Blank squaring

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sorcerertd

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What do you folks use to square your blanks? I've seen a few ways, but want to eliminate that dreaded wobble as much as possible. I'm not sure anything is foolproof without precision equipment, but I'm on a low budget.
 
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philipff

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My method is stupidly simple; I chuck a blank after gluing in a tube, center check with the tailstock (if necessary), then use a round nose scraper to cut back the wood until the metal tube shines. Then a touch of sandpaper and the tube is reversed so the other end gets the same treatment. It is certainly best to start with a nice round blank but even non-perfect blanks can be treated as above. It is dead easy to see if the blank is running true in the chuck because it appears stationary when true. P
 

1shootist

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If you're speaking of squaring the blanks to the brass tubes, I use my lathe.
(#1) you will need a set of transfer punches that can be purchased at harbor freight for under $20..
(#2)then you will need a piece of sticky backed sandpaper mounted to the lathe spindle, i use a 3" face plate with a flat piece of wood attached to it..,the sandpaper is on this.
(#3)a jacobs chuck mounted in the tailstock, select from the harbor freight transfer punches listed above ,pick the size that best fits the brass tube w/blank that needs sanding.....with the brass tube over the transfer punch slide the tailstock up to the point the punch end is nearly touching the face plate w/sandpaper. Turn on lathe, work the tube / blank back and forth till its sanded properly.

I've used squaring mills but prefer the method above more. With the squaring mill I could take too much of the brass tube off if I were overly aggressive with it..and a blank blowout can happen if the mill catches. So far I haven't had a problem using the lathe / sandpaper method.
 

qquake

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I've tried a homemade sanding jig with a sanding disc on my lathe, but didn't like it. It was too fiddly and slow. I used to use a piloted end mill by b-in-law gave me, with homemade pilots. For the last few years, I've been using a commercial barrel trimmer from PSI. It has worked well, but is getting dull. I know a lot of guys sharpen their trimmers, but I've never tried it. I recently trimmed eight purpleheart blanks, which is denser than I thought. The trimmer burned the ends. Didn't make them unusable, but told me how dull the trimmer is. Instead of trying to sharpen it, I ordered a new Woodpeckers carbide Ultra-Shear Pen Mill. I'm a tool whore, what can I say? But you have to admit, it is a sexy trimmer!

 

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qquake

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I use a combination of a barrel trimmer and a home made sanding jig. View attachment 228705
I tried doing it this way, but found trying to sand the blank in the center of the sanding disc wasn't as effective. So I made an offset jig that sanded the blank to the side of center. That worked better. But I didn't like having to set up the jig every time I needed to trim blanks. It's much easier and more convenient for me to use a trimmer in the drill press.
 

JimB

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West Henrietta, NY, USA.
I tried doing it this way, but found trying to sand the blank in the center of the sanding disc wasn't as effective. So I made an offset jig that sanded the blank to the side of center. That worked better. But I didn't like having to set up the jig every time I needed to trim blanks. It's much easier and more convenient for me to use a trimmer in the drill press.
I use the barrel trimmer for most of it and sometimes that is all I need. I use the sanding disc if I need to do any 'fine tuning' after the barrel trimmer. I also use the sanding disc with 600 grit paper to clean up the ends after finishing. It works better than rubbing the ends on sandpaper by hand and it leaves the ends perfectly square.
 

qquake

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I use a "gate jig" to hold blanks when trimming them. It keeps the blanks from spinning, but I can hold them loose enough to allow for not quite square drilled holes. I use a piece of rubber sheet to hold round blanks. I've never used a hand drill to trim blanks, like some do. I can control the pressure on the cutter much better with the drill press.
 

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I may be in the minority, as an old school guy. But I've used this trimmer since '06 https://www.pennstateind.com/store/PKTRIM734.html
Very budget friendly. Can be used in a hand drill or drill press. You will hear from others who have either bought or made sanding jigs, that can mount on your lathe. They are pretty cool.
I use this same set up. I also use this, Item #: DRILLCENT3 from PSI to hold the blank in the drill press while trimming. I drill my holes with my lathe. I also chamfer the ends of every blank using a chamfering tool for reloading. Key with the barrel trimmer is to constantly check to see how deep you are on the blank. As soon as you "shine" the brass tube, stop. You're down enough...and should be square.
 

MRDucks2

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This is my preferred barrel /blank trimmer except when I use a sanding jig. The set is more expensive, but notice that it has 6 flutes on the trimmer. This reduces catches and tear out risk. It does trim a little less aggressively than a 4 or 2 flute, but that is a good thing in my opinion and we are not talking a big difference.
 

penicillin

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I use the Rockler six-cutter pen mill that @MRDucks2 mentioned. They dull quickly and they can get hot, but they work well overall. After my first one got dull, I bought a replacement, then I bought diamond hones to sharpen them. I got tired of sharpening them with mediocre results, so I just ordered the Woodpeckers pen mill that takes replaceable carbide tips. It has not arrived yet.

Someday when I have more time, I will make a nice sanding jig for squaring and milling pens. I want my sanding jig to serve as a regular disc sander. I will build it so that it can hold a transfer punch squared-up anywhere on the disc surface, thus squaring the pen tube with the disc.

Rockler pen mill set that I currently use, same as above:
https://www.rockler.com/barrel-cleaner-pen-mill-kit

Diamond hones that I use to sharpen the Rockler pen mill:
Recommended, because the two paddles have four grits and are metal. Note that grits alternate between the paddles, which is annoying:
https://www.rockler.com/double-sided-diamond-hone
Not recommended, because they have only three grits and are made of plastic:
https://www.rockler.com/diamond-hone-sharpening-set

Woodpeckers pen mill that I ordered, but has not arrived yet. It takes replaceable carbide tips. (... and I have had reasonable success resharpening those flat carbide tips, too.) I ordered the 5 piece set, which matches the Rockler set I use now.
They have been on sale for the last few days, but I don't know how long it lasts. The sale price of the 5 pack set is not much more than my two Rockler sets, so act quickly if you want one:
https://www.woodpeck.com/ultra-shear-pen-mill-inserts.html
 

Woodchipper

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I tried doing it this way, but found trying to sand the blank in the center of the sanding disc wasn't as effective. So I made an offset jig that sanded the blank to the side of center. That worked better. But I didn't like having to set up the jig every time I needed to trim blanks. It's much easier and more convenient for me to use a trimmer in the drill press.
I agree.IMG_20171118_060456492_HDR.jpg
 

sorcerertd

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Hmm, lots of thoughts and ideas here. Thanks everyone! I'd imagine there are ways that may work better with some blank materials than others. Here's what I've tried so far:

Before I got a barrel trimmer, I put a piece of MDF on a faceplate with adhesive backed sandpaper. I put the mandrel in the tailstock and used that instead of a transfer punch (I was only working with 7mm tubes at the time) to square them. I should add that I used the table saw to get them almost to the tube first because, as was noted above, it takes too much patience to sand much off that way. I still do that sometimes. The offset jig sounds a lot more efficient for that method.

I have found a barrel trimmer set to be a lot easier and faster. Someone told me that, with a barrel trimmer, it was a good idea to secure either the blank or the drill and to hold the other one by hand. Typically I just hold the blanks by hand and use a hand drill. I have had some nasty blowouts and I often feel a little wobble doing it that way, which makes me wonder about the cutter on that set. I'll have try it on the drill press. I keep meaning to make some sort of clamp to stop or minimize blowouts. That "gate clamp" idea looks easy enough to do.

I do like the idea of a final trim/square on the lathe before assembling the pen. It would certainly help clean the end up a bit easier.
 

sorcerertd

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Holy crap, that ultra shear kit is expensive! Maybe if I start making some good money off this hobby in the future...
I do have a nice disc sander, though I'm not sure I trust the miter gauge on it.
 

qquake

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The Woodpeckers trimmer is expensive, but you can replace the carbide cutters. I only ordered the head and two pilots because of the cost. I bought the PSI trimmer in 2016, so I've used it for several years. It's a LOT less expensive, and you can buy the replacement head. They also have an inexpensive carbide head, but the cutters aren't replaceable. I haven't tried that one.


 

Woodchipper

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Holy crap, that ultra shear kit is expensive! Maybe if I start making some good money off this hobby in the future...
I do have a nice disc sander, though I'm not sure I trust the miter gauge on it.
You're supposed to make money?
Sign in office- This is a non-profit organization. We didn't plan on it being that.
 

Woodchipper

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My wife supports my habit. In her opinion, cheaper than nightclubs and women. As long at she hears noise from the shop, she knows where I am.
 

pturley

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Holy crap, that ultra shear kit is expensive! Maybe if I start making some good money off this hobby in the future...
I do have a nice disc sander, though I'm not sure I trust the miter gauge on it.
By the time you've worn out a half dozen HSS Pen mills, you'll be asking yourself why didn't I buy the replaceable carbide one originally.
 

qquake

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I wasn't aware PSI had a trimmer with replaceable blades. The quality looks "rough" compared to the Woodpeckers trimmer. I would be very curious to hear how it performs. One thing I noticed is that the PSI has one pilot, a 7mm, and the rest of the sizes use tubes. The Woodpecker version has separate pilots for all the sizes, which probably accounts for the higher cost.
 

qquake

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I used the Woodpeckers barrel trimmer for the first time today. It's worth the price! That thing is amazing. I trimmed a buckeye burl blank, and a couple of acrylic blanks. I was initially concerned about inadvertently trimming too much. But I found that because of how well it cuts it's very easy to control. Just use a light touch.

 

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