Belaying Pins without a Lathe

by Steve Lansdowne - Austin, Texas - USA

I don’t have a lathe but wanted to make some belaying pins for a boat I’m building. Here’s how I went about it using a table saw, sander, and drill. (The photos below show a first attempt using another dowel. I later decided to make the pins on opposite ends of one dowel then cut them off as shown in a later photo.)

I started off with a paper pattern of what the finished product would look like from the side, drawing the shape of the handle on one side of the handle area.

I used 3′ of 1 1/4” oak dowel.  Laying it on the sled of my table saw I set the blade for 3/8” and fixed the sled so it would slide the dowel to that point and stay there.




I made two small right angle wood pieces which fit over the dowel, then waxed the part of each that contacted the dowel as well as the dowel itself. I clamped these against the close end of the sled which helped keep the dowel in place against the sled’s end as I rotated it by turning the right end with my right hand.

I made a mark on the dowel 3 1/4” from the left end and another 9” from that same end. The 3 1/4” section would become the handle with the remaining 5 3/4” becoming the base.

With the dowel on the side of the sled closest to me, I lined the first mark up with the blade, the longer length of the dowel on my right. I pushed the sled until it connected with and cut the dowel, then with my right hand slowly rotated and  pushed the dowel to the left, using the motion of the dowel to trim the base end to become a rough 1/2” dowel. (1 ¼ minus 6/8 equals ½.)

Finding the turning to be difficult at times, I fashioned a makeshift handle on the far right end of the dowel. I also made two small right angle shaped pieces which fit over the dowel and, clamped to the close end of the sled, helping keep the dowel in place against the sled’s end as I rotated it. I waxed the outside of the dowel and the inside surfaces of these two pieces to help the turn become easier by the right hand that was doing all the work.

I continued this action until the 9” point, then removed the 3′ dowel from the sled and flipped it over, repeating the process of making another pin as I had just done. I then cut the base of each pin from the full dowel to end up with two pins and 18” of leftover dowel.  I left the full 3′ of the dowel uncut until this point as if I’d cut off one pin sooner the remaining 27” dowel would have been too short to extend past the right side of my saw so I could turn it more easily.

I now had the basic dowel to be smoothed by a rasp and then sanded down further.  I had a bit of extra work where the pin handle met the base to be squared up using a file, chisel, and sandpaper.

I inverted my belt sander and clamped it down.  I marked the pin’s handle where some sanding needed to be done and used the front roller end of the turning sanding belt to fashion this area into a a rough approximation of what I wanted the handle to look like. More sanding with increasingly smaller grit sandpaper got each pin to a point I was satisfied with.

Holding the finished pins in my hand I sensed they felt rather light, with the handle end heavier than the base.  I drilled a 3” deep hole in the end of the base, slid some small lead shot down until the hole was full, then slowly poured a bit of epoxy into the hole, tapping the side of the base a bit until all the air bubbles came to the surface and the hole was completely filled with shot and epoxy.

I chose to finish the pins with boiled linseed oil.

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