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.

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