fluted columns


Active member
I am making a turned column for a music stand which will be fluted.  Is there a general rule on the width of the flute and the space between flutes (or a ratio thereof)?

I have been experimenting with the width, depth and the spacing and would love some input from those who have carved flutes before.

Also, any advice on proven techniques or methods to keep them straight and sharp are appreciated.


Rolly Rhodes
10, 12, 16 and 18 flutes are common (16 or 18 look pleasing to my eye, at least). The lands should be the same width as the flutes and the flutes should be half as deep as they are wide.

I usually make fluted or reeded columns on the lathe with an open box secured to the lathe. The box sides guide a scratch stock, though a tailed router could be similarly employed.
Jack, are the number of flutes always even?  I began with 12 and thought that left too much width for the lands. I thought of increasing by one flute to see what that would provide. The column is 6" in circumference.  Possibly the flute is too narrow. 

I found Jeff Headley's Fine Woodworking article (issue #211) to be helpful along with your method. I will make a scratch stock as you suggested.

Thank you for your input.
The flutes are usually even in number, but not always – I've seen fifteen flutes on a few columns).

If the lands are wider than the flutes, it will be necessary to increase the width (and depth) of the flutes, or increase the number of flutes. I presume the column is tapered. I would measure the maximum diameter of the area to be moulded and decide on the most appropriate number of flutes/lands. The flutes should themselves taper to the top of the column which is achieved by the aforementioned open box whose upper edges/scratchstock guides are coaxial with the column's centre and not parallel with the taper.
Jack, with your method would I be correct in concluding that with a tapered column the flutes would be smaller in width and depth at the top?  So the lands would stay parallel?
The relationship between flutes and lands should remain constant along the entire taper of the column.


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My Grandfather came up with what I will call a lathe that spins but you can't turn on. Try to figure that one out. It holds like a lathe. The centers are equal distance from the base. Scrapers and assorted cutters can be set to cut or scrape from the side not the top. It will follow any contour. I will take a card scraper to my local machinist and have her cut the card scraper to certain width which can be ground to whatever contour I desire.