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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Back To Basics

As for the title of this blog, I had to get back to basics while turning the last couple of days. Before I get to that though, I want to get the one pen for this blog entry out of the way.
This is made from one of the pen blanks I bought on my recent trip to Pickens Hardwoods. I talked about that in my last blog entry.
I was excited to turn this because it was labeled as spalted lemon wood. I usually love spalting, so I wanted to see what it looked like. Spalting is like burls, it's always a surprise as to how they are going to turn out. Well this one was really a surprise, but not the kind of surprise I was hoping for. From start to finish, I found no spalting in this wood at all. So it is just lemon wood, minus any spalting. I only payed fifty cents a piece for two blanks, so I am not too bummed out by it.
Now for the back to basics.
What you see here are my bowl tools. I have a few others, like my depth drill and such, but these are the ones designed for actually working the wood. Some are made by me. Some are bought. However, while turning a bowl the other day I got a little frustrated. I just could not get a clean finishing cut on the inside of a bowl I was turning. I tried the Oland tool at every possible way and direction I could think of. I had done it before, but it was a different type wood than I'd done it in and it just wasn't working out like I had planned. I sharpened the tool and tried again. I tried cleaning it up with very light passes with a scraper. Nothing I tried seemed to give me the results I would be happy with though.
So I sat with a cup of coffee and thought about this for a moment. That's when the thought came to me that I didn't have this problem in the past with this same wood. I had turned it before. So what was different? The only thing that was different was that I was stubbornly insisting on using these new tools that I had made myself.
So the answer to my problem was to get back to the basics that I had learned when I first started studying and learning to turn any bowls. All those tools, whether bought or made, are nice to have for those different circumstances. When it comes down to it though, there just is no substitute, in my opinion, for a good detail gouge and a skew chisel for getting clean cuts.
If any of you are reading this and thinking of learning to turn, let me offer a bit of advice that I have learned, at least for me.
There are all kinds of tools. There are oland tools, hook tools, hollowing tools of all shapes and sizes, carbide, and a host of other ways to hollow bowls. I even seen a guy hollow a bowl once using nothing but a diamond shaped parting tool. If you want good clean cuts though without burnishing or catches though, learn to sharpen and use a gouge.
Next, on the outside of the bowl, or any spindle type work, if you can't get a clean cut with a sharp tool, even a gouge, a skew chisel will make quick work of it. For the longest time, I was scared to death of the skew. The skew, to me, was just a quick way to ruin anything I was trying to do. One day, I decided to just throw a piece of scrap on the lathe and not stop until I could use a skew, and boy am I glad I did. There are times that there is no better tool for the job than the skew. If you don't know how to use one, there is no other way to learn it besides practice.
This bowl I turned really just to test how the power sanding attachments I've been talking so much about worked on small bowls. I knew I wasn't going to be able to easily get the direction I wanted inside this bowl while power sanding. So I wanted to see how that was going to work out. I was worried it would leave radial lines much like on a pen that one has either skipped grits on or failed to sand the length of after sanding with the lathe running. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. With a little tilting back and forth with the drill, it did a great job on this little piece of sapelle.
I felt I was finally ready to turn this piece that I've been holding back on. I was wanting to build my confidence a bit before tackling this chunk of rosewood because I just knew I would cry like a baby if I messed it up.
This was from a six inch square chunk of rosewood that a friend gave me a while back when he visited my shop. I know there are many, many turners out there that could have done a better job than I with it, but I am quite proud of myself with the results.
This one did not turn out being what I originally intended it to be. It was a two inch thick piece of six inch square lacewood. I intended to turn a shallow bowl. Midway through though, with the size and shape, I remembered a wooden ash tray I had seen somewhere and remembered that I had thought how much I would love to have one. Well this presented a perfect opportunity for me to do just that. It was the right size. So I used my tailstock to hold a scrap piece against the top of the bowl. Then I turned it down to the same as the sides of the bowl and use a drill and forstner bit to drill holes with the point where the bowl and scrap block met. Then I finished turning it.
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Well that is all I have to show today.
Till next time, happy turning.


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