There were 2 options for the Challenge, A, something with a finial and B, something made with 2 or more materials. We had 16 entries from 10 turners, many satisfying both criteria; and what a high standard they were. You can see all the entries on the website, but here are the first 3 choices of the 53 members who voted:-
1st Choice was Ian Woodford’s spherical box with excellent crisp finials at top and bottom. The box seemed perfectly spherical to the eye with a nicely fitting lid and good grain match at the join. The box sat on a stand which matched the finials. A clear and deserved 1st choice from one of our most experienced turners.
2nd choice was Alan Baker’s segmented bowl. Quite apart from the amount of work that must have gone into it, the bowl had a lovely “ogee” profile and was well finished. The spiral pattern of the inlayed blocks becoming larger towards the rim was well planned. Alan is a relative newcomer to woodturning and this piece is evidence of remarkable progress.
Talking of remarkable progress, 3rd choice was Dave Simpson’s beautifully finished decorative item based on a pod of contrasting seeds (peas?). A good deal of carving and texturing had gone into this work of art. Dave is quite new to the Club and to woodturning and shows real aptitude.
Whilst the votes were counted and certificates being done by Lynda, our calligrapher for the evening, the lights were dimmed for Bob Hope’s presentation on chair making. Bob suggested a stool is a good item to start with though he had obviously progressed to much more complicated and beautiful chairs. My favourite has to be his Windsor carver with steam-bent arms and back.
It is important to plan ahead. Get the sizing right for the intended purpose or person and draw it up. Also, trying to design matching spindles of the right size on the hoof is a recipe for a poor result. If in doubt, buy a book or pattern.
Traditional materials are ash, oak, beech and, for the seats, elm though this is not readily available since the dreadful disease. The shaping of the seat was traditionally done by hand with an adze though Bob uses an Arbotech, modestly claiming not to have the skill to use an adze. Personally I’d be more scared of the Arbotech.
Bob also makes rush seats but instead of the traditional rushes he uses a paper rush which is applied wet. This produces a very similar result but is easier to use than the specialist rush weaving.
The legs are usually turned with tapered ends to fit the holes in the seat. Drilling the holes has to be done carefully and jigs are recommended to get the angles right. For the legs there are rake and splay angles. The rake on the back legs is generally greater than the front (about 105 degrees compared to 95 to 100) because of the weight transfer when the sitter leans back. Splay is the sideways angle. This is needed for stability but too much and the legs stick out and clash. The holes are tapered so that the joint tends to tighten with use. A parallel hole is first drilled on a tilted table on a drill press then a taper bit is used. The holes for the legs usually go right through and a wedge is inserted in the exposed spindle end. Other holes, like those for the stretchers are blind and they have different angles. This all needs to be worked out carefully and time should be taken to make jigs, however simple, to get all the joint angles right.
Bob favours cascamite glue to fix it all together which is hard to beat for the purpose.
Chair parts often involve bending. This is an acquired skill and requires a steam chamber to be made. After prolonged steaming you have a short time to get the wood onto a table and bend it round pegs set out to define the curve. A steel strip on the outside of the bend helps to prevent splitting. Bob finds that there is always a certain amount of spring back afterwards and this can be avoided by using laminated strips of wood glued together.
Many chairs have a lot of plain spindles which are usually not turned but split and roughly sized with a spokeshave then finished with a dowel cutter.
Whilst on the subject of tools, Bob has invested in a “decent set of drills” with sharp central points to avoid wander and sharp edges to stop break-out. He is also happy to use modern methods where they are superior and quicker than traditional ones. An example is a router rather than chisels for mortice and tennon joints.
Asked about finishing, Bob said for durability he uses 4 coats of polyurethane, diluted for the first couple of coats. Alternatively chairs may be painted.
I hope I got most of that whilst counting votes in the dark but if anyone wants to try their hand at making a chair, I’m sure Bob will be happy to give the benefit of some advice. Thanks Bob, great presentation.
“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.