Off-centre Woodturning – Letter Opener


This time I delve into the world of off-centre woodturning which I use to make a letter opener. This was a project which I made before Christmas and now that Christmas is well and truly behind us I can shoe you how to make it. Despite us living in the world of e-mail a letter opener is still a surprisingly useful item to have around!


LO 1

The first step to turning the letter opener is to turn it to shape just like any ordinary spindle turning.  The handle can be completely turned to shape at this point and the blade is turned to the taper which you wish to achieve.

*Note- is it worth leaving the tip of the blade wider than you actually  want as it has to endure the strain of further turning, it will likely break otherwise. You can always sand the tip at the end.

LO 3

After some sanding the turning is removed from the lathe, using a compass I mark out a circle of a 10mm radius on each end of the turning. The size of the circle is not that important but I would suggest a diameter the same as what you want the blades width to be.


LO 4

Next using a screw ( a bradawl would be preferable) I mark two off-centre points on each end of the turning. This is done using the points where the circle intersects the cross-hairs which the initial turning was aligned to.

*Note- The two off-centre points which  you mark on each end should correspond to the two points on the opposite end of the turning.

LO 5

Following that the turning is re-mounted to the lathe using the first two opposing off-centre points. The first side of the blade can then be turned to shape, be sure to spin the letter opener by hand a few times to check that it does not come in contact with the tool rest as it rotates.

I used a roughing gouge to shape the blade but you could also use a spindle gouge if you wanted to.

LO 6

After the desired thickness is achieved on the first side of the blade it can be sanded smooth.

Following that I removed the turning and re-mounted it for the final time using the second set of off-centre points.


LO 7

In this image you can begin to see what turning off-centre has achieved. Turning twice off-centre creates an elliptical shaped blade, which is ideal for this letter opener.



LO 8

Following some further turning to the blade I could remove it from the lathe. Having cut off the scrap wood at each end using the bandsaw I shaped the tip of the blade using a drum sanding attachment at the drill press.

To finish off the tuning I used a wood burning pen to inscribe my Dads initials on the blade, as well as using some black wood stain to colour the handle. After this, all that was left was to apply two or three coats of lacquer to finish off the turning. See: My Finishing Process for more about finishing woodturnings.


The video bellow demonstrates the process explained above:


Some images of the finished turning: