Monday, March 28, 2011

Birthday box

My next door neighbor turned 40 last week.  Her husband turned 40 last year and I made him a small urn as a joke gift.  I wanted to do something similar for her but didn't have much lead time and didn't want to over emphasize the 40th part of the 40th birthday.

The underside of the lid has a small button where I burned her initials, 40th, and 2011.  I'm not 100% happy with the shape and the finish but I was out of time.  She was thrilled with the gift and that's what counts.  Her husband helped me unload this wood when we brought it back from Idaho about 5 years ago so there was a small personal connection with it.

Palo Verde II

I've had this post in my queue for a while, 3 days in fact.  I finished hollowing this small piece of Palo Verde on Thursday night.

I still have some sanding to do and there is still a small nub on the bottom I need to get rid of.  I'm also undecided on a finish.  Do I use my normal Danish oil finish or do I leave it completely natural?

The nub on the bottom with some of the darker spalting.  I was hoping there would be more bug holes but it just wasn't to be.

Profile shot.  I'm really happy with the shape, it could have curved up a bit more at the opening but it would have made hollowing more difficult.  It's approximately 1/8" thick.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Palo Verde

 I intended this to be one of my entries into the Arizona Woodturners Association's selction contest.  Now that the other piece (still to be posted) is nearly finished I know that this one isn't even close the same quality.
That's not to say that this piece won't be nice, I'm sure it will be fine but not quite what I was hoping for and not nearly as nice as the other piece (or pieces) I've been working on.  This will be about 6 1/2" X 3" when complete.  I still have to do most of the hollowing as well as all of the sanding and finishing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Weekend warrior

No photos for this entry.

Saturday was my demo for the Arizona Woodturners Assoc.  I did the same demo that I did last weekend in Prescott with a few additions as I had a bit more time.  The demo went well with no major issue and only a couple of small ones that were easily overcome.

We also had a board meeting to go over the 2011 budget and action items.  Top of the list is acquiring a new club lathe.  The board added a budget item of up to $3000 to cover the purchase of the lathe and the building of a new stand and any accessories needed.  The general membership then voted to authorize this expenditure.

Our list of potential lathes is somewhat limited due to our budget and several other factors.  Because of where we hold our meetings the lathe must be portable, 110v, variable speed, 16" swing or better.  Unfortunately this rules out the majority of the full sized lathes on the market (Powermatic, Oneway, Robust, Vicmarc).  This leaves about 3 lathes in our price range that meet all of our criteria.  Jet 1642 EVS, Nova DVR-XP, and General 25-650.

I'm not a huge fan of the push button speed changes on the DVR, there are also concerns about future support for the electronics.  The size and weight are big concerns on the Jet 1642 and General 25-650 as portability is a huge factor.

I spent most of the day Sunday in the shop working on a couple of pieces.  I'm preparing a couple of entries to our club's selection for the American Association of Woodturners "Turning 25 - A Celebration" exhibit at this year's national symposium.  I don't want to post photos here as I don't want to influence the voting.  I will say that it's on of the best pieces I've ever done, having a very nice piece of wood to start with doesn't hurt.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Demo prep

More demo prep tonight.  I'm doing a shop made jigs at demo, the same basic demo I did this past weekend at the Prescott Area Woodturners.  Depending on time I may do this jig, even though it's not on my handout.

The jig is simply some scrap wood.  2 tenons have been turned on one end, one on the center axis and another with the opposite end offset by about 3/16".  A 1/2" diameter hole is drilled through the center axis of the jig.  A tenon slightly larger than 1/2" diameter is turned on the finial blank.  The blank is driven into the jig using the tailstock.  The jig is then moved into the off-center axis and the end of the blank is turned (everything to the right of the sharp transition in this photo).

The jig is then moved to the center axis and the bottom of the finial is turned.  Once complete the finial can be cut free or a knockout rod can be used to remove the blank from the jig.

I also started my demo prep for Tucson on April 9th.  I'll be doing my multi axis demo with the main portion of the demo one of my multi-axis twisted lidded boxes.  This will be my 3rd demo in 5 weeks.

In order to save time I turn the inside of the box to completion.  Up to this point I follow pretty standard box making techniques (with the possible exception of leaving the blank square).  Tenons are turned on each end and then the blank is cut in half.  I leave the blank square to make this cut easier and safer and because the triangular cross section of the finished box can be larger than the largest possible cylinder.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Threading II

I should be preparing for my demo on Saturday but I wasn't in the mood tonight so I decided to practice thread chasing some more.  I read somewhere long ago and reread again recently that PVC pipe is excellent for practicing threading.  I didn't have any PVC but I had some ABS and figured I'd give that a try.
It turns out that whoever recommended PVC (ABS) for practicing knew what they were talking about.  It's cheap, it's readily available, and it threads very well.

The 2 halves threaded together.  They go together well until they're almost fully seated, then I think that the total surface area in contact gets quite large and it gets harder to turn.  Wax may help this some but on a practice piece like this I'm not concerned.
A link to Steve's video is below, I've heard that the embedded video may not be working for some people.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hanging on by a thread

Inspired by a video linked below (Thanks Steve) I decided to give thread chasing a try.  I've thought about trying it before but the expense of purchasing a set of thread chasers prohibited me from giving it a try.  Steve's video provided a way to give it a try with minimal investment so I decided to give it a try.

A quick trip to to Home Depot yielded a 1/2" X 13 TPI grade 8 bolt and a cut off wheel for my dremel.  A few minutes work with the dremel and a short trip to the grinder resulted in a tool I thought might work.  I tried it out on some scrap Mesquite and Maple before deciding to break out the Lignum Vitae. 

Here's another view along with my home made thread chaser.  I didn't really intend to make this a box, I was just playing around with the threads and ended up finishing it off.  The shape needs major improvement and I didn't bother doing much sanding.
Steve's full video can be seen below.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy accident

I had 2 more pieces of Madrone left, one that was burl and one that was mostly straight grain.  Tonight I decided to tackle both of them.

The first one was going to be an hourglass shaped vase but I had a small catch while hollowing and the piece broke in half both latitudinally and longitudinally.  I threw the top half in the microwave not knowing what would happen.  What happened was a pleasant surprise, the piece curled in on itself to form a spiral.  A light went off in my head.

My last piece was glued to a waste block, turned to a cylinder, and the inside was hollowed to a uniform thickness before the tube was parted off of the waste block.

I then used a pneumatic body saw ( to cut straight down one side.  I was a bit surprised to see the cut open up so much immediately.  I was worried that it wouldn't act like the other piece, that it might unfold rather than curl tighter.

It turns out that my fears were unfounded. A couple of minutes in the microwave had the piece curled up like the sample piece.

Looks to be about 540 degrees, I think it would have curled more if it had been thinner.  I'm now thinking I might try to make some more of these with some other woods, not sure how much I have that's still green though.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Demo prep II

A few more sample jigs for my demo this weekend.

These jigs both thread onto the lathe.  The one on the left threads directly onto the spindle (1 1/4" X  8 TPI in my case)  I only threaded part way through this blank to make it "closed ended" as the drive portion in this case is the same diameter as the spindle.  The tailstock adapter was threaded and turned the other night.  The shoulder on the end was turned down to the same 1 1/4" diameter as the blank on the headstock.

These centers can be used to drive peppermill blanks, kaleidescope blanks, and similar objects.  The shoulders on each end are really to center the piece, the drive actually comes from the pressure between both ends.  The other advantage to using wood for the drive centers is that not only can they be custom fitted for a particular diameter but you can also turn right down and into the jig without damaging your tools.

Next up was another live center jig.  The blank was drilled, tapped and then the outside was turned as a reverse cone.

The inside was removed and the jig can now be used to drive spheres and help center and drive hollow forms.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bisecting the burl

I'm not quite sure why but I decided it was time to cut up my burl today.  I tried for quite a while to find a sawmill to cut it up and minimize the waste but ended up deciding to bite the bullet and tackle it myself.

Step 1 was to wrap a rope around the burl and pull it out of the garage and into my driveway with my SUV.  Step 2 loop the rope around the top so the burl is tipped onto one of the already flat sides.  Step 3 fire up the chainsaw.

I had to cut from both sides to make the cut.  My chainsaw has a 20" bar and the burl is 36-38" wide leaving very little overlap in the middle.  The cuts didn't line up perfectly but it wasn't too bad.

I ended up cutting into 8 pieces, each roughly (very roughly) 18" cubed.  Each piece averages 95 pounds making the whole burl about 780 pounds.  Out of curiosity we weighed the sawdust and after subtracting the weight of the trashcan found that we had 33 pounds of shavings.

Here's a close up shot of some of the burl figure.  I'm very happy with the piece.  It's got very nice figure and color.  There are some bark inclusions but nothing that should be a deal breaker.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ironwood blanks

A couple more Desert Ironwood handle blanks today.  I don't have an intended purpose for these yet, eventually I'll probably get a couple new tools and depending on the manufacturer they may need handles.

These are a little shorter than the one I turned yesterday due to a defect in the log, these are about 13" long, yesterday's was 15".  The stock handle that I broke on Thursday night was 12 1/2".  The additional length and the additional weight should provide better tool control.  The original handle was Ash and had a specific gravity of .66 Mesquite has a specific gravity of .80, Desert Ironwood is 1.15.  I suspect that with the additional length and the much denser wood the tool is about 50% heavier now.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Getting a handle on things

The handle on my spindle gouge had and "accident" last night and needed to be replaced.  I say "accident" but really I mean that I got mad at it, hit a log with it, and the handle broke right where the ferrule meets the handle.  I salvaged the ferrule to use on the new handle and set to work. 

I wasn't sure what I was going to make the handle out of.  I have a couple nice curly maple blanks but didn't really feel like using one of them.  Other blanks I considered were Walnut, Mesquite, Eucalyptus, Olive, Lignum Vitae, and Afzilia.  I finally settled on a nice piece of Desert Ironwood.  It's very hard and very heavy and should hold up to lots of use and abuse.  It's also one of the best looking woods around.  This piece has a small section of sapwood on the end, giving it even more character.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


A frustrating night to be sure.  I wanted to make a bidhouse for an upcoming event.  Artists in a show I'm in have been invited to decorate birdhouses that will be raffled off to help raise money for a local non-profit. 

I did another birdhouse for the same event 2 years ago and wanted to try something different.

The body is made out of Cedar, the roof is Walnut Burl.  I had to turn 3 bodies before I got one finished.  I wanted them to be quite thin in order to reduce the weight and I cut through the bottom on the first 2. 

The blanks for both the body and the roof are from pieces I've had for quite a while.  The Cedar came from eBay 5 or 6 years ago, The Walnut Burl came from a trade with another local turner about 4 years ago.
The roof was turned with steps to simulate shingles.  This was further enhanced by burning lines and by texturing the wood with a wire brush.  The ring on the top is copper wire.  Overall size is about 4" diameter and 5" tall.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tailstock tap

I received a package on my front porch this afternoon.  I ordered a new 3/4"-10 tap from Enco late last week for my upcoming demo.  I now have all 3 of the most common sizes that I will need. 1" X 8 TPI, 1 1/4" X 8 TPI, and 3/4" X 10 TPI.  There are other thread sizes and pitches out there (3/4" X 16 TPI, 1 1/2" X 8 TPI, 33mm X 3.5) but these 3 should be all I need. 

This tap is used to tap small blanks to be used on my live center in the tailstock. The blanks are secured in my chuck, drilled, and then tapped with the thread that matches the thread on the nose of the live center.  The outside of the blank can then be turned to any shape needed. 

The trick for turning the outside is to lock the live center so that it doesn't turn.  A small screw inserted into the locking hole (which can be seen at the rear of the cylinder) and then secured with a couple of wraps of tape will prohibit the bearings from spinning, allowing you to shape the outside.  It's a right hand thread so it actually tightens as it spins. 

This one will be used to center the tailstock ends of peppermills.  Other shapes can be used to drive spheres, kalidescope blanks, and anything else that you don't want to mar the surface of.  It's also useful for preventing Turner's Elbow.