Carl’s Index Wheels – How To Use

This is the second of two blog entries. The first blog entry covers how to make “Carl’s Index Wheels”. The second blog entry covers how to use “Carl’s Index Wheels”.

I learned everything in both blog entries, a long time ago, in a week long class with Al Stirt at the “Center for Furniture Craftsmanship” in Maine. Al Stirt’s idea and method. My enhanced index wheels.

Photo: Free Hand Sketch (index_wheel_use_01) Free Hand Sketch

I start by free hand sketching what I want. In this case I wanted to make some pointed shapes like on a pin wheel.

At the bottom of the photo you can see some of the ones that I did not like. One that is to skinny and one that is to fat. Click on the photo to see a bigger version.

At the top of photo there are two that I like. I really like the one pointed to by the red arrow. I sketched in another one to get an idea of how close I wanted them. What looks good? The green arrow points to the second one.

I want to repeat the pointed shapes all the way around. All the exact same shape. Thus, I need to figure out how many pointed shapes will fit. 10, 11, 12, or 13?

I figure this out by making some tick marks (short lines) at the ends of the points. The distance from the red arrow mark to the green arrow mark is the distant that I want to replicate all the way around the outside.

I also extended the marks on to the edge of the piece. This will allow me to see them when I turn the piece over.

Now, I could take some measurements and do some fancy math. The circumference of a circle is 2 * pie * radius … Forget that crap! I can just use my index wheels. See photos below.

No Math & No Measurement Method

First I am going to show how to do it with no math and no measurement. Then I will show how to do it with a little measurement and no math.

Photo: Carl's Index Wheels (cbf_polar_graph_28_spokes_4up) Carl’s Index Wheels

The photo on the right shows what my 28 spoke index wheel looks like. I am going to use it in the next step. You can see all of it here. You will not be able to see the center and the 10" circle in next photo.

Click on the photo to see a bigger version.

I have 4 different index wheels. They are 28, 36, 40 or 48 spokes.

All of the 5", 6", 7", … diameter circles are the same on all of my index wheels. It is the number of spokes that changes. Thus, the distance from spoke to spoke changes. The spokes on my 48 spoke index wheel are closer together than the spokes on my 28 spoke index wheel.

My index wheels have lots of markings that make them easy to use. Red dots on every other division, blue dots on every 4th division, etc. Red, green, blue, etc highlights on 8", 9", 10", etc diameter circles.

My index wheels are designed to do odd numbers. Like 3, 5, 7 or 9 divisions. Most things in nature are odd numbers. Flowers often have an odd number of pedals. Artwork based on odd numbers looks better.

You can divide my 28 spokes index wheel by 2 to get 14 or 7 spokes. 7 is an odd number.

You can divide my 36 spokes index wheel by 2 to get 18 or 9 and divide 36 by 3 to get 12 and then divide by 2 to get 6, or 3 spokes. 3 and 9 are odd numbers.

You can divide my 40 spokes index wheel by … You can divide by 48 spokes index wheel by …

Note: For more info on my index wheels and how to make your own see my "Carl's Index Wheels – How To Make" blog entry.

Photo: Line Up Outer Diameter on Index Wheel (index_wheel_use_03) Line Up Outer Diameter on Index Wheel

Pick any one of my index wheels. 24, 36, 40 or 48 spokes index wheel.

In the photo I am using my 28 spoke index wheel.

The blue arrows in photo show how I lined up the outer diameter of my piece with the 10" circle on the index wheel. The piece is 10-1/8". Thus you can't actually see the 10" circle in the photo. But, it is there. 1" less then the 11" circle that is visible in photo. See previous photo for 10″ circle.

Photo: Look for a Match (The Hard Way) (index_wheel_use_04) Look for a Match (The Hard Way)

Now we need to decide if the spokes on the 28 spoke index wheel are the BEST match to the interval between the red and green arrows in photo. The arrows point to the black tick mark lines on the end of the piece that I made under "Free Hand Sketch" photo above.

Start by lining up on the black line on the piece with primary spoke line on index wheel. See red arrow in photo. The primary spoke line is the one with the 11", 12", 13", etc numbers to the left of it.

Then look for a spoke line (blue arrow in photo) that is close to the second black line on the piece (green arrow in photo). We can see in the photo that on my 28 spoke index wheel the green and blue arrows are a fairly close match. Close enough for government work.

Repeat this process with 36, 40 and 48 spoke index wheels. Which one is the best match?

I decided to go with my 28 spoke index wheel. Move the green arrow black mark to the left. Line it up with blue arrow spoke line.

This will move my pointed shapes on my pin wheel a little closer together. No big deal! Why? Because, I just sketched in something by hand that I thought looked good. It is not cast in concrete.

The Measurement Method

Lining up the piece on all 4 index wheels (28, 36, 40, 48 spokes) to look for the best match gets real old, real fast. The use of a ruler can can speed things up.

Photo: Measure the Distance Between Points (index_wheel_use_02) Measure the Distance Between Points

In the photo we can see that the distance from red arrow to green arrow is 2-1/2". This is the cord length.

Note: The “cord” of a circle is the straight line length between any 2 points on the edge of a circle.

Photo: Look for a Match (The Easy Way) (index_wheel_use_15) Look for a Match (The Easy Way)

This photo is a close up of my 28 spoke index wheel.

In the photo we can see that the 10" cord length from the magenta arrow to next spoke line is 1-1/8". The cord length from magenta arrow to second spoke line (cyan arrow) is 2-1/4".

If we look at the cord lengths on my other index wheels (36, 40 and 48 spoke index wheels) we find that 2-1/4" is the closest to the 2-1/2" that we want.

Thus, I decided to go with the 28 spoke index wheel. Use every other spoke.

Mark All the Way Around – OFF Lathe

You can do this "ON" or "OFF" the lathe. First, I will show you the "OFF" lathe method. I often do it this way.

Photo: Rinse, Spin and Repeat (index_wheel_use_05) Rinse, Spin and Repeat

Ok, I have decided I want to use every other spoke line on my 28 spoke index wheel.

Now, I just need to make tick marks on the edge of my piece all the way around at every other spoke. See photo.

I just rotate the index wheel on the table (not the piece) as needed.

It's hard to go wrong here if you use the colored dots on my index wheels. Red dots are every other spoke. Thus, I want the spokes with red dots. The red dots are NOT visible in the photo on right. See previous photo above for red dots.

This is the "OFF" lathe method. See next 3 photos for the "ON" lathe method.

Mark All the Way Around – ON Lathe

This method uses the lathe as a big clamp. It allows you to easily HAND rotate the index wheel. Some people prefer this method.

Photo: Jam Chuck the Index Wheel (index_wheel_use_07) Jam Chuck the Index Wheel

You can not see my piece in this photo. It is there behind the index wheel. See next photo.

The index wheel is jam chucked up against my piece. The point in the live center in the tailstock goes into the small hole in the middle of index wheel.

Photo: Line Up the Index Wheel (index_wheel_use_08) Line Up the Index Wheel

Line up one of the red dot spokes on the index wheel with the first tick mark on our piece. See red arrow in photo.

Photo: Mark All the Way Around (index_wheel_use_09) Mark All the Way Around

Make tick marks on the edge of the piece all the way around at every other spoke. See photo. The red dots on every other spoke make this hard to get wrong.

Layout the Pattern

Time to layout and trace the pattern onto the front of the piece.

Photo: Transfer Tick Marks to Front (index_wheel_use_10) Transfer Tick Marks to Front

Transfer the tick marks onto the front of the piece.

Note: At this point I am introducing another degree of inaccuracy. First, I did not use the index wheel built into the lathe. Then, I made tick marks on the edge that may not be 100% accurate. Now, I am doing it again! Another level of inaccuracy. This is going to make some people unhappy.

Honestly, I don't care! Why? Because, when I carve the pattern on the front of this piece, I will carve it close to the line. But, it will not be perfect! It just needs to be close enough to look good. Also, I don't want it to look like it was made by a machine. Thus, a little inaccuracy while laying out the pattern is ok.

Photo: Create a Template (index_wheel_use_11) Create a Template

I want the pointed shapes to be all the same. Thus, I need to create a template that I can move around and use to replicate the shape.

I make my templates out of "Quilters Template Plastic". The kind the sewing people (quilters) use. You can see thru this stuff and draw on it with a pencil. I get it at local fabric store. I prefer the kind that is semi transparent (milky white) with no grid rather than the kind in the photo that has a blue grid. See "Quilting Template Plastic Sheets" below.

I put the plastic over the hand drawn (sketched) shape that I like. I use a #2 pencil to transfer the shape to the plastic. Then, I cut it out with scissors and/or X-acto knife.

In the photo you can not EASILY see my hand drawn (sketched) shape. But, it is there.

Photo: The T-Square Trick (index_wheel_use_12) The T-Square Trick

The V shaped head on my Circular T-Square allows it to find the center on a circular shape. You can make your own. See "Carl's Circular T-Square" photo below.

I masking tape my template to the t-square and then rotate the t-square around the outside of my piece.

The green arrow in the photo points to a tick mark on the head of the t-square. I line up the tick mark on the t-square head with the tick marks on my piece. Draw in the shape. Then move to the next tick mark.

The actual location of the shape in the template relative too the location of the tick mark on the square is a don't care. If you just line up the tick marks all the way around it will all come out ok.

I got this idea from Al Stirt. It is a copy of Al's t-square and his method.

Photo: Ready to Carve (index_wheel_use_13) Ready to Carve

The finished pattern ready to carve. I ALWAYS sketch in the circles and cross lines you see in the photo. It minimizes mistakes while carving.

White & Gold Pin Wheel

Photo: White & Gold Pin Wheel (202205_wrcbpw_10dx125t_22oz)

The finished piece. Hand made by Carl Ford. 5/2022, Maple, 10" Wide, 1-1/4" Thick, 22 oz.

I changed my mind about carving the lines. In retrospect maybe I should have gone with the lines.

More photos are on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/pin/472666923404856054/ Or you can click here for a big user friendly (no Pinterest login required) gallery of my work.

Tools

Photo: How To Make Carl's Index Wheels (cbf_polar_graph_xx_spokes_4up_2_800) How To Make Carl’s Index Wheels

Check out my "Carl's Index Wheels – How To Make" blog entry if you want to make a set of my index wheels.

Photo: Carl's Circular T-Square (index_wheel_use_14) Carl’s Circular T-Square

The t-square in the photo works on the outside of a round shape. The V shape in the head of this t-square works on 6" to 12" diameter circles.

You can easily make your own out of 1/4" plywood. You can see in the photo that the head is roughly 6" wide and the offset in the V is roughly 1-1/4".

I got this idea from Al Stirt. It is a copy of Al's t-square.

Photo: Quilting Template Plastic Sheets (quilting_template_plastic) Quilting Template Plastic Sheets

See photo on right. Google "Quilting Template Plastic Sheets"

I don't care about the brand. Any brand works. The plastic sheets are often cheaper at your local sewing store.

Photo: Better X-actor Knife (wer_xacto_knife) Better X-actor Knife

I like this "We R Craft Knife". The handle shape works good! I used one of these at Arrowmont Craft School. I went home and purchased one.

See photo on right. Google "We R Craft Knife"

You can get one of these at your local craft or sewing store.

One thought on “Carl’s Index Wheels – How To Use”

Comments are closed.