Working with a Lathe Duplicator

Working with a Lathe Duplicator

Gord Langer

Working with a Lathe Duplicator

One of my regular customers often gets me to make him French Pastry Rolling Pins. This order was for 60 pins. Does that sound daunting to you? What if I told you with a lathe duplicator I can turn them all the same, complete with finish sanding in about 5 minutes? Interested?
 
The YouTube video I shot to supplement this newsletter shows one of the walnut pins that I turned for my customer. The newsletter shows a laminated pin. The process is the same but I thought I would change it up a bit.
 
Clearly the first step is to actually purchase a duplicator and set it up on your lathe. Be careful here, as with all things you get what you pay for. I purchased my Vega duplicator years ago and have been very happy with it.

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Here you can see I have installed it on my lathe taking care to align it correctly. 
 
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Before we get too far along a brief description of a few of the key parts I will be referencing throughout the newsletter. In the photo above you see the stylus which will follow a pattern or template. I also highlight the depth lock knob which locks the cutter to a specific depth.

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Lets get started with the blank. The newsletter pin is about 20" and is a laminated blank; the YouTube pin is walnut and is about 22". I clipped the edges on the table saw just to speed up the turning. I marked the center on each end along with the center of the blank.   
    
This center mark will be used to line up with the template which is also marked at the center. The template shown here I have cut from a piece of 1/4" MDF on my laser machine but can also be done with a sabre saw or band saw.  Just be sure to sand the edge smooth. You can also set up your duplicator to follow a finished piece - ideal if you are trying to copy a finished spindle for a staircase, as an example. 

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Next I mounted the blank between centers. This is requires some special attention. It is very important NOT to apply too much pressure on the tailstock as increased pressure increases the potential of "whipping" in the center of the blank. I have found that an absolute minimum amount of pressure is ideal. The 2" Elio Drive is perfect here as I applied considerable pressure to embed the 3 drive pins into the end of the blank and than I'm able to ease off on the tailstock so the blank is held with virtually zero pressure. I have tried all different types of drive centers and found our Elio Drives truly provide the very best option.
 
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Next we need to install the template and align the template with the center of the blank. Align the cutter with the center of the blank then install the template with thumb screws. The center of the template is aligned with the stylus.

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It's now time to start the turning. Using the "T" handle I move the cutting tip into the blank  As the blank is oversize at this point you can be relatively aggressive with this cut. I find turning at a fast lathe speed seems to work best.  I then use the ship's wheel to move the cutting tip from one end to the other and then back again with the objective of simply turning the blank round.
  
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Here you see the blank turned round. This process only takes a minute or two.

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Now that the blank is turned round, just slightly larger that the finished piece will be. It's now time to have the stylus to follow the template. I start at the center of the blank and start by gently advancing the cutter into the work piece moving back and forth until the stylus is riding on the template. Once we have reached this point I follow the template to the tailstock side by moving the ship's wheel to the right.

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Once I find I am taking too much material off at one time I lock the depth of the cutting tip by tightening the depth knob.  Here I used two hands only to effectively show the knob. After it is tightened I "rough" turn to the end of the blank. Then I loosen the depth control knob and go back to the point where I am able to again follow the template. Take care not to engage the cutter head backwards into the finished turning. I repeat this process until I get to the end of the blank.

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After continuing to follow the template we come to the end of the blank.  Here I slow down a bit as we get to a pretty small part of the turning.  A gentle touch is a good idea here.

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Now I go back to the center and repeat the process for the other side of the turning.

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The blank is now turned to its finished dimensions by following the template and is now ready for sanding. Both Brian an I love using Siasoft foam backed sandpaper for most of our turning.  While relatively expensive it last a long time and works great for most turning. Check with your local paint store to see if they carry it. I start with some 80 grit and quickly move from grit to grit and finish with some 220. This process only takes about a minute or two.
 
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Here is the sanded piece ready for finish.

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I apply a food grade finish, in this case some salad bowl finish. I apply a generous coat of finish with the lathe off and then turn the lathe on to polish the finish.

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Here is the finished French Pastry Rolling Pin, ready for use. A great product that produces good sales and out sells a tradional rolling pin. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, this project was inspired by a recent order from one of my regular customers. Here you see the pins I made for my customer whose specifications included a hole at the end of the pin. This required some additional marking and then precise drilling of the hole. My customer prefers to finish the pins himself. 

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Here you see the products marked, corners clipped and the pins complete. 
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Gord Langer