Workshop Wednesdays – Copy Templates

Monday 9 July 2018

In my day to day work I am faced with a wide range of different turning jobs. It is fair to say however, that the majority of my work is spindle turning and most of this work involves making more than one item the same as the original sample or drawing that I am supplied with.

If the job in hand is to make a single item, it is pretty easy to line up the positions of details by lying the master part on the new blank and marking it by eye. This really isn't practical if I have any number to do, though, so I use a copy template. Making the template is a straightforward process and time spent making one will save you more time in the long run. In this article I will explain how I make and use them to reproduce shapes accurately and efficiently.


Some jobs only require the simplest of templates; others may need a cut out such as the ball template shown opposite. The templates can show as much or as little information as you feel is required. It is worth writing on the back, information which may come in handy for future reference, such as customer name, timber used and dimension of the timber blank used. It is better to write on the template with a permanent marker, as this won't rub off


I begin by marking the overall length of the item on the piece of thin MDF, which is usually 3-6mm thick, I then measure and mark the position of each detail onto the template. On simple shapes such as a row of beads for example, this would be enough, for more complex shapes I need as much information as possible so I also measure and mark all diameters onto the template, drawing out the shape as I go along


The most important thing is to be able to accurately transfer the position of each detail onto the blank – this is easily done by making notches along the edge of the template with a triangular file. You can then present the template to the blank and transfer the lines across by resting your pencil in these notches. This also allows you to use the template while the wood is spinning, which is faster and more efficient


Your template is complete and this will now help you duplicate master parts without needing to rely entirely on 'a good eye'. You can refer to the template throughout the turning to check that dimensions and the positioning of details are correct. Once lines are marked you can begin to 'block out' the initial shape, cutting the major diameters before adding the final shape to the piece. I use Vernier callipers to measure the dimensions of the major parts of the job


Throughout the process, don't be afraid to refer back to the copy template or the master part, or both. Before removing the item from the lathe check it to make sure it is as close to perfect as you can achieve and then make any alterations. With experience, the amount of alterations you need to make at this stage will to reduced to almost none