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Beall Treen Mandrel
Turning wooden bottles/boxes just got way easier
Text, photos & video by Tom Hintz
Posted – 10-25-2006
Turning small, lidded boxes has fascinated me since I brought my first lathe into the shop but like many of you turning them was frequently an exercise in frustration. The vibrations and chatter when the walls grew thin and trying to part the pieces off without damage made what should have been an enjoyable project into one put on the back burner to await completion when I came up with a better idea. I never did but Beall Tool did.
The Beall Treen Mandrel is ingenious in the simplicity of its design. That design, executed with high-end materials and super precise machining makes turning small, thin-walled boxes simple and safe. Even intricate, snug-fitting lids suddenly became easy to create with turning tools I already had. The Beall Treen Mandrel works equally well on full-sized of mini lathes. I turned nearly all of the bottles/boxes during the evaluation on my JET Mini Lathe. I turned one bottle/box on my full-sized lathe just to be sure there were no problems there and there were none.
Beall Treen Mandrel Starter Kit
The Beall Treen Mandrel Starter kit used in this review comes with everything you need, including the special Morse taper adapter (#1 or #2) to which the mandrels are secured. In addition to the Morse taper adapter the Beall Treen Mandrel Starter Kit includes the 1 ¼”-diameter bottle mandrel, a 1”-diameter lid mandrel, three lid/stopper insert/stud sets, machined brass gauge ring, a sheet of cork and instructions. All you have to supply is wood, a 1 ¼”-diameter Forstner bit and a the desire to turn great looking projects.
Beall Tool also offers other kits with fewer components or you can buy individual pieces as needed. Bottle mandrel expanders are also available to increase the mandrel diameter to 1 ½” or 2” for larger projects. See the Beall Tool web site link at the end of this review for more information on those kits and accessories.
Prepping the Wood
The simplicity of the Beall Treen Mandrel extends to preparing the stock. Aside from cutting the blank to size, all you need to do is bore a 1 ¼”-diameter hole to the depth desired. The Beall Treen Mandrel itself is 3 ¼”-long but a piece around 3 ½”-long can fit before running into the spindle threads on most machines.
Part of the Beall Treen Mandrel design is a continuous “tooth” on the end of the bottle mandrel that bites into the bottom of the hole to help lock the wood in place. Between a snug fit on the mandrel itself and this “tooth”, the wood remained very stable throughout the evaluation process.
The blanks for the lid and stopper portions need only to be larger than the finished size needed and have a flat surface where the insert will be installed. Drill a ½”-diameter by 3/8”-deep hole drilled at the center of the flat surface to accept the threaded inserts, glue the inserts in place with epoxy or CA glue and the blanks are ready to turn as soon as the glue dries.
In The Shop
The Beall Treen Mandrel is surprisingly simple to use. Because the wood is fit over the solid steel mandrel, turning intricate, thin-walled shapes without vibration is the norm. All of the Beall Treen Mandrel components are finely machined and turn dead-on true, which makes rpm limitations primarily a matter of your comfort level. During the evaluation I generally had the JET Mini Lathe turning at 2630-rpm for both turning and sanding with no vibration noted.
The friction between the wood and bottle mandrel is sufficient (with a cleanly bored hole) that the wood does not want to spin during even relatively heavy turning. As suggested in the instructions, I removed the point from the tailstock live center and used the bare housing to apply slight pressure to the bottom of the wood blank just to be sure it did not wander. As one of the last operations, I moved the tailstock away and made a cleanup pass on the bottom of the wood to complete the turning and make sure the bottle stands flat on a table surface.
Note: The Beall Morse taper adaptors have a ¼-20 tapped hole in the spindle end so a length of threaded rod can be installed and secured at the outboard side of the headstock to insure that the mandrel and Morse taper adaptor assembly cannot walk free from the spindle.
The lid mandrel, used with the threaded inserts, makes turning intricately shaped lids a very stable operation. Match the base size to your bottle/box piece and the rest is strictly up to your imagination. I turned a relatively long spire point on a hickory lid, mounted by the insert only with no wandering or vibrating. The bond between the lid mandrel, stud and the threaded insert is very strong, stays tight and turns extremely true.
The plug portion of the lid is turned separately with the Beall Treen Mandrel kit, using a threaded insert and the lid mandrel. In addition, a sizing ring is included that makes this operation even faster. Slip the sizing ring over the lid mandrel before screwing the blank on and simply round the blank down until the ring slips over it. When turned to fit the sizing ring, a slight bit of sanding was needed on two of those made during this evaluation to perfect the fit between the bottle interior and the plug.
A sheet of cork is included with the Beall Treen Mandrel kit from which strips are cut to make friction-fit plugs. You can either undersize the plug body slightly and add a strip of cork to the outside diameter or cut a shallow groove in the plug to set the cork strip into, leaving it slightly proud. Either way, the cork is easily sanded to produce the exact fit desired. The lid mandrel makes adding the cork strip a very simple operation that gives the finished piece a very professional touch.
Note: Beall offers a Treen Mandrel Converter ($15.25) that is essentially an internal expanding collet designed to grip in a ½”-diameter hole. This can be used in place of the threaded inserts to turn the lid and plug pieces. When complete, the plug and lid are joined by gluing them together using a short piece of ½”-diameter dowel.
The Beall Treen Mandrel is a well designed, finely machined tool that makes the once challenging lidded bottle/box projects much easier and safer to do. This setup is as at home on my JET Mini Lathe as it is on larger machines, making it just right for any lathe-equipped shop.
The simplicity of this tool makes learning to use it very easy. The extreme stability with which the Beall Treen Mandrel turns the stock lets you concentrate on the creative part of making bottles/boxes.
The Beall Treen Mandrel Starter Kit (with Morse Taper adaptor) runs just $47.30. (10-18-2006) Because Beall Tool uses nothing but the best materials and super-fine machining, the Beall Treen Mandrel will last forever, even if you go nuts with making lidded boxes as I have….
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