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1st July – Gary Rance

14 July, 2019

Gary Rance…Something you’ve never seen before…

The evening was attended by 64 members and 4 visitors (one who came from Australia, see how far our fame has spread…!)

Gary Rance has been woodturning since he was 16 years old and has worked for several wood turning companies making Peppermills and Kitchen ware, then moved to produce Chair parts and Stair Balusters. Wood turning is the only employment he has ever had, so he is a very professional and knowledgeable turner He became self employed in 1987 and has made his mark in woodturning by writing articles for magazines, demonstrating for Trade companies and exhibiting in National Competitions in Britain and abroad. He is considered to be one of the fastest and most accurate production woodturners in the UK. Gary also produces and sells his own tools; Teaches Masterclass wood turning and supplies his produce to over 400 customers including The Duke of Westminster.

A selection of Gary’s demo work.

Gary’s demo this evening was “Something you’ve never seen before”, so we were all suitably intrigued as to what he could possibly produce that none of us had seen. He gave it the grand title of The Idiot Stick.

Gary had a piece of ASH measuring approx. 150 x35x35 cm (he had pre-drilled a small hole through the middle of the blank on the long side, for reasons that he explained later) This blank was supported by a 7mm drill held in the chuck and a steb centre in the tailstock, he proceeded to drill a 7mm hole through the centre of the blank by winding in the Tailstock, thus forcing the piece into the spinning drill, when the hole was safely through about ¼ of the length of the Ash blank he stopped the lathe, rewound the tailstock to disengage the steb centre, then restarted the lathe.

Gary drilling the blank by hand.

Whilst supporting the piece of Ash in his hand he continued to drill through three quarters of the length of the blank by slowly pushing the piece into the drill which was spinning at medium speed. This is a perfectly safe method of completing a hole by hand and it ensures that the drill does not “wander” as its highly likely to do if you use a pillar drill.

The blank now has a 7mm hole through the centre for about ¾ of its length and the small pre-drilled hole crossing at right angles in the middle of its width. The blank is put back in the chuck and supported by the tailstock, and the blank is rounded off using his gouge. Gary spent some time explaining his physical position and the stance he adopts whilst working at the lathe, standing slightly away from the fast spinning item for safety in case of spin-off and moving his whole body rather than just his arms when using the tools and he always wears suitable safety equipment including safety footwear

As the blank was relatively thin, he demonstrated how he supports the piece with his thumb behind the blank whilst the gouge shaves the front

Gary then marked pencil lines about 10cm apart and used these as guides to create a bead at either end of the blank and rounded off the two ends and. He shaped the body of the blank to a slight concave and added some ‘ornamental grooves’ then sanded down the piece using 180, 240 and finished with 400 grit. Gary explained that he always sands from the rear of the piece so that his work is not shielded from his eyes by his hands. When finished he then parts-off the piece leaving a small nipple stud, this prevents the small tear-out that can sometimes be seen on the ends. The nipple-stud is easily removed by hand with a skew. This completes the body of the Idiot Stick; Gary did not seal or finish the piece with his usual Chestnut Lacquer due to time constraints.

Main body of the Idiot Stick prior to parting off.

The second part of the Idiot Stick is made from a similarly sized piece of OAK that is placed between centres and turned to round then reduced in diameter to create a ‘tail’ of 6mm diameter (1cm thinner than the hole in the main body).This tail must be accurately turned as it needs to slide easily into the 7mm hole, and also must be slightly shorter in length than the hole bored through the main body piece. When the tail is level and smooth the head stock end is turned into a small ‘egg’ shape.

Turning the tail of the Idiot Stick insert.

Gary then passed the main body of his creation to one of the club members and asked him to thread an elastic band through the small hole that had been pre-drilled before he started. Gary continued shaping the tail end and when satisfied he cut a groove (like a crochet hook) near the end of the ‘tail’ that was big enough and deep enough to accept and catch the elastic band. This groove was made using a small triangular file, the piece was then almost fully parted off and sanded to a very fine finish up to 600 grit. Gary emphasised that the ‘egg’ shaped end MUST be exceptionally smooth (at this point Gary would normally seal and lacquer the piece, but again due to timing he omitted this action).

Testing the ‘crochet hook’ groove.

He then parted the piece from the lathe inserted the tail into the hole ‘caught the elastic band’ and gently pulled it out, only to have it immediately ping back in again. As if by magic he had caught the elastic band with the hooked tail on his first attempt which many of us failed to be able to do after many attempts. Much bewilderment and hilarity ensued as everybody had a go to try to “catch the tail” and failing miserably

Gary explained his method of how it’s done is to insert the tail into the main body, twist it away from you, then twist back towards you and gently pull it out…. the crochet hook end should then catch and pull on the elastic band causing the tail to “ping” back inside. MAGIC.





Whilst we all continued trying to Ping the Idiot Stick, Gary showed us how to make a rather lovely and ornate Salt and Pepper mill. The Mill was very reminiscent of a Queen Chess piece.

Gary’s salt and pepper pot.

He had a piece of wood cut to length (choose whichever wood suits your needs) and a very clever custom made “marker board”, this is a piece of plywood with markings and measurements to show the intended shape of the Pepper / Salt mill the marker board also had small pointed nails at predetermined spaces that will scribe the necessary cutting marks when the Marker board is lightly pressed against the rotating piece on the lathe.

projected image of Gary’s home made Marker Board.

Gary also mentioned another quick method of turning multiple pieces of work that need to be identical, is by using a method called “Drop-Fingers”. These are lengths of wood or metal that are pivoted through a rod that must be securely fixed to the lathe or bench. The individual “Fingers” are specifically cut to length so that they will loosely rest on the rapidly spinning work piece and each finger will naturally drop away when the piece has been turned to the correct diameter or shape. There can be as many Drop Fingers as you need for your particular project.

……Oh yes, regarding the Idiot Stick… the magic may not be in the ‘method’ of hooking the elastic band, but more so in the ‘smoothness of the egg-shaped end and the strength of your finger and thumb.

Gary finished of the evening with the usual Table-top critique on items that were brought in by the members and as usual there was a bewildering array of first-class work that had been produced.

The evening finished off with the Raffle.

Many thanks to Gary for his very interesting and humorous demo.

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