Another style of turning

Different turners make different things. One thing I have never tried is segmented turning. This involves accurately cutting and assembling lots of small pieces of wood and turning an item out of the block so patterns become visible. There are some interesting examples including an impressive vase in bloodwood and holly here. A bit different from my work, and not something I am ever likely to do. I’ve often turned holly wood, but never bloodwood.

Today I finish turned the spalted hornbeam bowl I mentioned a couple of days ago, and put the first coat of oil on the mulberry one. That is always a good moment for me because it makes the grain and colour pop out. The mulberry is yellow/gold with a little green in one place. Still not finished though, it needs more coats and then buffing, will probably be another week.

I have also been working on another turning article for my web site, this time on wood dust and its dangers. Everyone knows that dust is harmful to breathe, but there are some misconceptions out there.

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Giant pair of compasses

Today I added another article to my website, this time on how to make a giant pair of compasses to draw large circles. I have to do this quite often when marking out bowl blanks or laying out discs for globe stands etc. I was idly wondering what constitutes a single compass – is it just one of the arms? It’s like scissors. Or trousers. Why are they called a pair?

Next job was to photograph some new bowls. Uploading products on my website sometimes seems harder than making them. A pair of bowls, one in heavily spalted beech and the other in slightly spalted sycamore. The beech came from a ditch in a Devon wood. The log section had fallen there and been lying for a year or so in constant dampness. It was just on the verge of being too far gone and unusable, but that is often the point when it is at its best.

I also finish turned the mulberry bowl I made a few days ago, and another sycamore bowl. I shall oil them tomorrow and I’m keen to see how the mulberry finishes.

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Extreme turning!

Today, James brought the remaining two discs that I mentioned a couple of days back. I needed some help getting them on and off the lathe so I could reduce their diameter. One good thing that came out of it is that he thought of a way to make the lifting easier. Until today, I would screw the blank to a big faceplate then lift them together onto the lathe spindle nose. James realised that by inserting a steel rod through centre holes in each, they would align properly and the rod would support the disc while it was attached. So from now on, I shall put the faceplate on the lathe, insert the rod, lift up the disc onto the rod, then screw the disc and the faceplate together in situ. A much better method,  though still not easy. The faceplate is 1000mm and the disc is bigger than that.

These discs are components for large globe stands for Greaves and Thomas, James’s business. It is his policy always to use reclaimed timber, which is very good, but doesn’t always help the turner. One of these discs is made from very gritty wood, that I would not otherwise want to use. Today, while I did the turning, he was in charge of the sharpening. We had two gouges on the go. I was blunting one on the grit while he sharpened the second. The grit was so bad that it ruined the edge almost as soon as it touched the wood. Extreme turning! I was glad when it was finished.

I have also been working on an article on making chests of drawers for the workshop, to go on my turners’ pages.


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A minor dilemma

Today I have been working on a spalted hornbeam bowl. This wood is very striking, pale in colour but with very prominent black streaks.

On the outside, which is turned first, there was a small dead patch near the rim. After sanding and oiling, it was going to be an asset to the bowl. The dilemma came when I started the inside. As the wall of the bowl got thinner, the dead patch turned out to be loose. It was the decayed remains of a knot, once a small side branch.

There are several options in a case like this. I could have glued the little plug in place. The problem with this is that the glue often shows. Or I could have just turned it away, leaving the bowl shallower. I decided just to let the plug fall out. There is now a small opening at the rim, with a natural inner surface. I think it makes a good contrast with the otherwise smooth wall, and I look forward to seeing it with its finish applied. Bowls seem to come to life when the oil goes on.

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Today I added a new article to my turners’ pages, on setting up a woodturning workshop. I welcome comments. I hope it will be useful to anyone thinking of taking up turning as a hobby, though there is always a possibility that it might put them off when they see what is needed!

My next job was to make some improvements to my workshop dust extraction. I got some new hose and clips from Axminster Tools and used them to rig up a ‘vacuum cleaner’ extension at the lathe end of the workshop. This supplements a similar arrangement at the opposite end and should make it more convenient to clean up. I used a flexible elbow duct section (from a different supplier) for the new line, very ingenious, it has several swivel sections that can in theory make any angle for the elbow, but the swivels stick and it’s hard to adjust them. I managed eventually with a strap wrench and some talc to lubricate the joints.

I also finished the inside of another sycamore bowl and started work on a set of new globe stands.  The bowl is slightly spalted, no spectacular lines and patches this time, but a slight darkening of the colour. I think it will look good after oiling.

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Postage costs!

I posted off a couple of my wooden mice to a customer today. Since the new postal charges came in a few weeks ago, the cost of sending just one little mouse in a Jiffy bag by first class post has gone up to £2.70, nearly double what it was before. I used to think that was high, and it’s not even counting packaging costs. That is a large fraction of the cost of the item, because I don’t charge extra for postage. I had no option but to put up my prices for such small items, hope it doesn’t put customers off too much! I wonder if people would prefer a fixed postage rate? At present I include an extra item free with multiple orders to compensate for the extra postage cost built in to the price of each item.

In the workshop today, I have been making a couple of sycamore bowls. One has a dead branch embedded in the wall like a knot, where the wood grew over the stump, and there must have been trapped grit too because the bowl gouge blunted very quickly. But often, as in this case, the more difficult the wood, the prettier the finished bowl. The other has an interesting small bark inclusion right on the rim and ought to come out nicely. Both still need their bottoms turned.

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Today’s job

Today I had to reduce in size a big mahogany disc I made previously to fit the base of a large globe stand destined for export. I make these for my friend James at Greaves and Thomas – he is a globemaker. The correct finished size is 1 metre diameter. To do this I first had to turn my very heavy Graduate lathe through 180 degrees. Then lift up the disc with its same-size and also very heavy faceplate onto the lathe spindle nose. Not easy physically, but the turning itself was straightforward, just taking surplus wood off the edge and reshaping the edge. I have two more to do the same, that will teach me to be more careful when checking dimensions!

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