Woodturning String Steady Rest

Keeping thin turnings from vibrating

Woodturners String Steady Rest

Step by step procedure

These little things are nifty devices that are designed to stop vibration in long, thin, small-diameter spindles.  They are not designed to keep the vibrations down in larger turnings like candlesticks, billiard cues or baseball bats.  There are steadies made specifically for that. A small string or cord just can't do that.  But it works very very well for projects like finials, stems, or trembleurs.  You can use just one or several depending on your needs.  They are quite simple to make and easy to use.  It uses a waxed string to actually ride on the wood spindle in such a way that it keeps it centered as well as from vibrating.  Amazingly, the waxed string doesn't mark the wood much, if at all.  If you have a little vibration ... give these steady rests a try.


See the difference it makes in the before and after (AVI Video - 3 MB) video clips.


CConstruction of the String Steady

Download the very basic sketch plan (Adobe PDF file)      * Woodturning Clubs take note:  This is the plan you are requested to use for the construction of your own steady for the demonstration and workshop used by myself and several other professional woodturning demonstrators.  If your demonstrator / teacher has sent you to this website and page to find the plan ... this is it.


Here you can see most of the components of making a simple string steadyrest.  It doesn't take much!  On the bottom, you can see a piece of 1/2" thick plywood.  This is plenty thick enough to give the steady it's strength and stability.  A piece of lumber would be fine too.  Just make sure it is straight and stays that way.  There's a short piece of 1" lumber there for the base.  A bolt with several sizes of washers that will run along the bottom of your lathe bed ways.  Some eye screws; although you could just use small bolts in their place.  Some screws and then waxed sewing thread / string.p>A note on the waxed thread ...  Most of my string steady rests use just plain old waxed thread that you can find in any Walmart or sewing store. I've tried making my own out of all kinds of threads and cords. They didn't work well as the wax fell off too easily.  I've tried dental floss (thread and tape) but they didn't hold up well either.

Start with the base block and drill a hole in the middle of it with a bit the same size as the bolt.  Do try not to drill into your lathe bed ... use an bench made for the job! <Grin>
Here's how to configure your base.  Or you could get a nice piece of steel or another wooden block to replace those bottom washers.  Those washers are just there to ride along the bottom of the lathe bed ways to give your steady a grip onto the bed.
And here the base is getting put onto the lathe bed.  Slip it on and up aways.
Tighten it down nice and snug.  You're doing this because  you're going to attach the upright portion next.  You want this upright to be precisely aligned so it's best to tighten down the base right now and get things attached the way they should be from the start.
Screw the upright into the base.  The upright is resting on the lathe bed.  It just give it more stability.  You don't have to have a TON of stability but it does need to be solid and not wobbly.
A vew from the other side.  Aaaahhhhh, beautiful!  If only that was all there were to it.  Of course, we'd just have a backstop and not a steadyrest though.  So .... on with the show.
Loosen the bolt a little and slide the whole thing up to your headstock.  You need to have a point sticking out of your spindle.  We're going to make a little dimple in the upright where the exact center-height is.  NO MEASURING.  I can't read anyway (although somehow able to type???) so a ruler does me no good.
A view from the other side.  (I like doing that reverse-picture thing .. in this case, there's no real purpose)
Tap your upright lightly (if it rips the screws out of the base, you've gone just a weee bit too far) to create that dimple.
See?  A dimple showing where the center-height is.  This is our starting point.
Take the steady rest off the bed and lay it down.  Use a compass to draw you a circle around that dimple.  Here you can see that it is a 3" diameter circle.  That should be plenty big.  Actually, it can be quite a bit smaller.  1 1/2" to 2" should be fine.  We're try to hold trembleurs and finials, etc. steady ... not canes, pool cues or baseball bats in place!  This line will be where the opening will be.
Mark another circle a little wider than the first circle.  This is just a reference circle to place the eye screws or bolts that will hold our waxed thread.  1" wider diameter for this circle than the first should be fine.
3 point Steady Rest

At this point, we're going to make a tri-point steady.  If you want to make the quad-point steady, skip down to that.

We're going to setup where the screws / bolts are going to go now.  There will be three and they need to be fairly (although not absolutely perfectly) equal in distance from the center.  You could create a perfect triangle that fits inside the outter circle and place it perfectly over the center dimple and then make a mark at each point of the triangle. But, naaahhhh.  No need to be so precise.  You'll see later that it doesn't matter with a 3 point steady rest.  It automatically centers itself when measurements are within reason.

OK, so here's the lazy persons' way (MY way, of course) of doing it.  Mark two places on the outer circle fairly far apart.  They don't have to be at right angles to anything.  Just mark two points.  Measure the distance between them and mark the center of that line.  Use a carpenters' square to draw a line from that mark down until it hits the outer ring at the bottom.  Mark that point.  now you have 3 points that are pretty close to be equal distances from the center.  No problem if the last mark is significantly longer or shorter than the 2 other points are from each other.  Again, it'll self-center.
Here's where the artistic side of things come into play.  If you want, draw a shape like the picture at left on your plywood upright.  You don't need all of that extra stuff.  Oh, sure, you could keep it all (or most of it) there but it'll end up just getting in your way and it's just not needed.  So, get rid of it.  One critical thing you do need to do is to have a section on one side that is open.  See it there on the right side?  That's important.  If you don't have that there, you won't be able to insert new steadies into a project if others are already present.  Basically, it allows you to slide the steady onto a spindle from the side without having to slide it on from the end.  How big to make that open section?  I don't know.  About an inch should work.
OK, we'll stand everything up so it might be easier to see what's going on here.  Nifty eh?   No, I didn't think so either.  We're getting to that ....
Cut out the shape.  I used a bandsaw here.  You can use whatever you want.
Cutting ...
Cutting out the inside ...
OK, now we're ready to put on the screws / bolts to hold the waxed thread.
Just put them in there where you marked those points.  Notice that for these eye screws, I've pointed things so that the "eyes" of the screws are pointing certain directions.  This helps the string ride easier.
We need some way to dampen the vibration more and, more importantly, allow us to wrap that string around our wood tightly but not too tightly.  It also helps auto-center things too.  Take a pen apart and get that little spring out of there.
Wrap that spring onto one of the screws and then tie one end of the waxed string to that.

Continue down to the usage section.

4 Point Steady Rest

This type of steady rest is a bit easier to make but it's not as versatile as the 3 point version.  But, frankly, it's not that big of a deal.

First, you want to mark 2 points where a straight line (a taught string in this case) crosses over the center point of the spindle.

Do it on the other side.  The points don't have to be perfectly spaced evenly over the circle.  Just make them so that that line passes directly over the center point.  That's VERY important in this one.  There's not much auto-centering with this one.
There's the four points (yes, I'm using the 2 upper points from the 3-point versions.  I'm just cheap and lazy like that.) HA!
Put the screws or bolts in there just like before.
Take two lengths of waxed string and wrap each one between 2 of the screws.  It forms a little square in the middle.  See?  You can see now where centering the location of those screws was so important.


Usage of the String Steady

A wobbly end to the start of a trembleur.  It's not too bad yet, but it'll easily vibrate itself off if left there much longer.  We need to give that end a little stability before continuing.  String Steady to the rescue !
3 point steady usage

We need to wrap the string a certain way around the spindle so it's captured on all sides equally AND the spindle is centered.  Here's how we wrap the string.  It starts at the bottom screw with the little spring on it.  Go to one side of the spindle to the opposite side screw on top (Right side in this case).

Wrap the string under the spindle to the left - upper side screw.
Wrap the string over the top of the spindle back down to the bottom screw.  This wrapping completely encircles the spindle equally.  Now, (Very) gently pull on the string while holding the spindle centered.  The spring will pull just a little.  This is good.  Don't pull too hard or unevenly!  You'll snap your spindle easily.  It doesn't take much tension to make things work.  Carefully turn the lathe spindle handle by hand and watch as the spindle automatically centers itself.   Enjoy.  It's steady now.
4 point steady usage

This one is pretty simple to use because there's no wrapping.  You simple widen that square  you see in the middle where the 4 strings meet to accommodate where you need it do be.  You might need to un-attach and re-attach the strings in order to get into some places though.

Yep, you guessed it.   A view from the other side.  Actually, this view is a picture of the lathe turning.  No wobble.  Success !!!


There's more types of long, thin spindle steadies that I've developed too.  Actually, I don't use the above types of string steadies in my own turnings anymore.  Not that these don't work perfectly well, but I use my new more versatile steadies for the very long (3 to 4 feet long) trembleurs and long, thin spindles now.  Maybe soon I'll write up an article on those too.

* Would you like to see how to make very long and thin stemmed goblets, flowers, finials and  trembleurs at your club meeting?    I'm an experienced demonstrator of these and many more types of woodturning. Contact me for details.


These pictures are of what I call my "Double - Double" string steadyrest.  It's one fixture that holds two string steady rests where each one of those can hold two strings.... one on each side of its' face.  Only the very outside string steady is actually wrapped around and holding a sample dowel for the picture.

Double-Double Steadyrest1.jpg (48628 bytes)       Double-Double Steadyrest3.jpg (46588 bytes)       Double-Double Steadyrest2.jpg (50687 bytes)