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Turning a Spindle with a hole in the length

946 Views 9 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  cowboyup3371
I am still fairly new to woodturning, have done a couple of projects, but I am getting the hang of it pretty good. At this moment, I have a project where I need to have a hole in the length of a spindle to fit a clock (think round clock tower). Is it possible to drill the proper sized hole in my flat stock before turning it then beginning the work? Would doing so destroy the work or present other safety issues? Or should I just make a jig to hold the spindle and use my forstner bit chucked into the drill press?

Everything I am finding online talks about drilling the hole in the end of the spindle which is not what I am looking for.

I know I can also make a flat section for the clock face and glue it between two turned sections but i really want this to look as symmetrical as possible with the rest of the tower. However, if that is my only option than so be it.
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Having trouble understanding what it is you are trying to do, but I think you mean you want to drill a hole on the side of a spindle to accept a clock. If so, I'd drill it after turning. If you drill it first, you will be catching the edge of the hole with your turning tools and could possibly cause damage or chip out. Got an example picture of what you are trying to make?

What is the hole diameter?

What is the depth of the hole?

How much larger will the wood be than the hole?
The spindle is going to be 2-1/16" in diameter (bottom half is already turned but i can redo it if needed) narrowing to a point at the top while the hole for the clock needs to be 1-3/8" in diameter. I'll attach a picture of the look I'm trying to go for (mimics an old hotel in Indiana) as well as a copy of the Sketchup drawing I made but with Sketchup what it is, it's not the prettiest. I want the wood surrounding the clock to look as much like the the hotel tower as possible.

This is the current bottom half of the tower; it is not completely finished yet as can be seen by the extra piece at the bottom over the tenon I'll insert to the base.

Gesture Finger Wood Picture frame Office supplies

The design has the hole going all the way through the wood but the actual clock I purchased won't need access from its rear. So it will probably only be about a 1/4" deep at the very most.

The intent is to present this clock to the owner of the modernized version of the hotel (still has the original house with more rooms added on to each side) as a memento for his support to our motorcycle group (we visit every June and he will clear out his hotel for us). Therefore, the rest of the design will hold pictures from our past visits.

Sketchup Design
Output device Building Gas Font Facade

Original Motel
Building Window House Sky Cottage


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It appears you are asking about the hole at the top which is perpendicular to the spindle axis. Drilling before or after does not present a safety issue. Both result in opportunity for tear out around the hole edge. Probably easier to drill flat stock vs a tapered cylinder.
So, essentially you have a very thick dowel that needs a hole on the side. People drill holes into the sides of dowels all the time, so it shouldn't be too big of a deal.

The hardest part will be drilling the hole exactly where you want it and getting it drilled straight. You need to make sure the dowel doesn't rotate as you're drilling the hole. And you need to make sure the drill bit is properly centered on the curve of the dowel so that an imaginary line extending from the drill bit goes through the exact center of the circular cross section.

That's a bit confusing - let me try to explain it better. Imagine you lay your dowel/cylinder down on a table like a large rolling pin. If you look at the end grain, you can see the very top of the circle. Put a mark there with your pencil.

Assuming you're using a drill press, you can rotate that pencil mark a bit to either side and still hit that mark with the drill bit, but unless that pencil mark is top dead center, you will miss drilling through the center of the circle and the hole will be cockeyed.

If it were me, I'd use my drill press and use either hand screw clamps or a drill press vise to hold the piece still and make sure I'm drilling into the very highest point of the circle.

Another thing I would consider from your design is the clearance of the clock hands and the roof on top. Depending on how long the clock hands are, it may hit the overhang of the roof.
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I would drill after turning, and ensure you drill at top dead center. That may require a jig to hold it in place with clamps.
Generally speaking, you can hold a cylinder shape steady using a v-block for drilling on a drill press.
I see no problem drilling the hole before or after with the possible problem of "tear out" on the back side of the hole if you go all the way through on the cylinder. This could be avoided by drilling a small pilot hole first and then drill the larger hole from both sides. I assume you are using s Forstner bit.

I do wonder, the clock is probably made to mount on a flat surface and the cylinder is round. How will that match up?
Thank you all. I am using an enclosed clock face so the hands won't hit anything on the design at all. I intended to use a forstner bit and will make certain I am drilling from the top dead center as best as I can mark it.

Unfortunately, a problem with the lathe has come up so I'll be finding another place to continue the work (may go out to the Air Force base after I clean up some sanding). But I will keep all of your recommendations in mind when I start back on it.

Here's the clock I'm using:
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