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Using a full size Lathe (Delta)

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I have had a full size Delta wood Lathe for many years. I have never used it to turn items a small as those required for a ship but felt it should work. I thought I would share the setup I did for the lathe. It works very well. While I have not completed the turning for the Constitution, I have turned everything from the mast at 8mm down to the dolphin strikers at 1.5mm. So I am comfortable with the set up.


The chuck on my drill press is the same Morse Taper 2 as that on my Drill Press making the chuck usable in either machine. I installed the chuck in my headstock and the smallest live tailstock I had. I also purchased a spindle support from Grizzly. This mounts on the lathe bed between the stocks and allows the spindle to be supported to keep it from flying out of center. This allows turning longer pieces without the tailstock. Since the small spars do not have enough size to mount in the tailstock, this set up allows them to still be turned safely.


For very small short items such as the dolphin strikers, just inserting them into the headstock chuck is sufficient since they will be supported by your fingers as you sand them down.


For larger masts, where there is a step down, I am able to use a very sharp parting tool to remove the necessary wood. I start at the end and get to the diameter I need. Usually I will turn the piece down with the parting tool until it is nearly there then finish the last tapering with sand paper. Once I have achieved the correct dimension, I will use the tool to remove the wood down to the step in point on the mast. since I already have an area the proper dimension, this is done by eye. Again, once I am close, I check it with my calipers then complete the task with sand paper.


For the larger masts, I use 80 grit to remove wood and refine the tapers. For smaller aprs, such as the dolphin striker, the 80 grit would be too rough, I use 320 grit to produce the correct taper.


Of course safety is a concern. When using sandpaper on the spindles use caution to keep the paper from being caught in the headstock. The same precautions you would always use should be followed with safety glasses and dust control. I cut the sandpaper down to pieces about 2" by 4". This allows me to keep them out of the spinning stocks and still have enough to adequately perform the job.


So hopefully this helps anyone looking to use a full size lathe in shipbuilding.





Edited by robnbill


Chantilly, VA


Its not the size of the ship, but the bore of the cannon!


Current Build: Scratch Build Brig Eagle


Completed Build Log: USS Constitution - Mamoli

Completed Build Gallery: USS Constitution - Mamoli


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