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How I Turn a Walking Stick Handle

Please read:
  1. It is assumed that the turner has basic skills with a spindle gouge, roughing gouge, parting tool, owns a lathe, a steb centre (or a four prong drive centre), a scroll chuck with dovetail jaws c50mm (or less) diameter and a drill press (or can drill perpendicularly into a piece of wood). Where I use the chuck - a metalworkers collet chuck with an appropriate collet installed is the cheapest (and funnily enough the most accurate) way to hold a piece of metal.
  2. Be sure to read, understand and follow all the safety instruction on the products you use.
  3. This is how I do it. You follow my method at your own risk.

1. Preparing the blanks

I start with about 100mm long x 55mm square. They should also be rectangular - at least on the face that is put down on the pillar drill table as the 'flat edge'. This ensures a bore that goes down the centre of the handle, instead of at an angle. Using a pillar drill, bore into one end in the centre. Use a 9mm drill bit and go approx 55mm into the piece. This for rodding.
Alternative: hold piece in chuck jaws, insert 9mm drill bit in Jacobs chuck in tail stock and drill in 55mm. Has the advantage of being accurate 1st go.

2. Make them rectangular

The one on the left has also had it's corners knocked off. When I am production turning, this is what I do - it saves time at the lathe.

3. Perpendicular bore hole

How ever you do it - make sure the hole is perpendicular to the end. The end with the hole in it is the shaft end.

4. Method one

Install into your chuck jaws. Bring the tailstock up and turn it to a cylinder. At this point you need to know your diameter for the shaft end. Part in until it is 2mm larger than the outside of the bead.

5. Start building your shape

Square off the tailstock end to the bore. I use an oval skew chisel and gently turn in until the last bit of wood just pops off the tailstock cone, then I wind in the tailstock again to support the work. Holding them this way means I can work fastest. When time = money - this is important.

6. Turn to your desired shape.

You can see I tend to make a bead at the bottom end. To achieve this - at the cylinder shape - I part in to 2mm larger than the bead diameter. Then I part in above the bead, and true up at shaft end of bead. Roll the bead. Change to spindle gouge (or as I use - a 10mm medium fluted bowl gouge which has had the corners ground back to fingernail shape and the handle reduced to 120mm long. I do most of my turning with this tool) and create your curve under the widest part of the handle. This looks most graceful if it goes in steeply, and then curved out into the shaft section in a french curve.
As you can see - this piece of wood was too manky to finish - so it goes in the fire...

7. Here we go again

This is holding method 2: A pre-drilled blank of (oh - it's oak... :) ) with it's corners knocked off and pre-drilled to about 55mm with a 9mm drill bit at my pillar drill. Mount it between centres.
Tip: if you are not sure where the centre is at the top end - stick a pencil down the hole so it stands straight with the bore and eye-ball against the side. Make a mark with a pencil at about the centre line. Turn the piece and do it again. If you are really fussy - do that again. When you put it between centres, eyeball up the centre point with the first mark, rotate the piece, and readjust so that the second mark is also in line with the centre point. Keep adjusting until it is true.

8. Pre-bored hole at tailstock end

The important thing here is to get your hole centered in the blank as much as possible.

9. I used a steb centre

You can do this part with a 4-prong centre if you don't have a steb centre.

10. Hedging my bets

When I work fast - I sometimes strip the area where the points of the steb centre go - a spigot on the end is insurance in case I have to remount it in the chuck later. I was working on a brand new lathe and so was using belt and braces techniques. Not a bad idea if you work hard and fast or get the occasional catch. Takes little time to do and is a useful technique I 'discovered' about 9 years ago. It has allowed me to finish loads of items that would otherwise have gone in the fire. Think of all that profit! For one little step...

11. Parting down to the bead

Part down to about 2mm wider than the finished diameter of the shaft end bead. You'll take away the last 2mm with your final cuts. This are rough cuts to establish the basic shape.

12. Turn to your desired shape

Turn away until you have a shape you know works or that you are reasonably happy with. This one still needs a *lot* of refinement. I like my work to look elegant, This is still too fat near the shaft end and doesn't curve in nicely from the widest point. See the bead at the shaft end?

13. Check your work

While this still doesn't make my heart sing, it will do, and I am busy making a tutorial not a piece of art. I have taken the top in to about the shape that I want it. I like the way it curves up at the widest point, but the oak is dry and some has pitted out, so this will have to be turned away.

14. Make refinements

I have rounded the edge a little more. While I don't feel too happy with it - it looks ok, and the rounder edge is actually easier to hold. We have to find a compromise here between looks and comfort. Ready for sanding and polishing.

15. Sand to a smooth finish

. Been through the sanding process using Abranet - I have a little stack of them in the following grits: 180, 240, 320, 400, 500. I move through the stack one at a time, starting at the required grit, using the stack as a pad to support the active sheet while sanding, then switch the current one to the back of the pile, then the next, and so on until I have the 180 at the top again. This oak was a bit dry and so rough, and I started at 180, graduating down to 500. I usually wax burnish at this point before I use sanding sealer. I skipped this step today. Signed.

16. Sign your work

Signature sealed in with cellulose sanding sealer and then some friction polish. I dilute my sanding sealer with 50% cellulose thinners in a plastic bottle with a small spout. I use Bounty kitchen roll - forget about trying them all - I already did that for you. Use what I use. Friction polish today is uBeaut. It's thickened up a bit and I was a bit heavy handed, so it's a bit more glitzy than usual.

17. Back to Basics

Remove from the lathe with a junior hacksaw, about 0.5mm away from the handle - be careful you don't scratch the top now!

18. The pip that is left

This is what comes off. I do it with the lathe running slowly. You do it running or stopped, however suits you. SAFETY FIRST!

19. Clean off the pip

Using either you chuck or a metal worker's collet chuck with suitable collet installed, insert a 9mm piece of steel rod into the chuck (my little lathe's knocking out rod in this case). It should be a firm fit. The back of the crill bit you used to bore will also work. This is your friction chuck. I have also turned them out of wood when I felt like it. The little piece of oak in the chuck would have done the job. Mount the handle on the friction chuck to turn the pip off. Or you can just sand it off. I turn mine off, I prefer it.

20. Support with left hand

You have to hold this on with your left hand

21. Turn off the excess

Holding camera in left hand - this is the little gouge I use to gently turn away the pip. I usually have my left hand around it as it spins, else it gets graunched against the tool rest and the forces throw it away from the head stock off the friction chuck.

22. Ready for sanding

Pip turned away and sanded through the grits again. Ready for polishing and pulling off.

23. The finished handle

All it needs now is a final buff and listing in my webshop. This one had a ding in the bead - it won't be sold. It lives on my desk.

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