Table Leg Modification

I answered an ad on a Facebook page seeking someone to do work on a wood lathe. After a few private messages, I met with the person who was re-finishing a 100 year old table that was a family heirloom. The table legs were turned with some beads, coves and flutes but they were about 2 inches short because casters were removed so the customer wanted them extended in a motif that complimented the existing style. I accepted the job and like all things involving restoration, a few surprises occurred along the way. The following photos tell the story.


Unequal Lengths

The legs were not equal in length so the leg extensions needed to be different lengths to compensate.

Spreading Glue

First things first. Stock had to be glued up so billets could be created that were greater in diameter than the existing legs.


One of my favorite things about woodworking is watching glue dry!

Stock Ready for Milling

Glued up and ready for milling. Hard to believe there is 5 board feet of oak here.

Band Sawing

Band sawing the glued up stock.

Cross Cutting

The squared stock is next cut into individual working size billets.

Billet Leg and Stock

Here is a look at the billet, the leg and the remaining stock from which additional billets will be cut.

Facing Top of Leg

The top of the legs were not flat so I took a shaving cut on the lathe. As it turns out, this was a big mistake.

Hit a Nail

As I was facing the top of the leg, I heard a ticking sound and stopped the lathe for a look. Oh no! I hit a nail and when I checked the other legs, they all had embedded metal. Lesson learned, never turn old wood before checking with a magnet.

Regrinding Tools

I actually buggered up two tools before I noticed the embedded metal so I had to re-grind the cutting edges.

Disc Sanding

My remedy for flattening the top of the leg was to use a disc grinder. The table and miter gauge helped to keep things square.

Ground Flat

Finally, a flat surface I can work with. Notice the nasty bits of metal embedded in the wood. I have no idea why they were there because the legs are screwed into the table with a central stud. Maybe they were originally nailed to the top?

Turning Tenon

OK, back to the lathe. The billet was turned round and a tenon added for chucking.

Drilling Hole

Once in the chuck, the mounting hole was drilled through the stock.

Scribing Billet

Because the extension diameter is greater than the leg diameter, the leg diameter was scribed on the end of the billet so I knew where to terminate the bead. The idea was to make the transition at a bead because blending to the same diameter was impossible due to the condition of the legs.

Turning to Small Diameter

The billet allowed for an oversize bead to hide the glue joint. Here the actual leg diameter is established for the remainder of the extension.

Diameter and Length Cuts

Cuts were made to establish the location of the bead, the length of the part and the small diameter.

Finished Turning

The bead was formed and the remainder of stock removed to final diameter.

Finish Sanding

The part was finish sanded to 180 grit. It was then parted from the waste.

Test Fit

The extension was test fit on the leg. Looks good!

Gluing End Grain

The remaining parts were turned and glued to the legs. After the glue dried, three long screws were driven for added assurance that the assembly would remain intact under various forces.

Equal Lengths

Here is a look at how the lengths match up. The extensions will be finished like the existing legs and the table should be a lot more stable because the legs are now equal length.

Completed Job

Glued, screwed and ready for delivery. I asked the customer to provide a photo or two of the finished table to complete this blog page. She graciously agreed and the next two photos tell the rest of the story.


The legs with extensions were finished like the table. Here is a look at the new legs as seen from a dog’s eye view.


The restored table proudly sits in their home for family and guests to enjoy for another generation or two. I was delighted to have played a roll in the restoration of this family heirloom!

Banksia Nut Vase

The Banksia tree grows in Australia and produces unique looking nuts.  The nuts are harvested and sold as exotic blanks for wood turning.  I have seen these in various woodworking stores so I thought that I would give it a try.  I was surprised when I cut into the nut so I took a few photos of the process.


Preparing the Blank

When I cut the ends off at the band saw, a lot of reddish, brown fuzz flew out of the nut.

Cut End

Here is a close-up of the band saw cut revealing the hidden fuzzy stuff and the beautiful grain pattern of solid material.

Emerging Fuzz

When I started turning the nut I was impressed with it’s hardness. My chisels are very sharp yet I had difficulty cutting the Banksia nut. You can see the layer of fuzz just under the surface.

Layers of the Nut

A tapered slice reveals how the nut interior is arranged. Under a scaly surface the reddish brown fuzz is hidden in a thin layer followed by solid material. The seed pod holes go nearly to the center. The fuzzy stuff lying on the lathe bed and banjo flew nearly 15 feet and made a huge mess in my workshop. I used local dust extraction and a powered air purifying respirator to protect my lungs.

More Layers

Here is another progress photo clearly showing the layers of the nut.

Completed Turning

Here is a look at the completed turning before re-mounting it to finish the base. I tried using carbide insert tools during the turning process because the nut was so hard. It took a lot of smoothing and sanding to get it to this point.

Finished Banksia Nut Vase

The completed turning was given a few coats of spray lacquer for the finish. I must admit it has eye appeal but I probably will not turn any more of these beasts.

Bud Vase

A great joy of wood turning is to see what’s hidden inside a log, branch or a piece of firewood. Tom, a long time friend, gave me a branch from a walnut tree that he had stashed in his shed for a few years. The timber was dry, punky in several areas, cracked and it had several worm holes, in other words, perfect for a bud vase! Below are some pictures of what emerged from this humble branch.

Raw Timber

Here is a 7″ piece of the walnut branch mounted on the lathe between centers ready for roughing.


The branch had just enough moisture content to make the roughing process easy.

Roughing Complete

The timber was brought to round and was fairly well balanced so the speed could be increased significantly.

Turning the Tenon

Next, a tenon was turned to mount the timber in a chuck.

Rounding the Bottom

With the timber mounted in a chuck, the bottom was rounded a bit.

Finishing the Bottom

A cavity was turned in the bottom and a few decorative rings were cut before reversing the timber in the chuck to drill a hole to accept the flower.

Roughing the Shape

With the bottom cavity held in the chuck in expansion mode, the live center was positioned in the flower hole and the shape was roughed out.

Refining the Shape

The shape was refined using spindle gouge.

More Shaping

This is where the vase emerges from the log. I like this part of the process because the vase takes on the personality of the turner.

Turned and Sanded

Satisfied with the shape, the vase was sanded through 600 grit.

Finishing the Vase

High blend friction polish was applied and melted into the timber.

Final Polish

A few coats later, the vase gets it’s final polish.

Completed Bud Vase

Here is the completed bud vase ready to add a flower. I’ll bet Tom didn’t know this beautiful vase was hidden inside the branch!

Acorn Lidded Box

One of the great things about wood turning is the variety of things that you can produce on the lathe. Each piece is unique because you, not a computer, control the tool. The way the wood is mounted in relation to the grain determines the tools used to accomplish the task. Lidded boxes are end grain hollowed vessels, typically with tight fitting lids and they can be made in a variety of shapes. I purchased some training DVD’s from Ron Brown whom I have seen on the Woodworking Show tour in Milwaukee. He is an excellent teacher and all around nice guy making a living with a wood lathe. Below are a couple of photos of my first attempt at making an acorn lidded box using Walnut for the nut and Russian Olive for the crown.

Fitting the Lid

The lid is drilled with a Forestner bit so the sides are perfectly parallel. When the nut is hollowed, the lid is fit by creeping up on the tenon until a suction fit is achieved.

A Perfect Fit

The cap fits perfectly so the nut can be parted off.

Completed Acorn

These little acorn boxes are fun and easy to make. Who knows what treasures can be hidden inside?

Captive Ring Tool

There are many ways to cut captive rings and specialty tools are sold to accomplish the task. I decided to make my own captive ring tool from an Allen wrench, the tricky part being the shape of the grind. I tried many different shapes without success before hitting one that worked. The various grinds were tried using a grip lock pliers to hold the wrench while proving the design. I cannot give exact details on the tool other than show you a close up of the cutting edge. The tool is capable of cutting captive rings extremely close to the stem and the under side of the ring is nicely radiused.

Closeup of captive ring tool

Here is the shape of the grind that works excellent as a captive ring cutting tool.

Captive ring tool with handle

The captive ring tool is held in a Maple handle with a copper ferrule.

Captive rings on a goblet

A completed wedding goblet with a couple of captive rings made with the custom tool.

Engagement Goblet

One captive ring, this goblet made of Cherry signifies engagement.

Carter Log Mill

Preparing turning blanks at the band saw from logs can be dangerous because the log wants to roll when the blade enters the timber. I have broken a band saw blade trying to cut a hand held log and fortunately was not injured in the process. Carter Products makes a log mill that I have seen demonstrated at woodworking shows so I decided it was time to invest in another shop item that will help me stay safe. After using it the very first time, I know that it was an excellent choice in terms of quality and safety. Below are some photos showing how the contraption works.

Carter Log Mill

The log is held securely between very sturdy adjustable clamp jaws on a heavy steel fence attached to a base that rides in the miter slot of the band saw table. The length is limited to about 20 inches and the diameter to the height of your band saw.

Log Mill First Cut

Here’s another look at the Log Mill as the first cut is about to be made.

Log Mill first cut completed

As you can see, the first pass yields a perfectly flat surface on the log.

Second pass setup

After the first cut, the flat surface is rotated 90 degrees and is placed against the base of the Log Mill where it is again secured with the clamps.

Second pass completed

After the second pass, you now have a log with two flat surfaces at 90 degrees.

Making blanks

At this point, the Log Mill is no longer needed and the standard band saw fence can be used to safely cut blanks.

More blanks

Bowl and spindle blanks can be made to make the best use of the log.

Completed blanks

The Log Mill shown with some turning blanks cut safely with the device.

Turned Log Bird House

Ever wonder what to do with nice logs that you come by when someone cuts down a tree or you find in the woods? How about hollowing it out and making a nice home for our feathered friends? Here’s how this project proceeded from start to finish.

Logs selected for turning

These logs were very dry. Different diameters were selected for the top and bottom so the birdhouse would have an overhanging roof.


Drilling for screw chuck

Drilling the top for mounting on a screw chuck


Screw held by chuck

The screw is held by the chuck ready for timber to be mounted


Top mounted in chuck

Here the top is mounted and ready for turning


Truing the blank

I wanted this top to be completely round so I took off all traces of the weathered exterior of the log


Shaping the top

Shaping the top


Refining the shape

Refining the shape


Tenon for mounting

A tenon was formed to provide a place for the chuck to grab during the hollowing process


Top hollowed

The top was hollowed and a lip was formed to fit the bottom


Lets take a look

This looks like it will work


Bottom blank mounted

The bottom piece of the birdhouse was mounted between centers


Turning a tenon

A tenon was turned so the piece could be chucked


Drilling for hollowing

With the blank held by the chuck, the hollowing process begins with drilling as much material as possible using twist drills and Forstner bits


Fitting for top

The cap will fit on the diameter just turned


More drilling

Forstner bits up to 2-1/8″ were used to minimize hollowing with scrapers


Inside hollowed

The hollowing was completed using scrapers. It was then turned around and a finial decoration was added to the bottom.


Some finished bird houses

Completed bird houses with little finials turned on the bottom

The bottom was cross drilled with a 1-1/8″ Forstner bit and a perch was glued in place below it. The bottom has a small hole drilled in it to drain water. It will be fun seeing our new tenants in the early spring!

Natural Edge Bowl

I had a nice piece of Walnut that was dry enough to try my hand at turning a natural edge bowl. Not just a natural edge bowl, but one that wasn’t round, instead elongated which meant that I would be turning “air” as the cut was interrupted 4 times per revolution until I was deep enough to encounter solid wood. It was an interesting experience as you can tell by the following photos and I will try it again as my confidence builds.

finished natural edge bowl

Bowl with 6 coats of Wood Turner’s Finish on each side


log on screw chuck

The log is held on by a course screw that is secured in the chuck


Beginning to turn

When you first start the turning process, it is somewhat violent because the cut is interrupted 4 times per revolution


Shaping outside

You can see the bowl profile emerge as more material is removed

Completed outside profile

I’m happy with the shape so the next step is to turn a tenon on the bottom

Completed tenon

The tenon is completed which will fit in the chuck so the bowl can be hollowed

Sanding outside of bowl

This bowl doesn’t lend itself to sanding while the lathe is turning so I did it by hand

Applying finish to outside

I finished the outside with 6 coats of Wood Turner’s Finish before re-mounting to hollow the bowl

Re-chucked for hollowing

After the outside was finished, it was turned around for the hollowing process

Beginning point

Note the screw hole from the previous method of mounting

Beginning hollowing

Cut through the bark as the hollowing process proceeds

Whirling timber

If you look closely, you can see the ghost outline of the ends of the log. It’s this area that the cut is interrupted so care must be taken not to get too aggressive with the cut

Taking shape

Taking shape

Almost done

I wanted the rim to be about 1/4″ thick but settled for about 3/8″ because I was concerned that I would destroy the bowl if I went any further

Side View

Side View

Ready for finishing

Same as the outside, the inside had to be sanded by hand

Bowl with finish applied

Six layers of finish were applied to the inside

Salt and Pepper Mills

There was an article in the Dec/Jan 13 issue of Woodcraft Magazine describing how to make salt and pepper mills using mechanisms purchased at, you guessed it, Woodcraft stores.  This looked like something that would make nice gifts for Marilyn’s side of the family because they were invited to our house for a Christmas party.  The idea was to set the mills on the table and then to give them to the people using them.  The recipients were happy, I was happy, Marilyn was happy, so it was a hit!

The project was fun because I got to do some turning with hard maple for the salt mill and cherry for the pepper mill.  The project went quite well although the mills didn’t match in shape perfectly, but they were close enough that no one noticed.  My spindle turning improved as a result of making 8 mills (6 for gifts, 2 for us).

Cutting Blank

Cutting the blank at the chop saw

Roughing the blank

Turning the square blank to round

Sizing Tenon

Sizing the tenon for holding in a chuck

Refining Tenon

Refining the tenon


Laying out the top, bottom, V grooves and minor diameter

Separating Top from Bottom

Getting ready to separate the top from the bottom

Sawing top from bottom

Separating the top from the bottom with a saw


Drilling the base to accept the mill mechanism and contents

Establishing the minor diameter

Sizing in the minor diameter of the mill body

Turning to Shape

Starting to shape the mill body and top

Completing Shape

The mill continues to take it’s form

Completed Turning

The final shape of the mill ready for finishing

Decorative Burning

The groove at the top of the pepper mill was burned to help identify salt from pepper

Completed Project

Finished mills sit along side some other Christmas gifts