Learning to turn chair parts, especially the baluster turnings of windsor chairs, is a huge challenge to the beginning chairmaker. I clearly recall this process. Maybe you do too or maybe you are just now attempting this. Don’t be discouraged, you will get there. Here are two things that will definitely help you on your way.
One of the two things that frustrated me when I began turning was; first there was so little proper instruction on how to turn chair parts. The turning world is dominated by vessels. Second, the lathes on the market were designed with features to suit those needs. Where was a tool rest that was longer than 12″ to be found? None of the manufactures even offered an optional one to purchase.
Fortunately the first complaint is being addressed. My chair making mentor and buddy, Peter Galbert, is doing a series of articles with Fine Woodworking that specifically gives proper instruction on how to turn spindle type furniture parts. Such as those found on chairs. See the first one of three here. You need to be a member to access it. Before this article I learned to turn by watching his Youtube videos on how to turn a baluster leg and it is totally free. A must see.
Now the second complaint had to be settled by me. I, like most, struggled with that short tool rest and it really seemed to slow down my focus on learning how to turn by forcing me to stop and move the rest to address the other end of the turning. Nothing worst in slowing the presses to learning than an interruption. After I visited Pete’s shop and used his 24″ tool rest and then working with Curtis Buchanan and seeing his custom shop made tool rest I realized i had to get serious.
So I want to encourage you to get serious and make a long tool rest. I probably made this in about two hours and it has been well worth every minute. I didn’t progress until I made this, really. It is worth it, do it, and don’t look back.
Here are some photos of the inner workings. As alway, follow the rule of that, any shop apparatus should be of 10 parts or less, otherwise you are probably making it to complex.