Spindle Dancer Jig - Alternative to a Duplicating Lathe

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Forum topic by Ron Ford posted 03-29-2014 11:37 PM 3276 views 4 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Ron Ford

209 posts in 2208 days

03-29-2014 11:37 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig

Not being a production turner, I found it somewhat difficult to create identical (or nearly so) items before I found plans for a ‘spindle dancer’ jig online. It’s a pretty simple old-time device but it works really well.

Essentially, you mount as many ‘dancers’ (small blocks drilled to ride on the threaded shaft, with a small dowel of adjustable length protruding from each) above the bed of your lathe, each set to a point on the reference piece you want to duplicate. This jig is infinitely adjustable and can accommodate many different size pieces you may be turning. In this particular project, I was turning a set of salt and pepper mills from wenge and holly as a wedding gift for a young couple we know who are to be married soon. The pictures above are as follows:

-In the first photo, I have turned and finished the wenge pepper mill and set the ‘dancers’ to reference points on the finished piece. The ‘dancers’ are held in place by hairpin clips on the threaded rod, which is in turn held in place by adjustable supports clamped to each end of the lathe.

-Second photo shows the mounted holly blank with the ‘dancers’ set to give me the reference points taken from the finished wenge piece. In this case, the holly piece was rough-turned and predrilled to accept the salt grinder mechanism when finished.

-In photo three you can see where the desired diameter has been reached at several points and the two left-most ‘dancers’ have dropped away. In the article with the plans, the author refers to this action as it ‘taking a bow’. I also put the finished piece on top of the supports to give me a visual reference as I worked on the second piece.

-The final photo shows the finished pieces. I sanded them to 2000 grit and gave them several coats of Myland’s Friction polish, followed by a coat of Renaissance Wax. I’m very happy with them and used this same jig a few weeks ago to recreate chair spindles for a friend after her dog decided the original ones made good chew toys!

The plans are available online as a download from the February, 2006 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine. I forget the price but it was very reasonable. It took several hours to make all of the parts and assemble the jig, but I expect to have a great deal of use from it over time.

I hope everyone enjoys this information. Thanks for all of the great advice, inspiration, and insight I get from this site on a regular basis.


-- Once in awhile I make something really great. Most days I just make sawdust.

4 replies so far

View cabmaker's profile


1745 posts in 3285 days

#1 posted 03-30-2014 01:40 AM

Well done Ron, that is ingenuous !

View jfk4032's profile


366 posts in 3003 days

#2 posted 03-30-2014 01:09 PM

That is a great jig Ron, the shakers came out beautiful, what wonderful wood that was.

-- ---Joel; Central MD...rookie empter nester and getting back into woodworking!

View Don W's profile

Don W

19314 posts in 3044 days

#3 posted 03-30-2014 01:13 PM

Favorited. What a great idea.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Woodknack's profile


12883 posts in 2856 days

#4 posted 03-30-2014 06:31 PM

I first saw these here on LJ when someone posted them about a year ago then found the PW article and have wanted to make my own set.

-- Rick M,

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