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How to Make a Pattern Copier for Your Lathe

Lathe pattern copiers are expensive and are not manufactured for many wood lathes. Pattern copiers are used to make copies of turned spindles from an original. Here’s how to build your own.

You will need a segment of 1/2″ aluminum tubing as long as your lathe bed or a bit longer to make your lathe pattern copier. You will also want some 1/8” thick aluminum sheeting or you can get some aluminum cookie sheets. Acquire a box of 10-40 bolts 1 1/2″ long and a wing nut and washer for every bolt. Acquire a second box of 10-40 bolts 1” long with nylon-lined lock nuts for every bolt. You will need (4) 3” corner braces with screws,Guest Posting as well. The remainder of the parts for your lathe pattern copier can be made out of any scrap planks you may have laying around the shop.

The design of this lathe pattern copier incorporates multiple feeler “fingers” suspended behind the lathe along the aluminum pipe. These fingers are adjusted to match the exact depth of the cuts in your original turned spindle. When you place a new spindle blank on the lathe, all of the lathe pattern copier fingers you adjusted will be laying on top of the blank. As you cut into the blank, prepare yourself to end cutting as soon as the fingers relating to that cut fall down and through the cut.

Make two, vertical support posts about 6” taller than the top of the largest spindle blank you can turn on that lathe. Note the outside diameter of the aluminum pipe and drill a hole of that measurement near the top of each support post. Screw down the posts (using the corner braces) on the table immediately behind the lathe. Insert the pipe through both holes to make sure it fits. This will help locate the aluminum fingers of your lathe pattern copier so that they can reach the spindle you are turning.

Make a quantity of wood blocks 3/4″ x 1 1/4” x 6” long. Bore a pipe-sized hole in one end of each of them through the 3/4″ thickness. With the blocks lying flat, cut through from the end into the hole with a 1/8” table saw blade. With the blocks standing on edge, bore completely through each block between the hole and the end of the block. Use a drill diameter slightly larger that the shaft diameter of the 10-40 bolts. Insert one 1 1/4″ 10-40 bolt through the hole you just bored and place a wing nut and washer on the end. The plan is that the wooden blocks will slip onto the pipe and the bolts and wing nuts will hold them in place by closing up the 1/8” cut you made on the table saw. 1/4 screw diameter


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