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Drill a hole in the bottom of the 4" x 3" x 3" block of wood, big enough to accommodate the dowel. Glue the dowel into the hole, and allow the glue time to dry.
Secure a chuck to the head stock of the lathe (Image 1).
Insert the dowel into the chuck (Image 2).
Screw the tail stock of the lathe into the top of the block of wood (Image 1).
Make one manual rotation of the block to make sure it doesn't hit the tool rest (Image 2). Set lathe at medium speed (1,200 to 1,400 rpm).
Secure the face plate for protection before turning on the lathe.
Use a gouge to smooth the surface of the block to the desired shape and size.