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How to get a pilot hole for a drill centered in 1/4" dowel?


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I'm in the process of making 46 fancy tassels for a customer, and they need turned wooden "heads". I've offered the wooden tassel heads in my passementerie classes, but just turned them free hand and sorted them into matched pairs afterwards. Now the need for consistency arose, so I got Pete Boorum to fashion a duplicator for my CarbaTec knockoff lathe.


These heads need a hole drilled through lengthwise, to enable a hanging cord to be attached. I'm using a #52 drill bit, chucked into the tailstock of my lathe and drilling the hole first by sliding the tailstock up to the end of the 1/4" cherry dowel (I find cherry splits out less than regular dowels or walnut or oak) and cranking it in.


But the drill bit wants a pilot hole or it flexes and doesn't center itself. Since I'm making these with the bottom end to the right, that can cause a seriously off-center hole at the top. Reversing the template won't help, an off-center hole at the bottom flange means no wood to attach the skirt to.


Currently, I'm having most success starting the lathe, then using a graver ground down to a sharp point and my eyeball to poke a pilot hole. With about a 75% success rate on a good day. If I have created a "pimple" in the center, by scribing a circle, I can always turn the dowel in the chuck and try again.


But I'm wondering if there's a way I haven't thought of??







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I think I would try marking the dowel rod with a center finder, and marking a pilot hole manually with a sharp point, like a scribe.  Then use the tail stock point before you start making the turning to create your entry point for the future drilling.


Essentially, doing this operation, prior to the turning gives you a method of finding the center first.


This is the method I use to mount a piece of wood in my jet mini lathe - I was working on reducing a porch post yesterday.



hmmm.... I do not know if this is a correct advice, but just a suggestion.  I just had this problem when I made my own graver handles, so this is the reason why I suggest marking the center first.   Definitely having a tail stock that holds a drill bit, is the best way to do this, but I only have this option on my metal lathe, not on my jet mini wood lathe - I'm learning that I need/want more accessories for my wood lathe - but at least I have been using it since I returned from GS this year....


I tried to use my drill press and that didn't work.  I was working with a much larger diameter piece of course... finally just used a portable hand drill and eyeballed it.


The tassels look great!



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Thanks for all the suggestions, what I've ended up doing is using Bill Hudson's advice, sort of. Instead of a center drill, I found a cheap 1/8" moto tool bit, that goes to a point and is covered in "diamond dust". After I've chucked the dowel, I use this bit in the tailstock to drill a hole 1/8" deep, then swap that one out for the drill bit and as long as I've made the pilot hole 1/8" deep, or more, the hole at the top of the tassel head is perfectly centered. I'm a lazy girl at heart, but even with the changing bits in the tail stock, the last 6 only took 5 minutes each. Well within my comfort zone!


As for Pete's solution, Elga, thanks for the reference, but I lack most of the tools he's using, starting with a means to cut 3/4" brass rod! :lol: I'm meeting Pete and Pam Thursday in Portland, ME so we can see an exhibit of Thos. Moser's furniture. I could beg him to make me one, but they're pretty busy these days.


Thanks for the compliment on the tassel, Tamra, but since I'm cutting the 1/4" dowel into 1" lengths, using a center finder is just too fiddly. I have one, but it goes up to a 3" diameter, so the idea of holding the dowel while scribing just makes my head hurt!

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