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Nov 1st – Les Thorne

8 November, 2010

About 80% of our members turned up for the annual Les Thorne show. Les puts on a great show and manages to do some turning at the same time. He has obviously long since overcome the nerves that affect most of us when we try to perform in public with the result that there is a constant stream of valuable comment on what he is doing and why. So much so that I couldn’t possibly remember enough to do it justice so I am just going to repeat his advice. “Buy the DVD.” Anyway, most of you were there so I’ll just give you a taste.

The choice of subject was a box in ash with a wonky top, texturing and colouring. Les acknowledged that many turners prefer not to embellish wood. However, the buying public seem to like it and it makes life more varied for the turner. Of course, some wood is lovely enough without decoration, but even then, an area of natural wood framed by some sensitive colouring or texturing can focus attention on its natural beauty. Right Les?

The basic method for turning the box was fairly conventional, making a cylinder with a spigot on each end which to be parted into 2 pieces. We were encouraged to think about selecting which end should be the top based on features and defects in the wood. When it comes to hollowing, Les does not favour making an initial depth hole. The compression of the end grain at the bottom of the hole is such that it needs to be cut further when finishing. There are pros and cons for pushing or pulling but the important thing is to remove material aggressively at first with a gouge with cuts becoming progressively finer, finishing with (sheer) scraping.

The fit of the lid needs to be tight at first since it will be jammed on to finish the top. The fit can be eased afterwards. Approach the fitting a small step at a time. You can always make another cut but putting shavings back if you’ve gone too far is tricky!

The wonky top, as I have irreverently called it, is carved. Not for Les the exquisite satisfaction of rasping away for hours by hand with micro planes, he uses a mini Arbortech to cut away most of the material, sanding with a Proxxon grinder. After Then comes the texturing. One cynical reason for texturing is that it virtually eliminates the need for sanding. Les again used the mini Arbortech to cut grooves allowing the tool to wander a little to create a natural looking effect like a walnut shell. A little light sanding removes the stray fibres but this is not to be overdone since the detail will be affected. Les then chose to spray black with acrylic before drying, sanding back and applying red spirit stain. Final finish was a clear lacquer.

The base was reversed onto a jam chuck to finish underneath. Les likes to add a couple of grooves on the bottom. He explained the reason is to create 3 areas to engrave; 1 for signature, 1 for the wood type and 1 for the price. It doesn’t work for Stuart Mortimer because he needs too much space for the price.

During the demo, Les took a break whilst waiting for paint to dry to do a critique on the gallery, balancing encouraging remarks with comments about how he thought the items could be improved.

I hope I haven’t been too kind, he’ll want more money next year.

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