Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ready for mallets

So lately I have been turning mallets. Yesterday I took out the chain saw and cut a few pieces of maple for some more. I want to do up a project page on mallets and like to practice a bit first, especially if I decide to video the turning.

Mallets, in my opinion, are a great beginner project. They allow for lots of expression in a tool that has a definite purpose and hence a definite set of restrictions so you do not turn something that simply does not work. A mallet with a 10 pound head and a thin handle is just nuts. But a mallet with a head that fits the handle may have decorative beads and grooves and the handle could have all sorts of turned decoration without removing its sense of "handle."

Plus this is spindle turning. I see a lot of turners moving from spindles to faceplate stuff and a whole set of skills is being lost. Most wood turners start with spindle turning and then leave it under the impression that faceplate is where it is at. A lot of turned objects are spindle work, handles, newels, mallets, pens, gavels to name a few. This is also a lot of fun.

On the other hand, while I was cutting the maple I found that it was spalted to the point where another winter will not be good for it. Maybe I need to rough a lot of bowls before I lose the whole pile.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Free wood turning advice

A while ago I took a text book on wood turning that had been written in 1919 and reformatted it for the web. It is available for free down load from Project Guttenbergbut works better for the web with a little tweaking (ok a lot but it was fun). Lately I have seen it for sale on the web as the greatest thing since sliced bread for learning wood turning. There is some great stuff in the book and it is a good read for turners both experienced and beginning, but it is a text book. It requires someone to show you some of the dos and don'ts of turning as you go.

In fact, I think the value of the book is twofold. One is to give us an outlook on the history of our craft in the early 20th century and two is for the wealth of line drawing projects in the book. Many things are dated but they are still good. Some of the projects are things like chisel handles for chisels that have a tapered socket and for boxes to hold hat pins. But a good handle is easily adapted and a nice box is a nice box.

One thing the book is not is a primer for modern turning. Bowl gouges were not around when the book was written, nor were 4 jaw scroll chucks nor High Speed Steel tools. Sharpening jigs were virtually unknown, certainly not in the forms we now have them. Many of the modern finishes and for that matter abrasives did not exist.

This is a good book and a lot of fun, but not the be all and end all of learning to turn wood. With a good instructor and some editing it would be a good text today. Gradually, I hope to have the projects presented on the web page in some form as I did for the table lamp.

Presently I am working on the pages for a mallet based on those in the book. Some of the differences include using a set of auxiliary jaws for a scroll chuck to be sure the handle is centered correctly and making one with an oval handle. Over the years it would be good to have all the projects with pictures and at least some with video. I am also working on pages for the use of the various tools now available. It is a lot of fun, and I intend to keep it free. It seems more in the spirit of wood turning.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Wooden Spoon Video Part 5

It is Sunday morning as I write this. In a short tome I will be at church. Yesterday I conducted a funeral for a man only three years older than myself. Thoughts of faith more than wood are part of today's picture.

As I got to the bowl of the spoon, most of the wood turning became air turning. You have to have an idea of line and turn for it even though most of what is whirling there is air. The "ghost" of the object is all that can be seen. Once the idea is formed and the path of the skew is committed, you just cut and trust that learned skills will carry you through to an appropriate end.

There is an expectation of result here as well, watching the wood spin. All that the cutting will do at this point is leave the outline of the bowl. It is not deep enough for the cuts to reach the bottom so all it does is outline the bowl with hopefully pleasing symmetry. A lot of carving will remain to remove the rest of the wood and leave, finally, a working example of a pleasing spoon.

Sometimes wood turning is just wood turning and sometimes it is faith. Every time I turn it is an exploring of creation and Creator. Life is good.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wooden Spoon Video Part 4

The wooden spoon continues as I get farther along the shaft and start the transition from the shaft to the bowl. This is the place where the whirling bowl can do some damage if you are not careful. On the other hand, this is the sort of thing that makes turning fun. It is also the first place where you realize that the handle is not on the same centerline as the bowl. When this comes off the lathe, the bowl will have the handle raised off the table when sitting. This simply makes the spoon easier to pick up. There is not a lot of need for huge diameters here either. 3/8" or 1/4" will certainly work although you could leave 1/2" because people think it is sometimes needed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wooden Spoon Video Part 3

So far this video stuff is becoming quite an education. Anyway, I have the third part of the spoon up now. This is just roughing down the shaft. As I have been doing this I realize that most of the wood turning is done with the skew.
This is one of the simplest wood turning tools we have. All it is is a straight piece of steel with a handle on one end and a cutting edge on the other. No fancy curves or flutes. Still it allows for lots of plain and fancy cuts. It is the easiest tool for a smooth cut on spindles along with beads and reasonably long coves.
More and more I find myself reaching for a chisel as I turn spindles, either a skew chisel or a straight. The spindle gouges are there but they seem more awkward than my chisels. Maybe I am just lazy and hate to sand. Hope you enjoy the video.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wooden Spoon Video Part 2

I have posted a second part of the wooden spoon video. When I get it all edited I will put it up on the page for a download to CD (free of course). The interesting thing here is my using a spur center in the chuck to turn the handle fit the chuck itself. This is a regular, Morse tapered center. There is no need to purchase a special center for your chuck, the usual one works fine.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Garden Dibber: Oval Handle

I was fooling around making garden dibbers with tapered oval handles and put up a page on the site. This is an intermediate project just because the handle needs to be turned from three centers and becomes offset. In other words, a lot of the time you end up turning air. A dibber is used in gardening and this time of year some people use them for planting bulbs. Oval spindle turning is not difficult but seems to be something we have left out of our present turning vocabulary. Basically, if you can turn a regular spindle you can also turn an oval. Just be sure the wood is held strongly between centers as the tool will rattle it with every revolution.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wood Turning Tool Thoughts

One of the few "standard" tools that I use a lot is a roughing gouge. For all you who turn spindles, this is likely a standard for you as well. One of the considerations for lathe tools is simply cost. The rise of high speed steel (HSS) in recent years for the manufacture of wood turning tools has elicited the development of powdered metal tools and cryogenically treated tools and likely some that have people doing strange dances in the light of the full moon over weird alloys and configurations. All this seems to be either in pursuit of the tool that never needs sharpening, that cuts the wood on its own, or makes a lot of profit for someone.

I turn wood and some of it has embedded rocks, the occasional nail, once or twice a bullet, and often grit and grime that along with various silicas in the wood oil itself, dulls a tool. Smacking a nail at speed with a tool ruins an edge whether the tool is old carbon steel, new HSS or one of the fancies. Never mind searching for the elusive never sharpen edge, make or buy a sharpening jig and get back to turning.

The thought of having a tool that cuts wood on its own destroys the whole process for me. I turn because I like to. There are easier ways to make money (my hats off to all you pros)and cheaper sources for bowls and pens and the rest of the stuff we make. Not better and most of the time not nearly so good, but cheaper sources are out there.

I understand people making profit and long may the wood turning supply people do so. It will keep them in business and our supply of tools available. However, you need to ask yourself what tool is reasonable to buy? Remember, every tool and every purchase is a compromise of sorts.

For me, tools of M2 HSS make sense. They hold an edge that is both sharp enough for efficient cutting and easy to sharpen. Carbon steel takes a sharper edge that may be better for final cuts but I sharpen them on the same grinding wheel so the difference is minimal. HSS holds the edge a lot longer and is much more forgiving in sharpening. The other metals are more expensive than I need.

Back to that roughing gouge. I bought it as part of a set from Record. Nice tools all. It has a good shape and sufficient metal thickness for wear and use. I replaced the handle because I like a longer one than the one it came with. When I replace it in a couple of more years of sharpening I will likely get another set. Most sets have roughing gouges and for a little more than the price of a roughing gouge itself I will likely get a couple of spindle gouges, some scrapers and a skew to play with. All of them will be HSS and good value. It does not take a lot of money to have nice tools to play with.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wooden Spoon Video Part 1

I have been playing some more with the video camera and put up a bit of video over on YouTube dealing with mounting a blank for a wooden spoon. It is a nice piece of offset turning for anyone who has not done it before. Basically it is just a matter of lining things up so that the part of the handle that contacts the bowl is above center. This lets the handle be at an angle when the spoon rests on a work surface. While I define the lines of the bowl while at the angle I have a friend who turns these things commercially and he turns the bowl on center and the handle off. It remains to carve the bowls after the turning is done.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Wood Turning Project: Table Lamp in Spalted Birch

Vacation is sort of underway. I anticipated doing a lot of wood turning for vacation including a 2 hour drive to see my folks and pick up an oak tree that a friend had to cut down. His description is of 2 foot thick and long blocks, but it has been down fo a while and it may be cracked. None the less, good wood is good wood and I do like a piece of red oak on the lathe. Shavings, wood lathe, turning, now that sounds like vacation time. Of course there is reality as well.
Does driving a van load (and I do mean load) of furniture 21 hours from Nova Scotia to Ontario and setting up my daughter's apartment count as vacation? While we were there my son got me to visit his kung fu school. I had to wring out my t-shirt after the workout.
Vacation? Now I am redoing a room in the house (remove the wall paper, mud and sand the walls, paint, remove the carpet, and put down laminate). Then there is the garage roof to shingle. Vacation is where you find it. Anyhow, I managed to get a page up dealing with turning a lamp for my daughter's apartment. There are no links to it as yet from "What's New" or the contents page but it is at Lamp Project
As always, any problems with the pages would be appreciated to be reported.

Monday, September 03, 2007

New Wood Turning Challenge

The vacation trip is going well. We have moved my daughter into her new apartment and she has a cat, which I am told is necessary in order to have a true home. I have had little time to see any wood turnings except for a few which my daughter and my son have. I am amazed to see the pieces and realize that I have turned them. Often they look better after I have been away from them for a while. At one of the hotels we stayed at I saw an interesting lamp in some sort of mass produced porcelain. I think it will make a nice wood turned lamp when all is said and done. The body could be a hollow form to reduce weight and the top and base could be turned in contrasting woods. I think I will make the base round instead of square. Comments?