Checks and Reveals

It may seem like only a few hours ago that I started the article, transforming some firewood into potential turning blanks. However, for me it has been quite a bit longer, so it is time to finish the article, part 2!

My plan for one of the blanks is a bit of a vase shape. How it finally ends up is still to be determined, in part when the wood tells me what it wants to become.

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Step one is to mount the blank between centres. It isn’t ideal, but there is little option until I can get a chuck on it. I could have drilled a hole with a forstner bit, then used a chuck in expansion mode to lock onto it. However, whichever method is chosen, it is time to turn the tenon to mount into contracting chuck jaws.

Hard going- no matter how tight I wound in the tailstock- lots of slippage. A spur drive would have been good, but I needed a bigger one than my current offering. However by using sharp chisels and taking it slow, I was able to get to a point that I had a tenon that the 130mm jaw could lock onto, and from that point things became significantly easier.

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I didn’t want to turn the final shape using the 130mm jaws – not powerful enough for the size of vase I was planning, so I used the 130mm jaws to drive the work while I turned a second tenon on the other end for the 75mm PowerJaws.

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One thing turning does in spades, and that is generating sawdust – great mountains of it. Now I have easy access to the dust collector controller, I am much more likely to use it, and so what I have done is rig up the “Big Gulp” under the lathe. It doesn’t catch much at all (most shavings fly back at me, rather than conveniently towards the collector). However, by having it on the ground still means that as the sawdust pile grows, I can kick it towards the collector.

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Once the 75mm tenon was turned, I mounted the PowerJaws on a second SuperNova2, and spun it by hand to ensure it was inline. Satisfied with that, the piece was reversed and the 130mm jaws removed. The tailstock then bought up to provide additional support. This is a perfect example where the new chuck aligning insert by Teknatool would have been perfect.

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I took a parting tool and defined the limits for the turning, taking into account the checking from uncontrolled drying. The piece was then shaped, sanded, and finished (I will probably do a bit more to the outside, so ‘finishing’ was as much to do with seeing what the timber was going to come up like as it was about making the job easier at the end.

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Once it became a problem, it was time for the tailstock to be removed, so the piece next to the tailstock was also pared away.

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Rather than try to chisel out all the core, I decided to drill out a significiant portion of it. I had trouble holding the work strongly enough with the PowerJaw on its own, so this was really the only way.

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After boring the very core, it was time change up to the forstner bits. I had to choose a bit with a larger diameter than the headstock, so the drill chuck could fit inside the hole so I could get a decent depth of cut.

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So that is where it is at the moment- with a decent hole cut, ready for the next stage.

Fallen Trees

A number of years ago, my neighbour at the time (now since passed on) mentioned a friend of his who had just cut down a couple of trees, and they’d be good firewood. There was a lot of that going on in the area at the time, lots of areas once typical southern Victorian farmland having the life subdivided out of them to maximise the return for money hungry, romantically deprived developers.

Stunning trees, both living and dead being stripped away, and often even whole hills being flattened to make way for estates comprising of hundreds of houses (either tiny, or McMansion) on pathetically space deprived blocks.

So if it came down to the wood from the trees being bulldozed to the centre of the block and almost ritualisically burned, or heading home with me as a bit of free firewood, I took that option.

The following winter, I took out my log splitter and axe, and went to work to break the rounds down to something that would fit the fireplace, so I could free the carbon that had been emprisoned in its woody tomb. Things didn’t quite go to plan. Every swing of the logsplitter simply bounced off the log-it was still rather green, and dense, and seemingly inpenetratable. It would be a chainsaw job, and even that would be hard-going for the little home unit I had.

So the logs have sat, and sat, and sat for years alongside the house waiting for me to get the motivation to either find a solution, or to get rid of them once and for all. Motivation was just not forthcoming.

But that all changed with the new electric husquvarna. I needed something to try it out on, and these useless pieces could become a real test for the new tool.

Clamped up tight in the SuperJaws, with some log jaws fitted, the Husky was given a run. Now it may be that the timber had finally made some progress in drying, or the new sharp blade made all the difference (this is the same blade that I managed to land myself in A&E with when I slipped while tightening the blade, so I can testify to its sharpness, first hand so to speak). Whatever it was, the blade sliced easily and cleanly through. The resulting cut revealed something else about the characteristic of the timber- it was spotted gum. 3 slices later, and I had a large cube of it. Cool, but still not sure what I’d do with it. However, more of the character of the timber was revealed, including that after a inch or two where there was checking from the cut surfaces (this was firewood, so it was never waxed at the ends to prevent splitting, and if it had it would have made my job of turning it into firewood a lot easier), the remainder was solid to the core.

The next chapter became realisable when I got a lathe that had heaps of power, took the SuperNova2 with PowerJaws, and had a decent base clearance.

So last night, I took this large lump of spotted gum, and decided it would work best if I resawed it into quarters. With a decent bandsaw, this is not a difficult thing, even with a piece that is around a foot x foot x foot. And I’m running the Carbatec 17″, with good capacity & power. Even bigger would be better, but you have what you have, and this is a very capable machine. One of my favourite things about this machine is the blade tensioner wheel’s location. Very easily accessed- so much better that reaching over the top, and a decent size wheel to boot.

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After taking the photo, I realised I should have changed the blade beforehand- oh well. So I changed the blade to the resaw blade ready to do the business.

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The first step was to cut the cube in two. As you can see from the photo, there are significant checks – after all, this was treated as firewood, not some pristine turning blank.

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I could have used the chainsaw for the job, but there is a time and place for chainsaws, and this wasn’t either. Next, I took each in turn and sawed them down again, producing 4 quarters.

So that was the prep work taken care of, and what then became of one of those blanks is a tale for another day.

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