A majority of woodworkers who own a lathe use it to make legs, round stretchers, spindles, and other furniture components. Those parts share one important trait – the orientation of the wood on the lathe. The wood blanks are held between the lathe centers by their ends so that the grain runs parallel to the lathe bed. This is known as spindle turning.
Spindle turning is pretty easy, because you work along the wood’s long-grain. The way you move a gouge or skew chisel to shape coves and beads helps ensure that cut fibers always support the tool. You seldom have to deal with torn end grain.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that turning one spindle is pretty easy. Making identical spindles – four table legs, say, or stretchers for a Windsor chair – can be a challenge. I have a set of legs that my father-in-law rough-turned several years ago; now, I’m taking them from a simple taper to a more complex shape. Here’s how I meet the challenge.