“Mike’s mystery” is becoming a regular annual feature of our programme and can be relied on for entertainment value and technique tips.
Tonight’s demo started with a platter. With the blank mounted on a screw chuck, Mike faced up the bottom and cut a chucking dovetail. He immediately reversed this onto the chuck to turn the top. The reason for leaving the underside was to become clear later.
The top surface was faced up with a gouge and refined with a negative rake scraper which Mike uses a lot. I first saw this method demonstrated to good effect by Colwyn Way at Axminster. For those unfamiliar with the idea, the top surface of the scraper is ground so that it slopes down towards the edge. Unlike a normal scraper it is unnecessary to tilt it downwards since this is achieved by the rake on the top. This makes it far less critical to use and also allows it to get inside a deep box as it can be used horizontally. Mike claims never to have had a dig-in since using this grind which can be applied to any scraper. Incidentally, Mike uses a CDN grinding wheel and his grinder rotation is reversed so that the grinding surface moves away from the tool being sharpened. It certainly seems to give very nice tool edges.
Having got a nice flat surface Mike abraded and sealed it before applying texture. Mike prefers to use the more accurate term “abrade” rather than sand as most abrasives are not actually sandpaper. He uses a soft brush in between grits to remove particles which the previous courser grit may have left on the surface.
With the surface prepared he then used a Proxxon tool with a cutter to pass diagonally over the rim just twice to texture the surface. Mike likes the tool but questions why it has an on/off switch rather than a trigger that would allow it to stop once released. Colour (generally water based acrylic) can be applied to the surface and wiped off leaving the textured grooves coloured.
There is a large amount of hit and miss with texturing and colouring so if you don’t like the result you can re-turn the surface and have another go. Having left the platter thick, there is still plenty of material to enable this to be done.
The centre of the platter was then scooped out using a bowl gouge. Some people find it tricky to attack the wood at the right angle to avoid the tool skidding back (right across the finished rim!). The Keith Rowley “bible” suggests a way of coping with this by cutting a flight of steps with a parting tool using each step to support the bevel of the gouge at the start of the cut. Mike finished the surface of the bowl with a round nosed scraper ground with a negative rake before abrading it. The textured surface was brushed with a brass brush to remove the rough edges left by the texturing cutter and the whole thing sealed by spraying with sanding sealer.
During the tea break Mike set the lathe up on the stand with the bed and turning centre vertical! The purpose of this was to spin blobs of diluted paint placed in the bowl. Results are unpredictable but can be interesting and attractive. We had a bit of audience participation and several of us stepped up to have a go. For most of us, if we are going to give this a try at home, we’ll have to invent other means of spinning in a horizontal plane as it would be a challenge to tip our lathes up on end.
Once you think you have something worth finishing the platter needs to be reversed again to turn the underside.
To round off the evening Alan Sturgess gave a critique of the members gallery, which once again disappointed in the number of items brought in though some were very impressive. All the pictures as usual are on the website.
Firstly my sympathy goes to Jean for having to contend with gremlins in the sound system. It couldn’t have been easy for her or some of the audience. Nevertheless, she managed to get her point across in an entertaining manner.
Jean believes that unless you are one of the very few acknowledged masters of your craft, the perceived value of things made from wood is not high. This is partly because wood is considered impermanent unlike stone or metal and partly because, like certain other activities, there are too many amateurs spoiling the game with cheap, often poor offerings. One way to achieve a higher price for your work is to add some sort of decoration to enrich it, to catch the eye and raise it above the common offerings. Whilst this is unlikely to elevate the value of your work to the levels of the elite, a small amount of thought and effort can add a disproportionate perceived value.
Of course this should be done carefully. Too much could be seen as bedizenment rather than enrichment. (Bedizen (archaic), to dress up or decorate gaudily or tastelessly.)
Jean went on to give some examples, starting with stain and metal applied to a hollow form. She had already turned her hollow form from ash. The lid had a small hole and was to be stuck on to the base. It was merely a device to make hollowing easier and quicker. The join was to be disguised later.
The outside was first decorated with adjacent beads using a beading tool and sanded. Coloured spirit stain was applied with a brush trying to avoid spreading to the adjacent bead. The choice of colours is to your taste but beware of beziden.
Part of the surface had been left plain for a different treatment. Firstly it was treated with a Henry Taylor burr tool before applying indian ink. When dry a gold paste was rubbed in and the surplus wiped off. This was a product called “Goldfinger”, quite appropriately as Jean wasn’t wearing gloves. The whole thing was sprayed with acrylic gloss lacquer.
Jean continued by demonstrating the use of thin metal sheets. In this case copper was embossed and applied in a band to cover the lid joint. The embossing technique, known as repousse, involves hammering the reverse side to raise a pattern on the face side. This is done with the sheet on a soft surface, like foam. It is then turned over and the edges of the raised pattern are sharpened up with a nylon tool. Tools consist of scribes, metal ball end and nylon tipped tools and can be obtained in sets from Walnut Hollow.
The edges of the band are scribed and turned under for a better appearance than a thin cut edge. The band is stuck on with double sided adhesive tape. Whilst the embossed band looked impressive there was some concern about the appearance where the ends overlapped.
Another adornment Jean often uses is Swarovski crystals. These look like small sparkling jewels available in a variety of colours. They have either hot glue backing which can be melted with a soldering iron or they may be attached with E6000 1 pot resin. All new to me but I must say that a discrete use of these crystals can produce a nice eye catching feature.
Finally, don’t overlook the value of packaging. A proper box lined with coloured tissue costs very little and makes your article look much more valuable than bubble wrap and a plastic bag.
Food for thought indeed and maybe we will see some results on the gallery table.
Speaking of which Ian Woodford gave us his thoughts on the disappointingly few items brought in by members. You can see gallery pictures on the website.
It was surely a record attendance with numbers swollen by a party of scouts from Shedfield. They had been invited following their interest in including woodturning in their woodcraft studies. Once a programme has been devised we will be looking for volunteers from our members to help them achieve this goal.
We’d all turned out to see John Aitken who had a new gimmick – he was not wearing his trade mark bowler hat! He was also not wearing goggles, though he did wear specs. He explained that he had never had a problem with the sort of items he would be demonstrating. Hmmm!
We didn’t have the sound system operating either (sorry) but John is experienced enough to have managed very well without it.
The scouts were broken in gently with John’s straightforward first job of making a honey dibber. John mounted a piece of maple between centres and used a roughing gouge and a spindle gouge to shape the dibber, then a thin parting tool to make the grooves for retaining the honey. One of the visitors thought it was like magic to see the shape emerge from the wood on the lathe. Perhaps we get a bit blasé about these things.
The next demo was also simple – a spinning top – which involved use of the chuck to hold the top to allow the end to be finished to a point. John stressed the importance of using the gouge the right way up otherwise it would put wood back on. We wiser turners smiled at this little joke knowing that you have to use an entirely different tool to put the shavings back on. Now that is magic.
John said that a real test of turning speed is to set the top spinning and turn another before it stops. Having tested his top, though, he didn’t attempt it.
The next item was rather more complicated. It was a tapered square section box. John pre-drills the box with a Forstner bit to save time hollowing the inside of the box. In fact to help the drilling he first drills a pilot hole the same diameter as the width or the centre spike of the Forstner bit.
The outside of the box is only then marked up and the taper cut using a saw and sander though he didn’t include this in the demo. The box was mounted on a long cylindrical jam chuck made to fit the Forstner hole. A good tip is to relieve the middle of the cylinder to reduce the tendency to become stuck. If the jam chuck is a bit loose a piece of tissue can be wrapped round it.
The bottom of the box was shaped with a curved under-cut with it still on the jam chuck. It was supported by a hollow tailstock to avoid the point making a hole.
The top part of the box was turned to a long spigot onto which rings and sleeves were added using a contrasting wood and of course the lid. John uses a beading tool for the rings which saves a lot of time. In fact he had made his own before such things were commonly available.
John hones his skew chisels to put a really keen edge on them. He has fitted a cotton polishing wheel and a sisal wheel to a grinder and uses a linishing paste. Of course a grinder goes the wrong way for honing. John confessed to spending a lot of time trying to work out how to alter the wiring to reverse it before realising that it could be taken apart re-assembled with the housing on the other side.
Chris Davey offered some alternative experience regarding sharpening a skew for turning bobbins. He has found that the less perfect edge from a grinder is better at picking up the cut on some woods since it has a burr edge.
There was an excellent display on the gallery table and John kindly made a quick pass through with a critique. Thanks to all members who put their work on the table. All the pictures are on the website.