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.