Friday, March 28, 2008

The Journey - from scrap to art

While browsing on some woodworking sites about turning wood, I ran across one site that really piqued my interest. On this site were many very beautiful goblets turned from wood. The author of the website, Bob Pritchard, was nice enough to put step by step instructions on the making of a staved goblet. It looked like something I could do, so I tried it. The following is a pictorial of a goblet being made. Actually this is the second attempt. I didn't think to get many pictures of the first one in process.

First, I had to cut all the pieces that were to make the parts of the turning. I started off with nine 3/4" x 3/4" x11" squares, 4 walnut and 5 cherry. These were then glued together in a checkerboard pattern. Then I added the outside of 3/4" x 4" x 11" spalted oak. These were glued on the outside and allowed to dry overnight. I didn't get any pictures of this process, but this is the resulting cube. You can see the different elements put together. This was all scraps that were really not any good for anything else. This works out well for me because I have trouble throwing away anything that might be useable some other time.

Here it is with the corners cut off to make it closer to round. That saves a lot of time and material that doesn't have to be turned off.

The next step is to center the ends and mount it on the lathe.

Now the fun starts. The first step in any wood turning (after initial preparation) is to get the piece round. Here you can see the blank turned into a round tube. Now it's ready to go to work on.

After the initial rounding it's time to form the top of the goblet. The shape is formed at this time and all else follows from this. Also at this time a smaller round is formed at the bottom (I didn't think to gat a picture) to remount into a set of jaws that will hold the form on the lathe without the tailstock center in the cup. The tailstock is the part of the machine holding the end of the blank as shown here. That is done so the inside of the cup can be hollowed out.

Here the outside of the cup is sanded smooth. This and hollowing the cup have to be done at this time, because if the stem were cut for this process, it would surely break from the pressure applied. Look at the light shining on that smooth piece of wood! Lots more sanding to follow of course. All of the tool marks will be removed in final sanding.

Now we move the tailstock that is holding the cup end and hollow out the cup. Notice the black lines in the oak around the cup. That is spalting, a fungus that is the first step of wood rot. Anytime a woodworker finds a spalted piece of wood there is excitement for the possibilities inside that piece.

After sanding the inside, it's time to turn the stem. Much care must be taken becaues it can break if too much pressure is used, and send your hard work to this point flying off in all directions. That would be aggravating, to say the least. Not to mention hazardous to your health. If you look closely at the right end of this picture you can see the tailstock back in the cup. I have a socket on the tailstock to keep from making a small hole in the bottom of the cup. The tailstock helps give more support to the piece for the cutting of the stem.

After some more sanding, and some more sanding and ...I think you get my drift, it is ready to cut off. Just a word about sanding. I start out with an 80 grit sandpaper on a 2" disk installed in my drill. This gets rid of any major tool marks left from turning. Then I use 150 grit on the drill. At this point I change to hand sanding for a fine finish. I use 180, 220, 340, 0 steel wool and 0000 steel wool. As you can imagine, this takes some time, but the finish is what shows the quality of workmanship.

And finally, I wiped on 4 coats of Tung Oil with a light sanding between each coat. This gives a nice finish to the piece and hardens into a shiny coat. It also makes the natural colors in the wood pop out.
As a beginning woodturner, I learn something every time I turn my lathe on. Anybody who has turned wood for a while would probably cringe and run away at some of the techniques I use, but being self taught, I have had nobody to tell me what not to do, so I do what works for me. As I go forward, I will learn proper techniques and get better and faster. Again I would like to thank Mr. Bob Pritchard for being kind enough to put a picture tutorial on his website to help aspiring turners learn another aspect of the art.
This concludes my rambling. I hope you enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


We all have diversions for those times when we have to get away from real life. Most are happy with one, but I have two. When the weather's nice, chances are I'll be on the road somewhere on my scooter.

While I was in the Navy I saw a very large part of the world (mostly the wet parts). I have ridden for about 35 years, but after I rejoined the civilian world, I decided to see the Good Old U.S. of A. What better way to do that than on a Goldwing??? I've been riding this baby for 3 years now and have seen quite a lot. The picture at right was taken at Bald River Falls on the Cherohala Skyway just outside of Tellico Plains TN. I look forward to several more years of exploring and seeing this great country.

My other main interest is working with wood. I have piddled with it for several years and got pretty good with the limited amount of stuff I tried. However, I recently bought a wood lathe. I am finding out I have a little bit of artist in me. I know that sounds a little strange for those who know me, but it is what it is. When I put a piece of wood on my lathe and begin to work it, I am amazed at what I find in each piece. Even 2 pieces of wood from the same tree can come out entirely different. It just amazes me.

Here are my first attempts at goblets. I was very pleased with them. Apparently some others I showed them to were also impressed (or were trying not to hurt my feelings). They are made from spalted oak, cherry and walnut pieces glued together and turned on the lathe.

And here is a bowl I turned recently. The main part of the bowl is made of bodock and the rim is cherry. I have a cherry base ready to go on it but had to order a new attachment for the lathe to finish the bottom.

Here is another bowl that I made from just strips of bodock, cherry and walnut glued together. After gluing and drying, I cut the resulting board into circles and stacked them to turn. I thought it was a good experiment. A learning adventure at least. Here it is still attached to the lathe with out a finish on it. The shine on the wood is the natural shine from a VERY slick, smooth sanding job. It took more time to sand it smooth than to turn it.

Here is another small bowl I turned. It is made out of a piece of catawba. It needs some more work, so it will go back on the lathe for more sanding and finish

I have even gone so far as to name my woodworking shop (very presumptuous, don't you think?). It took a while to come up with the perfect name for my place of play, but finally it came to me. I asked myself ,"Self, what do you do best?" The answer was simple and obvious. The thing I do best is make sawdust. And lots of it. So the natural name for my workspace was The Sawdust Factory. A very fitting tribute to my skills.

As I move forward with my diversions, I will update periodically. Back later with more.