Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Putting the pieces back together

The hollowing was completed tonight and then all the pieces (6 in total) were glued back in place. Somewhat ironically it was easier to hollow the piece the rest of the way because the opening was slightly larger and also slightly shorter.

The joints on the fix aren't as tight as I'd like but I don't think they'll be too bad once they're sanded smooth, the entire piece sanded, and the finish applied. Some of the other cracks will also need glued/filled and the tenon still needs removed.

I'm not certain how I'm going to remove the tenon. Vacuum chucking is out because of the large void pictured above. I'll probably end up jam chucking it. Either using a spindle sized to fit the opening and drive the piece from the inside bottom or use a partially hollowed bowl to drive the blank from the outside closer to the largest diameter.

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Monday, August 29, 2011


A heartbreaking night. I continued hollowing the BTA Velvet Mesquite hollow form. Things were progressing nicely but I was really pushing the limits of my tools and before I knew it I had a catastrophic catch. The catch forced the cutting edge away from center which caused the shaft to contact the fragile rim and pieces went flying.

Luckily I was able to locate all of the pieces and it looks like they'll go back together relatively easily. It's still frustrating seeing something damaged that you've worked so hard on and have put significant into.

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bigger on the inside

I was able to get in about 90 minutes work this morning before things got too hot (it's currently 3:45P and 109F). This small hollow form was turned from a cutoff I saved the other day. It came from one of the Mesquite hollow forms I've been working on the last few days.

A penny gives a better sense of scale. Pennies are 3/4" diameter and the penny will no fit in the opening. I estimate the opening to be 5/8" diameter, slightly larger than the minimum 1/2" diameter of my tools.

I also spent some time hollowing the larger forms I have in progress. The bulk of the material still needs removed but the upper portions are more or less at the finished thickness.

The opening on this form is significantly larger but this is deceptive as it is still hollowed through a 1 1/2" hole. The portion of the opening that is lower than the top 1/4" cannot be used for hollowing.

This one has an opening about 1 1/4" diameter. I'm not certain my current tools can reach the largest diameter of either piece. I have some additional hollowing bars on the way and may need to have one custom made if the new ones don't work. Fingers crossed.

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Friday, August 26, 2011


This photo from last night is a bit of an optical illusion. The piece on the right does have a slight concave curve from the largest diameter up to the opening. The right side of the photo makes it look like the curve isn't there because of the void on that side of the blank.

Even after realizing that it was an optical illusion I still wanted to refine the shape a bit to emphasize the reverse curve. This shot from the back side better shows the refined curve and the overall shape.

The side view shows the illusion again, not as bad as before as you can better see the curve on the right hand side. This illusion reminds me of a normal natural edge bowl, where the bowl appears oval from the top and sides due to the missing wood.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

1 hour

More work on the pair of hollow forms tonight. I roughed the outside of both pieces in exactly 1 hour, a pretty good time for dry Mesquite. My time was improved because of all the prep work I did last night.

I want these to have a very organic feel, they'll probably end up with round or nearly round bottoms with flowing curves from top to bottom. Inspiration for these shapes can come from nature (seed pods, gourds, raindrops) and from looking at classical forms like Native American pottery.

Based on the profile view I need to tweak the piece on the right. I don't like the straight line from the widest point to the top. It needs more of a concave shape, this will also help close up the opening.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Taking stock

I'm trying to get rid of some of the wood I've accumulated over the last couple years. Mostly Mesquite and Acacia. I'm holding onto some of the Mesquite either because I have a project in mind or because of where the wood came from. The pieces above are about 12" diameter.

These 2 pieces should become a couple of hollow forms with sapwood highlighting the openings on both. The piece on the right is from Boyce Thompson Arboretum and was cut off adjoining a big Burl I got there late last year. (

If things go well they both should be similar to this piece from 2009.

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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Giving back

I'm headed back to BTA in the morning to get the last piece of the Sissoo stump. Part of the agreement with the arboretum is that they get finished pieces made from the wood that I receive. The weed pots are from some Acacia Visco that they cut down to make way for new water feature.

The bowl is some of the Sissoo I helped cut a couple weeks ago. This particular piece is mostly Quartersawn with just a bit of sapwood and is roughly 7 1/2" x 2".

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Nothing fancy

Nothing fancy tonight, just a trio of rough out Quatersawn Ash shallow bowls. All 3 are roughly 12" diameter and 2 1/2" thick.

This was some of the wood I got from Mike Mahoney last month. It was still fairly green so they were roughed out to about 3/4" thick and have been bagged and set aside to dry. It doesn't show up very well here but these all have a fair amount of curl.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Strange Daze

I tried darkening the Mesquite with Lye but it didn't darken as much as I wanted it to so I colored it with Sharpie marker. I'm still planning to do a couple more variations before I break out the Ebony.

This evening I did a small pair of Mountain Mahogany hollow forms. They're not as thin or as light as I'd like (pretty tough to get light weight with woods like Mountain Mahogany or Desert Ironwood). I wanted to have something to show at our club meeting this weekend and I'm not sure my Sissoo hollow form from above will be complete by Saturday morning.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prototype save

Before I start turning the ebony I purchased I figured I should try to prototype a design in some scrap mesquite. I'm fairly happy with my first effort but I can see some room for improvement.

I think the finial could be taller and thinner, the stem on the pedestal could also be thinner and all of the other elements can be tweaked slightly.

To the left is the Macassar Ebony I purchased at my local Woodcraft. It appeared darker and more uniform in color when covered in wax but I've seen much lighter Macassar Ebony before too.

I think I'll do another couple prototypes before starting to turn the ebony. I may also try dyeing the Mesquite black to get a better idea what the piece will look like when it is finished.

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sissoo Salvage

A bit more work on the Sissoo hollow form tonight. I was able to locate the piece that tore out last night and glued it back into place. I then turned the base a little smaller before sanding the entire piece, applied a coat of oil and parted off the base, leaving a small tenon on the bottom for future use.

I also made a trip to the local Woodcraft and bought a piece of Macassar Ebony (among other things). I intend to use it to turn a small thin stem pedestal and a lid/finial.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Bad words

Tonight I decided to chuck up and hollow a good sized chunk of green Sissoo (Indian Rosewood - Dalbergia Sissoo).

I don't normally hollow green to finished thickness but decided to in this case. This piece is 9" tall and about 8" diameter. It could have been a larger diameter but I wanted less sapwood.

Unfortunately getting it down to final thickness on the bottom the green endgrain tore out, leaving a hole in the bottom about 1/2" diameter.

Normally I'd trash the piece at this point (as I did last night on a much smaller piece with a different problem) but I have too much invested in this piece. So now I have to figure out how to salvage it, but without making it look like a save. I have a few ideas already but I'm also open to suggestions.

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Weekend warrior

A batch of Sissoo bowls from this weekend. All 8 of these were turned green to finish and then microwaved to speed the drying process. They all need a good sanding and a quick finish now that they're mostly dry.

I don't normally turn green to finish but I wanted these to go back to the Arboretum As soon as possible. I think they'll be pleased.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Boyce Beauty

A pile of Sissoo (Dalbergia Sissoo, AKA Indian Rosewood) sourced from Boyce Thompson Arboretum yesterday. The big piece on the top is actually a big crotch piece.

The butt end of the crotch piece. I assisted taking this tree down, sectioning it up, and cleaning up the mess yesterday. It had some frost damage (yes, it does sometimes get below freezing in AZ) and the Arboretum decided it needed to be removed.

Tonight I ripped the crotch in half to prepare it for turning. I was not disappointed with what I found. I'm now thinking about ripping a platter blank off of the face of this blank to best preserve this amazing grain. The bowl made from the remaining wood would be shallower and slightly smaller diameter but the spectacular platter would be worth it.

There's 1 more piece at the arboretum with my name on it. Their chainsaw broke down before the last cut could be made. There's also 5 or 6 pieces about 8" diameter and 4' long but I'm not as interested in them. Lastly there's another very similar tree that they plan to take out soon. I'm already on the short list to help them take that one out.

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