Create Identical Half-Turnings

Spindles on Lathe

Create Mirror Image Spindle Halves on Your Lathe with These Simple Woodworking Tips

Finishing out a bookcase or end table with decorative half-turnings, or split spindles, can really make your projects look professionally done. However, it can be really difficult to produce two perfectly flat, perfectly identical halves. Use these tips to overcome the hurdles of half-turnings while saving yourself a lot of time and torment!

If you’re new to woodturning, it’s a good idea to take a class. This is especially true because there can be a lot of hidden dangers in using a lathe. You’re not in complete control, because you are using stationary tools and your wood piece is spinning. Knots, soft spots, splintering, cracking and breakage can cause your piece to become a flying stake or your tool to become a spinning spear in the blink of an eye! Injuries are common with lathe use, so be very careful and make sure that you take all precautions before attempting to turn wood. Know the limitations of your technique, the piece, and the lathe. Also, remember to always take your time, stay alert, and do not get frustrated.

Many projects call for decorative half-turned wood columns, especially cabinets, shelves, and desks. Clocks, mirror frames, and picture frames may also call for them. Rather than turning a spindle and trying to vertically split it perfectly in half in the end, use this tried and true technique for creating two perfectly balanced, mirror image sides.

First, you will want to get two blank boards that when put together equal the diameter that you need for your project. Make sure that both have flat sides that fit perfectly flat together. When you’re satisfied that you have two pieces that will work, glue a piece of paper between them. Use porous paper, like a brown paper bag, so that the wood glue can soak through. You may need to put glue on both sides of the paper. Make sure that you clamp the pieces firmly together and let them dry.

Now your piece is ready for the lathe. Turn the piece like normal until you are happy with the design. When you’re done, wedge the tip of a chisel into the top of the piece, directly on the seam where you glued the paper inside. Don’t use the chisel as a lever, but rather as a wedge, by tapping it gently with a hammer until the glue pops loose and the paper tears free. Use sandpaper to remove any glue or paper residue and your half-turned pieces will be complete.

About the Author: Dave Murphy is the founder and president of Good Wood, Inc., which makes a high quality wood dowel and the best hardwood dowel on the market. They also create wooden balls, wood knobs, wooden toy parts, custom wood parts, and more. They offer safe wood finishing, wood turning and can import from off-shore when necessary. Visit for all of your wood product needs.

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