How to Make a Conductor's Baton

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Introduction: How to Make a Conductor's Baton

About: I like to make stuff and learn through the process. That's pretty much it :)

Starting in 8th grade (when I first got my lathe), I've made my band teacher (whoever that might be at the time) a baton every year. This would be pretty unexciting, except for the fact that I have the power of different materials on my side! So I decided to make an oak handled one the first year, cocobolo the second, and acrylic acetate the third. But what about the fourth year you ask? Well, my first teacher retired after freshman year, so the new guy's only gonna have me for three years. Which is lucky, because I don't have a fourth material lined up :P

WARNING: Please use any and all precautions necessary when working with power tools. There is a significant amount of sanding involved in this project, so please make sure you have access to a dust mask or filter of some sort. Also, if you choose to replicate this project using cocobolo, be aware that many people are allergic to its dust and you might be one of them. If in doubt, go with a wood you've worked with and know is safe.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:

- *Safety glasses
- *A dust mask
- A piece of material for the handle (3/4" in diameter, at least 3 inches or so long)
- A piece of 3/16" poplar dowel, 14" long or so
- A 3/16" drill bit
- *A lathe

*not pictured

Step 2: Some Prep Work and Drilling

Using a roughing gouge (or whatever tool you normally use), turn the wood down until it's completely cylindrical. You can easily check this by placing the tool on top of the spinning wood. If you hear chatter, it's still out of round.

Since I use the live center that came with my lathe, I thinned down the end of the blank a bit first so that, later on, I could still use the live center to steady the piece (this will make more sense in later pictures). If you have a cone center or your blank isn't all that long, you can skip this step. 
Now, taking your 3/16" drill bit, measure how long you want your hole to be. Mark the end point with a piece of tape and start drilling.

Step 3: Shaping and Parting Off

Start shaping the handle however you want, keeping in mind that there's a hole running through the piece. As you get closer and closer to the diameter of the hole, start making very frequent size checks to make sure that you aren't getting too close. 1/64" to 1/32" is a good wall thickness to have at the tip of the handle.

Step 4: Finishing the Handle

I used to just take the newly parted off piece and sand the end down until it was as smooth as I wanted it. However, it's not very efficient, and if you don't rotate the piece evenly while sanding, you might end up with a bunch of flat spots. So I like to chuck up a piece of 3/16" steel rod or some wooden dowel, use friction to keep the handle in place, and sand and finish the end that way.

Step 5: Making the Shaft

PLEASE USE A DUST MASK FOR THIS STEP if you haven't been using one already.

Cut off a length of 3/16" dowel (I'm using poplar here, birch would also work nicely. Don't try to use pine as it will most likely splinter.) and put it in the chuck. Using a coarse grit of sandpaper (I used 60, which is probably the lowest I'd suggest going), start sanding the heck out of the dowel. You should end up with a smooth taper, where the end is about 1/16" in diameter or so. Once you've got the taper roughed out, progress through the grits until 600 or so, then use your standard finishing routine.

When you do this step, ALWAYS make sure you're restraining the end of the shaft in some way, as it will start to whip around and probably snap off and hurt you if you leave it unattended.

Step 6: Fitting and Gluing

Now insert the shaft into the handle and check for balance. Theoretically, the balance point should be exactly where the handle meets the shaft. Once you've got everything measured up, add a drop of CA or some other glue and join the two together.

Congratulations, you're done! Now go conduct a symphony, use it as a wand, or give it to a chem teacher to stir solutions. I'm not kidding about that one.

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35 Discussions

How large was the square dowel you used for the handle in diameter before you smoothed it into a cylinder? I'm trying to use pen blanks and I need to check the diameter so I know what I am working towards.

1 more answer

If I remember correctly, it was 3/4" square! I'm not sure what the final diameter came out to be, but I had some wiggle room. Try practicing on readily-available dowels like oak and poplar before using exotic hardwoods.

I got the idea for my band intern befor he leaves as a goodbye gift but I don't know how to make one

My dad and I made my lathe. Been selling pens to buy a trumpet, and actually thought of doing this before even coming to this site. Weird.

Wow this looks amazing I'm in 8th grade and I was looking for something I could get my band teachers now I know! Batons and matching pens I'll turn!

1 reply

A very excellent baton job you should have asked to be Featured.
The first lighted baton I made used a smaller El_driver and coin battery.
Here is the one made for Halloween .

A

1 reply

Wow, it's lovely! For some reason I never thought of using EL wire, even though I've been trying to make a lit baton for years. Thanks for the idea!

im making a brass one for my girlfriend and the angle feature of a metal lathe comes in handy here but i still need to smooth it out with a file

1 reply

Oh cool! How'd it turn out? I've actually been able to turn brass and other metals on a good ol' wood lathe, the tools just need more frequent sharpening.

Any way to do this without a lathe..................... we dont have a woodturning club or anything like that around here..... i actually dont even have any idea how to use a lathe but this looks like an awesome gift for my my band director..........

3 replies

Do you have access to a hand drill (or, even better, a drill press)? If you do, you can definitely make the shaft, the handle's a bit harder. Try drilling a 1/2" diameter hole 1" or so deep in one end of a piece of wood (enough to be secure) and glue in a dowel or metal rod. With the drill clamped in a vice, securely strapped to a table, or what have you, put the dowel in the drill chuck and tighten it down. Since you won't have a tool rest, I'd recommend using various rasps, files, etc. to get it down to the shape you want, and then proceeding from there with sandpaper.
When drilling the hole that connects the handle to the shaft, you should probably start with a small bit (1/16" or so) just to get the hole started, then move up to 1/8" and finally 3/16". This should make your life easier because each bit is only removing a small amount of wood at a time, thus requiring less force each time you drill. First, make a dimple in the surface of the wood with your files to help guide the drill bit. Now, using a pair of pliers or vice grips or something that's not your fingers, get a firm grip on the drill bit and push it into the spinning wood. This will require a fair amount of pressure, but if you do it in steps you should be fine. Drill to the depth you want, repeat with the other two bits, and you're done! 
Finish sanding through the grits, add a finish if you want to, part it off, and glue the two pieces together.

Also, if your school (I'm assuming you're still in school, sorry if I'm wrong) has a shop, talk to the teacher there and see if they have any suggestions. They might even have a lathe :)

Hope this helps!

thanks for replying i could talk to the shop teacher for sure maybe borrow some tools or get on the lathe. I appreciate all the help i will be sure to try that!

u mean thats how to make the thingy the fancy crazy guy waves around during an orchestra?? cool :)

1 reply

What a great gift! As a (former) music teacher this would be something I'd be proud to get. One of these days I'll get around to playing with a lathe.