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Author Topic: Fixin to be a top turner, need help  (Read 5327 times)

Neff

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Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« on: November 06, 2009, 10:15:56 PM »

Spinningray, folks at UC, I'm in trouble.  I saw an opportunity on craigslist and I bought a Jet mini lathe.  Whups.  I've done some reasearch and soon realized the size of bite I just took.  I've got some basic tools, need to get a bench grinder and make a jig for sharpening, I have a few sources for descent wood and solid surfacing.  I've grasped many of the concepts and recognize there is a vast amount of trial and error, but I've hit a stumbling block already.  What's the best method for attaching the wood to the headstock?  I can't find any instruction on how to use the faceplate it comes with.  Do you use it in tandem with the center spur?  Are those really expensive jaw plates I see on the internets worth it?

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Watts' Tops

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2009, 10:53:56 PM »

Chris,
  Good for you.  Wood turning is a great hobby. 
Several questions.
 1. Wood--  Must be well seasoned.  I let it be for at least a year in the upstairs of my shop.  I find used lumber when I take apart old construction and use the very dry boards.  I always laminate the lumber rather than try to turn one chunk.  The glued  parts hold better than solid and do not weathr check.
 2.  How to put in lathe.  I turn everything between centers.  I use a live center for tail stock which means the tail center spins with the wood.
 3. Sharpening tools.  I use a belt sander to touch up the tools.  Very light presure.  A grinder is great with a fine stone. 
 4. You will need points made or you will have to make them on a metal lathe.
 5. Practice.  It takes time to learn from scratch.  You will throw out some.  I have done so.
 6. Enjoy.
Walt Watts  (Watts' Tops)
Prov. 3:5-6
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Watts' Tops
Prov. 3:5-6

Neff

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2009, 11:48:59 PM »

I forogot to list Mr. Watts on my call for aid!  Thanks for the tips, and I will definatly give you a call.  I was gonna try Corian (solid surfacing) for tips - I'm freinds with a cabinet maker who can feed me some scrap.  I'll probalby start beween the centers to get familiar with the tools, but there's some things I want to try where I'll need an open end.  Something tells me I shouldn't do it quite like this gentlemen does, but it's fun to watch:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASW7Z4nHZj4[/youtube]
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Spinningray

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #3 on: November 07, 2009, 12:19:45 AM »

Congratulations on your purchase. It is very rewarding to create your own tops.

Attaching the wood to the head stock was my first challenge too. I had a spare toycrafter tip from the first top I bought (a blue plastic Monarch). I made a mandrel to connect to my lathe which was basically a rod the same diameter as the spare tip. I drilled a hole in the wood and jammed it onto the rod. I have since learned this is called a jamb chuck. Fitting name. When I turned the top, the hole for the tip was perfectly centered by design. There was enough friction and I used very small tools so that it didn't slip. You can also use the tail stock to put pressure on the crown of the top to support it and keep it from chattering.
Unfortunately, there is a limited supply of toycrafter tips. So I decided to do what the Mexicans have been doing to make tops. I use pop rivets. Drill a hole in the wood and drive the pop rivet into it. I use a drill chuck to hold the pop rivet and drive the top. The tail stock will support the wood and also force it against the pop rivet so it doesn't spin in the wood.
I use a bigger jamb chuck for my bigger tops. A four jaw chuck is another tool you may want to buy. It gives you a few more options and also allows you to turn other things.
I also like to turn between centers, but don't use a spur chuck. I rely on high speed and sharp tools. I made a taper point for the headstock and force the tailstock into the wood.
Finding well balanced wood is another challenge. I find that laminating plywood provides a fairly consistent density for the wood. You could also laminate corian to give you a big enough piece to turn. I do use corian for tips, but thread a steel rod down the center to give it strength. Corian is fairly brittle and can easily break on impact. Especially if it is turned to a small diameter.
I actually found that maple tree branches with concentric rings to work really well for tops. They are cheap and if it doesn't work well for a top, it will make good firewood. Mark Hayward is always looking for broken tops for his battle top trophies.

Good luck and happy turning.
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the Earl of Whirl

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2009, 09:08:03 AM »

Yipppeeeee!!!  We need more woodturners who throw tops and want to make tops.  I'm looking forward to watching you progress.  It's fun to read tips from the pros.  A few years ago I did a lot of turning and made a lot of tops but it took time away from my throwing.  I made a decision then to concentrate on throwing and to concentrate on encouraging others to make tops.  Sooo.......keep up the good work yophosis!
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Watts' Tops

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2009, 09:21:14 AM »

You have a very excellent top craftsman in Allan G.
  If you use the face plate, I have learned to make the block longer than the finished top and cut it off as the last cut with a cut off tool.  That way, you do not have screw holes in your top.
I do have the original Duncan top points for sale (about a quart)  They work well for small tops.
I have turned many points on a metal lathe.  Each summer I would go to my brother's shop and turn points for a few hours.  He died and the lathe was sold.
My present points were made in Vietnam when my wife and I visited a few years ago.  Quite a story there. :o
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poptop

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2009, 09:38:57 AM »

Right on Chris!  I've been trolling for a used lathe too.  Seems like once you've thrown a few larger tops, the curiosity to turn quickly follows.  I'm glad you are helping to light the way for the rest of us.

Thanks for the great questions and the thoughtful answers!

Good Luck!
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Erratic Wobbler

johnm

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2009, 11:38:04 AM »

Well, not a lot to add once the masters have spoken.  Let's not forget another master that appears on the board-- Eric Wolff.  For inspiration (or humbling if I get feeling cocky) I like to browse his project picture history (drool bib recommended)

http://public.fotki.com/YoEric/

With our Jet, we started between centers (spur and live) because it came with those.  As Spinningray  recommends, a dead center or a dead cup center in the head stock is safer than a spur drive.  Since there are no blades on the drive, if/when you catch the chisel the dead center will simply spin in the wood--minimal danger.
As the Jet and other lower cost lathes are exactly that--lower cost lathes (great for lots of stuff but with some compromises), you should check the 'match' of the center of the drive vs. the center of the tailstock.  Put the drive center in the headstock and the live center in the tailstock and bring the centers together to see if the points match.  Our tailstock has a bit of translation and rotation when fit in the ways of the bed and seems better alligned when locked against one of the ways vs. the other.

I'm now mostly making (well, mostly thinking about making) tops from plywood glue-ups with a PVC insert where the tip installs.  The PVC is tapped and a peice of all-thread rod is installed and secured with a washer and nut on the inside of the blank (the layers are pre-hollowed with a hole saw before glueing).  The threaded rod is then screwed into a hub that screws onto the headstock instead of the face plate.  Note that this assembly has a lot of 'joints' each of which can introduce some 'off-centerness' leading to poor balance.
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Pulpowsky

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2009, 06:25:35 PM »

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24796601@N03/3190511076/



Alan makes a top.

Usefull image!


Very interesting post. I am trying to buy a second-market metal lathe. Wood tops aren't in mind (with exceptions) but metal tips o inox steel.

I'll like to make aluminium tops, size QS and smalls. But I'm not sure the kind o lathe to do thats comfortably.

I have lots of doubts and there are a fight between a cheap lathe to look and try or a expensive CNC lathe "for all of my life".
« Last Edit: November 07, 2009, 06:32:26 PM by Pulp »
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.
  Greetings: Jorge Sanjuan.

www.pulpowsky.com/foro

robtsou

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2009, 06:23:27 PM »

@ Chris,  One thing I noticed while turning tops is that you want to do as many of the turning operations in one setup as possible to avoid remounting the top.  This keeps everything concentric.  Remounting can be problematic to achieve the exact same center.

@ Pulp, Turning metal is fun but getting tooled up is expensive, you'll find you can spend again as much on tooling as you do for the lathe (same with woodturning sometimes).  When looking at used lathes, try to get as much tooling as possible thrown in with it.  For tops, you'll probably want a radius attachment to make curves unless you go the CNC route.

Rob
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Pulpowsky

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2009, 01:45:32 AM »

Another turning video of a very small top.


[youtube]CSMho7bEN-8[/youtube]
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the Earl of Whirl

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #11 on: November 14, 2009, 02:56:26 AM »

That was much smaller than I expected.  Thanks for posting that, Pulp.
I went to coolhammers.com and checked out some of their top information.
He does some very nice finger spinners!

http://www.coolhammers.com/top_dvd_stuff.htm
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MrYo

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2009, 08:00:19 AM »

Congratulations, i will look at your works very closely, I'm starting to buy some wood tops, I think is a good thing learn how this game is born using the original materials.

Maurizio
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johnm

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Re: Fixin to be a top turner, need help
« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2009, 07:31:26 PM »

Another finger top turning video.  This is early Scott Phillips who has a regular woodworking show on PBS.  Just under "The World's Workshop" scroll across and select "The American Woodshop" then scroll down to the episode Wooden Boxes Tops (third from the bottom of the list).  The top turning part starts at about 15 minutes into the show.

http://www.woodworkingchannel.com/dolphin/vidego_video_library.php
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