Technical stuff for Woodturners

When I did demonstrations I always took my own lathe and other equipment with me because then I knew I would have exactly what I needed and that everything fitted together and was geared to whatever I was going to demonstrate.

Amongst the items I took with me were a home-made vacuum chuck system and a home-made ball turning jig. These items usually generated some interest because, on the whole, woodturners are an inventive lot and love to make something which would otherwise have been expensive to buy.

After a demonstration I would often receive emails asking for more information on how I built or used these systems, and so I’ve decided to publish the information here so that it is readily available to whoever wants it.

In the table below are several articles which I wrote for Woodworker & Woodturner magazine and which were first published there. The versions published here are my originals, before the magazine edited them to fit their pages and, in several instances introduced errors into them. Any errors here are all mine!

As a result of these articles I was invited to write a review of a commercial vacuum chuck system manufactured by the Air-Press Company Ltd. It turned out to be a fine piece of kit but, I thought, rather expensive. I couldn’t help but compare it with my own version and have included those comparisons here too.

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Vacuum Chucks: Construction and Use

‘Make your own Vac Chuck’ Details of the construction of the original version of the vacuum chuck I take to demonstrations. First published in Woodworker & Woodturner  magazine, July 2006.

‘On test: Vacuum Chucks’ A test of the Air-Press Company’s vacuum chuck system and comparison with mine. First published in WW & WT September 2006.

‘Bowl basics, part 7’ Further testing, pushing the extreme use of a vacuum chuck to make a bowl from start to finish. First published in WW & WT November 2006.

‘Vacuum Chuck revisited’ Some revisions and additions to my original system which make it easier and cheaper to build, and safer to use. First published in WW & WT June 2007.

Vacuum Chuck Data explains the forces involved in vacuum chucking. Previously unpublished.

Design of rotary adaptor
for lathes with solid spindles, e.g. Record etc. I haven’t built this device, because my lathe has a hollow spindle, but I’m often asked about the problem of solid spindles and I think this idea might work if you can build it. Previously unpublished.

Ball-turning Jig: Construction

‘Custom Ball Jig’ A guide to how I constructed an adjustable ball turning jig to fit both my lathes. First published in WW & WT November 2006.

Notes on making a Singapore Ball

Covering choice of timber and some techniques for making a Singapore Ball, these notes refer, and give due credit, to David Springett’s enormous contribution in this area. Previously unpublished.

An explanation of the geometry of the Singapore Ball, for which I am indebted to my mathematically minded friend, John Haigh. Previously unpublished.

Bowl making: Various

‘Bowls on a Budget’ Explains how a bowl can be made using only a faceplate, a tailstock centre and some ingenuity. First published in WW & WT Spring 2006.