Lather letter opener

For Starters, Prepare the Blank

1. Select a 1 1/2Xl 1/2X12 blank. (We tried both walnut and curly maple.) Then, draw diagonal lines at each end to locate the center. On the end of the stock that will be the blade, draw a line through the center point perpendicular to the grain. (For reference, see the Blank Preparation drawing on page 26.) Now, use a bevel gauge to transfer this line to the other end of the blank. (Note: Aligning the offset centers perpendicular to the grain ensures that the face grain will be aligned with the faces of the blade. It also allows you to follow the fibers of the wood and avoid chipping the edges of the blade as you turn.)

2.Mark two offset center points on this perpendicular line, 3/8 on either side of the true center, on both ends of the blank. Next, drill a 1/8 hole 1/8 deep at each of the three center points on the handle end of the blank. Then, punch the three points on the blade end using a center punch.

3.Cut W-deep kerfs in the handle end where shown on the Blank Preparation drawing to seat the center points in the spur center. To do this, clamp the blank in your vise, and use a thin-kerf back saw. Now, mount the blank on your lathe using a spur center at the headstock and a live (revolving) tail center. (Note: Mount the blank at all three sets of center points before you start turning to make sure that the centers will seat properly. If you try to seat the offset centers after turning the taper, you’ll stress the workpiece.)

Next, Turn the Opener to Shape.

1. Mount the blank at the true center, and turn it to a 1 -diameter cylinder, leaving the ends of the stock square. (See Step One of the four-step drawing shown on page 26.) To do this, set your speed at 500 rpm, and use a roughing gouge or large (%») spindle gouge. After you’ve rounded the blank, increase the speed to 1,500 rpm and true the cylinder using a spindle gouge.

2.Using the full-sized Template shown on page 27 for reference, cut in at each point shown in Step Two of the four-step drawing to establish the appropriate diameter. (We used our parting tool, checking each diameter with our calipers as we worked.)

3. With the lathe still set at 1,500 rpm, turn the handle of the opener to its finished shape using a 1/4 gouge. Then, turn the blade to form its taper, as shown in Step Three of the four-step drawing. (Note: For now, leave at least a ‘A» diameter at the end of the handle. Also, you’ll want to stop the taper 1/4 from the true end of the blade. We ’11 hand-shape this part later.)

4.Remount the blank at one of the two sets of offset centers. Then, set your speed at 1,000 rpm, and begin turning one face of the blade to shape as shown at right. ( We found that a sharp spindle gouge, used in a light cutting— not scraping—action, works best for this. For reference, see the sectional views shown on the Front View drawing.) Then, switch to the other pair of offset centers, and start turning the other face. To keep the blade centered, alternate between the two offsets until you’ve established the blade edges. Remember to keep a 1/4 diameter at the tip where shown in Step Four of the drawing.

Now, For the Finishing Touches

1. Once you’ve formed the blade, remount the stock on the true centers, and finish-sand the handle as shown below. (We used 220- and then 320-grit sandpaper, folding the paper to form a stiff edge for sanding the tight spaces.) Next, turn the excess waste at the handle end, working this diameter down to 1/8. Then, remove the turning from the lathe, and bandsaw the turning at both ends to separate it from the blank ends.

2.File and finish-sand the 1/8 waste from the handle end. Next, sand the waste from the blade tip, forming it to shape as you go. Now, finish-sand the entire blade, being careful to maintain its turned form.

3. Apply your choice of finish. (We sprayed on two coats of Minwax Semigloss FastrDrying Polyurethane, leveling the finish between coats with 0000 synthetic steel wool.)

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