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Plane Knob Mandrel


Well, you guys are contagious, worse than cholera! Guess you know that.  So last week we were talking plane wood.

I had made a number of plane knobs before, but it was never really fast or comfortable work. Usually more waste involved mounting it to a lathe and a pretty slow process with several steps and some element of risk.

Drilling counterbore holes in completed turnings is just waiting for any misstep to ruin your work.  So I began to think about how knobs could be made easier.

I looked at a bunch of factory knobs, various Stanley and others. I measured and thought for a few days.  I stew these things. Let them simmer on the back burner of my mind for a while. Its my style.

I came up with something. Here is what I came up with. Lovely huh?

For fast secure mounting I incorporated the diameter of the most common relief hole in the bottom of every knob. The hole over the threaded boss at the base of every knob. (This is a little smaller than 5/8" btw). And a large screw.

I turned a piece of scrap 5/8" rod and fitted it for a hanger bolt, the kind you use for table brackets.

While I was at it, I cut teeth into the top of the rod to further grip the knob blank when it was screwed in tight. I turned the other end down at the end to fit into a 1/2" drill chuck for my lathe.

A morse taper would have been better, but I still have a terribly crappy lathe (a dreaded AMC) that has no taper shafts.  I tapped the hole for the screw to mount it and set it with epoxy.  At the end I took a file and deepened and sharpened the threads some. The rolled factory threads were a bit shallow. I had to pay attention to how long the finished screw was.

Too long, I can't counterbore for the brass nut. Too short it might slip.

In use the blank is cut, special attention taken to square both ends, and center marked. Then I use the drill bit (that I altered to the proper size...... pain. I need a 19/32 drill bit if anyone has one handy??) and drill out the bottom pocket first.

Then a smaller drill is run all the way through, for the screw mount.

Here is a small scrap of leftover walnut being rough turned. As you can see, this it really good access.

A blank is mounted very quickly now, and I have very easy access for turning every part of it. Its also easy to drill the counterbore to fit the top screw right at the lathe with a chuck/drill mounted in the lathe tailstock. Nice and secure, greatly reduced craftsmanship of risk.

When finished, all I have to do is re-drill the center to the proper standard size which neatly removes the threads and all traces of mounting except maybe some scars up at the top of the bottom hole that nobody will ever see.

There is little danger drilling, because the counterbores at each end are already done and the center hole is not a tight or critical fit. Merely clearance for the screw. It is terrifically more efficient than turning schemes I had done before!

Here is my first trial knob on the mandrel, a Stanley large low early beaded knob in fir, and the second, a Sargent beaded low knob for a VBM, in black walnut. (OK, I like the early beads, kill me why don't you?). Rosewood being what it is, I didn't want to commit what precious little 2" stock I had for trial work.

PS. If you ever wondered why Stanley switched from low to high knobs, its very simple. It takes nearly 2" stock to turn a low knob. High knobs can be done with a bit over 1 1/2" stock.

When it comes down to ordering suitable sawmill stock in the millions of board feet, this is a very very big deal. Its more than a matter of just setting up the saw in the mill. Its obtaining suitable material capable of making 2" stock out of at all, over thinner planks, that is important.

I suspect the old growth Indian rosewood supply was already starting to fade and they could actually get more lumber shipped by ordering thinner.

Its easy to prove for yourself right now. Just go shopping for 2" rosewood turning squares and then look at rough cut (slightly over) 1 1/2" stock. You will see they are 3 to 1 easier to get and much cheaper compared to just a little extra board feet in measurement.

yours, Scott
, 2007
Happy Camp, CA
email:  Scott Grandstaff

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