As I worked on a project for the July/August issue of 360 Woodworking, a portion of which is turned, I ran into a common problem when working at the lathe. The problem comes about when turning long thin pieces. It’s known as whip wherein centrifugal force causes a piece bow slightly outward. Two things happen when you work against whip. One is that the piece turns out of round, and the second is that the surface is nowhere near smooth, even for most woodworkers when using a skew.
The turning portion of my project is in excess of 35″ in length, and it’s only 1-3/8″ in diameter in places. I could take the time to set up a steady rest to hold the stock more uniformly as I turn. For a single piece, though, that’s too much setup. I sometimes use a leather glove to help steady the turning, but even then a smooth surface is more of a dream. (At least it’s not a nightmare!)
That means there is additional leveling and smoothing needed. As I encountered this problem, I decided to run a bit of a contest. In my arsenal of tools was a cabinetmaker’s rasp, a Shinto rasp and a piece of Abranet HD. Which tool would be the best? The answer, at least from my perspective, may surprise you.
I’m a huge fan of the Shinto rasp. (So much so that my business partner often makes fun of me.) This time, however, Shinto loses out. Even though the openness of the Shinto did not load up with scrapings – something that the rasp immediately did with the lathe up to speed, so it was tossed from the competition – it seemed to be less aggressive than when I’m using a Shinto to shape cabriole legs. Both of these tools are workhorses in my shop, but just not the tool I’d choose for this task.
The winner of my impromptu contest was the Abranet HD. The stiff nylon-mesh backing of the HD made it easy to use to level rough surfaces. It’s a great product to have in the shop for anytime you need an aggressive abrasive, especially when turning. (As would be the case with any of the tools selected for my contest, further smoothing was necessary.)
Got another tool in mind that would have been up to the competition? Leave a comment to tell me about it.