Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December Project, Turning on a Drill Press, Part 1

This blog is about turning on a drill press or Dremel with it's Workstation. The name drill press implies drilling holes; yes, that's what it is for. Turning is making spindles, like on a stair railing. You can make lots of symmetrical turnings for other things, too. Normally a lathe is used for turning; it holds the wood horizontally, the drill press holds the wood vertically.

If you have never used a drill press please have the person you are borrowing it from read my blog. Have them help you get started. I should also mention to wear eye protection when using the drill press and Dremel/Workstation.

We also have a lathe and my husband makes beautiful things on it. Right now his is making oak spindles for a staircase. I've tried turning on the lathe and I don't like it. I seem to be able to turn more easily on the drill press. With a lathe you can do more like making bowls and vessels. I am busy upholstering furniture and haven't gotten to that point.

I have a Dremel and its Workstation. The Workstation holds the Dremel in a drill press set up. I started using the combination to turn porch spindles to save some money on a project. The results aren't always symmetrical. The Workstation isn't as stable as a drill press so one side of the turning might have a little less design cut into it. We can always turn that side to the wall!
If you already have a Dremel maybe a Workstation would be a good accessory for you. I like it for drilling multiple holes, say in seats for wicker. The Workstation only works with certain models of Dremel so check before making your purchase.
If you find you like turning, a bench top drill press runs around $100.00 at Home Depot or Loew's. It's a cheaper buy than buying the Dremel and Workstation together. Lathes generally cost more than drill presses.

Another difference between the drill press and Dremel/Workstation is that the Dremel will only accept up to 1/8" diameter bit, cutters and for turning, wood. To turn a larger piece of wood you have to drill into the center on one end and glue in a 1/8" dowel. The dowel will then be placed into the chuck.

You see in the picture I have clamps holding a piece of wood with the sharp end of a "T" pin in it. You will have to do this with the Dremel or drill press.

The "T" pin holds the bottom of the wood, while the chuck holds the top.

The chuck on this floor model drill press holds 3/8" square stock. If I want to turn something from larger stock I would drill a hold in the center on one end and glue in a 1/4" dowel, (I mentioned this above for the Dremel). I am working in miniature and I don't do this very often.
A lathe has chucks for turning larger diameter wood and a "center" at the end to hold the wood, it's for turning wood. We are making the drill press do something it's not intended for. But a drill press is something a lot of fathers and husbands have in the workshop/garage.
Use "hardwood" for the "T" pin set up, not a pine 2x4. The "T" pin gets hot and it will drill itself down and out of the weed after you turn a few pieces and you will have to hammer it back up into the wood to stick out again. Google hardwood and you will find names of wood that qualify.
After you have made this "T" pin set up use clamps to secure it to the drill press table or the Workstation table. I've used my husband's wood clamps but "C" clamps work fine.

Clamping the "T" pin set up takes a little time because it has to be centered under the chuck. If it's not centered your finished turning won't be symmetrical.

I will chuck up a piece of wood and line up the pin under it. Make sure it's centered front to back and side to side.

I've got my spindle speed set at 2300. Most drill presses have a belt at the top, it's under a lid, to set different speeds. Most Dremels have speed settings, when you turn the Dremel on set the speed where you are comfortable. If you have trouble with the turnings breaking, change your speed.

So now you are set up. I use basswood square stock. You might think to use dowels, they are already round. Dowels are hardwood and will dull my steel cutters. Woodcarving sites have carbide cutters, just haven't found the need to buy them. Carbide cutters would last longer. I use Dremel's engraving cutters all sizes and shapes. I use sand paper; 120 grit for rounding the square stock. I use the finer grits to finish the turning. I use the round ball shape the most, smallest diameter on up. Dremel has 3 sizes of 4 different shapes. Micro-Mark carries cutters, too. I have found that the woodcarving sites are cheaper than Micro-Mark, though.

End of Part 1