Shop Made Steady Rest Part #1 of Two
Simple... Simple enough that a beginner and/or a person with basic tools could make it
Easy to Make---No fancy cuts, no complex fitting or joinery
Convenient Size and Easy to Store
Made from scraps---Typical Shop Cut-offs
Fairly Rapid Construction
Do not let all of this text make you shy away from making this. See the unit assembled photos near the end. This proves the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
If you design your own unit keep in mind that all of the dimensions used must work to keep the center of rotation of the wood approximately in the center of the steady rest.
Each of my “Wheel Units” consist of a wheel, a knob or machine screw with a 1/4 x 20 shaft, a 1/4 guide pin, two inserts with 1/4 x 20 threads, and a piece of 1 5/8 x 4 x 1/4 pressed temper board (Masonite).
I used 7/8 inch nylon shower door wheels from the big box hardware store. In my mind I questioned their ability to function well. I used them because I could not find anything better. They are still working fine. However, since the unit is new, I have not used them much.
The “guide” pins job is to keep the wheel arms from moving in undesired ways. These pins were made by cutting the heads off of 1/4 x 20 stove bolts.
Off Topic Note: The reason the nut is in the picture is my father. When I was a very young kid, Dad told me to always put a nut on any threaded device that I was going to shorten. That way after cutting it off, I could run the nut off clearing the threads of burrs, etc. I chose bolts that had a smooth collar below the head and the cut off the other end to the desired length. This gave me guides with smooth sides to slide through the wheel unit’s adjusting slots.
Sort of Off Topic: This pic shows inserting the insert using the drill press for a nice “true to the world” insertion of the insert. When I was a kid there was a very famous comedian named Bob Hope (I met him once). In one of Bob’s movies his character’s name was Lawrence, Lawrence, Lawrence. The character said that it was because his mother didn’t have any imagination. I guess I really could have used my imagination and said, “Placing” for a couple of the “inserts.”
My insertion tool is a sawed off, cheap screwdriver ground to fit the slot in the insert. By using the drill press I could put steady, very firm, straight down pressure with my right hand while turning the chuck slowly with my left hand. This makes a very neat, true insertion and does not raise any of the surface of the wood (DAMHIKT). Also guess why I made the custom screwdriver for this kind of job.
The rod with the red handle fits into the chuck-key hole. The rod makes it easier to turn the chuck while down pressure is applied via the drill press.
DO NOT CUT THE VERTICAL TO SHAPE UNTIL YOU READ THIS SECTION
To locate the most critical point of the steady rest do the following:
Notice that the headstock has a “pointy” drive in place...A pointy center in the tailstock would work just as well.
Obtain a piece of three-quarter, void-free, plywood that is larger than you will need. Be sure it has at least one straight, 90 degree to the surface, edge (for my lathe 9 1/2 in. front to back edge felt right).
In the case of the five and a half inch opening for wood in my 12 1/2 inch swing Delta 46-460 the plywood piece was eleven inches tall by nine and a half front to back. The position of the drive center on your lathe will be in a different position in relation to the lathe bed than mine. The next step marks the position of YOUR wood turning center onto the vertical for YOUR lathe.
Position the vertical member on your lathe bed lightly touching the “pointy” part of the drive center or the tailstock center. It should be spaced so that approximately half of the ply is in front of the turning center of the lathe and half of the ply is in back of that center.
Use your fist and bang the ply against the point. This will leave an indentation in the plywood. From this mark you will lay out the position of the wheel arms, guide pins and the center of the turning wood. For my Delta 46-460 the indentation was up approximately 6 inches from the bottom and centered front to back.
Everything else that you do now is aimed at keeping the spot you just made located where the center of spinning wood will be in your finished product. All of the wheel units will be placed so that they are aimed at this spot when they are adjusted for the size of the wood in use.
DO NOT CUT THE STEADY REST SHAPE OUT UNTIL YOU HAVE THE LOCATION OF ALL PARTS IN RELATION TO THIS SPOT. Be absolutely sure you have knob and guide insert locations marked while you still have this reference point. It is a mess to try marking these if the reference point has been sawn away as waste.
Here are some pics showing the process I went through.
Notice the compass point is in the dent in the ply made by the pointed center in the lathe. This pic is for clarity. Actually I placed paper over the ply, put the compass point through the paper and into the dent in the plywood.
The paper I laid over the ply was marked with three lines 120 degrees apart. 120 is not a critical measurement. The center where the three lines met was laid over the pointy dent in the vertical plywood; this needs to be fairly accurate. I have found no reason to use any position other than the top wheel directly above the lathe’s turning axis. If any of you long time turners know of a reason to change the position, please let me know and I will add the information to this tutorial.
I went through the process of checking the wheel unit angles to be sure none of the wheel units would be obstructed in their movement in and out. I cannot see why a few degrees rotation in either direction, for any of the wheel units, would make any difference in using the steady rest. However, check yours out. There could be a problem like having the lower right wheel unit’s adjustment being stopped by hitting the base. Don’t get sloppy just because I said a few degrees shouldn’t matter. You DO want each of the wheel units pointed to the center of the wood rotation. If you goof a bit, it probably will not hurt. However, it will make the smallest center opening a little larger. That means that the smallest piece that the unit works on will be a bit larger.
This is continued in thread "Continuation of Steady Rest Post JB