Introduction: How to Turn a Mini-Baseball Bat/Mallet
In this Instructable we are going to go through the steps needed to turn a scrap piece of wood into a quick and fun mini-baseball bat! These mini bats are great as fun gifts, chisel mallets, meat tenderizers and more!
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--1 piece of 18”-36” x 3”-4” piece of wood (in this Instructable we use a piece of ash but for beginners we recommend a softer piece of wood like birch or pine)
--Square or center finder
--80 grit, 120 grit, 240 grit and 400 grit or higher sandpaper (you can buy special sandpaper for turning projects, but we just used some spare pieces we found lying around the shop)
--A lathe with spindle chucks or jawed chucks. Preferably a variable speed lathe that can go upwards of 3K RPMs
--Lathe tool set (the one pictured is the basic starter set from Harbor Freight)
--Urethane Topcoat or other oil finish
--Handsaw or bandsaw
--We also recommend wearing a shielded mask and a turners smock for protection against flying debris.
WARNING: Turning wood on a lathe can be potentially very dangerous! If you have never used a lathe before we recommend taking a class or finding someone willing to show you the basics of lathe safety and operation. This project assumes you have at least a tertiary understanding of proper lathe use.
Step 1: Squaring Up Your Wood
--Square up your piece of wood using a tablesaw, hand saw, planer or jointer (whichever is easier for you to access).
--Now, find the center of each of your piece by taking your square or ruler and marking a line from corner to corner across the end. Do this from both corners and the intersection will give you the middle point.
Step 2: Setting Up the Lathe
--Make sure the spindle on your tail-stock is set all the way back into the tail-stock.
--Move your tail-stock back so that the distance between your tail-stock spindle and front spindle chuck is slightly more than your length of wood.
--Tighten tail-stock down.
--Place the point of your spindle chuck into the center point of your wood.
--Do this on both ends and tighten the tail-stock spindle until the teeth of the front spindle gouge are biting into your wood.
--Set your tool rest by setting your piece of wood so that one corner is at a 45 degree angle to the edge of the tool rest.
--Move the tool rest so that it is as close to the wood as possible, but does not touch as the wood is spun.
Step 3: Turning on the Lathe
--Before turning on the lathe make sure the speed and direction knobs are turned all the way off.
--Turn on late motor.
Set the direction so that the wood is spinning towards you.
--Set speed for initial cut. Around 400 rpm is good for the initial roughing
--Get out your roughing gouge. This gouge has a wide diameter and a beveled edge.
--Best practice (in our opinion) for holding the roughing gouge is to rest your back hand against your hip and hold the front part of the tool with your hand gripped knuckles up as in picture above.
Step 4: First Cuts
--Begin rough shaping your wood with the roughing gouge.
--Gouge edge should meet the wood slightly above the horizontal center.
--This will prevent catches while turning.
--Continue to rough cut your piece of wood until the entire desired length of your bat/mallet is cylindrical.
--You will likely need to move the tool rest down after rough cutting the first section in order to get the whole length shaped.
Step 5: Shaping Bat/Mallet Handle
--Take your pencil or pen and mark where you’d like the top of the bat to be, where the handle will start and where the handle will end. This will give you guidance as you begin to turn the final shape.
--Start at the base of the handle and begin to shave down the wood until you’ve reached your desired diameter.
--Make sure to leave a chunk of wood at the bottom for the hilt of the bat/mallet..
--After your handle is rough shaped, use a parting tool, or the tip of your skew chisel to cut a mark for the bottom of your bat.
Step 6: Shaping Bat/Mallet Top
--Increase rpms on the lathe into the 2800-3200 range.
--Start at the top of the bat and begin to shave down the wood until you’ve reached your desired diameter.
--Use the skew chisel to shape the degrading curve between the top of the bat and the handle.
--Use a small finger gouge to give the top of your bat a slight domed curve.
--After your bat top is rough shaped, use a parting tool, or the tip of your skew chisel to cut a mark for the bottom of your bat.
Step 7: Finishing Part 1
--Once you are happy with the bats rough shape and bevels, use a small finger gouge to even out remove inconsistencies in the bats diameter.
--A good way to spot inconsistencies is to look down and behind the wood as it spins. If there are uneven spots you will notice small crests of wood along the edge.
--Use the finger gouge and skew chisel to remove these inconsistencies.
Step 8: Finishing Part 2
WARNING: Since sanding is done at high rpms it can become very hot when used on lathe projects. Also, never wrap sandpaper completely around the wood or wear gloves when sanding as either can get caught in the spinning wood and cause injuries.
--Use your low grit sandpaper (80 in our case) to sand down the bat’s surface and tighten up curves and diameter consistency.
--Continue to move up in grit until your wood is smooth to the touch. We recommend an 80, 120, 220, 400 progression.
--After you have sanded down the wood at the highest grit, grab a handful of sawdust from the ground below you and use this to burnish the wood. This will give the wood a nice polished feel.
--Next, get out your Urethane or other finishing coat and get a nice glob onto a rag.
--While the lathe is still spinning wipe the wood with the your Urethane rag until the whole bat is evenly coated.
Step 9: Final Cuts and Sanding
--Take your parting tool and carve a deep bevel at the top and bottom of your piece.
--This creates a nice guide for cutting off the excess wood with your handsaw or bandsaw.
--Clamp up your bat and saw off the ends!
--Use either sandpaper or a belt sander to sand the ends of the bat and apply a bit more Urethane to the tops to finish it out.
Step 10: Show Off!
--Find a friend.
--Show them how amazing of a wood turner you are!
--Then go practice your home run skills!