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4th July – Les Thorne

10 July, 2011

I’ve known Les for longer than either of us would care to admit. I’m sure I’m not divulging any secrets to say that in those days his dad wasn’t always entirely complimentary about his prospects- (Bill was never one for discretion!). But how he’s come on! Our resident superstar is now an internationally recognised figure on the woodturning scene. His skills are complemented by banter reminiscent of his father’s adding up to an entertaining presentation from which I always find something to learn.

This time he had been forbidden to do anything about his beloved colouring to avoid stealing John Davis’s thunder next month and he constantly reminded us about that; like apologising for getting some paint from the tool rest on the wood. “Does that count?” So his chosen subject was turning to prescribed shapes, with reference to production turning from which Les derives most of his income. The form book is “Classic Forms” by Stewart Dyas which is a source of a large number of Greek classical shapes. Some would claim it contains all the shapes that exist, but don’t get me started on that.

The chosen object was a shallow dish on a pedestal with a base. (I have to take issue with the name “pilaster” however. Look it up and see if you agree.) Anyway, the important thing for a production turner is to develop the “eye” to create the shapes without a lot of marking up. Three parts were involved, the base, stem and dish and the only sizing Les did was for the spigots and recesses where they were joined together.

The base blank was mounted on a screw chuck via a wooden spacer to shorten the screw. In his workshop he would have used a vacuum chuck. There was talk about speed (speed is your friend, use as much of it as you feel comfortable with), push or pull cuts (the latter generally preferred across a face to minimise fibres building up in front of the tool) and beads and coves. You have to think about grain direction on a bowl blank. Beads and coves on the face are done as spindle turning but on the edge you should cut from the bottom of a cove up to the edge and also upwards to the top of a bead.

On another subject, beware of tool bounce. This usually occurs with too much bevel rubbing and pushing too hard. This results in the existing surface shape being followed and the grain being compressed in places which will show at the finish. Sometimes a courser cut is needed to undercut all that and to impose the correct shape.

All proper bowl turners use power sanding. It’s quicker and avoids the problem of hand held sand paper when the centre of the bowl is not moving.

After finishing the 3 parts would be glued together. Les argued against superglue (no shear strength) and cascamite (too brittle).

I gave up trying to record all the tips, this is just a flavour. I suspect it’s all on a DVD if you’d like to ask him!

The very full evening was topped off with a few words from Les about the gallery. Pictures of all the items are on the website. There were some nice things but surely we can do better than 7 items, particularly as 3 of them were from Mike Haselden.

Dave Gibbard

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