Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spline box how-to

Mount a blank on the lathe between centers in face grain (side grain) orientation.  Turn a tenon on each end.  I leave the blank square so the next operation is both safer and easier.
The blank is taken to the band saw and a cut is made that follows the contour of the grain. Blank selection is important as you want the grain has some contour that runs side to side, not diagonally. The end grain should also run as perpendicular as possible to the side grain.
The blank can then be mounted between centers again and turned to a cylinder.  Alternatively each half can be mounted in a chuck and turned to a cylinder independently.  When demonstrating this project I opt for the chuck method as it is safer than turning a blank between centers that has been cut in half.  Can you see the joint in this photo?
There it is.

The 2 halves turned to a cylinder and set aside.  The contour is what makes this box interesting and necessitates the spline technique as it's not possible to turn a tenon on the irregular surface and still have a good grain match.

The first half is then mounted in the chuck and the inside is turned.  The body is partially hollowed and a recess is turned around the inside, this will be used to accept the spline that will act as the faux tenon.

The blank for the spline is mounted between centers and turned round.  I usually opt to use the same wood and turned in the same orientation as the body of the box.  In this case the only matching wood I had was in end grain orientation but I used it anyway.  A spline in a contrasting wood is another good look.
The spline is turned to the correct diameter.  It can normally be remounted and carefully turned to get a good fit with minimal runout.  I actually don't mount this between centers.  I jam the blank against the flat face of the spindle and drive it with friction and pressure from the tailstock.  I use the face of the spindle as it will ensure that the blank is perpendicular to the ways.

Once a good fit is attained the spline is glued in place.  The round mark visible here is from the end of the spindle.

The chuck is then returned to the lathe and the center of the spline removed to that only the solid wooden ring is left.  The rest of the body is then hollowed and the spline is blended into the rest of the body.  I opted to reduce the length and soften the edge of the tenon slightly.

The other half is then mounted in the chuck and a recess is turned to match the diameter of the spline tenon.  From here on out the process is mostly the same as a standard box.  We now have 1 half with a tenon (spline) and 1 half with a recess.

The first half is mounted onto the 2nd half and the live center is brought up to support it as the outside is turned.  I round it off and take it down to a little nub.  The top half can be removed to check the wall thickness as work progresses.  The blank centers very well as the contoured joint can only fit in one position.  The dimple from the live center also helps keep it centered.

If the fit is tight enough the nub can be removed without the need for tape.  I rushed through this box so the fit was looser that it should have been so I needed some painter's tape to hold it together while I cleaned up the nub.

The rest of the end half is hollowed and then reversed for for final turning.  I opted to use my vacuum chuck but a jam chuck should also work.  The outside is turned to match the first half,

The 2nd half secured on my vacuum chuck.  My primary vacuum pump pulls 24" of mercury which translates to 12 PSI.  The PVC is 2" diameter which is roughly 3 square inches so there is roughly 36 pounds of air pressure holding this in place.

Turning complete, next up is the texturing that is used to help disguise the joint.

The outside is textured with a round brass bristle brush.  It's held in a jacobs chuck and the lathe rotates it while I hold the box against it.  The softer wood is worn away while the harder wood is left behind.

The finished box.  Another reason I like doing this style of box is that I don't have to sand the outside at all.  The entire surface is textured, more grain is worn away where it's softer but even the harder grain gets some texture.  Any time spent sanding on the outside is completely wasted.

Another view.

Open view.  You can clearly see the end grain orientation of the spline, the grain runs vertical rather than side to side.  If it ran side to side it would blend better with the body and be much less visible.

Woodworking Expo wrapup

Yesterday was the 3rd annual Woodworking Expo in the parking lot of the local Woodcraft.  Our club had a booth that we used to demonstrate woodturning, promote the club, recruit new members, and socialize.

Over the course of the day I turned 5 bowls: 2 Sissoo, 2 walnut (both square), 1 Birdseye maple, a small lidded box out of Olive, a 3 sided spindle with a  120 degree twist, and a set of 3 mini hollow forms in Maple burl.  A very productive day.

Desert Ironwood Hollow form

There were probably about 20 booths total, including the Arizona Fine Woodworkers, ArizonaWoodcarvers, Festool, Sawstop, Freud, Easy Wood Tools, and a wood vendor.  They also had a woodworking contest with entries divided into 4 categories: woodturning, wood carving, furniture, and other.  I opted to enter 4 pieces into the woodturning category.  3 prizes were awarded in each category.  The pictures on this page are of my 4 entries.

Oak burl nested set

After seeing all of the entries I thought I had a really good chance to place, if not take first place.  There was some nice work, including several very nice segmented pieces.  I took 3rd place in the woodturning category 2 years ago and took 2nd place last year.  This year I had my heart and sites set on 1st.

Sissoo (Indian Rosewood) hollow form with Macassar Ebony pedestal and finial.

This year the judges were noted turner and featured demonstrator Ernie Conover and Easy Wood Tools owner Craig Jackson.  Last year the judges were David Marks and Marc Spagnuolo of The Wood Whisperer.

The prizes in the Woodturning category were announced first and my name was the first one they called.  The judges has selected this Spalted/Quilted Maple hollow form with Ebony collar (this photo shows a Desert Ironwood collar, I replace it with Ebony after this photo was taken) as the best piece in the category.  My prize was a variable speed Rikon mini lathe, worth about $350.  Last year I won a Supernova2 chuck with insert (~$175) and the year before a close quarters angle drill (~$60).  I still have and still use both of my previous prizes.  Is it too early to start thinking about next year?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Woodworking expo

Saturday is the annual woodworkers expo at the local Woodcraft. Our club will have a booth and I'll be there all day demonstrating and promoting the club. In order to demonstrate I need some wood prepared so I cut up a chunk of Sissoo tonight. I got 6 blanks out of the log section, I'll probably take the 4 smaller pieces, leaving the 2 larger crotch pieces to work on at home as I think they're better quality than I'd normally use to demo.

I'm also planning to do a trio of mini hollow forms. I've chosen to use a small piece of Maple Burl for the blanks. This is actually a small cutoff from the giant Maple Burl I bought almost exactly a year ago.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 16, 2012

Demo prep

I'm demonstrating lidded boxes on Saturday at the Arizona Woodturners Association. I plan to demo 3 different styles, first is a small round box with a contrasting inlay around the rim, a simplified version of Cindy Drozda's "Fabulous Finial Box". Second will be what I call a hidden joint spline box. It's a pretty unique box, done side grain rather than end grain and with a joint that is contoured to match the grain of the wood. Last (if there's time) will be what I consider to be my signature lidded box, 3 sided with a 120 degree twist.

I've got most of my prep work already done, tonight I gathered up some samples and my prepared blanks. Next I need to gather up my tools and and accessories and I should be good to go.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, January 13, 2012

Phase III

I had about 30 minutes to kill yesterday between work and the first board meeting of 2012 so I headed out to the shop to try and finish the canteen/flask. I started off doing a little more hollowing to reduce the thickness and the weight. Next I turned a small shoulder on the front face to accept the plug. Then I turned some decorative grooves to help hide the joint where the plug meets the front face.

Then the piece was reversed and mounted on my vacuum chuck, the tenon was removed, and matching decorative grooves turned. Last I turned the plug for the front face out of a matching piece of wood. You can see how the grain is similar, but does not match exactly on the photo above.

Last I drilled 2 holes in each of the upper lobes so the strap can be attached. Overall I'm pretty pleased with the result, it's still a prototype and a test of the technique and process so I didn't bother sanding at all. It's 99.9% turned, with only the 4 holes for the strap and the spout opening being drilled.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Phase II

Mounted between centers the outside profile was turned and the blank reversed do I could turn a tenon on the bottom. The blank was then gripped by the tenon and the spout opening was drilled and then refined. The blank was flipped again and a cone center used to drive the piece between centers again do most of the tenon can be removed.

The blank was then mounted between centers but in face grain orientation and 3/4" off center. This allowed me to turn away the rest of the tenon and form the feet. Next the blank was mounted on the true center, the back face shaped and a tenon cut. With the blank gripped with the chuck I had full access to the front face and to the inside.

The face was opened up and the inside was removed using my hollowing system. I still need to turn the plug for the front face, remove the tenon, turn a stopper, and drill some holes in the handles for a strap.

Bottom view showing the feet. This has been and will be completely turned with only 2 exceptions, the hole drilled for the spout opening and the holes to be drilled for the strap.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Phase I

I think I've got the steps figured out. The blank is about 9 1/2 by 9 1/2 by 4 1/2. First it will be mounted in end grain (spindle) orientation and the outside profile shaped. I plan to turn a tenon on the bottom so I can drill and shape the opening. That tenon will be removed before moving on. The blank will then be switched to face grain orientation and a tenon turned on what will be the back side. The back profile will also be partially turned. Next the blank will be flipped over so the front face can be turned and the inside hollowed. I plan to do this through a large opening, probably 4" diameter. Next the blank will be flipped again and either jam chucked or vacuum chucked so the tenon can be removed and the back side finished. Then the plug to fill the opening on the front will be turned and then finally a stopper turned for the spout.

This is the blank I selected. It is a half log that started at 12" wide, 13" long, and 5 1/2" thick. I trimmed about 1 1/4" off each edge and the sliced about 3/4" off the back side that will be used to make the plug for the front side. I further trimmed the blank after doing the rough layout so there's less material to remove. Next up is the actual turning process.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My next project

I've seen this video before, a couple of years ago and filed it away in the back of my mind. I found it again this weekend and now my mind is spinning to figure out how to best replicate it using modern tools and techniques.

I think I have the basic process figured out, now it's a matter of picking out the right piece of wood and getting it done.

Here are a couple made using the traditional spring pole technique by Robin Wood (

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, January 2, 2012

Before and After

As I stated yesterday I intend to make a serious dent in my woodpile this year so I can get better organized. Today I tackled most of the rest of the Mountain Mahogany I have. These 5 pieces were all cut roughly round on the bandsaw this morning, then the turning began.

I considered not coring the bowls but decided I couldn't stand the thought of this gorgeous wood going to waste. It took longer to turn than normal because the wood is now mostly dry and nearly rock hard. This lead to some other issues as well.

One of the problems with very card and dense wood is the possibility of broken screws. On the 2 largest pieces I used a 3" steel faceplate and 6 #12 1-1/2" screws. Even with pilot holes drilled I broke the heads off of multiple screws. To extract them I cut straight in with a parting tool on both sides of the screw(s).

I then use a large flat head screwdriver to break away the thin ribbon of wood around the screw. If I'm in a hurry I will sometimes use the parting tool itself.

The screw can then be grabbed with a pair of pliers or vice grips and worked free. If it doesn't come out easily the grooves can be cut deeper and the process repeated until the screw is extracted.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Olive weekend

This is the last of my fresh olive. I don't make new year's resolutions but I am going to try to tackle a good portion of my woodpile this winter so I can get better organized.

These 3 were turned Friday evening. The 2 pieces on the left are the 2 halves of a small crotch. The piece on the far left was turned natural edge, the piece on the center was turned in the normal orientation. The piece on the right is calabash shaped and also normal side grain orientation.

2 more bowls Saturday night and a bowl and 3 spindle blanks Sunday night. I'm not certain what the spindles will end of as, possibly lidded boxes or hollow forms.

I think next I'll start to tackle the rest of the Mountain Mahogany I got this summer, I also still have some Sissoo that may still be somewhat green.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone