I recently accepted a project to turn 3 columns for a house in Seattle that was more than 100-years old. The surviving column was of red cedar, and measured 5.5” by 5.5” by 60 inches long. Fortunately, my lathe can turn 24-inches by 66-inches long.
I contacted a local lumber dealer that specializes in red cedar and they agreed to cut some logs to the dimensions I needed…for $175.00.
I set the timber up on the lathe, located the exact center on both ends and marked the centers. On one end I screwed on a 4-inch diameter face plate using 8 screws, and used a center punch to mark the other end for a live center.
Silvia and I mounted the timber on the lathe between the spindle and the tailstock, adjusted the speed to 800 RPM (no vibration) and adjusted the tool rest.
Accuracy is critical because I am making a reproduction…so I transferred dimensions (distance and diameters) from the sample (old) column to the timber in increments . I go for one feature at a time, turning a band, bead or on ovulo as we go.
Because Cedar is a soft wood, I had to be very careful not to tear away any of the wood with an aggressive or uncontrolled cut. Even a sharp gouge left a very rough surface….arrgh!! So what to do? The best tool for this occasion was my 1 3/8” Alan Lacer skew.
Red Cedar is a very abrasive wood, which demanded frequent sharpening. Many many many checks with tape measure, 6-“ rule and calipers allowed me to create 3 reproduction columns in 9-hours.
Putting them side-by-side, any slight differences are negligible, and when installed 8-feet apart they look identical !!!
A demanding, and very satisfying project.
The customer was happy and I was happy for a difficult job that turned out well, keeping in mind that only one mistake means that the valuable wood was useless….we can’t put the wood back!!!
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