Sawdust

While 1 was building the Shaker Bench for this issue, I decided to sit down and take a break for a cup of coffee. I was alone in the shop, and for a few minutes everything was quiet.

It gave me time to reflect on my progress on the Bench... and to think about the shop itself. I began to wonder what a 19th-century Shaker craftsman would think about the Woodsmith shop. Screeching routers. A modern table saw. Random orbit disc sanders. And my favorite Japanese dozuki hand saw.

This didn't seem like a place for a 19th-century Shaker.

shaker style. The Shakers are known for their simple, yet graceful furniture. And the image this usually brings is of a group of quiet, pious craftsmen working patiently with hand tools.

But the more I learn about the Shakers, the more I wonder whether they would really feel out of place in our "modern" shop.

For a religious movement that only had about six thousand members at its peak in 1850, the Shakers developed an incredible number of inventions.

Sister Tabitha Babbitt is usually given credit for inventing the circular saw blade about 1810. And. in 1828, Brothers Amos Bisby and Henry Bennett designed a tongue-and-groove machine. (They were trying to figure a way to develop a strong joint and speed up production of table tops and floors.)

The list goes on. Mortising machines. A jig saw made from a treadle sewing machine. And even a rather complicated-looking surface planer (with a self-feeding feature on it).

Not only were they inventive, but they borrowed ideas from outside their communities as well. They would adopt and then adapt any machine or device that would make their work more efficient and accurate. So while their furniture was simple, their machinery wasn'L

Back to the Woodsm ith shop. Yes, I think a 19th-century Shaker probably would be fascinated with all that goes on in our shop. (That is, after he got used to the electrical cords running everywhere — their machines were usually powered by an ingenious system of water mills, shafts, pulleys, and belts.)

making spindles. A visiting Shaker might be especially intrigued with the method I used for making the spindles on the Shaker Bench. The Shakers (and most everyone else) would probably make the spindles for this Bench on a lathe.

But the problem I've always had is turning identical spindles on the lathe. And in this case, there are 18 of them. All lined up close together like a row of soldiers standing at perfect attention. Any slight differences between the spindles would probably be very noticeable.

How about using a lathe duplicator? That would work (if you have one), but it involves a lot of set-up time. You have to make a template, and then need a way to keep the thin spindles from "whipping" as they're being turned. That requires some kind of a steady rest.

a jig. So I got to wondering if there was some other way to make the spindles without a lathe. What I ended up with was a jig for "turning" identical spindles with a router and electric drill, see page 18.

Each spindle starts out as an ordinary dowel rod that's "chucked" into the drill. Then it's set into the jig (sort of a cradle) and as the dowel is turning, a router is run over the top of it to cut the taper.

I know. It sounds a little strange — but it actually works. Once I got going I was able to turn out perfectly identical tapered spindles in under seven minutes each. (The Shakers would have been impressed.)

The results were so good that I built a slightly larger jig using the same principle to make the "cigar-shaped" legs for the Bench. Then I made three more legs on the same jig and ended up with a little oak stool (see page 16).

help wanted. As we plan for future growth, we're looking for another full-time editor to join our staff here in Des Moines. Candidates should have first-hand knowledge of woodworking and a background in writing and communicating ideas.

If you're interested in this position, write us a letter explaining a little about the woodworking you've been doing lately and your writing experience.

Send your letter to Doug Hicks, Managing Editor. 2200 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, LA 50312. Hell get back to you in a few days.

A LOOK INSIDE

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