Carl’s Slip On Custom Centering Cones

Photo: Carl's Slip On Custom Centering Cones (slip_on_cones_blue)

Click here for a black & white PRINTABLE version of the above blueprint.

Photo: AAW Journal Slip On Cones

Updated: 2/26/2024. This idea was published as “Shopmade Slip-On Centering Cones” on pages 27 to 31 of the AAW February 2024 “American Woodturner” Journal. Click here for page 27 to 31 PDF.

I now use my "slip on" custom UHMW cones rather than the "threaded" custom cones featured in my 2007 AAW Journal "Custom Centering Cones" article.

Some times you look backwards and realize you had "blinders" on. In 2007 I was replacing the Oneway thread on aluminum cones with my own cones made out of UHMW plastic. Oneway threaded on there aluminum cones thus I thought I needed to thread on my cones. It took years, but I have seen the light.

Slip on cones are better! They are easier to make and they are easier to use. Why? Because, they just slip on! When you press them up against something with tail stock pressure they will stay in place on there own. You don't need to waste time threading them on.

I like to turn my own cones from ultra-high molecular weight (UHMW) polyethylene rather than hardwood blanks. Each cone costs me less than $5 each.

Note: Some parts of this blog entry plagiarizes MY "Custom Centering Cones" article. Can you plagiarize your self?

Useful Cone Shapes

Photo: Useful Cone Shapes (slip_on_cones-carls-oneway)

The aluminum cones packaged with the Oneway revolving (live) centers are valuable for many turning projects. But two or three shapes aren’t versatile enough to fit all projects. Fortunately, you can easily make your own custom cones out of UHMW. Useful Cone Shapes Blueprint

Over the years, I have found the shapes shown here to be useful. For me, the most useful ones are the "Big Blunt" and "Small Blunt" cones.

  • The "Chuck Adapter" cone is a poor mans version of the "Oneway Live Center Adapter".
  • The "Candle Adapter" supports the candle end of a candlestick after you drill a hole for the candle.
  • The "Tapered Point" is more useful than the "Point" or "Blunt Point" cone.
  • The "Point" cone is the same as the aluminum point cone that ships with the "Oneway Live Center". However, it is semi soft UHMW rather than hard aluminum. UHMW does less damage in finished work. If you accidentally cut into the UHMW cone it is not the end of the world. You can just make another one.

You can make the cones out of 2" or 2-1/2" UHMW or Hard Maple. If you want a wider point cone then make it out of 2-1/2" rather than 2" UHMW.

Live Centers for Cones

Photo: Live Centers for Cones (slip_on_cones_centers_3up)

You can use any center that floats your boat.

Slip on cones work great on the "Precision Machine or Turners Select Revolving Center". Both centers are the same size. Thus either one will work with my blueprint drawings.

The "Precision Machine or Turners Select Revolving Center" works great because the entire head of the center rotates as one piece. Thus the cones can slip on over the entire head (not just the tip) of the center and are very secure. The cones stay in place on there own. No problem.

Slip on cones work on the Oneway Live Center but are not great. Because only the threaded tip part of the Oneway center rotates. Thus the cones can easily fall off and do not stay in place on there own. However, the cones still work (stay in place) when they are pushed up against something. Thread on cones work better on the Oneway center but are tedious to install and remove. See my “Carl’s Thread On Custom Centering Cones” blog entry.

Cones are also very secure on the Robust Live Center because the entire head rotates. However, the outer diameter of the Robust center requires 2-1/2" diameter rather than 2" diameter UHMW rods. See blueprint.

If you have some other center then it is probably similar to one of the above centers. Thus you can use one of the 3 designs shown on my blueprint with a few size modifications.

Notes:

  1. I equip all of my lathes with two live centers. A "Oneway Live Center" with a big cup and long point. I use this very rugged center for big things. For most of my work. And a "Precision Machine Revolving Center" with a short point and smaller cup. I use this center to finish the bottom of bowls and hollow forms. I also use it when I need to hold something in place with a custom slip on cone.
  2. I know that you can shorten or lengthen the point on the "Robust Live Center". Thus, you can live with just one center. NOT ME! Why not? First I have to shorten the point, then I have to make it longer, then shorten, then longer, … I have better things to do with my time! Having a second center that I can just pop in and out is worth every penny I spend on it!

Materials

Photo: Purchase UHMW Rod(s) (mcmaster_uhmw_2_rod) Purchase UHMW Rod(s) or Hardwood

You can make the cones out of any plastic or hardwood that floats your boat. If you have some 2" thick hardwood scraps then go for it. Otherwise, purchasing UHMW may be cheaper and easier than finding 2" thick hardwood.

Hard Maple is the best hardwood option. UHMW is “ultra-high molecular weight” polyethylene plastic. It is the best plastic option. Hard but not to hard. Easy to turn with a bowl gouge.

You can make slip on cones out of 2" or 2-1/2" UHMW. If you want a wider point cone then make it out of 2-1/2" rather than 2" UHMW. If you are making cones for a "Robust Live Center" then all of the cones need to be made out of 2-1/2" stock.

You can purchase UHMW Rods from McMaster or Amazon. You can make four 2-1/2" long cones out of 1 foot of rod. Thus they cost less than $5 each.

2" diameter rods are Mcmaster.com #8701K49. 2-1/2" diameter rods are Mcmaster.com #8701K53.

UHMW rods with Amazon Free Prime shipping may be cheaper than McMaster. 2" by 1 foot is $15 on Amazon. It is $12 + shipping from McMaster. All prices on 3/15/2023.

Google "Amazon 2" UHMW 1 ft Rod"

Note: One foot long rods fit in McMaster's standard 18" shipping box and thus do not incur an extra shipping charge. Longer rods will be shipped in a shipping tube and will cost more to ship. Thus two 1 foot long rods is often cheaper than one 2 foot long rod.

Photo: Purchase Live Center (cs_live_center) Purchase Live Center

Slip on cones work great on the "Precision Machine Revolving Center" or "Turners Select Revolving Center" sold by Craft Supplies USA (The Woodturners Catalog). Both centers are the same size. Thus either one will work with my blueprint drawings.

If it was in stock, I would recommend the "Precision Machine Revolving Center". Because, it is only $20 more. I think it may have better bearings. I really don't know.

Craft Supplies has sold this center for 20+ years under different names.

You can use what ever center you have and/or floats your boat. See "Live Centers for Cones" discussion above.

Note: It appears that "Revolving Center" is the modern term for a "Live Center". A live center is used in the tailstock. It has a point or head on it that rotates on a set of bearings. "Dead Centers" do not rotate on their own. They are used in the headstock to drive your work.

Make Your Own

Photo: Make Your Own (slip_on_cones-pm_center)

Here is how I turn a custom slip on cone for the "Precision Machine Revolving Center". If you have a Oneway or Robust center then see my blueprint.

Photo: Cut UHMW Blank (slip_on_cones_01) Cut UHMW Blank

You can cut UHMW with ordinary tools. Use a handsaw or bandsaw to rough-cut a 2-1/2" long piece of UHMW from a 2" diameter rod.

To avoid a nasty catch, use a bandsaw sled or miter gauge to support the rod while cutting it with a bandsaw

Note: You can also make your cones out of Hard Maple or some other suitable hardwood.

Photo: True Up the End (slip_on_cones_02) True Up the End

Mount the blank in a 4 jaw chuck. I am using a SC4 Record Power chuck in the photos. Any chuck will do.

True up the end with a 1/2" bowl gouge. Ride the bevel!

The shavings should peel off in long, continuous streams. However, this can be frustrating (but not dangerous) when the ribbons accidentally wrap themselves around the headstock. With practice, you can shoot the shavings off to the side and out of the way.

Photo: True Up the Side (slip_on_cones_03) True Up the Side

This makes the side perpendicular to the end.

I just do the first half of the side. Later, I will do the rest of it after reversing it in the chuck.

Photo: Long Shavings Example (slip_on_cones_04) Long Shavings Example

Err… The long shavings are a pain to deal with but not dangerous.

I normally use the tailstock when ever possible. I try to avoid using it when turning UHMW. Because wrapping the shavings around the tailstock really sucks.

Dealing with the shavings is easier, if they just wrap around the piece in the headstock. If you stop often to remove them.

Photo: Drill the 1st Hole (slip_on_cones_05) Drill the 1st Hole

A slip on cone for a "Precision Machine Revolving Center" requires two holes. See my blueprint.

Drill a 1-1/8" diameter hole 1-1/8" deep. See blueprint. Use a 1-1/8" frostner bit. It creates a hole with a flat bottom.

Note: You MUST always follow the simple rule. Big diameter hole before the little hole! If you drill the small hole before the big, then there will be no center point to help get the big hole started.

Photo: Drill the 2nd Hole (slip_on_cones_06) Drill the 2nd Hole

Drill a 3/4" diameter hole 1-5/8" deep. i.e. drill 1/2" deeper than the 1st hole. See my blueprint. Use a 3/4" frostner bit. It creates a hole with a flat bottom.

Photo: Chamfer The 1st Hole (slip_on_cones_07) Chamfer The 1st Hole

Chamfer the corner of the 1st hole with a 1/2" spindle or bowl gouge. At a 45 degree angle. Make it match the angle on the "Precision Machine Revolving Center". See my blueprint.

Photo: Test Fit (slip_on_cones_08) Test Fit

The holes are all done. Test fit the center and make any necessary adjustments.

The center should fit into the hole like a glove. However, you may have to adjust the fit a little. See "Adjust The Fit" below.

Photo: Reverse & Turn Shape (slip_on_cones_09) Reverse & Turn Shape

Remove the blank from the chuck. Flip it over and put it back in the chuck.

Then turn the shape you want with a 1/2" bowl gouge. Ride the bevel.

Photo: The Finished Shape (slip_on_cones_10) The Finished Shape

One of many possible shapes. See page 2 of See my blueprint for shape ideas.

Note: I use the "Big Blunt" and "Small Blunt" cones on page 2 of my blueprint a lot more than I use "Point" cone in this photo.

Photo: Ready To Use (slip_on_cones_11) Ready To Use

The new cone mounted on the center ready to use.

Photo: Adjust The Fit (slip_on_cones_12) Adjust The Fit

All centers may not be PRECISELY the same size. You may need to adjust the size of your center with a little masking tape to get a snug fit.

The cone on the left in this photo fits snugly on the center in the back right of the photo. It was a little lose on the one in the front. I added one layer of masking tape to fix the problem. I put a green line on the masking tape to make it easier to see in photo.

I just leave the masking tape on the center semi-permanent.

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