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Perfect Pommels Concord NH

A pommel is any area left square on a turning. You'll find pommels on table legs, balusters, porch columns and other furniture parts. A pommel can have an abrupt square shoulder or a gently shaped shoulder as it meets the rounded section of the turning. Using the wrong tools and technique can easily reduce each of these corners to splinters.

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Perfect Pommels

Perfect Pommels

Make splinter-free square edges every time.

by Alan Lacer

A pommel is any area left square on a turning. You’ll find pommels on table legs, balusters, porch columns and other furniture parts. A pommel can have an abrupt square shoulder or a gently shaped shoulder as it meets the rounded section of the turning. Using the wrong tools and technique can easily reduce each of these corners to splinters. Many new turners approach pommels with fear and trepidation, but the correct technique is not hard to learn. Follow each step described here and with a little practice, you’ll be cutting great-looking pommels every time.

I use two tools to make pommels: a skew chisel and a detail gouge (see photo, right). Many skews have a straight edge that runs at a diagonal, but mine is different. I shape my skew so the cutting edge near the long point is square across. From there, the edge curves down to the skew’s short point. This shape is a bit more versatile and forgiving in tight situations. 

I use a detail gouge to shape the shoulders of a pommel. This tool’s rounded profile is easy to roll from one position to another while supported on the tool rest.

Pommels have three primary variations: square, rounded and lamb’s tongue (see photo, above). To make each type, begin by creating square shoulders. Next, shape one of the variations, if desired. You’ll turn the rest of the leg or baluster after the pommels are done.

Tools You’ll Need 

The best tools for shaping a pommel are a skew chisel and a detail or shallow gouge. Many skews have straight edges, but I prefer a rounded edge with a short straight section. This profile is easier to use and more versatile. I’ll show you how to create it in the next issue.

Prepare Your Stock

Your stock must be perfectly square. Locate precise centers at both ends by marking diagonals with an awl (Photo 1). Mount the workpiece onto your lathe. Use a square to draw a dark pencil line where you’d like your pommel to end (Photo 2). If you’re working with a dark wood, mark two or more faces or use a white pencil to make the lines visible.

Photo 1: Scribe lines to find the precise center of your leg stock. This ensures that square and rounded sections will be centered; if they’re not, the rounded sections will appear offset.

Photo 2: Mark the pommel’s end with a pencil line or two. The darker the line, the easier it will be to see when the leg is turning.

Cut a V Groove 

Adjust your lathe to a moderate speed of  900 to 1,200 rpm. Position the skew on the tool rest, long point down, and cut into the workpiece about 1/8 in. from your pencil line (Photo 3). Aim the skew toward the turned side, the portion that you’ll form into a cylinder later. This first cut won’t go very deep. To form the V groove, reposition the skew slightly farther away from the line and cut in from the...

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