Build Your Own Steady Rest Or Buy A Steady Rest

Build Your Own Steady Rest
Or Buy A Steady Rest

Ok ….what the heck is a steady rest?

A steady rest is a device that attaches to your lathe bed and helps to stablize a long piece for turning or a bowl or vase.

Let’s say you have a 30 inch x 1″ broom handle you want to turn some decoration in. If you place that broom handle between centers, and you try to turn something in the center of the piece it will start to vibrate and actually bend away from your turning gouge.

steady rest for long lathe projects
a steady rest centers and stablizes a project as it turns on a wood lathe

On the other hand you might have a vase or other shape you want to hollow out and it is in your chuck but not reinforced by the tail stock on the other end. If the turning project starts to wobble and lose its center you will need a “steady rest” to keep the turning project running “true”.

As with so many other things “woodturning related” I really didn’t know when or if I would ever need a “steady rest“. As it would happen I found myself in need of a steady rest and thought I would just buy one. Holy cow…those things are expensive. If you want to buy one, Rockler has a nice one Click Here

Steady Rest From Rockler
You can always buy a steady rest from Rockler if you have some extra cash!

I Really Needed A Steady Rest

Here’s what happened.

One of my friends is a contractor who needed some stair balasters or stairย  spindles duplicated.

Although I’ve turned some handles, candle stick holders and lamps ….I really never did anything long like a stair spindle, balaster or newel. So, I told him …”NO problem, I can crank out those stair balasters for you!”

Well, first I needed some oak. The base of the stair newel was, at it’s biggest 1 1/4″ X 1 1/4″ square.

Oak Ripped for Stair Spindles

I found some clear oak 2x6x4′ at Menards, the stair spindles I needed to duplicate were 33 inches, so I ripped 3 pieces that I needed on my Jet table saw that now has a rusted top because my roof leaked because the insurance company and building department are a nightmare to work with…..but that’s another story!

Next I mounted them on the wood lathe between centers and started working on the tapered rounded part. Since my chinese tool set did not come with a roughing gouge, I had to use what they called a spindle gouge….. that was a big mistake because it almost ripped the piece from the lathe.

Rounding the Square Stock
for the New Spindle

So I tried to knock the corners off and round it out with my custom carbide insert tool.

That worked pretty good, but it mostly scraped and I tried every tool I had. The spindle vibrated and bounced, there was no way I was going to turn that spindle without some additonal support.

Youtube For Learning How to Turn Wood

Next I turned to my favorite place to learn someย  woodturning lessons…. youtube! After a while I thought a steady rest would solve my problems and there were plenty of tutorials on how to build a steady rest ….man, I just didn’t have the time to do that…..but I seriously considered making a steady rest!

I found a bunch of tutorials on how to make your own “steady rest” a device that provides additonal support for turned projects, whether it be a balaster, broom stick, spindle or vase. The additonal support helps you to make clean cuts and proper coves and beads as needed in your project….or in my case just to taper the spindle.

Rockler Steady REst
steady reast stabalizes a turning project, could be a vase bowl or spindle

The problem I was having was once I got in the middle of the spindle and tried to reduce the diameter, you could see the spindle being pushed out, I was actually afraid it would break or come off the live centers.

Should I build a steady rest? Really didn’t have the cash to buy one …check out these steady rest plans and watch the video


I saw it on Rockler Woodworking and Hardware

Lathe Steady Rest Downloadable Plan โ€” $7.95

Here’s an innovative, adjustable rest for holding spindles steady. It just may give those dusty, discarded in-line skates a second shot at useful life-in the shop!

Building A Steady Rest

I don’t have time to build a steady rest right now but I think I will in the very near future! You can get a set of plans on how to build a steady rest from Rockler click on Steady Rest Plans.

And you should watch the video below from someone who I have followed for a while on youtube, his name is Stephen Ogle, click on his name for the youtube channel he has lots of good stuff. Watch Stephen’s video below, as he shows how to build a very nice “steady rest“, however I would change the wooden wheels for some roller skate wheels, I think it would be a little easier on the project you are turning, a little cheaper and a lot faster! Anyway, check out his video, he goes into great detail …if not pick up the rockler plans.


Steady Rest Or Better Tools?


I didn’t have time to build a steady rest and I wasn’t going to buy one!

I thought if I had a couple of better tools I might be able to pull this off. I did some searching online and found a new Woodcraft store in my area and took a fast trip to the new store. I purchased a 3/8 spindle gouge (blade only) and a 1/2″ bowl gouge with a fingernail grind from Sorby. I really wanted to get some other tools online but I needed to get this done now!

I’ve read that a good 1/2″ bowl gouge with a fingernail grind can be used for many things including turning spindles.

I was shocked at how good these tools cut the red oak blank. The finish was perfect and I didn’t even sharpen them yet! I really wanted to get a 5/8 bowl gouge from D-Way, Carter or Thompson but the 1/2″ Sorby will have to do, it definitely is a step up from the crappy tools I’ve been using.

3/4" Bowl Gouge "U" Shaped. 12" x .760--- With 5/8" Tang
D-way’s 3/4″ Bowl Gouge has a “U” shaped flute. An excellent gouge for roughing, and with the full radius flute it makes a great shearing cut for finishing the inside of bowls and platters.

This is a wood eater

I WANT ONE !!!!!

I’m retired (not by choice), actually on disability so my income is below poverty at this point. Otherwise I would probably have 2 or 3 of every tool I needed or thought I needed!

Make Money Turning Stair Spindles?

However, I planned on supplementing my income with some of my bowl turnings amongst other things. A little job like turning some stair spindles could bring some extra bucks but what couild I really charge for 3 spindles? If you were able to buy them from some of the big box stores they might cost anywhere from between $5 and $10 each for an oak stair balaster or spindle.

My friend’s problem was that he was unable to find the profile he needed to replace 3 stair balasters. So he needed someone to custom turn the stair spindles to match the profile he had.

It cost me $40 bucks for the oak, $32 dollars for a 3/8 spindle gouge, and $98 dollars for a 1/2″ bowl gouge. So, what do I charge him for 3 spindles….it would be nice if I could get $40+$32+$98= $170 !

That doesn’t even include my time, figure at least 2 hours a balaster, that’s 3 balasters …so a total of 6 hours at 40 bucks an hour equals $240.

So, I have $170 + $240 = $410 into a stair spindle project. Ha, ha ….what a joke. I’ll never get that and wouldn’t try…..I might as well go put them in for him too ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you think I could get 400 bucks for 3 custom balasters? …..Ha, ha ….I’d be luck to get 100 bucks….if I do it will go toward my collection of tools and experience.

Next time I will use a steady rest and hopefully have a few more good quality tools.

It’s all a learning experience!

Take a Look At These Steady Rest Videos

Woodturning A Wood Sink with Expoxy Finish

Did you ever think you might want a wood sink, that is a wooden sink in your bathroom or kitchen? Wooden sinks seem to be the rage these days and as wood turners, if you have a big enough lathe you can make your own wood sink!turning a wood sink

Most wood sinks will set on top of a vanity, although with a little bit of thought and engineering you could drop them in a top by simply turning an edge on the top of the sink that would hold it up.

Woodturning a Sink on a Laguna LatheSimon from SG Art Turning does an excellent job at turning a sink from a big piece of maple, it was somewhat spalted and as usual you never know what a piece of wood is going to look like until you open it up. This one was beautiful

turning the outside of a wood sinkSimon takes you from turning this piece of wood to finishing and installing a pop up drain …..ready for a sink. He is using a Laguna 18|36 Wood Lathe and is waiting for his new Laguna Revo 24|36 Lathe ….and I can say I am jealous and coveting my neighbor because that is one awesome lathe, they both are but he will be able to turn 24″ projects with ease on the new Laguna Lathe!

Watch the video below, I know you’ll enjoy it. Just one more idea for your woodturing projects.

Watch in full screen by “double clicking the video” or try “Ctrl F” and you can watch it in full screen!

Wood Turning My Second Wood Bowl

I really wish I documented my first wood turning bowl!

I grabbed a piece of willow that was laying in the river for 10 years or more, surprisingly it dried quickly and I was able to turn it. It was soft, there were many spots that were almost rotten, however, I still turned it and my wife has it on the table with some apples in it ๐Ÿ™‚

my first wood bowl
My First Turned Wood Bowl from a Piece of a Willow Tree

I finished the bowl with mineral spirits from, although I could have gotten the finish cheaper elsewhere, I wanted to make sure the finish was safe to put food into.

Now my second bowl was from the wood pile that was destined to be firewood. I’m almost positive it’s a piece of ash, it’s very hard and very difficult to shape…. although that could just be because I have a Harbor Freight Lathe ๐Ÿ™‚ It had a diameter of 11″ or so, it was perfect for my harbor freight lathe.

My Second Wood Bowl with Recess for Nova Chuck
My Second Wood Bowl with Recess for Nova Chuck

This is really the first time I started a bowl or any wood turning project and had my Nova Chuck, I wasn’t sure if I should make a tennon or make a recess. I ended up making a recess on the bottom of the bowl for the Nova chuck jaws, first I cleaned up the end of the log and then I flattened it.

I had some cracks and checks. Just mixed up some CA glue with wood shavings and also used some plain ole wood glue with wood shavings. Basically, you stuff the crack or hole with wood shaveings or sawdust and squirt some CA into it or you can use plain ole wood glue, but remember both will take on a different color when you apply a finish to the project. You just need to experiment to see what works best for you. Most wood turners seem to be using CA or an Expoxy mixed with the wood shavings. You can look up more on the subject and also search for “stablizing wood” you’ll get a good idea on how to use the different glues and expoxies on your wood turning projects. Did you know that you can use CA glue for a finsh? I need to find a good supplier for CA (superglue) glue in a larger container. I ended up getting small tubes and they always dry up or harden if not used right away.

I suppose I should tell you how I started.

I grabbed the ash log, it had a diameter of 12″ and I cut it to length of 12″. Then I cut the log in half, thru the center of the log.

I wanted to mount my face plate on the outside (bark side) of the log so I flattened that area of the log by running it through the band saw, the other bowl project I just used a chain saw. Next I flipped the log over and traced a circle from the faceplate side and cut the circle out using the band saw. It was a rough circle and I’ve watched some guys just mount the log without rounding the corners …..looked a little to dangerous that way so I wanted to round it off first.

Creating a wood bowl from ash log
Prepared Ash log blank to be turned into a wood bowl

I mounted the faceplate with attached log, pushed my live center into the log and started turning. You can see by the image what I had and how it was working. So far so good, I like the shape, I’ve been sharpening my tools by hand, I haven’t had the time to set up my oneway grinding/sharpening guide. I really need to do that because I want to see what these tools can do before I invest in anything expensive or I try some of the carbide tipped tools I plan on making.

All I can say is this that wood turning is a log of fun, very addicting! Already I wish I had a lathe with a little more power ๐Ÿ™‚ The harbor freight

Laguna Revo 13\36 wood lathe
This Laguna Revo Wood Lathe wreaks of quality, gonn be my next purchase!

has turned some of the softer woods very easily, but this dry ash is really tough on the lathe. I was thinking of a Laguna or Nova Wood Lathe, several guys have these and love em!

For instance if you’re looking for a new lathe check out some of these features. I have a couple of other Laguna power tools and really like them.

The Revo 18|36 Lathe from Laguna combines power, precision and advanced features, resulting in a turning experience like no other. The lathe features a polished steel bed for the utmost in strength and stability, and the smoothest possible movement of the headstock, tailstock and tool rest. A full 18” of outboard capacity allows you to turn large bowls, while 36” of inboard capacity lets you turn long spindles, table legs and island legs. The lathe is powered by a unique motor that converts a 1-phase input to a 3-phase output. This 3-phase output delivers smooth, even power, even when the lathe is under heavy loads. It also provides infinitely variable speed within the two general speed ranges without sacrificing power or torque at lower RPMs. The anodized aluminum control panel is exquisitely designed, and angled for easy visibility and accessibility to all knobs. It features a large blue-hued digital read-out that gives you precise RPM readouts at all times, and easy adjustments with the comfortable rubber-coated knob.

Second bowl for me, a lot less tears, less gouges and a lot less tear outs! I used my Woodstock Bowl Gouge and 1″ scraper for most of it so far. I also used the skew to create the recess for the Nova Chuck.

I think I’ll make up some of Cap’n Eddie’s OB Shine Juice for a finish. One thing I didn’t think of is how do I deal with the insert hole for the Nova Chuck Jaws? I know with a tennon I can just cut it off, but not sure how to deal with a hole in the bottom of my bowl….. guess I’ll have to do a little research!

Maybe I’ll shoot some video of turning and finishing this bowl. I will post some pics of how it turns out and will try to do a sequence. My wife thinks they are beautiful, all I see are the imperfections …..I could easily throw them away. Oh…I need to tell you about the cup I made from gluing up about 5 2×6’s …. looks really cool!

keep your eyes peeled for different sources of free wood
Every township, city or county cleans up after storms, just ask if you can pick thru the wood…. free wood for wood turning projects.

And…. I have another project in mind. I was driving past a local city landfill…. organic stuff, and I found some pine with a 8 to 10 inch diameter. I have a lamp project in mind!

You gotta keep you eyes open for downed wood, cable, electric and phone line guys are always around keeping the right away clear for their lines…. an excellent place to pick up enough wood to turn for a whole year!

I did a post on how and where to find free wood for your turning projects. Not quite done with it, but I think it will help some of you guys out. Will try to get that stuff posted in the next week of so.

Until then….. happy wood turning!!!