The arm rest is an auxiliary tool rest that saves you from having to move your main tool rest when you’re working on the face of the work. An added advantage of the arm rest is that it allows you to quickly obtain center height for the tool. At the very center of the work, the tool must be exactly on-center, and any inaccuracies can be corrected instantly by raising or lowering your shoulder.
Turning Long, Thin Spindles
To start, find a point near the middle of the turning that is either straight or slightly tapered. Set up the steady rest at this position, making sure it is firmly attached to the bed. Now establish a diameter about 1/16 in. larger in diameter than the actual turning at this point. This essentially forms a plane bearing around the work for the steady to ride on. Throughout this sequence, my lathe was running at about 1,000 rpm.
The first time I saw an arm rest was in the hands of fourth-generation master turner Dick Bailey. It struck me as such a good idea that I went home and made one myself. Fortunately, they are now available commercially. Still, it is an easy tool to make yourself, since it’s essentially a bent piece of structural steel.
To use an arm rest, place its handle under your left arm and the shank on the tool rest, then set your turning tool in the hook of the arm rest. Most of the controlling of the tool is done using the right hand, but the left hand can move the tool in and out by sliding the arm rest in the same directions on the rest. The arm rest is most often used with scrapers for making chucks and is essential for chasing inside threads. It should not be used with roughing gouges or skew chisels.