Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 346:

More pendants tonight.  This time turned and then burned.  I'm not sure what the 2 woods oun the outside are.  The 2 in the middle are cherry (left) and Padauk (right). 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 345: More of the same

More pendants tonight.  I did these assembly line fashion.  The outer profile was turned on all 10, then the offset hole on all 10 and then finally the recess for the inlays was turned for all 10.  They need a little finish sanding and a coat of oil applied but they're essentially done.

Most of the inlays are sea shell.  There is 1 cats eye (middle bottom above) an onyx (lower left in this photo) and picasso jasper (middle bottom on this photo. 

Woods used include Padauk, Oak, Cherry, Buckeye Burl, Spalted Maple, and a couple others I'm not sure about.  I think I'll do a few more this weekend, including some that I'm going to try burning.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 344: Burning with Bernie

Bernie came over for a short visit tonight.  My top mystery project from about 12 days ago was building a battery charger woodburner for his birthday.  His wife contacted me and was looking for ideas for his upcoming birthday.  I suggested building a burner for him as we'd been talking about it for a while.  She loved the idea and gave me the go ahead to get it done.  I delivered it to her last weekend, a full month before his birthday.  Bernie and I talked a couple of times since then, including a conversation about building a burner on a future visit.  I told him I'd start to pull together the parts necessary as some of them are pretty specific.   In reality I was just buying time, knowing that his birthday was still close to a month away and that the burner was already at his house, as it turns out it was just feet from where his lathe is and where he spends a large portion of his time. 

I received a call from him the other day, he was cleaning out his wife's car and happened across a cardboard box in the back seat.  Clearly the cat was out of the bag.  Tonight he came over to make some custom brands and to practice some burning.  Together we made a handful of custom brands (spiral, horseshoe, pointed tip, and coil) and then practiced burning on a curved surface.  Burning on the outside of curved surface like a hollow form is much different than burning on a flat surface, particularly when doing a somewhat regular pattern.  The surface area around the rim and around the base is so much smaller than the surface around the largest diameter so adjustments have to be made to the design to compensate.  We talked about the various ways to do that and wrapped things up as it looked like a storm was rolling in.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 343: Even more pendants

I haven't done pendants in a while, tonight I did 4, all in this particular style.  The woods (L to R) are Cherry, Oak, unknown, and Cherry again.  The inlays (L to R) are sea shell, tiger eye, onyx, and sea shell again.  These are turned on a total of 3 axes, one for the overall round shape and the rolled rim, a second for the offset hole in the middle and the rolled rim around that hole, and a third for the recess that the inlay is set into.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 342: Undecided

I wasn't sure what to do tonight.  I thought about turning a pen for myself but didn't really feel like it.  Then I reconsidered and and picked out a kit I haven't made before when I realized that I don't have the correct bushings for the kit.  I found a set of bushings I thought would be close enough to work (something I do not recommended!) but finally decided I wasn't in the mood for pen turning.  Instead I grabbed a roughed out Maple Burl bowl off the shelf and set about getting it finished. 

This is from the Maple Burl the clbu bought back in March,  I roughed out this piece back in March  ( and had it drying inside for a couple of months and then moved it out to the shop for a couple of months.  I got lucky, It didn't move much in the drying process.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Day 341: Turn and burn

It was hot in Phoenix today, surprise surprise. 106 was the high and it felt more like 116 with the humidity.  That limited my shop time to 30-45 minute sessions spread throughout the day. 

My morning sessions were dedicated to more burning on the maple hollow forms.  I finished burning the 4 panels on both forms. 

The more I looked at them the more I thought they looked like beach balls, definitely something I wasn't going for.

 My afternoon and evening sessions were spent finishing both pieces.

I'm really happy with this pair.  I intended them to go to Woodcraft but I'm rethinking that now.

It cooled off a bit this evening after a light rain shower came through so I headed back out to the shop for some more turning and burning.  I grabbed a small chunk of what I was told is Teak and turned a small hollow form.  I then burned it with a similar design to the pair above.  I wanted this to simulate wood grain and I think it does to some degree but I think it also looks like a flame motif as well.

I've never turned teak before and I'm not certain this is Teak, even though that's what it was sold to me as.  It seems softer than I thought Teak would be.  It's also not oily at all, which is in every description of Teak I've read.  Either way it turned well and burned well.  I have a few more pieces to use, none very large.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Day 340: 3 B's

I needed to make a couple of pens today.  One for my wife to use at her new job and another for a friend of hers for a gift.  She picked 2 blanks, both acrylic.  Burnt Copper Polyresin (top, for her friend and Burgundy Invisavue (bottom, for herself.

These are not the easiest blanks to turn but the results are worth the effort.  This photo was taken in the shade, the reflections in direct sunlight were too bright for my camera, it fails to capture the high gloss finish on the blanks.  It takes a while longer to get a good finish like this but in the end it's worth the trouble.

After things cooled down a bit this evening, it was 105 this afternoon, I went to work burning the maple hollow forms I've been working on.  I normally start the burning process for this design by dividing the piece into 8 even sections.  I'll fill in every other section around the piece and then fill in the remaining open sections.  I'm reconsidering that plan on these pieces, I'm thinking about leaving 4 of the sections unburned.  Opinions?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 339: New burner

Tonight I hollowed and finished the bottoms on the 2 hollow forms I started the other night.

Unfortunately when I turned on my battery charger burner to start burning them nothing happened.  I opened up the case and double checked all the connections but couldn't find anything wrong with it. 

I made a quick trip to Auto Zone and to Home Depot for some parts and got to work.  This is the charger I selected.  It's a Schumacher 6 amp manual charger from Auto Zone.  Approx $38.  The dimmer switch is a standard 110v single pole dimmer switch, model #6681, approx $5.

4 screws are removed and the case is opened.  The modifications are fairly minor but they will prevent the charger from ever being used for the intended purpose.  This will also void the warranty.

Step 1 is to undo the clip in the back that secures the cord to the case.  Move 6-8" of cord into the case and then resecure the clip.  This extra length of cord is required because of where we're going to place the dimmer switch that will control the power going to the burning tip.

Cut and strip the ends of the hot wire and the ground wire.  The hot wire runs to the volt/amp switch on the front of the case.  Do not cut the neutral wire.  Doing so won't hurt anything but will require you to splice it with a wire nut.

On the left side of the unit you need to remove the clip securing the battery clip wires.  Cut off the wires leaving enough length to attach the wires to the 1/4" mono headphone jack.  You'll also need to move the wire connected to the internal circuit breaker (pictured center) from the copper screw to the steel screw.  This will bypass the circuit breaker.  The 1/4" mono headphone jack was purchased at Radio Shack and is secured in the opening that the battery clip wires passed through. 

3 holes then need to be drilled in the left hand side of the case.  A standard household switch plate is a great jig for placing the holes the correct distance.  1/8" holes are drilled for the screws, a 3/8" hole is drilled dead center for the center post on the dimmer switch.

With the holes drilled the dimmer switch can be secured to the case.

Wire nuts are used to secure the connections to the wires.  Black to black for the black wire running from the cord to the dimmer switch and black to black for the black wire running from the dimmer switch to the volt/amp switch on the front panel. All 3 green wires are also connected with a wire nut.

The case is then reattached using the 4 screws removed in the beginning and a pen using a 1/4" mono headphone plug is attached to test it out. 

If you have problems. do the following:  Double check all the wire nuts.  Make sure that the the dimmer switch was spliced into the hot wire (the wire running to the switch).  Make sure that you've bypassed the circuit breaker by moving the wire from the copper bolt to the steel bolt.

To operate the burner push in the dimmer switch to turn it on and then adjust the dial so the pen heats up to the temperature you want.  Push the dimmer switch in again to turn it off.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 338: Olive Burl

This was my mystery burl from the guessing game back on day 295.  I decided to rough turn it this evening while the weather was cooler than normal.  I thought I was going to be disappointed with this piece as it didn't contain any heartwood.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a fair amount of color inside, but it's not heartwood.  I think it's a stain, possibly a form of spalting.

Alternate view.  The wood is Olive so that means checks.  It's pretty much impossible to dry olive without it checking badly, this is particularly true of reaction wood and burls. 

Roughed and cored.  They're now bagged and on the shelf to dry.

Bottom view.  I'm hoping they don't crack too bad during the drying process.  I'll probably end up filling cracks with either epoxy and coffee grounds or epoxy and crushed turquoise.  I'm thinking that the Turquoise will contrast with the darker heartwood more than coffee grounds will.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 337: To burn or not to burn

This one's getting burned, no question about it.  I got a little agressive while hollowing and had it fracture right along a grain line. 

These 2 I'm debating about.  I've been invited by the owner of the local Woodcraft store to add a couple of items to their display case.  I'm leaning towards a couple of small burned hollow forms and a couple of the small textured hollow forms I've been playing with lately.  I intended to burn these 2 small maple forms but now that I've roughed the outside and revealed a fair amount of curly figure I'm second guessing myself so I'm putting it to my readers.

To burn or not to burn?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 336: Cutting and cleaning

It's Tuesday so that means I cleaned the shop tonight, including pulling out the tablesaw and air compressor and vacuuming the shavings from behind them.  Close to 35 gallons in shavings off the floor and around the lathe.  I then had a shop visitor. 

A fellow turner and club member pulled me aside on Saturday at the club meeting and said he was having issues sharpening and making a clean cut down through the bottom of a bowl and wanted some help.  He came over tonight and we reground one of his gouges to a more suitable profile and started working on a bowl.  I roughed out the outside and then Steve and I took turns roughing the inside, practicing the arcing motion from the rim down into the middle of the bowl.  It's a fairly complex motion,  swinging the gouge across the lathe bed while simultaneously twisting the gouge and pushing it towards the center of rotation.  It's not something that comes naturally but it can be learned and practiced through repitition.

Of course with roughing that bowl we made a mess on the floor and around my lathe so I spent another few minutes after he left sweeping up and vacuuming again.  A small price to pay for helping a friend and fellow turner.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 335: Testing texture

You may recognize these 3 hollow forms from yesterday.  Today they were hollowed and then textured.

The piece on the right was an experiment, I intentionally cut some grooves on the inside so that they would open up and show through as voids when the piece was textured.  I think there's potential here.  The middle piece was turned with the grain at a slight angle.  I'll probably do another one with the grain running closer to 45 degrees.  The piece on the right has the grain running horizontally and is the most successful of the 3 in my opinion.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Day 334: Dog days

The dog days of summer are upon us here in the Phoenix area.  That means a couple of things, 1) my shop time is limited because of the extreme heat, 110+ is not uncommon,  and 2)  my shop time is limited due to my other hobby: storm chasing.  Phoenix gets hit with monsoon storms every year, they typically run from mid July through the end of August.  Storms typically build over the the Mogollon rim and then sweep to the Southwest into the Phoenix metro area (also called the valley of the sun).  We live on the eastern edge of the valley, not far from the Superstition Mountains and get some of the best lightning in the state.

My shop time today consisted of cutting and roughing 4 small piece of redwood.  3 of them will be small hollow forms that I plan to texture; the fourth will be a spline joined lidded box that will also be textured.  The hollow forms all have the grain running in different directions.  The one on the left has the grain running vertically, the middle is running at a slight angle, and the one on the right has the grain running across the piece.  

Tonight we had the first big storm of the monsoon season.  There was a smaller storm on Friday evening but it died out before it got to me.  I'm sorting through 139 images I took tonight.  If I'm lucky I'll have 2 or 3 keepers.  A really good night would 5 or 6 keepers.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Day 333: Hands on

Today was the July meeting of the Arizona Woodturners Association.  We had a special hands on meeting at the local Woodcraft and it was a huge success.  We had 8 lathes going most of the day, with several turning pens, a couple of turning demonstrations by J Paul Fennell ( and Paul Porter (  I also did a little demonstrating, doing a pair of small hollow forms, one with wire brush texture and the second with some wood burning.  In my opinion the best part of the day were the 2 contests we held.  The first was to challenge club members to turn a small cylinder and to get the best cut they could get on some small spindle blanks that I provided.  They were free to use any tool and any turning method they wanted, the only rule was that no sandpaper could be used.  Some of the results were very good and one club member walked away with a maple burl for his work.  The second contest was a group contest, a relay race actually.  We had club members signup for teams of 3.  Each team was provided an identical block of wood and the first member of each team turned for 15 minutes.  They then handed off to the second member of each team who also turned for 15 minutes.  The third team member then took over for the final 15 minutes.  The only rule was that team members were not allowed to talk to each other before or during the relay.  The finished pieces were then judged and the winning team declared and the winning team members won a small prize.  I initially planned to judge the contest but when the third team ended up with only 2 people when the relay was ready to start I jumped in to anchor their team.  Things went well until the last 90 seconds of my time when I had a monster catch that nearly ruined our bowl. The last 60 seconds was a frantic effort to save the bowl and trying to get it finished.  I ended up running out of time and wasn't able to get the bottom finished.  Had I gotten it finished I think we might have won.  I think the catch was a matter of 2 different factors, unfamiliar tools and a large check in the wood.  I'm not saying that it wouldn't have happend with my own tools or with a marginally better piece of wood - catches happen to everyone - but both of those factors together plus the fact that I was rushing was asking for disaster.

Day 332: Mystery project

I started working on a mystery project today.  No photos because they would give it away.  I will say that it took a trip to Sears, Home Depot, and Radio Shack to gather materials.  I'll also be picking up a few supplies at Woodcraft tomorrow but progress today was brisk.

Tonight I started to get ready for tomorrow's meeting.  It's a hands on event at Woodcraft and I'm planning to do a couple of short demonstrations.  I plan to hollow a pair of small hollow forms and then texture one and burn on the other.  I've roughed out the exterior of both forms and got most of my stuff packed up.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 332: Going against the grain

I made a trip to Home Depot the other night to pick up a 4 X 4 X 10 piece of Redwood.  Tonight I cut a couple of chunks off the end and started turning.  I finished one form and turned the outside of a second. 
The finished piece then got heavily textured using my wire brush.  It developed a crack in the lip while I was turning so I textured that area a little heavier.  You can still see it but it's blended in better than it was before. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 331: Retired

My order from Grizzly arrived today, a pair of Timberwolf bandsaw blades, a Grizzly brand bandsaw blade, and new bandsaw tires.  The tires on my saw were the original tires and were almost new but they wouldn't stay on the wheels for very long.  I talked with a couple other owners of this saw and they all suggested that I order replacement tires.  The blade on it was also the original blade and was in need of replacement.  It's an odd size at 131 1/2" so I'm unable to get them locally without special ordering them in a custom size.  The new tires went on reasonable easily.  I removed the wheels from the saw and took them into the kitchen so I could boil the tires.  Boiling the tires softens them up and makes them easier to stretch over the wheel.  They shrink back onto the wheels as they cool.

After making a few adjustments I decided to cut up the piece of Desert Ironwood Burl I had left.  It cut like butter with a brand new blade.  I've put most of these up for sale, I bought way too much and need to reduce my stock and replenish my wallet.  I have decided to keep one of them though.  I'm keeping the 5th from the left in this photo.

I also took a slice off of an Oak Burl I have.  Another local turner saw it on my shelf last week and wanted a slab to turn some small lidded boxes.  I was willing to take a slab off for him but didn't want to waste any wood cutting it with my chainsaw and I didn't think I could make a good enough cut on my bandsaw without today's improvements.  It's a beautiful piece of Oak Burl and I think he'll be happy.  I'm even happier that I still have a piece about 9 X 9 X 12 left over and I have a little better idea what's left inside.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Day 330: Leaving Normal

Bernie emailed me a photo about a week ago and wanted to learn how to turn the bowl in the photo.  I had a pretty good idea how to get it done but had never made one exactly like it before so it was a learning experience for both of us.

I'm pretty happy with the results.  As it was a sample piece I didn't bother with much sanding and didn't use a very nice piece of wood.

He's also wanted to learn how to turn a square bowl for quite a while.  As the bowl above was finished before the lesson was over we chucked up a piece of Ambrosia Maple and went to work. 

He also wanted to know how to carve feet so we ended up doing that as well, This piece needs a little more hand sanding to be finished, this was more than just a sample and will no doubt be on my sale table at my next show.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 329: Getting organized

I spent the evening cleaning and organizing a small corner of my shop.  It's a small dent in a big project.  Last summer I took a week off work and spent about half of each day cleaning and organizing my shop.  I justmight end up doing the same this year and tonight gave me a good headstart.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Day 328: Desert Gold

Desert Ironwood is a fairly uncommon tree, even here in the Sonoran Desert.  It only grows here in Arizona, Northern Mexico, and a small corner of South East California.  As uncommon as it is burls from it are even more uncommon.  Pen blanks can run up to $20 each.  Most of what I got was thin stock, suitable for pendants and inlays.  I spent a couple hours today cutting up the smaller stuff along with some other stuff I've been holding onto for pendants.
I wasn't going to leave the shop without turning a piece.  With wood this beautiful you don't want to make things too complex or over embellished.  Simplicity and beauty is the key.  Wood like this is worth its weight in gold.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Day 327: Making lemonade

I started working on the Ironwood hollow form on the left a couple weeks ago and started the hollowing 10 days ago.  Today I decided to complete the hollowing.  What happened next isn't really suprising or very uncommon but it's still frustrating.

While hollowing I cut through the upper portion, meaning my hollow form went from an opening of 1" to an opening closer to 4"  Not what I had in mind when I started working on it. 

Sometimes life gives you lemons, when that happens you make lemonade.  I cleaned up the rough edge, finished hollowing, a much easier job through a much larger opening, and then decided that the rim needed to be dressed up.  I found a suitable piece of Holly and went to work turning a nice rolled rim that would contrast with the deep dark color of the Desert Ironwood.

Bottom of the finished piece.  I wanted it to be usable so the bottom is wider than I'd normally try to do.

Speaking of Ironwood I made a trip today to one of my favorite local retailers for some sandapaper and decided to check their stock of Desert Ironwood cutoffs and blanks.  They're sold by the pound and being so dense Desert Ironwood can get rather pricy.  I was pleasantly surprised by both the quality and the quantity.  My $20 sandpaper purchase ballooned to well over $100 with the addition of a pile of Desert Ironwood pieces along with some other blanks.  Nobody ever said woodturning is cheap. 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 326: Rough Redwood

I still couldn't find the piece for my hollowing setup so I improvised and cut a piece of scrap Walnut to fit.  It worked for now but I need to find the steel part eventually.

I finished hollowing the Redwood piece I started the other night.  This went very fast as the wood is soft and cuts easily.

My wife didn't want me to texture it but I'd already made up my mind.  Now that it's done I think she agrees with me that the texturing was an improvement.

I'm not sure how well the photos show the texture, hopfully you can see the 3D effect in this photo.