I used to do this using the "Imagine 3D" ray-tracing package on the Amiga last century (lol!), but have just got into Maya ...
In Imagine3D I used to be able to create an axis (a pivot) and treat it as an object. Then I could create a new object (say a polygon cylinder) away from the axis, and then I could group it with
the axis object. Then I could rotate the axis object and the cylinder would be pivoted around it. Because the cylinder retains its own central pivot point I can still scale the cylinder independently from the other axis object.
Currently in Maya I just move the pivot point of the cylinder (using the "Insert" key), but when I want to scale the cylinder independently it obviously scales it away
from the pivot point, as opposed to the centre of the object. Which is not what I'm after.
Also, is there any way to toggle through multiple objects to select one of them, like a "Select Next" or "Select Previous" option? Currently when I have several similar objects on top of each other it's very hard to select just one of them in particular.