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Wooden Reamer

Building A Wooden Reaming


Copyrighted 2011  All rights reserved.

Page 1

The Way I Go About It

     I was going to write this up as another book, but said to hell with it.  Since space is at a premium in the shop, one of the work benches does yeoman’s duty.  It handles my long lathe for turning worm blanks and mounts all my rifling machines.  Here you’ll find how I go about constructing a new boring/reaming bench, sans the bench, as depicted in the photo CD or in photos within this website.  It will mount where the other machines set.  The nice thing about this reamer is that most of the dimensions can be changed to suit your specific needs.  I’ll be happy to help you out with making a bench if you can’t seem to figure it out for yourself.  It’ll take a while for us to get this project completed, so bear with me as there’s other irons in the fire here at Toad Hall.  Be sure to “click” on the photos to enlarge them to bring out all the details.

Part 1–The Wheel & Handle

     The wheel & handle must be heavy to provide enough inertia or momentum needed to spin boring bits and reamers. You have two choices.  You can find an old corn sheller (mine cost 10 bucks) or build a wheel like Runar Stava’s that you’ll find on another page.  Here’s the corn sheller before disassembling.


After the wheel was removed, the few bent spokes were gently tapped back into alignment and a hole for a  3/8″ bolt  was drilled and tapped in the side of the rim.  Also, the wheel was had been painted a bright red.


The next step was to turn a piece of scrap walnut down into the shape of a handle and drill it out for the attachment bolt.  The shape should be pleasing to you as well as being comfortable.  The head of the bolt was ground into a dome shape so the bolt head would not grab your hand while cranking the wheel and make it sore.  You will notice just a teensy bit of hex shape remains.  You need a tad so the bolt can be adequately tightened.

After the bolt head was polished up nicely and slipped into the wooden handle, the handle had a few coats of linseed oil applied.


Here’s the finished wheel.  In my eyes, she’s a beauty and ready to go to work.


Part 2 — The bed, gibs, and rails.  

First step as to mark a centerline on the 2″ X 12″ X 104″.   


Next, I drew a line 6″ from one end.  Then drew two lines 3″ left and right of the centerline.  On each side of the end, a line was scribed at a dyke from about 2 1/2″ in and down to the far 6″ line. 

The old Skil saw was drug out and the corners cut off on the lines previously drawn.  From this angle, it sorta looks like a coffin, don’t it?


The 4th step was easy.  Made a length of scrap 2″ X 10″  42 inches long.  This becomes the barrel carriage.

Step five required that I cut two 2 X 4s 65″ long.  [This length is adjustable to fit your personal requirements.  I made mine this length because my space is limited and I’ll need to be able to remove the carriage occasionally and not run into the rack that sets at the end of the reamer!]  Then they were both ran through the saw and one side was cut at an angle of 35 degrees.  The cut was made along one corner of the 2 X 4 to insure that there was ample room for mounting screws and for strength.  The barrel carriage was ripped to a width of 6 3/16″ wide and then both sides were dyked like the 2 X 4s.  You can see in the photo, how the three boards will mount in relationship to one another.

 Sand all the sawn edges pretty smooth.  If knots are present and are loose, either remove them or glue them in solid.  Position  one 2 X 4 gib on the far side of the bed and align their edges with one another.  I recommend using 2 1/2″ deck screws to attach the gibs to the bed, 3″ being superior.  Don’t screw yourself by skimping and using 2 1/4″ screws or shorter for this operation.   [DO NOT use glue to assist holding because you must be able to tighten the gibs later on because of wear.]  Use bar clamps to hold the gib flat against the bed while driving  the deck screws about 6 inches apart.  No gaps are tolerated.  When the first gib is mounted, lay the carriage next to it and at one end.  Lay the second gib along side the carriage and mount it as you did before.  BUT!! The carriage MUST slide fairly smoothly between the gibs and not have a lot of sideways slop.  So go slowly here and use bar clamps to hold the gib in position.  Slide the carriage after each screw has been driven.  This should take 4 to 5 times longer to mount this gib than the first.  When all screws have been put in place, the carriage must be able to slide.  It will glide smoother after paraffin or candle wax has been applied to the beveled surfaces and also through use.

 TIP:  It is not necessary, but it may help if you place a piece of heavy paper along one beveled edge of the carriage when attaching the last gib.  This will give the carriage a little extra room to travel in.  The paper will need to be repositioned each time you move the carriage to obtain best fit when driving the deck screws.  Just don’t get it too loose and some drag is desirable.

Notice the bar clamp holding the gib to the bed and the longer clamp sandwiching all three components together for proper alignment?

You should see something like this after both gibs are attached securely and the carriage inserted into it’s slot.  The arrows are pointing to the mounting screws to indicate position.  Notice there is very little gap between the carriage and it’s gibs.

Next, remove the carriage and flip it over on it’s belly.  Find the center-line at both ends and mark the edges so that you can see the tick marks after you reinsert the carriage into the gibs.  Check and see if the carriage center-line is aligned with the center-line on the bed.  Hopefully they match up.  If not, no worries.  If it is off to one side of the bed’s center-line at one end of the carriage, it must be off to the same side at the opposite end, AND the distance separating the two center-lines MUST match.  If not, go back and adjust the gibs some more.

Note: Once the  issue is brought under control and the carriage moves in a STRAIGHT line, you might notice the center-line tick marks at each end of the carriage are off.  No sweat!  You’ll take care of the issue later on.  Maybe you can’t make it out, but the carriage in the photo was off towards the farthest gib by 2MM, so don’t feel bad if yours doesn’t work out perfect! 

Since I already had a surface to mount the reamer bed upon and did not need to build a heavy body and legs, I aligned the bed where I wanted it positioned.  My table is also used to hold a lathe & rifling machine as well.  A 3/8″ hole was drilled at each end of the bed and into the table top about 1/2″.  A 3/8″ dowel is then inserted into the holes to help align the bed when remounting the reamer.  3″ deck screws were used to mount the bed securely to the table top. 



Part 3 – – The Head Box, Axle w/ Stops, and Chuck 

Four 6″ X 6″ boards were cut from left over wood to make up the header box.


 Since the four boards are to be sandwiched together and held with yellow glue, several dimples were made in the surfaces.  Do not put dimples in the outside surfaces of the two end boards. 


Slap your glue on them. 


Now, clamp them puppies up and get them as square and even as you can.   Yuck!  Whadda mess!


After the glue has dried, remove the clamps, and proceed to sand all sides as flat and as square as you can make them.  The sides must be flat and parallel to each other so the axle and mounting bolt holes can be drilled true.  Do a neat job for cosmetic reasons, too.

Looks pretty good, for free hand, eh?

Two axle stops needed to be made, so we scrounged around in the junk and came up with two big honkin’ nuts.  Looks like they were for 7/8″ bolts.  Found a couple of 3/8 X 16 bolts as well.  Laid them all on a brick and heated them red hot with a torch and mapp gas.  Next,  the zinc ash was wire brushed off all the parts to clean them up.  The nuts were chucked up in a metal lathe and the holes bored out to 1″.  Next step was to drill & tap holes for the 3/8″ bolts in one of the flats on each nut.   Then they were painted.  In use, they will secure the axle on each side of the header box to prevent travel of the axle.

The hole in the wheel is 15/16″ in diameter.  The 11″ long axle was made from  one inch hot rolled round stock and a shoulder was turned down to just slip inside the wheel.   The turned down portion is just as long as the wheel hub is wide.  Can you make out the shoulder in the photo below?  The axle will rest against this shoulder when assembled.

The opposite end of the axle shaft was turned down to accept the threads inside my Jacobs chuck.

Now we start a labor intensive bunch of operations.  Not hard, mind you.  Just a lot of little things, so heads up and pay attention to detail!

Once you have your header box all nice and square, determine which surfaces will be the top and bottom.  Then measure and place a tick mark to indicate center-line at the bottom edge, front and back.  Place the header box on the bench and align the tick marks with the center-line on the bench.

Rear view.

Front view.

Next, lay a square at a tick mark and measure up and mark the spot that you desire the axle to mount at.  I chose 3 1/2 inches.  Do this to the other side as well and make certain you mark the exact same location on each side.

My axle is 1″, so I took a wood bit and drilled a 1 1/2″ hole about 5/8″ deep at each of the two tick marks you just drew for the axle….and the chips are gonna fly!  Be sure to do this operation on a drill press.  The hole CANNOT wander.

Then I took a 1″ spade bit and drilled completely through the header box and joined both 1 1/2″ holes.  This hole is the passage hole for the axle.  If the large hole and the passage hole are not quite concentric, not to worry.  The axle hole is the important one.

See daylight through that puppy?

Then I drilled a few shallow holes at an angle on the inside of the two holes.  This will allow the babbitt to grab on to something and prevent the bearing that fits into the hole from spinning.

Once I had these holes drilled, I wrapped string around the axle at about the position that the axle would set if the bench was completed.  The string serves as a dam for the molten babbitt and prevent it from entering the axle passage hole and running through the other side.  You could get badly burned if it did.  Safety first!

The axle was then pushed into the hole up to the string.  Look closely in the photo and you can just make out the string on the inside.  If your string is heavy enough, you can use the same piece for both sides.


Then I opened up my vice and set the header box on it, string side up and then poured the cavity full of babbitt.  Caution, this stuff is hot.  Wear protection at all times when pouring this stuff.

The axle was removed after cooling off.  If your axle is not real smooth, you may need to use a wooden mallet to drift the axle out.  The coiled string on the inside acts like a vice and can really grip the axle.   Once the axle has been removed, examine the face of the just poured bearing.  If it’s flush or just under, no sweat.  If it stands proud, the excess needs to come off.  I use a 1 inch wood chisel and a 3/4 lb. ball peen hammer.

Then I dressed the metal up by sanding the entire surface to make the bearing flush with the surface and make it look neat and pretty.  The inside edge of the bearing is now chamfered.

Then I flipped it over and started the process all over on the front side.

After the axle holes are  poured, make sure the axle turns fairly free.  To get it to that point, you’ll need to remove the string from the hole and perhaps slightly enlarge the hole with a rat tail file.  Go slowly and DO NOT egg shape the holes!  File just enough that the axle just wants to go through the passage hole.  After attaining this goal, I decided I didn’t like the excess wood at the top of the header box, so I measured up 1 inch from the top of the bearing and sawed the excess off.

If you have bearings, they need lubrication, right?  You bet!  I measured in about 3/8″ on the top surface of the header box and drilled a 5/64″ hole for an oil journal through the top or upper wall only of each of the two bearings and then deburred the holes on the inside.  The holes are kept intentionally small to reduce the chances of debris falling inside and clogging the hole.

Next the oil journal holes were slightly countersunk.  Then the locations for four long carriage bolts used to mount the header box to the bench were marked where I thought they ought to be.

Since the carriage bolts I’m using to mount the header box are 3/8″, I drilled four 3/8″ holes completely through the header box where the little crosses were marked in the last photo.  I didn’t have a bit long enough to pass through the entire block, so a 3/8″ bit was shortened from a set of long “El Cheapo” machinist bits from Harbor Freight.

Then it was a simple matter to place the header box back onto the bench, realign the tick marks, and clamp the box securely to the bench.

Tip: Add a thin board under the bed to reduce splintering when the bit breaks through the bottom.


Insert the carriage bolts and fasten each with a flat washer, a split lock washer, and finally a lock nut.  Tighten the nut to pull the square shoulders of the carriage bolts and the flat washers underneath flush INTO the wood.


Next, mill or file flat places on the axle to accommodate the wheel and the large nut that sets next to the wheel.  DO NOT make a flat space for the forward nut at this time.


Now, slip a large washer over the end of the axle and affix the rear nut, but not too tightly because it will be removed shortly.  Then slide it against the header box.


Slip another large washer over the axle on the front side of the box, determine where the lock bolt on the large nut needs to set, and mark the position.


Next, mill or file a flat on the axle to accommodate the lock bolt on the large nut.


Slip the axle back into the header box, place a large washer on each end of the axle, and install both large nuts.  Make sure that when the nuts are tightened securely, the axle is still free to rotate.  Minimal slop or play is what you’re after.


Mount your drive wheel securely.

Starting to look pretty good, eh?

Now install your chuck securely and the project is almost completed!

Part 4 – – The Carriage, Clamps, and Wedges

Remember those tick marks at each end of the carriage that indicated the center-line position on the carriage?  If those tick marks are aligned with the center-line on the bed, great!  If they are not, perform this next step by adding a tick mark at each end of the carriage over the center-line on the reamer bed.


From the tick marks at the bottom edge of the carriage, use a square and scribe a line across the end of the carriage to the top corner.  Do this at each end.


Now, connect the two tick marks on the top of the carriage with a pencil line.  This determines the final center-line for the carriage.


Next, measure in 2 inches from the end of the carriage and draw a line 90 degrees to the center-line.  Then, from that line draw a rectangular box that is 2 3/8 inches wide by 1 and 1/2 inches tall.  Do this at the other end as well.  (You may decide to add one or two more of these later to handle shorter barrels.)  These boxes will become the mortises for the clamps, but do not open them up yet.


We’ll come back to the carriage later, but first let’s make two clamps.  The following text and photos depict a clamp being made for a 1 inch barrel.  Make what ever size opening in the clamps that you’ll need to fit your specific barrel.   A 2 X 4 was sectioned in order to construct mine. 

Tip: Use as fine of grain that you can get.  The finer the grain, the more strength you will have.  That equates into prolonged serviceability and added durability when the barrel gets wedged into the clamps. 

I first made certain that the end of my 2 X 4 was square.  Then I measured up 3 1/2 inches on the center-line of the board and made a pencil mark.  The reason I chose 3.5 inches was because I wanted the center of my barrel to be at that point.  This also coincides with the center of my chuck. 



Then a rectangular box was drawn around that point that is 1″ wide and 1 1/2 inches tall.  This becomes the mortise that the barrel sets in. 


From the end of the board, a line was scribed at 6 1/2 inches to mark the top of the clamp.  And since I wanted rounded tops on my clamps, another line was drawn 1 ” below that top line and the edges of a round can was placed so that both lines were touched by the can.  A curved line was scribed on both sides of the 2 X 4.


The next step was to lay out the clamp’s tenon.  From the bottom edge of the clamp, I measured up 1 and 1/2 inches and a line was laid out.  From that line, and on each side, another line was scribed 1/2 inch in. 


The bottom edge was shortened by 1/16 inch.  This is to prevent the bottom of the clamp creating drag later on.  The two narrow rectangles were slabbed off and 1/4 inch holes were drilled in the rectangular box.  These holes give the blade of your saber saw/jig saw room to maneuver in.


Then the wood was sawn out and the edges rasped as smooth and as square as I could get.  Then I did some fit and rasp trials until a 1 inch barrel would just slide through.


The following photo shows how I indicate which size a particular clamp is.

The next step was to go back and make a second clamp.  It should come out better because you’ve had practice!


Now, let’s go back to the carriage and using a knife, carefully cut the outline of the two boxes previously drawn.  Go over the lines two or three times in order to get about 1/16″ depth.

Use the knife to “back trench” those cut lines.  BE SURE TO DO THIS ON THE INSIDE OF THE BOX!  Don’t laugh.  Someone has already goofed up on the outside of the lines.  Back trenching is merely cutting into the cut line at about a 45 degree angle and removing a triangular shaped piece of wood along the length of the cut.

Next step is to take a 1 inch wood chisel and tap around the back trenched cuts.  Go about 3/32″ deep.

Now, chisel the wood away.

Do this operation two or three times and then fit one of your clamps to check the fit.  Too much slop is to be avoided.  If the fit is close, but a bit too tight, no sweat.  You can always remove the excess wood later by filing, but you can’t put it back.  Go slowly and do a neat job.  If you are handy with a jig saw, you can remove the center of the box as you did with the clamps, but you really have to watch yourself and not make the mortise too large.  Electric tools can ruin a piece of wood quick’ern a cat’s paw!  When the mortise is completed, do a little tweaking if necessary to fit your clamp up to both shoulders.

Now, flip the carriage around and do the mortise at the opposite end as you did before.  You will notice in the accompanying photograph that there are three mortises in the carriage.  The middle mortise is located so the bench will handle a 12 inch pistol barrel as well as a 36 inch or better rifle barrel.  [I will add a fourth mortise on some rainy day to handle the common 26″ barrels.]  Be sure to check the fit of the mortise & clamp!

Two wedges need to be made to hold the barrel in the clamps.  Use a hard wood such as oak, maple, or walnut.  Mine are 3 inches long and made from oak.  They are 5/8 inches wide.  One end is 3/8 inches and the other is 3/4 inches.  You might decide that your wedges need to be of different dimensions.  In use, one wedge is drifted into the clamp, between the top of the barrel and the top of the hole in the clamp.  They are set pretty snug.

 NOTE:  If you drift them in too far, you can break the top out of the clamp.  The second wedge is drifted in the same, but with one exception.  The small end of the wedge points the opposite direction that the small end of the first wedge points.  This way you have pressure applied in two directions and you will not be as apt to have a barrel come loose in the clamps as often.

The last operation performed is to drill a hole to store the chuck key and keep it handy.

Rack & Lever

The ream bench can be used as is by grasping the clamps and exerting force against the reamer or bore, moving the carriage with barrel mounted, towards the header box & chuck.  I have found it often more convenient to install a series of pegs alongside the bench and use a lever to propel the carriage.  Here is how I go about it.


First a half-dozen 4″ pegs are sawn from a 1″ dowel.  They are nothing fancy, but the edges have been chamfered.  Once in a while you can find some Ramin wood dowels that are striped.  Stain them to bring out the stripes and dress up the bench!

A piece of 2 X 4 was found that was between 4 and 5 feet long.  I tapered the ends and did some sanding.  Laying the 2 X 4 on it’s side, a pencil mark was scribed down the center and then marks were placed 3 or 4 inches apart (your choice) on the center line.  These marks indicate where the peg holes will be.

Next came the fun part.  A one inch spade bit was used and the chips really flew!  The holes were sunk to 1 7/8″ deep.  Man, I just love the smell of fresh pine, don’t you?

Since I chose to not mount the 2 X 4 rack flush with the opposite gib, I scribed a line on the back side of the rack to allow me to mount it at the desired height.

The next step is to decide where you wish to drill holes for the deck screws used to mount the rack to the bench.   Mark the locations on the back of the 2 X 4 and pre-drill the holes.  Be sure to use an ample quantity of screws because of the pressures you’ll induce while driving the carriage down it’s bed….and DON’T drive screws through your peg holes!  Once the holes have been drilled, clamp the rack on the side of the bed and drift those deck screws in.

Lookit all them screws!

Next, mount the pegs into the holes and make yourself a lever.  Mine was made from a piece of close grain 2 X 4.  It’s actual dimensions are 2″ wide by 26 inches long.  The handle has been tapered for the comfort of my dainty, lily white hands.

That’s it.  She’s finished!  Easy wasn’t it?  I’ll be painting the bench with the exception of the carriage bed.  Perhaps a nice bold white with red pin stripes.  Once you get started with this project and run into a snag, remember:  IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, I HAVE ANSWERS.

Many thanks to Brother Eric “Angus” Leonard for his suggestions and assistance with this project.

Well, here she is, boys.