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Thread: Basic Spindle and Round Post Questions

  1. #1
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    Basic Spindle and Round Post Questions

    Hi all:

    I know zero about turning and would just like to educate myself.

    1. What's the difference between a spindle and a (round) post? At what size or diameter or length does a spindle become a post?

    2. How long or thick of a post can a lathe handle? I'm thinking of say, a 4-poster bed with giant round posts that are 7 feet long. Are they all made in one piece?

    3. Say you're working on something and want to use spindles or posts as a decorative feature but you're not a spinner. Can you buy spindles and round posts in any size or style or get a spinner to make you what you want?

    Thanks all,
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  2. #2
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    I'll give this a stab, but others may have different opinions...

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthia White View Post
    1. What's the difference between a spindle and a (round) post? At what size or diameter or length does a spindle become a post?
    No real difference in my opinion. To me, a spindle is any length or diameter that is held at both ends between centers (the pointy things at either end of the lathe) with the grain running perpendicular to the lathe bed. In lathespeak, that's turning something in spindle orientation. When a spindle is used for a porch, a bedpost, a fence, or something to tie your horse to, it becomes a post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthia White View Post
    2. How long or thick of a post can a lathe handle? I'm thinking of say, a 4-poster bed with giant round posts that are 7 feet long. Are they all made
    in one piece?
    Some are made in multiple pieces, and some aren't. There are lathes that can literally hold a telephone pole, but they're not common. Your average Joe Hobbyist or Production Turner is probably not set up to turn 7 foot spindles, but some are. For example, I can set up my lathe with a 53 inch bed, but I saw pics the other day of a guy who'd added something like 8 feet to the bed of a lathe just like mine. I've also seen guys with small lathes that had multiple extensions added to the bed, and they could conceivably be stretched out to 7 or more feet.

    As far as how thick you can go...I can turn 18 inch diameter pieces pretty easily. Other lathes can go even bigger. If my foggy memory serves correctly, Matt Hutchinson (a member here) has one that I think will do 30+ inch diameter pieces, and maybe 8 feet long. It's an old industrial lathe that he salvaged from the scrap metal heap. On the other hand, a mini lathe with a few bed extensions could handle turning bedposts.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthia White View Post
    3. Say you're working on something and want to use spindles or posts as a decorative feature but you're not a spinner. Can you buy spindles and round posts in any size or style or get a spinner to make you what you want?
    Yes to both questions. There are companies that make and sell a wide variety of machine-made spindles, ranging from little bitty doll furniture stuff to huge porch posts. You're pretty much limited to the sizes and shapes they offer, though. There are also a number of professional and hobbyist turners who accept orders for custom spindle work. The machine-made stuff is typically less expensive, especially if it's imported, but the custom-made pieces are, well, custom.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  3. #3
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    Hi Cynthia

    I will leave the lathe part to more qualified people than i to comment on but here is a way you can stay in flat land and only get what you need.

    http://www.thewoodworksinc.com/parts/post_rail.shtml
    cheers

  4. #4
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    Ahhh dipping the foot in the dark side of the vortex already?

    Vaughn has pretty much sumed it up. I was at asset recovery (government agency disposing of things that come from government agencies) a few years back and there was a lathe that came from some place that could turn 12 ft and 24 inches diameter.

    I have the Nova DVRXP lathe and it has bed extensions so I can theoretically turn as long as I have extensions for and 16 inch diameter. There are lots of other lathes out there and once you step onto that slippery slope of turning you will not look at flat work the same again.
    Daily Thought: SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES..... NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS...............

  5. #5
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    Cynthia asked: "At what size or diameter or length does a spindle become a post?"
    I don't think this has been answered yet.
    I believe the answer is more what the 'post' is to be used for. A post for a doll house might be only 2" long. Shelf separators 6,8 or ten inches long.
    For much longer, keep in mind long slender turnings flex as they are turned and can be very 'whippy' on the lathe. You need center steady rests.
    What do you have in mind?
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank Fusco View Post
    Cynthia asked: "At what size or diameter or length does a spindle become a post?"
    I don't think this has been answered yet.
    I believe the answer is more what the 'post' is to be used for. A post for a doll house might be only 2" long. Shelf separators 6,8 or ten inches long.
    For much longer, keep in mind long slender turnings flex as they are turned and can be very 'whippy' on the lathe. You need center steady rests.
    What do you have in mind?
    Ok Ok Spindles and posts are the vertical elements of railing. They can be made of wood or metal and are often used together in a railing. They support the handrail and are key to the architectural design of the railing. The term “Baluster” can be interchanged with spindle and generally refer to the same component used to make up the railing.

    Now if your refering to the size then a post is 4x4 or 6x6 or bigger and spindles are 2x2 or smaller.
    Daily Thought: SOME PEOPLE ARE LIKE SLINKIES..... NOT REALLY GOOD FOR ANYTHING BUT THEY BRING A SMILE TO YOUR FACE WHEN PUSHED DOWN THE STAIRS...............

  7. #7
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    Another question. I'm praying this isn't too stupid.

    You know how some woodworkers glue/laminate pieces together and make multi-colored cutting boards, for example......can you laminate different woods together and then put the whole thing on a lathe, and then come out with a turned post or bowl that's made of different woods (and colors)?
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
    AKA The Rookie

  8. #8
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    Oh, yeah, and that's a whole nuther skill set. I think we have a few experts in segmented turnings here. That's one thing I'd like to do once I clear about 2 dozen projects off my 2du list....
    Programmer - An organism that turns coffee into software.
    If all your friends are exactly like you, What an un-interesting life it must be.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cynthia White View Post
    Another question. I'm praying this isn't too stupid.

    You know how some woodworkers glue/laminate pieces together and make multi-colored cutting boards, for example......can you laminate different woods together and then put the whole thing on a lathe, and then come out with a turned post or bowl that's made of different woods (and colors)?
    Yep, it's relatively common. Here are a few examples...

    For spindle turning:

    Segmented blanks

    Another spindle example (a pretty ugly one IMHO):

    For bowl turning:

    Lotsa examples

    And one of the masters, Malcolm Tibbets (Have a look at the photo gallery on his site, although you might want to be sitting down when you do):

    It's called segmented turning.
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vaughn McMillan View Post
    Yep, it's relatively common. Here are a few examples......
    And one of the masters, Malcolm Tibbets (Have a look at the photo gallery on his site, although you might want to be sitting down when you do):

    It's called segmented turning.
    Wow that guy's stuff is unbelievable. Also, Vaughn I did watch those 2 youtube videos you suggested on turning to see the basics. Those chips really fly! I think I'd need a biohazard suit if I took that up. I think I prefer it where the world is flat.
    AKA Young Grasshopper Woodworker
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