I'm using black spruce, white spruce, and tamarack to make canoe setting poles 12' x 1 ½" diameter. I look for standing green trees as straight as possible, maybe 1 ¾" at 13' height, then debark them to dry out.

What technique with any tools (other than a lathe) do you suggest I use to make a straight pole from these trees?

  • what about the spindle turning router jig from the comments on TXTurner's answer here: woodworking.stackexchange.com/questions/814/…? If the thing has been straightened (steam?) You could just center it in the jig and rout out your spindle.
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 19:37
  • very cool. I love it. maybe I make this jig. Thanks.
    – michael
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 20:09

3 Answers 3


A spokeshave!

It might be a bit slow, but that's how they might have done it "back in the day".

In more seriousness, a combination of jointer and planer should get you a reasonably straight, square piece of stock, then the spokeshave would help you get it round from there.

An additional thought: Once you get the piece squared, tip your table saw blade at 45° and knock off all the corners. That will leave you with less to shave down.

  • Yes, that's one of options. I've a large rough one- sort of like a barking spud/drawknife. A spokeshave will do for the fine cylindrical work. Maybe I'm asking how to make parallel, straight sides from something wavy, bumpy (knots), and tapered.
    – michael
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 18:40

As you pointed out a lathe is the best design for this. spinning the wood to get an nice even turn.

As Freeman pointed out a spokeshave would also work.

I might start with a draw knives. I've used this to peel bark from trees, especially aspen. (though spring time most trees peel easy). It a can also be used to shave off the branch nubs as well, making it easier to use the spokeshave.

Though buying dowels would by far be the easiest if you want them to pretty round...

  • @michael Ah, missed it, I read 12" not 12' sorry... even a lathe would be hard pressed to do that in one piece.
    – bowlturner
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 18:51
  • Not a problem! You just need to talk to the fine folks at Mesta Machine. (Image via Atomic Toasters)
    – FreeMan
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 19:08
  • interesting story on Mesta Machine. thanks for the link
    – michael
    Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 22:43

Now that I have time ...

Spindle Turner
enter image description here
In the comments for TX Turner's response to How can I fabricate a wooden cone?, there is discussion of using a jig which can make a cylinder from a large blank. Essentially it is a large box with a spindle on which the blank turns. A router rides on a sled along the top of the jig and can progressively remove stock. Examples are in this video and this tutorial. These are for spindles of a few feet long, but I don't see any reason it couldn't be made longer ... you might have trouble with the piece sagging if it's too thin, so you might need to do somethign clever with rollers or the like once it starts getting nearer the desired radius.

This would require that your green wood be very straight, or you'll wind up with a very long toothpick at best.

I would probably start by using a bandsaw with some sort of wedge to trim it into a mostly square or octagonal blank.

Dowel Cutter
enter image description here

Another option would be a dowel cutter. I don't know if there are commercial versions that large, but it shouldn't be too hard to make your own, similar to this one. The dowel is fed through the cutter, spun by a drill or similar spinny device (technical term). I suppose you could alternatively twist it down by hand. Start with a large diameter and work it down until it's the diameter you want.

  • thanks Daniel B. these are very interesting. I like the idea of a the sled and spindle; some slow turning method ...hmm.
    – michael
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 4:00
  • @michael yeah, it's a neat idea. I'm just concerned about bowing. Since it's a 12 foot long thing, you might have to find a way to do it in segments or something to prevent it from sagging in the middle of your jig, or just put some short dowels under the piece that you can raise for support as you work. Frankly this is kind of what the dowel turner is made for, so you'd probably get better results for less work, but I admit that jig looks fun.
    – Daniel B.
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 4:03

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