A Post on Posts.

After getting my feet wet with the baluster leg turnings, I proceeded on to the most difficult turning on the whole chair – the posts. In case you need a refresher on the chair parts:

Terry Kelly
Photo credit: Terry Kelly

The posts are the two turnings that frame the spindles above the seat. They are 22″ long and 1/2″ in diameter at their slightest dimension. If you’ve never turned wood before, then let be just say that your tools must be razor-freaking-sharp and your concentration must rival that of a Buddhist monk lest the spindles start vibrating like a coin-operated motel bed. This was the most challenging turning that I’ve ever attempted. Made the legs feel like I was turning rolling pins.

Straight-grained wood is a prerequisite for these parts. Riven wood would be ideal, but I have air-dried wood that was sawn. The grain isn’t perfect, so I’ll have to make it perfect. I start by knocking off some of the ugly with a hand plane so I can see the grain lines better.

Then I strike a line parallel to the face grain and lay out all of the cuts.


Then some quick work with a Skil saw, and I have a stack of turning blanks.

posts 007

Now I can examine the edge grain. Most of the blanks have very straight grain, but a couple of them have some defects that will need to be addressed.

The blank on the left has a small pin knot. I’ll make sure to locate the knot in a wide section of the turning. If it were located in a narrow part, like a cove, it could weaken the turning too much. The blank on the right does not have straight edge grain. It curves midway through and runs out to the right. I won’t be able to get a 22″ post out of it, but I can cut off the end and get a 16″ stretcher, making sure to located the lathe centers such that the grain runs straight.

I select the best blanks for the posts. These are turned down to 1/2″ in their narrowest dimension, so if the grain isn’t perfectly straight and free of defects, they simply won’t be strong enough to stand up to the rigorous life of a chair.

The stretchers seemed like child’s play after completing the posts. I turned them out in short order from the remaining blanks. I also turned one additional leg to replace the one that I messed up.

Stretchers (1)

The turnings are now complete, and the underside of my lathe is ready to be cleaned out!

Stretchers (2)

Stretchers (3)


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