Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wood Everywhere

November is here already. As a matter of fact, it is almost half gone and the stores are all Christmas nutty. One of the things that is happening around my part of the world; Nova Scotia, Canada; is the sudden appearance of wood piles as folks get in next year's wood.

The idea is to get green wood this year to cut to length and split for next year's fires once it is dry. Some folks even go a couple of years ahead. However, this is a woodturner's dilemma. What wood to turn and what wood to burn?

Advice? Keep the best looking stuff. Crotch wood has some great grain but can be hard to dry. So what? If it splits it is fire wood. No loss. The same with twists and turns and burls. Look for some good grain and if you find it while splitting, keep the logs from near it. If you keep your eyes open, there are some great finds in the wood pile.

By the way, keep some of the plainer, straight stuff for some kitchen spindle work and the like. Clean wood is great too.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Bandsaw Cut

One of the most used tools for some woodturners is the band saw. In fact, I would recommend the band saw over the table saw for most turners while for cabinet enthusiasts the table saw is the first choice. However, while I consider the band saw to be one of the safest saws in the shop, safety is still an issue.

In particular there is the cut through a cylinder, not an infrequent need for many projects. Cylinders roll. If a cylinder rolls while being cut on a band saw, chances are excellent that the blade will get crimped and either draw a hand into the blade, snap the blade, weaken it to where it will snap the next time it is used or so damage it that it will come off the wheel. Of course any combination of the above is also possible.

At best, a piece of wood is damaged and at worst a serious cut is obtained with blood everywhere. Incidentally, if a catch happens it is extremely fast and a band saw for turning usually has at least a 1/2 and likely a 3/4 horse motor. There are very few people in the world strong enough to hand the wood and prevent an accident. Safety first.

Lately I had to cut off a section from a cylinder that had two diameters. For safety reasons I wanted a level cylinder. All that took was a shim under the smaller diameter. To keep the wood from rotating I simply took a clamp that rode on the table and used its holding power to grip the cylinder far more strongly than I could by hand. The arm of the clamp prevents rotation and what might have been a catch simply becomes a cut. Take your time through the cut if the wood is green especially.

Band Saw Safety Cut

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Sticking to Woodturning

There is some debate over the most important additions to the woodturner's arsenal in the past century or two. I am not going to pretend to have a definitive answer, just a couple of observations. Tool innovation has really only made small changes to hollowing, cutting and scraping tools. The four jaw chuck has made life easier in holding work but can be worked around by other methods.

I think one of the great advances has been the improvement in glues. Cyanoacrylate or CA glue in particular is used by woodturners on a daily basis. Thin CA can be dripped into a crack followed by fine dust from the same wood and the crack is almost invisible after the finish is applied. Some people use thin CA as a finish on small objects. Thicker CA is used to glue in brass tubing for pens and other projects. It is also unique in that it can make an almost instant bond with wet wood and can be used to hold a green piece to a waste block for turning.

Still, one of my favorite uses for CA is to simply hold wood together for turning. This CA dripped into a punky spot will keep it hard enough to turn. Thicker CA can glue together a piece that would otherwise split off.

CA has helped us to become better users of rare resources, pretty woods.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Thnks to the Old Timers

Maybe "Old Timers" is a poor phrase to use here. many of the old time turners are not old. Some of them have only have only been turning for a year or two. What makes them "old timers" is simply that they have been turning wood longer than others.

However, what sets woodturning apart from most other crafts is the desire to share information. Old Timers are more than willing to bring a new comer under their wing and get them started on woodturning addiction. There is a sense of camaraderie that needs to be extended into more parts of life.

Most of our woodturning meetings have a couple of sharing times. During one, someone who is advanced in a technique shows the rest of us how they do it. Another more informal sharing time is the show and tell. People who have been turning for a few weeks or a lot of years bring in their latest pieces and talk about how they made them. Comments are almost always encouraging and often the old timers will quiz the new guys on how they did something.

questions, encouragement, sharing, friendship, humility

Who would NOT want to be a part of this? Maybe this is why a number of our club do not turn, they just like the meetings.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Another Use for Bottom Jaws

Woodturners have variations on how to turn the bottom of bowls. Most use a donut jig or some sort of chuck jaws such as ones with plans on my web site, Bottom Jaws. However, any of these methods can also answers what has been a problem for many of us, how to save a bowl that has become a funnel.

By this I mean the times that I have had a bowl almost finished to find that a lapse in attention has caused me to turn through the bottom into the waste block I commonly use. I know; using a depth gauge would have prevented the difficulty but so would hove not permitting my mind to wander. However, I do know that I am not alone here, most of us have some pretty kindling with nice bowl sides and a hole in the bottom.

One way to solve the problem is to glue on a separate piece of wood to the bottom of the bowl and turn it cleanly. The difficulty is remounting to the lathe so as to leave everything centered. The answer is a flip.

1) glue the new bottom in place and about 1/4" too thick.
2) mount the bowl in the bottom jaws
3) turn a tenon on the bottom
4) FLIP the bowl over so as to hold the tenon in regular chuck jaws
5) turn the inside, sand and finish
6) FLIP the bowl into the bottom jaws
7) remove the tenon
8) turn and finish the bottom

hope it helps

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Simple Tool Rack

I had a question lately about making a tool rack for woodturning tools. Generally I have seen three variations on the theme.
1) a series of tubes on end to take the tool shafts. The tubes may be in a bucket or box.
2) a box similar to a shallow drawer, sometimes literally a shallow drawer with dividers to keep the tools from rolling into one another and ruining the edges
3) a board with holes drilled into it to accept the tool shafts. The board is usually fastened to a wall or near the lathe.

I like the latter concept as it is quick to make and convenient to use. However, even easier is to pick up one of those tool holders at the discount bin of the hardware store. They seemed designed to hold all sorts of screw drivers and wrenches or the life but the holes seem to fit things life standard lathe tools, knock out bars, tommy bars for chucks, lathe wrenches and the like.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Poppy Hint

Here in Canada Remembrance Day is just around the corner, November 11, and poppies are being presented for donation reception by our Legionnaires. Lots of other
countries celebrate the same day under different names like Armistice Day or even Poppy Day. When I was serving as Legion Padre in Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, we would gather at the cenotaph in Perth for 11:00, move to the the cenotaph in neighboring Aroostook Village to conduct their cenotaph service, and then go to Fort Fairfield, Maine to assist the VFW in their service as they did not have a padre. Besides, some of our memberes had served in the American forces.

As a pastor, nephew of veterans, former Legion padre, and part time services padre, I encourage everyone who can to donate to the work of the Legion and VFW and to wear the poppy to commemorate the day and be thankful for the peace we enjoy. Take time during the day to pray for our vets and for the new ones being created in so many parts of the world. Of course I am thinking today of Afghanistan and Iraq in particular, but our men and women are fighting in many parts of the world and still lay down their lives for God, family and country.

Here is hint for the poppy wearers. I am one of those people who can lose a poppy just by thinking about it, or not. So, if you are one of those woodturners who makes ear rings and has a stash of ring backs, put one over the pin of your poppy so it does not fall off. Other wise go to the cheapie display of jewelry at the discount store and pay a buck or two for some gaudy junk you would not be caught dead wearing or knowing that giving it to your wife may be an act of suicide. After all, why toss the good stuff? Dump the ear rings and keep the backs for poppies. Now you can afford to give extra for the poppy because you know you only need one and fewer will be wasted. Better for the environment and everyone else.

By the way, for extra brownie points get a really nice pair of earrings, hide them until after Remembrance Day, use the backs for the poppies, get the extra back from your wife and then give her the earrings. That of course is for the fellas. Ladies can find their brownie points on their own.

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae
Written in Flanders on May 3, 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sharpening: Halloween Helper

Here is a quickie for people struggling to picture the shape needed for a spindle gouge and in some cases a bowl gouge with swept back wings. It is also the shape I sometimes use for an Oland tool, especially for bowls.

Some people call the shape a lady's finger nail. The other day I saw a perfect example in a local dollar store. The Halloween stuff was up for display and among all the clown paint and fake blood there were some packages of ridiculously long fake nails. They looked the perfect shape for a spindle gouge at 60*

Not a bad sharpening aid for the price. Sure, some folks might look at you funny when they see long, red, plastic nails by the grinder, but the cuts should be good.

Have a nice Halloween and may all your tools be sharp.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sharpening, Once Again

I have been catching up on my emails to be answered and one question that comes up over and over again is that of sharpening. Really this is not surprising. After all, dull woodturning tools make for lousy and frustrating woodturning. Add to this the prevailing argument over free hand or jig sharpening and you either get a frustrated newbie who

  1. can not get the hang of freehand sharpening that we who have turned for a while learned after only two or three years
  2. decides the only way to go is to get a jee whiz bang jig and then finds out that it adds a hundred or two to his after lathe cost of tools, grinder, special wheels, sanding pads, and whatever else
Years ago I built my $2.50 sharpening jig with the understanding that if it worked well for me, I would get a commercial one. You see, I was not convinced that I wanted to go from free hand to jig sharpening. The jig worked so well that I never got around to replacing it. One of these days I may, in a fit of energy, remake it in metal, but I doubt it. It works so well, why fix it?

jig with spindle gouge

There are not so much plans since every grinder is a bit different, but rather a discussion of building with photos over at sharpening jig. If you keep going to the last page there are videos of it working. For a couple of bucks, it is worth a shot.

Hope it helps. Keep turning.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Video in the works

Sorry to be so long in posting. I am working on it as life settles down into the new church, a different schedule for karate, and less time at the lathe. A question that has been raised to me a few times now is where to begin turning?

By this most woodturners to be seem to wonder if they should start by making table legs or spurtles or bowls or whatever. I think the best thing to start with is making a stick and a bunch of shavings. In fact, I think it is good for an experienced turner to make a stick and a bunch of shavings every now and then.

It teaches us or reminds us from whence we come. Take a log and mount it onto the lathe between centers and start removing stuff. First a rough object is reduced to a smooth one. The features of the log are revealed; knots, weak wood, insect holes and the like. Practice is given in entering at a precise place, cutting downhill with the grain, riding the bevel and so on.

Besides, this is fun and a lot of shavings are obtained for the compost pile.

I have shot the footage of me turning down a 10" diam by 16" log and should have it edited and uploaded soon. I will let you know.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Back to Burl

At the moment there are a lot of things going on in life, but for now we are back from vacation, I have not started my new church and will not for about 10 days, and the garden is sort of getting past. There is still the fall yard clean up, but that will get done eventually. For now I plan to get back to the lathe a bit.

That burl is still on there and is ready to come off. It has been hollowed and is dry as dust. What remains is to remove it from the faceplate and turn away the waste wood while finishing the base. Then the sanding needs to be finished and the finish applied. The fun part is deciding how to turn away the waste considering that the top is not even. This is just one of those things that makes burls fun.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Great Legs from Paris

I'm back. In fact my wife and I are back from a week in Paris followed by a week in the Lake District of England. The trip was great except for having my wallet lifted in Paris. Thankfully there was little cash in it and I canceled the cards before they could be used. All it amounted to was a nuisance.

While we were in Paris we saw hardly any turnings in the shops. There must be some somewhere, but I failed to see it. However, when I went to the Louvre there were a couple of turnings in the Egyptian section. All the way to France to see turnings from Egypt, this is a small world.

Notice the legs here
Egyptian wood turned table legs
These are well turned with mortises cut for stringers and beads to decorate the feet. What is remarkable is the similarity to something we might turn today but these are from the New Kingdom, around 1550-1069 BC, say around 3000 years ago. Talk about nothing new under the sun.

Then there was this table (sans the top) from the same time period.
Egyptian woodturnings, table baseIn fact, the work is so similar that it may have been the same maker. On the other hand, it could just have been the style or for that matter a request to duplicate the existing furniture.

There was some other wood around but no other turnings that I saw. It is remarkable to me that wood has lasted 3000 years. On the other hand, there may have been lots of turnings in the Louvre. Only a part of what is on hand is displayed and it would take ages to see just the displays.

Lots of fun and lots to think about.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The first pages are up

I have gotten the first pages up about this new spruce burl. I think this one will be a vase shape. The top will be a challenge because the opening is larger in principle than it is in practice. That is, the shape of the opening looks like it should give more room to get a tool inside than is really the case. This will make more sense as the piece progresses.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Next Burl

So here is a picture of the next spruce burl on the lathe. it was wrapped around a branch as you can see. One of the things I think is going on in the branch is tension that may lead to a split, but that should not matter in a decorative piece like this will be. There are a lot of worm holes in this one. I suspect the spruce bark beetle. It has decimated some of the stands around here although nothing like the pine bark beetle has done out west.

This one is a lot of fun. I will try to get a couple of pages up on the web site in a couple of days.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Wood turning today

Things have been quiet in the shop. On the weekend we took a trip to Ontario to visit our son and daughter. It was a great time and I saw a lot of trees, but there was little time to turn any wood or to meet with fellow wood turners. Maybe next trip. When we got home I had a raspy throat which did not bode well, especially since I had a funeral to handle the next day. Sure enough it developed into a terrible head cold. I got through the funeral as if there was a choice, but no time in the shop. Today was the last day of a weeks vacation but it was all I could do to get out of my own way. Tomorrow I hope to get back to a piece that is on the lathe, another spruce burl hollow form. I will try to get some pictures up soon.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Remounting the Natural edged Bowl

I have managed to get a video up on YouTube regarding remounting the natural edged bowl, preparatory to finish turning. This one illustrates well the use of a hot glue block.

There have been some questions raised as to the use of hot glue with a glue block.

  • it is the same glue the crafters use. I have used heavy duty but find it no better.

  • make sure the gun is hot

  • the wood surfaces need to be reasonably flat or very slightly concave

  • the surfaces need to be dry

These are just the precautions you would use with any glue block. However, with hot glue there is no real need to clamp and you can turn right away.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Work in Progress : Done The Spruce Burl

Let the bells ring out and the banners fly or fry or whatever they want. I finally got the spruce burl finished and it looks good if I do say so myself. Any comments are appreciated here. I like to learn.

This was a lot of fun and I have another one on the go. Soon I will get some pictures and stuff up about it too.

These burls allow for a lot of reflection as they turn, both the light from them and the light that dawns as considerations are given to the next cut or sanding pass. The nice thing about spruce burls in our neighborhood is their commonality. Lots of them and most are just thrown away so they are fun to play with and if one blows apart, there is usually another to hand. come to think of it I have not ruined one in a long time. Maybe I am not pushing the envelope enough.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Work in Progress : hollow form bottom

I got the bottom sanded and done. One of the questions I get asked frequently is about doing bottoms, as in "how to?" It turns out (all puns intended) that one of the easiest ways to accomplish a good bottom is not to turn it but rather to sand it. The motion is to mount a sanding pad to a lathe, drill press or other motor and work the wood against the pad.

Start with a motion that begins in the middle and works its way to the edge. Concentrate on sanding almost to the edge. You will actually get right to the edge and the start in center will leave the bottom concave so it will sit right.

I use a wood burner to put my name, the type of wood and the year along the bottom. Indelible ink pens like an ultrafine Sharpie work well here also. The page is found at working the bottom

Thursday, March 20, 2008

work in progress: burl on the lathe - remove the block

I have put a couple more pages up on the web site dealing with turning the spruce burl. The piece has been flipped end for end and the glue block removed. This is one of the things that throws people at first but it is fairly simple. Just take your time.

It is easy to rush things this near the end. Unfortunately, that can make a catch happen and there is not a lot of wood left on the piece. One good catch and boom she goes. While there is a lot said about riding the bevel and making sure the edge is sharp and all that other true stuff, the big thing is to take your time. There is no need to rush.

Think about the cut.
Make the cut.
Look at the result.
Do it over.

Remember that the fun is in the doing and the result is just nice to see. Ok, a lot of the fun is in the result too, but take the time to enjoy the cuts. Chances are, none of us enjoy the catches.

Have a good Easter.


Friday, March 14, 2008

work in progress: burl on the lathe - outside prep

I have managed to finish hollowing the vase or hollow form or whatever this burl is, and I have gotten the outside ready to finish. see it here
It introduces one of the questions that may hit several times as you turn a burl that allows a glimpse into the interior, "how much of the interior should be revealed and what do the edges of the opening look like?" A lot of the time the change from one thickness to another at the unsupported edge of the openings will allow a very thin membrane of wood to extend over the opening or negative space of the burl.

Those membranes can be left or removed. Each change alters the amount of light that enters the vessel along with varying shadows. The style of edge affects shadows and depth perceptions. How shall these things be done so as to leave the natural look of the burl but also expose its beauty to the viewer?

Hopefully I have begun to answer the questions.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

work in progress continues: hollowing

I have had a couple of hectic weeks of funerals at work, annual meetings, and computer problems. In fact I am writing this on my laptop because my desktop, and favoured computer, is in the shop.

I did get a bit if time in the shop and also some time to write up a couple more pages on the spruce burl. One of the things I noticed as I was hollowing the piece is the drilling of the center with a 1/4" gouge. This is something I learned from Maurice Gamblin who has been turning professionally for twenty years now. Still I do not see many others doing it. I have used drills for the purpose but the gouge is easily as fast and more versatile. In fact, many vessels can be hollowed using only the gouge.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the pages

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

work in progress: burl on the lathe 2

The work on the burl continues after a day or so hiatus. I had a funeral and that takes precedence over everything, even turning. Nice fellow, but sixty years of heavy smoking catches up with you. Lung cancer. Take care of yourselves and use those dust masks when sanding.
Anyway I got the piece roughed and attached a faceplate and glueblock to be able to use all the burl. I have used epoxy which is likely overkill, but I like overkill especially when I take the chance of throwing something at my face. You can see the work as it continues if you would like to take a look.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spam warning

I just checked my blog here and found a comment by Tojagal. Clicking on it immediately led me to one of those obnoxious registry scanner programs designed to scare the crap out of anyone who does not know better. Total spam. The comment has been deleted. Do not click on comments by Tojagal. Spam, spam, spam. Now back to wood turning.

Friday, February 22, 2008

work in progress: burl on the lathe

I managed at last to get a chance to get a couple of pictures and thoughts up about the first spruce burl. It is about 10" x 10" but will likely produce an 8" hollow form given the vagaries of burls. So far I have been able to make some design decisions and find out some of the difficulties it will throw at me. I expect to use the regular hollowing tools for this one, but it has introduced some interesting problems in mounting. The wood is soft and displays some of the common punky and spalted woods that are often found in spruce burl. On the other hand, it also has some of those bark inclusions, sap pockets and incurves that make these so much fun. Challenges are only design opportunities after all.
starting the burl

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Work in Progress

I have been having some difficulty with uploading to YouTube so the next installment on the natural edged bowl will be a while, but at least I am trying. Meanwhile I have started another work in progress. This time it is deciphering a pile of wood that is mostly burls.

One of them, the large spruce burl has to made into a fruit bowl, I think with the natural edge obvious. The folks who own the big burl, I think maple, want a piece made with the burl surface obvious or emphasized. Other than that, it will be whatever the wood and I want. To start with I am going to do something with one of the smaller spruce burls.

This should be fun.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sharpening Wood Turning Tools (3)

One thing a wood turner must do is rid oneself of the notion that the tool in the shop is a grinder, at least most of the time. For sharpening things like plane irons and chisels we have all sorts of things like sandpaper of various grits, oil or water stones, strops and who knows what all. To each his or her own.

For wood turning tools, we generally go straight from the grinder to the lathe. However, in this case the grinder is the sharpener. It is set up differently from that of a general shop worker or metal worker. Instead, it is set up to work with wood turning tools so as to give them a good edge and get quickly back to work.

For this I like a general purpose grinder available at most hardware stores. Mine is a high speed grinder, 1350 rpm. I realize that some like a slower sharpener but again to each his or her own. The reason stems from older tools make of carbon steel and also from a lack of experience. Improper technique on a fast sharpener tends to build up heat that will destroy the temper of carbon steel tools. Today's high speed steel (HSS) tools will be fine. Good technique makes a world of difference as in almost everything else.

Most grinders come with wheels well suited for grinding, not sharpening. One is likely coarse and the other medium. I like to put the medium one on the right side for grinding away nicks or dents in tools or to shape them when necessary. I do not like the little tables that come on most grinders and made a larger one for mine.

The left side becomes the sharpening side with an 80 grit or 100 grit aluminum oxide wheel. Some people like the white wheels but I find them too easy to wear and prefer a normal consumer wheel which for some reason wears better and costs a lot less.

Keep the wheels clean and round with a wheel dresser. I have used both a diamond dresser and a star wheel dresser and both work well. Clean wheels cut better and cooler.

On the left side goes a jig for sharpening. I simply find it gives a better, more easily repeatable grind. While some people like the jig for eliminating facets on the tool the best reason for using it is the repeatability of the grind. This allows your body to become used to the angles and learn to turn with the same tools, building habits of control. This is especially important for beginners. Once a lot of practice has been made you can more easily compensate for a different grind.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Sharpening Wood Turning Tools (2)

As Derek was saying (see his site by the way at Seafoam Woodturning )The motions used in freehand sharpening are similar to those we use in turning. For instance, to sharpen a roughing gouge one

  1. presents the tool resting on the grinder table (that rest in front of the wheel) with the flute up and the tool not yet touching the wheel.

  2. if right handed the handle is held in the right hand against the right hip

  3. the left hand steadies the tool on the grinder table

  4. raises the handle until the heel of the bevel touches the wheel gently and a hair more until sparks move over the edge

  5. roll the tool to the right as sparks move over the edge

  6. roll the tool to the left as sparks move over the edge

In theory the tool has moved through the same motions as cleaning a fine shaving right and left. The sparks coming over the edge indicate that a sharp edge has been formed and you are ready to turn.

In reality I find this is the time turners move the tool in wide arcs as they inspect the edge for sharpness and for facets on the bevel. If you are unsure of your sharpening enough for this to happen, you will likely consider

  1. the edge not good enough

  2. too many facets on the bevel

  3. the angle has changed

and back to the grinder you go until you have really messed things up or give up in disgust and go to the work anyway and find the edge works fine, but could have been better.

One of the big problems is simply you moved before returning to the wheel. The practice is sound but it needs practice. Try a couple of things.

  1. practice the motions with the grinder off. Feel the bevel on the wheel and do it several times. So it takes a few minutes; hopefully you are going to do this for the rest of your life.

  2. ignore the facets. No one else will see them and they will not really affect the final cut no matter what the jig using people like me say.

  3. ignore the angle. You have not likely changed it enough to matter. A degree or so is not the damage most people think. If you are off five degrees or more you really need a coarser wheel to reshape it and that is another subject.

  4. most important of all, do not move your hands from their anchor as you look at the edge. The left stays on the tool shaft and the right on the handle at your hip. That way you become the jig and the tool returns to the same place each time

I hope this helps. More thoughts to come.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sharpening Wood Turning Tools

There has been a discussion in progress over rec.crafts.woodturning dealing with some of the ins and outs of sharpening wood turning tools. I thought I would post a few of my views.

First of all, there is no definitive way to sharpen out tools and the same person will use different methods of sharpening say a skew versus a roughing gouge. I, for instance, would sharpen a skew free hand but use a jig for the roughing gouge, at least most of the time. A bowl gouge I would almost always sharpen with a jig for long wings but likely freehand for straight across but sometimes would reverse that. While I would like to give coherent reasons for doing so it probably depends more on mood than logic.

One of the problems that beginners have and continue having as they begin turning is the mastery not of sharpening, but of sharpening turning tools. Many turners begin their woodworking careers with flat work of some sort. There router bits and table saw blades are generally sent out for sharpening while chisels and plane irons are sharpened with an assortment of stones or sandpaper and possibly a few jigs. There also tends to be a fairly long interval between sharpenings. Not so with wood turning.

A wood lathe simply moves wood over the edge of the tool faster than does most other wood working methods. Wood turners also tend to use wood that is rougher than flat woodworkers and it may still have bark and grit in it. The edge of the tool simply does not last for very long under such circumstances.

Flat workers tend to use grinders to remove large amounts of metal under circumstances such as dents and nicks that call for a tool to be reshaped. A wood turner uses a grinder to quickly sharpen and get back to work. The fine edge of the wood plane simply disappears under the speed and fury of the lathe but the edge from the grinder lasts sufficiently well and cuts sufficiently well to be considered more than adequate for the job.

So a grinder should be thought of as a sharpener and only enough metal should be intended to be removed so as to leave a good cutting edge. For this reason some turners think a slow speed grinder is best for the job as it is cooler to work with and supposedly removes less metal. Others such as myself like a high speed grinder as with high speed steel heat is not an issue and I only intend to remove enough steel to leave a good edge. Enough is enough whether one uses a fast or slow grinder.

Over the next few days I will add some thoughts on free hand sharpening versus the jig.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Natural Edged Bowl - Roughing Inside

Ta Dah! this is the 100th entry on the blog. Applause please. Now that we have that over, I have managed to get another video up on YouTube dealing with the natureal edged bowl. This is the fun part, roughing the inside. This is also the quickest part, especially here with so much air to turn. Air turns fast. Duh! As always, comments are appreciated.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Back to Basics

I have been working on some things for the new website in answer to questions specifically from beginners. More and more I am convinced that we need to get back to the fundamentals of turning. In some ways the direction of turning today seems to reflect the direction of education.

Our educational system in North America appears to be ranging away from the fundamentals of societal need to move toward specialization without foundation. By that I mean for example that students are preparing term presentations with video cameras before they can write a script, or for that matter a coherent sentence. Algebra appears to be on the curriculum for students who cannot handle basic arithmetic without a calculator. It used to be that employers considered a high school graduate suitable for training for managerial positions. Now they hope that college graduates can read, write, and balance a check book, but there are no guarantees. Many colleges and universities have entry level courses, mostly non credit, to teach the basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic to incoming students, some of whom were A level graduates of high schools but lack basic skills.

In the same manner, I hear people having bought lathes to turn salad bowls for a living or baseball bats for the team, but have never used the machine before. Many a would be turner goes to the lathe for the first time, puts on a length of construction 4x4, and watches his tool be kicked over his head by a whirling menace. Fundamentals are necessary to learn and practice. The old adage of "walk before you run" works well here.

Wood turnings all work alike; prepare, turn, sand, and finish. The preparation may range easily from chainsaw and log to band saw and board or drill press and pen blank, but wood must be prepared to go on the lathe. Segmented turners will cut and glue for ages but it is all to prepare the wood to go on the lathe.

Turning may be for spindle or faceplate work but tools are still needed to be sharp and presentation needs to be clear. Different woods cut a little differently and need to be learned and approached in their own manner. Too many a new turner has been discouraged with the common spruce or pine of the flat worker to later be amazed at the nice cutting qualities of a piece of maple or ash. Each style of tool requires a slightly or greatly differing approach, but they are all able to be learned and familiarity with one makes the next easier.

Sanding is as important to the wood turner as to any other wood worker. The person who looks at the final piece looks at the surface, not the work in it. Finishing can be as elaborate or as simple as one likes, providing it fits the piece. Some call for dyes, painting, carving, piercing, pyrography or a combination of these and other embellishments. For others it would be gilding the lily.

The fundamentals well learned will let us approach that beautiful piece of hideously rare and possibly expensive wood with confidence. Learning is good.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Embellishments on Turning

We have been having a lot of fun lately over the rec.crafts.woodturning new group over the question: When is a turning not a turning?

Got me, but in some people's eyes, if a turning is pierced, painted, cut apart, glued up, torched, or a combination of any of the above it somehow ceases to be a turning. Actually a turning per se is often a glue up but still regarded as a turned piece and has been for ages, even by the naysayers of today. Candlesticks are often a turned base and riser glued together and some even glue on a separate cup. Still, even the stalwarts of traditionalism consider it a wood turning. Mallets and gavels usually have the head glued to the handle, yet again are called turnings.

On the other hand, some quibble if today a piece is glued to an obviously turned piece that it has ceased to be a wood turning and is now a something else. We are not sure what.

Legitimately, some wood turnings have become canvasses as such for some to paint on. While some may not call them wood turnings, I think starting with a pretty canvas gives you one up on most people. After all, DaVinci painted the Mona Lisa on a small piece of wood, poplar of some sort I recall, but may be in error.

Surprisingly, most would call this piece a turning, even the traditionalists. Actually the idea to burn a picture on wood is an old one. This was really what we call a "save" as opposed to tossing the piece in the fire. It cracked during drying as hollow forms often do and would have been waste. I glued a crack and burned an image into it, then a few more strands to camouflage the first and so on. Ash is not the easiest wood to burn in this fashion, but it seemed to work. Anyway, it was fun.

Maybe folks just need to lighten up and turn more.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Natural Edged Bowl - Roughing Outside (3)Finding the Curve

For me, one of the things that keeps me coming back to the lathe is the everlasting hunt for the elusive curve. Every piece turned could be a little different with a subtle change in the curve of the bowl.

Here I have the fun of hunting in a spot where the curve changes dramatically as the bowl rotates. The line of the end will disappear around the side because the wood is simply not there. So the quest becomes a search for a curve that exists in different configurations at different spots. An ogee at one spot becomes a simple curve at another because half the figure is gone.

This is simply fun. The other side of all this is the wood is cheap to use. As I recall the pin cherry for this turning came from a tree that was too close to Dad's shed and was dying from black knot so it had to come down. Once I got it down, it was too good to toss so here it is.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Drawing the Bowl

One of the more difficult things for a wood turner to learn is where to watch the lines form for a turning. Most of the time we like to look at the tool edge to see where the action is and likely to watch out for a catch.

One of the problems with this is the tendency to over compensate for a cut that is not quite right and make the wrong move with the tool. This produces a dig that needs to be cleared up and produces more work than necessary. What is desired is to be able to see the lines of the piece develop and to make small adjustments in the line of the result. An artist on paper would tell you not to look at the pencil tip but rather at the line.

So a wood turner needs to look away from the tool and seek instead to watch the line of the developing piece. This would then appear somewhat as in the accompanying video. The tool is not seen, just the "ghost" of the piece. This is quite dramatic in this instance as determined by the shape of the piece.

In a very real sense, this is drawing in three dimensions. The only thing is, once a line is in place, it can not be erased except to make the piece smaller. It also leads to a style of turning similar to the broad styles of sketching.

Some artists sketch with a bold line from the top of the subject to the bottom. Others work in short lines. Generally both refine after the main idea in in place and perhaps ink and color as well. Similarly, some wood turners make broad and long cuts down the side of a vessel while others nibble away in small sections and blend it in later. Most of us combine the two.

In a case like this I seldom have a final idea of the shape of the piece except in general terms. This is after all, a bowl and not a vase. However, there may be undercuts or ogee curves or opportunity for carving or piercing or the like as the piece progresses. This is simply the fun of the turning.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Natural Edged Bowl - Roughing Outside (1)

One of the things, if not the thing that makes turning these natural edged bowls fun is simply the amount of air in the mix. That is especially true for one like this that is longer than it is wide. Of course this brings up complications. For one thing, there is really not firm bevel to ride. You depend on the speed of the wood to make up for the gaps and just go for it. As the video goes on you can see the difference in tool movement as I go from the sides with gaps to the bottom with solid wood. The other thing is the difficulty in viewing the bowl. There is so much air that it can be hard to see the wood once it starts turning. I am turning here at 1200 rpm. You need a decent speed to contend with the huge gaps. If you are not comfortable turning a bowl at that speed, just practice on a few regular ones first.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Turning a Natural Edged Bowl - Mounting

I have been playing with a video of turning a natural edged bowl. These are always fun to turn because so much of the turning is really air, not wood. For this one I am using a piece of pin cherry of which I have a lot. I tried to keep the bark on but did not make it this time. It is sort of a crap shoot to keep the bark, depending on when the tree was cut and how long it has been down and likely whether you hold your nose just right. Anyhow, I will put sections up on YouTube and eventually have the whole thing available for download. Hope you enjoy it and as usual any comments and critiques are welcome.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Time just keeps moving on and I seem to play catch up a fair amount of it. While checking the web site for a major rewrite, I found a couple of projects or at least the bones of them, that have not as yet been put up. So I managed to get a beginner project up on the site. It is based on the Milton and Wohlers book that is also on site. Eventually I will have instructions for most of those projects. Some are pretty dated but they all teach the skills of wood turning.

This project gives a handy tool for the shop, a scratch awl. I think the ferrule and striker cost me about 5 cents so you can make a few to keep them handy. The pages are over at scratch awl project

All the best to you and yours. Keep the turning turning. I will try to get the video for this shot and up shortly.