If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books
Drilling Rings on the Lathe
If you have a lathe, then you already know the awesomeness that is making wooden rings without having to do the entire process by hand. Though you can make them by hand, it’s way easier to use a lathe.
Even if you are already making your rings on this wonderful machine, you may not know that you can also drill your finger openings as well. You can even expand them quickly if you don’t have a drill that’s just the right size.
The lathe is truly a wonderful tool when it comes to making wooden rings, and I’ll show you everything you need to know about drilling your blanks coming up.
Hold the Ring in a Chuck
First of all, in order to drill the blanks, you need a method of holding it on the lathe. The most common method is using a chuck, which is an inexpensive holding device that you can get from a lot of different places.
I say inexpensive because even though you can spend a ton of money on a lathe chuck, you really don’t need to. There are many good four jaw chucks for around $100, and they will serve you really well for a very long time.
The nice thing about a chuck is that it provides even pressure from four sides, and it can hold your ring making blank perfectly still while you advance the drill through the center. All you do is remove it when you’re done, and you can add another blank to be drilled in the same manner.
Use a Scrap Behind the Blank
Just like drilling by hand, when your drill exits the piece of material you are working with, it tends to push fibers out of the way, which is called blow out. When this happens, the edges of your ring near the finger opening look ugly, and you need to fix them.
Instead of allowing this problem to happen, all you need to do to stop it is just put a piece of scrap wood behind your ring blank.
Cut a piece of wood just a little bit smaller so that way it fits behind the blank inside of the chuck. Then, when you drill, make sure you go all the way through the blank, and just into the scrap.
The pressure between the two pieces will hold the fibers on the back side of the ring blank in place, and prevent them from blowing out as the drill exits. This means a better looking hole, and an easier time sanding later.
Choose the Best Drills
The easiest way to drill on the lathe is by using a Forstner bit, though in reality you can use a lot of different bits successfully. The lathe has a nice way of changing up the process, so you use the bit more like a cutter than a drill bit.
Since the piece is what’s turning and not the bit, you have the ability to advance any kind of drill bit through the center of your ring making blank, you just want to make sure that it’s nice and sharp so that way it makes a clean hole.
One of the best bits in the business is the Forstner bit, and this can be used really well on your lathe to make your finger openings. Simply pick up a few bits that are in the size of the rings that you want to make, and you’ll be in good shape.
You can even withdraw and advance of the bit again, carefully expanding the diameter of the hole by using the edge of the bit as a cutter. This can help you achieve some of the in between sizes that you may not have a bit for yet.
See Also: Sizing A Wooden Ring
Advance the Tailstock Carefully
If You Like My Posts, You'll Love My Books
You’ll be able to see and feel this hole being drilled more so then when you drill something by hand. It’s almost like you have a better connection with it because you can see the material being removed, and you are directly advancing the tailstock yourself.
Keep going forward, and make sure the tailstock doesn’t become misaligned. On most lathes, this is set pretty well, but just be careful as you drill.
Withdraw the Tailstock Carefully
Once your drill bit has made it safely into the scrap piece that you have on the bottom of your stack, you will need to retract it out of the piece. You can do this a couple of ways, you just want to make sure that you don’t scrape up your hole on the way out.
If you retract the bit using the fly wheel, do so very quickly, and don’t allow it to ride against one edge of the opening. You may need to push just a little bit in order to center the drill, but it usually doesn’t take very much.
Another thing you can do is loosen the tailstock and slide it backwards, which will remove the bit from inside the finger opening. This is a slightly faster version, just be careful as you do it.
The big deal about removing the bit is that you don’t want to end up scratching or tearing a chunk out of the inside of the finger opening. Not only is this uncomfortable, it’s also a very hard place to reach in order to sand the area smooth.
Most cases, if you end up destroying the inside diameter of the ring, you might as well just make a new ring and drill it more carefully on the next round. Most of the time, it’s not worth the time to try to fix these mistakes.
Your Action Assignment
Now that you know all about how to drill your wooden rings on your lathe, it’s time to get out into the shop and take action. If you’ve never drilled on the lathe before you are definitely in for a fun experience.
Also, you just might like doing it so much that you end up drilling all sorts of other projects on your lathe as well. It’s a guaranteed way to make a perfectly centered hole, and it just takes a lot of the guesswork out of the drilling process.
Be careful no matter what, and practice a little bit on some scraps before you go for the real thing. You’ll be happy that you did, because you can diagnose any little problems and address them before you have to drill one of your nice ring blanks.
If you have any questions about drilling your rings on the lathe, please post a question and I’ll be happy to answer it. Happy building.
- More than 20 Years Woodworking Experience
- 7 Woodworking Books Available on Amazon
- Over 1 Million Words Published About Woodworking
- Bachelor of Arts Degree from Arizona State University
I receive Commissions for Purchases Made Through the Links in This Post.