The tool rest on a wood lathe is used just as the name implies, a tool shaft rests on it while the wood-turner moves the tool into the work beyond the rest. It is a simple looking device consisting of a welded T that fits into a movable base called a banjo. Yet even this simple device requires a bit of maintenance from time to time banjos food.
First of all the tool rest banjo needs to move easily along the ways of the wood lathe. While a bit of paste wax may help, it is better to do a more thorough job. Remove the banjo from the lathe and chick to see that the bottom is clean and rust free. Some turners actually like a bit of rust on the banjo and ways believing that this enables a more secure hold when tightening the banjo down. A good fit will give a secure fastening and good movement prevents frustration.
A bit of fine wet and dry sandpaper will clean off any rust. Future rust may be prevented with an application of one of the rust proofing products sold by automotive tool companies. Most will have a raw linseed oil base. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions but most will tell you to just spray it on, let it rest and few minutes and wipe off the excess. I recommend against the use of products also used for loosening rusted bolts and such. The lubricants are not designed to stay but tend to evaporate in minutes or days. We want the ways and banjo to move easily with semi-yearly or yearly applications.
Make sure the tool rest fits easily into the banjo and rotates easily when the bolt is loosened. From time to time burs may occur on either the tool rest post or in the banjo hole. These are easily removed with a fine circular file. A bit of that same rust preventer will go a long way to give good movement.
Tools shafts move along the edge of the tool rest and many turners use the face to rest their hands and give direction to the tool movement. The edge can be dinged with tool shafts and should be kept clean and smooth. While it is not supposed to be sharp it should be a well defined edge. Often a well rounded sixteenth inch is desired by turners. A mill file can be used to flatten the edge, removing any dents and dings, and then can be used to define a bit of a round for a nice feel while turning. A bit of wax on the edge prevents rust, eases tool movement, and is easily redone any time a bit of wax is used to finish a piece on the lathe.
While the tool rest is a simple accessory and often overlooked because of it, simple maintenance is easy to do. It is just one of those things that make an enjoyable craft even more so.
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