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6th March – Mark Baker

16 March, 2017

This month we were pleased to welcome Mark Baker, who we last saw in September 2013. As well as being editor of woodturning he also does demonstrations throughout the world so we were very lucky when he agreed to come to demonstrate at the club. Well done to Bob Hope for securing his services again.


We had 68 members attend including 1 new plus 4 visitors. A total for the evening of 72.


Look in many museums and you will see metal and pottery vessels with shapes used prolifically by the Greeks and Romans, but were also in use if Africa and Asia centuries before, and are still in use today. These shapes also give themselves to woodturning. Taking his cue from these classics, Mark’s demonstration was to be a lidded pot.


Mark explained lidded vessels are fascinating because they can be created in various sizes and can be functional or decorative or ceremonial. The opportunities for design and enhancement are endless.


Once the club lathe was set up, Mark was putting edges on his tools. This was done using a 150mm diamond wheel which was the precursor to the now superior CBN wheels that are now available. Mark had a mandrel made to fit the wheel so he could hold it in a chuck – with tailstock support and run it at low speed to sharpen his tools. During the demo, he used a diamond hone to keep the edges sharp


Mark started the evening by asking how many members turn at least 25 projects year? A show of hands showed that many of us don’t. He then explained that the average is only 15 projects per year, the point of this question was to point out that if we do not turn regularly we are not practicing our techniques enough.


He started with an ash blank, this was mounted between centres to shape the outside and form a spigot for later reversing to hollow the inside. Mark likes to support his work using the tailstock even when mounted in a chuck. This is more secure and minimises vibration.

He discussed the use of scrapers. And passed three different examples around the audience. Mark started by using pull cuts to clean up the face of the blank, he then used a parting tool to form a spigot for reversing the bowl later on. He then proceeded to form the outside of the bowl using a selection of gouges and scrapers, practicing his techniques as he removed the “waste”, something he recommends for building or retaining skills.

With the outside shape of the bowl complete it was now ready for. the decoration. Here Mark used a beading tool to cut beads on the bottom half of the bowl from the transition point to the base, he then used a parting tool to replace alternate beads with a flat area, a very pleasing yet simple method of decoration.


At this point, Mark explained that he does not sand during demonstrations due to an allergy to all wood dust, when in his own workshop, he always uses a full-face respirator and the workshop is equipped with extraction and filtration.

He gave a useful tip for cleaning up features like beads where sanding is time consuming and likely to remove sharp detail. He uses radial bristle brushes by 3M available in different grades of coarseness. These are quite expensive but a more affordable version is available from B&Q (other DIY outlets are available – Ed.)

The decoration complete Mark remounted the bowl on the previously made spigot and began using a straight coring tool to remove a section which could later become the lid of the bowl, or in this instance another shallow bowl later in the evening. These tools are an excellent investment to save wood and reduce shaving waste. The inside was hollowed with gouges, the bottom of the hollow needing a steep square grind to enable the bevel to rub. A ledge was left in the inside wall for the loose-fitting lid to rest on.


Following a tea break in which Mark answered questions to the surrounding members, he proceeded to give a brief critique of a very large members gallery, picking out the exhibits which caught his eye, he paid particular praise to the entries of two of our newer members who had exhibited pieces that were only their 2nd and 3rd/4th efforts all of which he highly commended for their quality Mark also commented that many of the clubs he visits no longer have a gallery at their club nights.

Mark returned to the lathe and proceeded to turn the lid for the pot, again explaining the culture of shapes. He reduced the edge of the lid to approximately match the recess of the bowl and created a graduated knob and again formed beads from the transition point. The lid was then reversed in the chuck and the rim reduced to fit nicely in the bowl. He then back cut the inside of the lid. The bowl and lid were left plain inside as any decoration would create a food trap.


Mark completed his demonstration by turning a shallow bowl from the cone he had previously removed from the centre of the bowl. He continued to explain that clay pots were finished with a variety of bases. On this occasion he cut away the rim to leave 3 feet on which the pot stands, which also allows light to travel through the spaces. This was achieved using his mini angle grinder to form three feet from the bowl base.


The unit he used was a Proxxon long-neck angle grinder fitted with a medium grade toothed disc from Foredom. Discs of various kinds can also be obtained from Saburr, King Arthur Tools and Kutzall and Arbortech.


Mark finished his session with a quick Q&A, following a hearty round of applause for a first class evening’s entertainment and we finished with the usual raffle

Please,read our drill press reviews!

Next month’s meeting is the AGM and a challenge to make a bowl incorporating some form of decoration. Entries will be displayed for members to select their favourites. This will replace the usual gallery. Also a quick reminder that membership renewal fees are due.

Andi Saunders

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