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5th September – Chris Eagles

8 September, 2011

Chris is a full time woodturner and craftsman dividing his time between teaching at the William Morris workshop in the Cotswolds, furniture restoration and commissions.

His themes for this evening were types of decoration that could be used for box lids (in particular off-centre inlays) and turning long thin spindles under tension.

Chris had brought examples of complete boxes but for the demo he concentrated on lid variations. He started with a square section blank held in a 4 jaw chuck, making sure the jaw ends dug well in and marking orientation on the wood for future re-mounting.  After turning the lid with a flattish top, the reason for the square section became clear. Removing an opposite pair of jaws, say 1 and 3, allowed the lid to be held off-centre in the remaining 2 jaws. Obviously the off-centre distance can easily be adjusted. He bored a blind hole with a Forstner bit to take a contrasting disc, in this case a piece of black acrylic rod. The lid, complete with insert, was then re-mounted in the 4 jaws and the top re-turned and sanded.

For further embellishment it is possible to repeat the process on different offsets to insert other overlapping contrasting inserts.

Chris also showed another effect by tilting a lid in the jaws to cut some crescent shaped grooves in the top which could be filled with coloured paint.

I’ve done some off centre turning but I’ve not tried doing it this way. It seemed a quick if somewhat limited way of getting some interesting decorative effects. I must try it.

Another thing I must try is the way he ground his skew. I generally curve the edge a bit to allow a slight concave to be followed but his curve was extreme. (See picture). He admitted this grind was not his own invention but he now uses only this method and guarantees it is impossible to dig in. (I suspect some of our members are about to prove him wrong!). The theory is that dig-ins occur when a part of the blade other than the part being used to plane accidentally touches the surface. By curving the edge the likelihood of this happening is much reduced. I can see the logic of that and it’s something else I will try. I can see that another advantage is that a planning cut can be made with any part of the edge rather than a very limited area near the point, so it won’t need sharpening as often.

After tea Chris demonstrated another “neat idea”. When turning long thin spindles, it is difficult to support them. Applying more thrust from the tail stock makes matters worse as the spindle starts to bow. Chris uses a tensioning device, the tension being applied using the tailstock in the reverse. The spindle obviously has to be gripped in a chuck rather than a pronged drive and also gripped in the tailstock. The device for doing this uses a modified revolving centre in the tail stock adapted to take a cup into which a spigot on the end of the spindle is inserted. The cup has holes to allow the spigot to be pinned in place. The revolving centre is tapped at the end which goes into the tailstock to take a threaded rod which protrudes at the far end of the tailstock and retained by a nut. Got all that? If I can find enough spare bits I’ll try making one and let you know.

Time limitation constrained his tensioned spindle demo to a fairly short one though he had brought examples of much longer ones. His invitation to the audience to imagine this was 12” brought a show-stopping comment from a woman visitor:  “That’s what my husband says!”

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