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Layout and Measuring Tool and their Makers

  Layout Basics by James D. Thompson 9 of 9  

VIII.  Centering Stock for Turning

There are several devices for sale which are supposed to help you find the center of a piece of stock that you want to turn in your wood lathe. And they work just fine, as long as the stock is round or square. But usually the piece I want to turn is NOT square or round. It is likely to be almost any shape. Like the piece shown below.

So how do I find then center of irregularly shaped stock?

I use a pair of dividers.

I set the dividers to an approximate size and put one leg on the approximate center.

Then swing the divider to another side. Then check all 4 sides and adjust the divider until you have found the largest circle you can draw. Push the divider leg into the wood to mark the center.

Now draw the circle. I do this on both ends of the piece. If there is a defect or damage to the wood I can often move the center on one end to avoid it, particularly on a handle where one end is going to be small anyway.

Now I double check to make sure the stock is big enough for its intended use.

I use a center drill on the tailstock end where I normally use a live center. (A live center is one which has bearings inside and spins with the stock. A dead center does not turn.)

On the drive end of the wood the mounting method depends on how I intend to drive the piece, but I always have to have at least a small, shallow hole drilled for reference. I bought and made several different devices for this, but in the end I found that my trusty dividers are easier and more certain than any other method. As always, your mileage may vary.

James D. Thompson
January, 2006

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Marking Gauge




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