than using the spur drive?

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8424 posts in 1825 days

#7 posted 10-07-2021 12:17 PM

Working on it Nathan. I’ll have over half the leg with a good finish off the skew, but there’s still always something I need to sand. Less after some practice, but I haven’t been turning enough that it all works great every time.

Tom, I like the chuck for roughing with the big roughing gouge, as it holds the piece well. With the spur, I’ll be knocking off the corners and the piece will stop, with the spur chewing up the end, and it breaks my rhythm. So I use the chuck, which also has the benefit of being self-centering. But 5/4 stock won’t quite fit in the 1” jaws on my chuck, so I need to knock the size down a little first. Thinking about it, I could probably prep that first round tenon with a hollow auger, too.

I’m getting better with the spur, and it works a lot better now that I converted one of my spurs to a two-spur drive, rather than a four, and sharpened it up good, but there’s still stuff I’m learning as I go…

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Lazyman's profile


7961 posts in 2630 days

#8 posted 10-07-2021 02:03 PM

I have to admit that I usually still need at least a little sanding. Sometimes, a continental style spindle gouge is easier to get a nice finish than a skew and I’ve even resorted to using an Irish grind bowl gouge almost like a skew for a smooth surface finish like those legs. (I almost said like your legs but didn’t want to be misunderstood. :-)

I often use a chuck in that fashion too but for simple spindle work where I can keep both ends supported the whole time, I usually just keep it between centers through the entire turning. Too often it gets just a little off center when remounting in the chuck and has to be rounded again.

BTW, if you haven’t already, you might want to look at using a pealing cut with the skew for making tenons. I’ve even seen old timers using a skew to rough to round and basic shaping with a pealing cut. Pretty handy technique to add to the turning arsenal.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8424 posts in 1825 days

#9 posted 10-07-2021 04:30 PM

Yeah, I’ve been practicing my peeling cuts with a skew, but most of the time I can make a good enough tenon either with a spindle gouge, parting tool or bedan.

I have two crown drives and two spur drives, but I catch often enough while roughing that a chuck and a center is my typical setup. But I do more each time before switching to the chuck, so I think I’m headed in the right direction.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View doubleDD's profile


10703 posts in 3286 days

#10 posted 10-08-2021 11:46 PM

I like the way you are going about this Dave. Getting the legs to look close then go in for a final finish match. Replicating things on a lathe can be a little challenging without a duplicator and you’re doing great.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8424 posts in 1825 days

#11 posted 10-09-2021 01:25 AM

Thanks, Dave! I’ve got two calipers set for the half-inch bottom of the leg, and the inch and change tenon for the top end (which I’ll probably take down to exactly an inch with the hollow auger after I make a hole for the leg to fit in). That and a simple profile makes these relatively easy to replicate, but I figure more complicated shapes will get a story stick, or I’ll just compare against the first one made.

I’m also trying to use the bedan for more things, since it’s easy to sharpen, and I can use it like a parting tool or a scraper. We’ll see if it actually makes live easier or not…

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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