The handle of the mallet that I made for Jean (firemedic) snapped at the neck when he used it, so I tried to figure out what I'd done that left it weak and decided to make another one that should be up to the job.
At the same time, I took plenty of pix as I went along with the intention of writing up a how-to thread ... so here it is.
This is a multi-axis spindle turning project, the result is a tool handle with 3 sides that twist up the length of the haft. It's actually quite comfortable to grip (or should be), the corners fit behind your knuckles and the flats let your thumb rest smoothly up the side. Or that's how it's supposed to work.
I learned the method at a workshop given by Ernie Conover.
Getting started is pretty much the same as you'd expect -- though you have to start with a piece that's thicker than might be normal, or you won't be able to get sufficiently "off-axis" to make the twist. I had a second piece of the yew tree (same as the first mallet I'd done), so I just trimmed it on the band-saw, marked up and center-punched each end.
Pic 1: the log, trimmed with centers marked
I mounted the log between "Stebb centers". These have a center point (which is spring-loaded) surrounded by a circle of tiny teeth.
This type of center has several advantages, the most useful for this particular project being that it tolerates workpieces being held at odd angles without letting go of them (off-axis = off-balance).
Pic 2: mounted between Stebb centers
Pic 3: most of the bark turned away, so it's nearly round
Pic 4: close enough for jazz
When it's round, I true the faces at each end. The Stebb centers don't let you get all the way into the middle, so as you can see there's a little tenon that I couldn't get rid of. Ignore it and it will go away eventually.
Now it's time to mark up for the off-axis turning.
Set the tool-rest at the height of the center points, and bring it around to one end of the blank.
With a marker pen, draw a circle about halfway between the center X and the outer circumference (I hold the marker pen on the tool rest and spin the blank.)
If you have an indexing drive head, now's the time to learn how to use it -- mine has 24 divisions, so to divide a full rotation into 3 I use the stops at 1, 9 and 17, and draw radial lines at those positions to intersect the circle.
Label the intersections, and extend the radius around the corner onto the round part of the blank, copying the label.
While you've got the marker pen in your hand, draw a ring around the blank a couple of inches in from the end.
Now it's time to do the same thing at the other end of the blank.
Either move the toolrest to that end, or flip the blank end-for-end between centers, whichever is easier.
Draw the circle. Draw 3 radial lines - make them line up fairly close with the lines at the other end of the blank (exact isn't necessary; in fact, I don't even know if they have to be close - feel free to experiment!).
When it comes time to label these lines, you can choose: if you want a "straight" 3-sided handle, make label A line up with A, B with B, and C with C.
If you want to make a handle with a twist, as I was doing here, shift the labels either one position to the left or the right.
I did it by turning the blank till I could see A at the top-left of the far end, and wrote B at the top-right this end. Then turned till B was at the top-left of the far end, and wrote B at the top-right of this end. C was easy.
(This was the reason for extending the lines and labels around the corner of the blank, btw -- makes it much easier.)
Pic 5: one end of the blank, with a circle and 3 divisions - note the labels, and that the lines and labels are extended around the corner. You can just make out the A at the top-left of the far end of the blank and see how the A at the near end doesn't line up with it.
Using a center-punch, make dimples at the 6 intersections.
Now mount the blank between points "A". Yes, it's twisted.
Pic 6: point A at the headstock
Pic 7: point A at the tailstock
If you're still awake, you might notice the live center at the tailstock is the more traditional variety, I think I switched over from using the Stebbcenter when I was squaring the ends of the blank (it let me get closer to the center.)
Position the tool rest carefully, turning the blank several times by hand to make sure it doesn't hit the rest either end.
Turn it one more time by hand, just to be sure.
Now turn on the power. It's probably best if you choose a slower speed before doing that.
If you have good lighting, you'll be able to see a "solid center" with a "ghost" around the outside. (And if you don't have good lighting, perhaps you should re-think the idea of using a lathe.)
I start by making a shallow v-notch on each line around the blank, using the tip of a skew. Take this slowly or you'll need a ladder to get the skew of out the ceiling.
Stop the lathe and look at the notches ... surprise, they don't go all the way round the blank.
With a spindle roughing gouge, start removing material from the area between the notches/lines.
Pic 8: Some material removed using axis A
You can go deeper at the middle of the blank than near the ends.
I think the reason the first one I made failed is because I tried to cut it to an equal depth the whole length of the blank. The ends are spinning alternately much closer to and much further away from the tool rest -- so cutting to a uniform depth is going remove much more material at the ends than in the middle.
When you've gone to a depth where you feel comfortable, stop the lathe and reposition so the blank is mounted between "points B".
Same routine -- check again that it isn't going to hit the toolrest as it spins, start the lathe, make v-notches with a skew, and remove some material.
Pic 9: after turning on axis A and axis B
Do it again for axis C.
Pic 10: after turning on all three axes
Pic 11: after turning on all three axes
At this point, decide whether you've gone deep enough. Can you grasp the handle comfortably around the middle?
If not, make another pass, removing material on all 3 axes until it feels right. It's better to make multiple passes removing a little at a time than discover that you've gone too deep.
Remount the blank between the original centerpoints -- back to "normal" turning again.
Enlarge the v-notch at one end of the blank -- I used a spindle detail gouge for this -- and shape a pommel.
Pic 12: enlarging the v-notch
Pic 13: shaping a pommel
At the other end of the handle, enlarge the v-notch and shape the tenon which will fit into the tool head to size.
I also rounded just below the tenon.
Pic 14: the tenon begins to take shape
When the tenon is sized, reach for the sandpaper.
If (like me) you've got some ridges and tool marks, start at 60 or 80 grit. The pommel (and the small rounded area next to the tenon) can be sanded under power, but you've got to hand sand the off-axis portions. I do it length-ways.
Take it up through the grits till your sick of sanding, for me that's usually around 220 grit. Apply the finish of your choice (or none at all).
Pic 15: turned and sanded to 220 grit ... ready for the finish.