Monday, August 30, 2010

Shoestring Acacia & more pendants

Fellow turner and club member Chip came over for a visit yesterday afternoon. We'd been talking about getting together to core a bowl for a little while and were both free on Sunday afternoon. This blank is from the wood I got from storm damaged trees back in January and is approx 13" diameter. We got 3 bowls with relative ease.
On Saturday I also spent a couple hours starting another batch of pendants.  I roughed the exterior of 40 pendants.  Woods include Oak, Cherry, Maple, Jarrah Burl, Curly Eucalyptus, Padauk, and a couple others I can't think of right now. 

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pendant how-to

I do 2 main styles of pendants.  There are plenty of variations for both styles to keep things interesting.  Throw in stone and shell inlays, burning, and coloring and the possibilities are endless.

We'll do the one on the right first:

To start the first style I mount a small piece of wood on the lathe.  This piece is approx 2 1/4" square and 5/16" thick.  I don't use a drive center, instead I use the flat face of the spindle  with pressure from the tailstock to drive the piece.This also ensures that the piece is mounted flat.

Using a 3/8" spindle gouge I round over the outside edge and the front face (facing the tailstock)

I will also take a few seconds to do a quick sanding on the outside profile with 220 and 320 grit paper.

My jig (which I prefer to call a backer plate) couldn't be much simpler.  It's a piece of Melamine coated particle board with several 11/32" holes drilled in the back side.  The center hole goes all the way though, the 5 outside holes go approx. 5/8" deep.  I also use a particle board washer as a spacer.  This is because the woodworm screw on my chuck protrudes 3/4" from the front face of the jaws, the MDF is also 3/4" thick and I don't want the screw to go all the way though as I will at times be turning the MDF and I don't want to contact the hardened steel screw.

In use the backer plate is simply screwed onto the woodworm screw.  By changing the hole that is used the backer plate the pendant can be moved off center

On this style pendant eyeball where I want the pendant to be and affix it with double sided tape.  I found Duck brand double sided tape from Wal-Mart to work pretty well and at a reasonable price (~$5).

I then flatten the face and turn a hole through the pendant.  I don't use a drill for any of this work, it's all done with the same 3/8" spindle gouge.
I will also do a quick sanding with 220 and 320 grit paper at this point.

For this style I choose to remove the piece from the jig, apply a new piece of tape, and put it back in place on a different center; eyeballing where I want it to be.  I often choose to place the stone where it overlaps the opening I turned on the last step.  I stop and check the fit often.  Each stone (or shell) is unique and may be a slightly different size than the rest. 

The piece is removed from the lathe, some hand sanding is done on all of the edges and the stone glued into place.  Finish can then be applied.  I normally wipe on a coat of Danish oil.

The second style uses the same backer plate.  A square blank approx 2" X 2" X 5/16" piece is affixed using the same double sided tape.  I eyeball the placement using the center hole drilled through the backer plate to center the blank.

The front face of the pendant is then rounded over to a mild dome shape.  I normally do this with the 3/8" spindle gouge and a 1/2" bowl gouge.  The bowl gouge is used to remove the bulk of the material and the spindle gouge is used to refine the shape and to clean up the outside edge.

I prefer a gentle dome with no hard edges or transitions.  This shape also allows the interaction of the curved surface to interact with the other off center cuts to create some unique shapes.

The backer plate is then moved off center and a through hole is turned.  Move it to an additional off center hole and turn a recess for the stone inlay. (not shown).

Remove it from the backer plate (I like to use a 1" wide chisel to get under the edge and gently pry it loose).  Sand the edges, glue in the inlay, and apply a finish. 

The finished pieces again.  The inlay on the right is a dyed coin bead from seashell.  The orientation of the bead is such that the holes are carefully hidden.  The inlay on the left is a small Unakite cabochon.  Sources for inlays like there include,, and local retailers like Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and JoAnns. It's very easy to go way overboard and over embelish.  I find simple shapes and minimal designs are best for most woods, especially complex woods such as this curly eucalyptus and for burls.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eucalyptus hollow form

I was back in the shop tonight for the first time in almost a week.  I didn't plan to be absent from the shop for so long, it just happened to work out that way. 

This little piece is about 3" X 3" and is from the Eucalyptus I cut up and turned into cylinders late last week.  Bernie and I are planning to go get some more of this wood later this week.

This wood is very interesting but I don't think that the figure shows up in smaller pieces like this.  A bigger piece would better show the resin pockets and the burl like figure.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Roughing Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus salvaged from a local firewood lot. 

After seeing what's inside these I'm planning to go back next week for another couple of pieces.

It's not a burl but it does have burl like figure.  I should have gotten a photo of the outside of the log.  I thought the wood might be interesting but I had no idea it would be this nice.

I was able to get 4 decent sized pieces from the log I grabbed.  3-6" diameter and 11" long.  I also have a half dozen 1.5-2" square spindles and some 1" X 1"pen blanks.

Another piece of Eucalyptus from the firewood lot.  This one is a whole log and is about 8" diameter and 14" long.  There is a very subtle curl to this piece, not as intense as the other pieces but definitely there.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pencil cup

First off, now that my year is up I'm going to stop numbering the posts.  I didn't take the day off today, we have a club meeting on Saturday so I spent an hour or two signing pieces and getting things ready. 

This evening I worked on a relatively simple and very fun project.  My son asked me for a pencil cup for his desk at school.  When he asks me to make him something I usually pay attention.  I didn't want to do a plain cup so I did a bit of burning on it to liven it up and make him excited about it.  The wood is Visco Acacia from Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

I decided to go with a sylized flame motif circling the cup.  I drew it on freehand in pencil and then went over it with my burner now that I've gotten it working again.  I bought a replacement dimmer switch a couple of nights ago and got around to replacing it tonight.  Before I replaced it though I decided to take the dimmer switch out of the circuit.  The burner worked with the dimmer out of the circuit so I knew that the problem wasn't with the charger itself or with the headphone jack that the burning pens plug into.  On the off chance that there was just a loose connection I put the dimmer switch back into the circuit and double checked all of the connections and everything worked just fine.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Day 365: Mission accomplished

Today is day 365, I'm still not sure how I did it but I managed to not miss a single day the whole year.  To celebrate I turned a large (just under 16" diameter) Mesquite bowl.

This is from the haul I got back in January.  It's mostly dry but I'm going to let it season for a while anyway.  I think it dried so fast because a bunch of the bark was missing because of the way the tree split when it was blown over in a storm.

I wanted to do just pure turning today so I didn't core out the center.  It took longer than it would have taken to core it out but sometimes you just have to make some shavings.

Speaking of shavings, this 31 gallon trash can is full of shavings from just this 1 bowl.  I cleaned up last night so the shop was relatively clean this morning when I started on this bowl.  I cleaned up after I was done and managed to put about 30 gallons into the 31 gallon bin.  This also doesn't count the corners of the blank or the bark that I stripped off before I started the turning.  It's amazing how much waste is generated during this process and is a reminder of one of the reasons I tend to core as much as possible.

Now that my year is up I have to figure out what's next.  I'm going to continue turning and I plan to maintain the blog, just not on a daily basis.  2-5 times a week is my plan right now but I'll mostly be playing it by ear.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 364: Time to make the doughnuts

I'll get to the donuts part in a minute, first one of my photos from Sunday night.  This is the primary reason I look forward to the summers here in Arizona.

I turned 2 doughnuts today, one this morning and another this evening.  The larger one on the left was the one from this morning and is quite a bit bigger and thicker than the one on the right.  Both are Palo Verde.

I thought the first one was OK but not perfect.  My wife thought it was way too big and recommended that I make another one, quite a bit smaller.  As usual it turns out she was right (again).

The finished piece.  I'm leaving it as-is.  No finish.  All I have left to do is add my signature.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 363: Finished frassing

Two more sessions of picking frass, about 45 minutes this morning after the kids got on the school bus and another hour or so this evening.  Then the piece went back on the lathe for some very careful reshaping and a quick sanding.

The last turning session revealed a couple more spots of frass needing removal.  15 more minutes making sure I got everything I possibly could.

Profile view.  The bottom was thinner than I planned (I drilled too deep on the initial pilot hole) so I ended up giving it a bottom that's a cross between pointed and rounded.

Bottom view.  It won't stand up or sit flat, so I'll need to turn a ring for it to sit on. 

I also need to think about how to finish it.  My gut instinct is to leave it as is, completely natural but I'm not sure.

Day 362: Goodnight Florence

I had very little shop time tonight, I didn't even make it out there until just after 11 PM.  I spent the day with my wife and kids and this evening went chasing a lightning storm.  I put in well over 100 miles tonight going from my home in Mesa  East and then South to the town of Florence.  I headed about 10 miles South of Florence and found a spot to pull off the road and shoot the storm. 

Upon returning home I went to the garage for some shop time.  I thought about cleaning up but didn't want to risk waking the kids with my dust collector.  I also didn't want to do any turning as I was pretty tired and one of the safety rules is to not work if you're tired, in a hurry, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  Instead I spent about 30 minutes cleaning frass from the bug holes on the Palo Verde hollow form I've been working on.  Nothing exciting about the work but it's a necessary evil.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Day 361: Poker pens

2 pens today, one for me to use at poker tonight, the other to be a prize for the person that knocks me out. 

Both are curly austrailian Eucalyptus, from the chunk I purchased 2 weeks ago from a local retailer.  The kit on the bottom is a new one for me, it's a Jr. Gentlemen's Ballpoint kit in 10K gold from Craft Supplies USA.  I didn't have the correct bushings for this kit but the bushing for a Baron (also called a Sedona or Navigator) were close enough to work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 360: Baby burl

A fellow club member came over for a few minutes this morning.  I roughed a cored a piece of maple burl for him about a month ago and he's been out of town on vacation and hadn't had a chance to come get it yet.  We finally got our schedules sorted out and he came over to pick it up.

 He also brought a gift for me, 3 small Pine burls.  I decided to turn and hollow one of them this evening.  It almost came apart on me a couple of times but it held together just long enough.  I still have to do most of the sanding and apply a coat of oil.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 359: Mark II

Continuation of Mark II.  The inside was turned but not sanded, I had a horrific catch, probably the worst catch I've ever had.  It ripped the piece off of the backer plate and then tore the backer plate out of the chuck when the scraper I was using slipped into the gap on the interrupted cut.  Luckily I was out of the line of fire when this happened.  Had I been in the way the damage could have been serious.  I had safety glasses on but that much mass moving that quickly would have hurt, or worse.

Bottom view.  I still need to sand this inside and out.  I was going to work on that tonight but my electric drill decided to stop working so I spent an hour or so disassembling and then reassembling it.  I finally got it working again but by then it was time to call it a night.

I'm pretty happy with how this came out but it's still not 100% what I thought it would be.  I didn't realize that cuts on the inside of the ends on the bottom would be concave and would interact with the outside of the piece so that the ends are curved.  I had envisioned them being flat but now realize that's not possible.  In this photo you can see the area of the catch on the left hand side where the bark is knocked off. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Day 358: Room for improvement

Some of you may remember my natural edge piece from back at the end of May.  It was one of my pieces for the 'Natural Edge' challenge which was presented in June.  Tonight I started work on Mark II.

A fellow club member made a suggestion, not for improvement; more like "you know what would be cool?"  First step is to put the piece between centers and turn a tenon on each end.  They aren't use as traditional tenons in a chuck.

The piece is secured on a backer plate with some metal strapping.  The back plate is secured in a chuck, a faceplate would also work.

The twist in this design is that both the top and the bottom of the bowl will be turned from the log section. The ends of the branch will be left intact, connected only by a thin natural edge bowl.

I may still tweak the shape of the bowl and the solid sections on the end. Getting into the tight corners is becoming an issue and is one of the reasons I stopped at this point tonight.