Burl Bowl

While I was shedless for a year, working out of a cramped (uninspiring) garage, I made a start on a bowl from a Mallee (?) burl.

It was an excuse to use the Teknatool Titan II chuck on the DVR XP as much as anything (the chuck was certainly a lot more powerful than the job necessitated!)

The bowl sort of progressed, then was put aside, had a bit more done, then set aside again over a 6 month period.

I found it in the garage the other day, and took it to join the lathe in the shed.  With some more turning, quite a bit of sanding, then polishing with friction polishes from Ubeaut, it finally got finished.

Photo 4-05-2014 17 51 24 Photo 4-05-2014 17 51 50The base may look heavy, but other than the rim, the whole bowl is a pretty consistent thickness.  It is 180mm in diameter, 80mm high, and has a 4mm wall thickness.

Finished by sanding to 400 grit using the Skilton sander, then polished, first with Ubeaut EEE Ultrashine, then Ubeaut Glow to give it a rich gloss.

Carter Hollow Roller

At the wood show, looking around Carroll’s Woodcraft, and came across the Carter Hollow Roller. Complete with an overhead laser to demonstrate where the tip of the cutter is, so you can hollow out a bowl without being able to see where the cutter is contacting the wood, and so you can determine wall thickness.

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A good use for the coffee bean

The Roving Reporter dropped in at the Ballarat Wood Show, and having already been playing with Solid Solutions 606 clear resin, he was inspired (again) by Brendan Stemp’s concepts and techniques and gave it a go.

Came up with the best use I’ve seen for a coffee bean. Some people burn them, grind them, soak them in boiling water and drink the result.

I prefer to see this alternate use!

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Pretty cool! And definitely inspired by Brendan’s creations- the ring containing the beans is clear – you can see all the way through as it has been turned to the point the resin (originally sitting in a channel) has been turned from both sides leaving a clear ring with the embedded items trapped within.

Now I’m definitely wanting to try it for myself.

A day in the shed

When an opportunity come up to have a day receiving free instruction and demonstrations from one of Australia’s master woodturners, you don’t give it a pass. Today was a bit different, in that there was more than just Robbo presenting. (More on that shortly).

The last time I was in Robbo’s Workshop (Robbo’s Play Pen in his terms) was about 5 or 6 years ago, and I still remember much of what I picked up from that session, so as I sit here ready for the day to start, the anticipation can be felt around the room. A bunch of woodworkers (woodturners, primarily from the Australian Woodworking Forums) are here, each camped out on their portable chairs, obligatary morning brews in hand. At the front are a bunch of chucks, some common, some pretty unique, or old and examples of chucks no longer in common use.

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Around the room, other than the 20 or so who have made the trip are some other sights you’d not see in the average woodwork shop (and this is a WORKshop, not just a backyard shed). Not one or two lathes, but 7, and two had various lengths of tree trunks mounted. One of those is a lathe with a bed over 12 m in length. No, not a typo. A 12 metre lathe!

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And yes, that is a real tree trunk mounted at one end. The lathe can turn entire flagpoles, and is used for many commercial jobs. When Robbo gets going, he sometimes has a couple of blokes with shovels to gather up the shavings while he is turning, just to keep up with the waste he can generate! It is from him that I learned to enjoy high speed turning (roughing down sometimes up to 2000 RPM with a serious roughing gouge – 1 1/2″).

To stop whipping of the longest jobs (even tree trunks can exhibit it when turning between centres over that length), he has a custom-made steady. Normal units need not apply. Even typical wheels need not- by the end of a day turning, more average wheels have pretty much disintegrated. The current wheel of choice are those used in bowling alleys, in the ball return. If I’d thought of it at the time, the wheels used in escalators are also pretty durable.

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Yes, the chain block is obligatory.

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Before the real presentations started, there was one a single, obligatory word of advice and in Robbo’s immortal words:

“If you want to be hung from the gum tree out the front, put the coffee spoon in the sugar”

Priorities.

So the topic of the day was workholding on the lathe. We heard (briefly) about the history, and the simple fact that for the oldest machining method in woodworking, there is nothing new under the sun. Not until about 1980 when a certain New Zealand company produced the scroll chuck (and even then that was an adaption of an old chuck). Still, that revolutionised workholding.

For a revolutionising company, Teknatool sure suffered a lot of bagging for the rest of the day. It might have been because it is a New Zealand company, and that makes it typically fair game, but more likely because like so many others, when production was shifted offshore to China, quality ha slipped, and others have overtaken (specifically VicMarc). I haven’t had an opportunity to try their products, so can’t speak on that- all my chucks and jaws are Teknatool (Nova). Goes with my shockingly good Nova DVR (yes, still shocking, but I can’t be bothered trying to cart my 200+kg lathe back to Carbatec, nor do I want to take it apart and having it sit around for months waiting for a part that may or may not fix the problem anyway.)

Speaking of Carbatec, you could have been mistaken to think they were a Kiwi company as well if you know what I mean (not during the proceedings, but amongst some of the attendees during the breaks).

Back to the topic at hand

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There were chucks, chucks, and more chucks, including eccentric, modified, and huge.

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And cup chucks, but not your everyday kind. Remember what I said about treetrunks?! Between $800 and $1000 each. They also make a great gong for getting the room’s attention when hit with a hammer!

The more typical size are used for production between centres work

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We were then taken through just how easy it is to make use of vacuum chucks – something I have been interested in knowing about for a while now. And surprisingly easy and cheap.

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From that, we moved onto jam chucking, hot glue gun, and electrical tape.

These demos were about precision, and the work that the next turner could produce significantly justified how precise the mounting sometimes needs to be. (Ken Wraight)

From the tiniest work – and I’m talking timy details, tiny mortice and tenon joints 1mm diameter, through to some quite impressive bowls, still a whole 4mm thick ( and often 1mm thick bowls).

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Discussions about securing reverse-mounting a natural-edge bowl using a jam chuck with a hot glue reinforcement.

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And finally some of his other work, but I’ll leave the photos to tell the story

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Inspiring? Certainly once you get past the mindblowing precision and detail of these stunning pieces.

So that was the day. Pretty interesting stuff eh 🙂

An unnecessary weight

Sometimes, it adds to the whole tactile experience when you pick up a wooden object and feel the weight and substance of the object.  On the other hand when I’m turning these days, I like the idea that the object is no heavier than it needs to be, or to put it another way, that the object has a wall thickness that is as thin as possible without compromising the structural integrity.

I had another go today, this time at a piece of walnut that I found in my wood rack and came up with the following bowl:

Walnut Bowl

It isn’t as dark as I was expecting (for walnut), but it still has a very nice pattern to the grain.

To give you an idea of size/scale, here is the bowl with my hand for reference.

Reference

For the underside, I used the expanding jaw to hold the bowl while turning the inside, so then remounted the bowl in Cole jaws and turned the majority of it away to leave a subtle raised-ring foot for the bowl.

Underside

Now as to the weight and wall thickness.  I measured the walls to have an average thickness of 3.5mm, and it is surprisingly light when you pick it up.  So I weighed it.

Bowl Weight

A whole 40g. The weight of 8 sheets of A4 80 gsm paper.

Guess there is very little extraneous timber left in that bowl!

The re-re-conceptualised bowl

Otherwise known as try, try and try again.

The timber of this bowl made a recent appearance here, after being bought back from the discard pile (well, not exactly: like many woodworkers I rarely have a discard pile, I have an “offcuts, but I’m sure there will be a future job to use that scrap of timber” pile) – a bowl blank (some kind of plum) that didn’t go well the first time I tried it, and the recent attempt was going really nicely till I blew the base out. So I tried again, this time turning it to quite a different shape from first envisaged in the hope of getting some result that would at least showcase just how beautiful the timber is.

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This time, I took a bit of inspiration from the “Classic” router bit profile, with both concave and convex features, a hint of “Roman Ogee” and a sharp dividing line between them.

I used the same trick as I did on the previous bowl of friction burning the rim to stand these features out. This time, I turned the outside for shape, including a foot to be gripped by a contracting chuck, then reversed the bowl and hollowed it. This too mirrored the outside, with a sharp change in curvature, and a friction burn to accent it.

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The inside was finished, as was the outside top of the rim, so that when the bowl was again reversed, and there would not be any way of mounting it again, that these areas had been finished.

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The bowl was reversed using the Mini Cole Jaws, and the optional retaining clips, which held the bowl securely for turning and finishing the base.

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The completed bowl, about 3″ diameter, with EEE and Ubeaut Glow finish, and friction burnt accents.

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The base, in two lighting conditions showing different characters in the timber finish.

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So another interesting little project, all done outboard (45 degrees) on the Nova DVR XP lathe from Carbatec, using the SuperNova2 chuck with 45mm jaws, the G3 chuck with Mini Cole jaws, and a selection of Hamlet turning chisels (bullnose scraper and German spindle gouge).

Primary shaping was done at 1000RPM, finishing turning at 2000RPM, and finishing at 3000RPM (the beauty of variable speed lathes- you use the different speeds because it is easy to set the speed for the different roles). While applying the fricton polish, you really get to appreciate the DVR motor and you can hear it loading up, maintaining a perfectly constant speed irrespective of load. The finish is all Ubeaut friction polishes – if you haven’t investigated these before, they are a great Australian product (available worldwide), and you can see the results they give.

Opinions of the Nova DVR XP

Spent about three hours out giving the DVR a solid workout, and I have come to the conclusion that the DVR XP is not a good lathe. In fact “good” and “DVR XP” shouldn’t be used in the same sentence.

The DVR is not good.  It is spectacular.  I am so sorry for turners out there (or would be turners) who read this blog: you are going to have to be seriously tempted by this machine, even if you don’t consider it in your budget. This lathe kicks some serious butt.

This lathe makes me want to be a better turner.  It inspires me to try to be a better turner.  This makes turning a particularly enjoyable exercise, and it was already fun!

Getting a hand in

I started with a couple of pens (go with what you know!), dials in the muscles – reminds them what they need to be doing for the task.  More on that later.  To the left of the head, you might notice an additional extension that has been added – the Nova Outrigger, with the bowl tool rest.

So once I had gotten the pens done, it was time to try out what really excites me about this lathe – the swinging head.

I took a bowl blank I had tried a few years ago, and quickly set aside as I found I could not do anything with it, without completely wasting it.  I have gotten better since then, progressing up the learning curve.

Outrigger and Bowl Tool Rest

The outrigger is an impressive addition, and if you ever intend to swing the head it is invaluable.  The bowl tool rest is an excellent accompaniment – a strange term perhaps for a lathe accessory, but turning and playing a musical instrument do have things in common.

Spinning Bowl

Working out just which of the degrees of freedom of the outrigger and rest to release to achieve the ideal placement is taking a bit, not that it is particularly arduous – operating the releases that are upside down I find frustrating – keep turning them the wrong way!  But the curved tool rest is exceedingly cool.  Now if only I could master the skew (chisel that is).

A Fine Finish

The timber is stunning, and it came to a very fine finish with a combination of sanding with the Ubeaut Orbital Sander, then EEE and Glow finish.

Last Time to See

A recess was cut into the base, and a dovetail cut for the pin jaws to engage.  Was going well, until the base blew out.  I just didn’t have enough timber supporting the clamping.  Sad, but not the first failure I’ve had, nor will it be the last.  I can’t think of another woodworking activity that takes timber so close to the point of failure, deliberately, consistently.  Taking timber to the point of failure tends to occasionally result in less than ideal results!  I might be able to get something out of the timber that remains, but that is an exercise for another day.

I do have some niggles with the lathe – the lockpin for the headstock needs a separate bar to operate (which is ok), but needs an on-tool storage for the bar, and it is hard to know just how tight, and loose the lockpin needs to be.  The operating bar also hits the power lead if you are not careful in its operation, which is a silly design flaw – minor and unnecessary.  The lathe starts at 500 RPM, and you can hold down the accelerate and decelerate buttons to achieve different speeds (takes a few seconds to achieve the entire speed range – it is faster with the spindle stationary), or you can go to one of your preset speeds.  However, selecting the preset speed you want requires two buttons to be pressed simultaneously, then a third one to confirm the decision – significant overkill personally.  5 single buttons, and one confirm button would have been more than sufficient.  Or toggling with one button through the preset speeds available, and a second one to then confirm.  Or something less cumbersome.  However, these are all pretty minor, and don’t distract from the lathe’s beautiful operation.  The speed thing might be negated in any case with the new wrist-mounted start/stop and speed controller that is retrofittable to other DVR lathes.

Back to the turning.

Next, I picked up a piece of Mahogany that had been sitting in a discard bin ready for burning, at a timber merchant and mounted it up.

Bowl Blank Mounted

Starting with the blank mounted and the tailstock supporting while roughing down the blank to round.

Blank Spun Up

With the blank spinning (1000RPM for this stage), it was a bit out of balance, but certainly bearable.  I decided after this photo to knock the corners off on the bandsaw – no point doing more work than I needed to.  While at this stage, I turned down a foot that would fit the 75mm jaws in contraction.  The underside of the bowl was shaped up to the foot, before reversing the bowl into the 75 chuck.  The head was then turned outboard as well to shape the interior.  Speed was increased to 2000RPM.

Raw Bowl

With the free spinning sander, the interior and exterior were sanded to 400 grit, then EEE applied, followed by Glow.

Glowing

During the finishing process, I got just a little carried away, applying just a little too much pressure which generated a bit of smoke at the periphery.  Nothing too drastic, just a bit of discolouring but it immediately showed me what it could look like, so I carried on, creating significant burning, cutting through the cloth (and a bit further, unfortunately – my finger was behind that, which got a bit warm!)  But the result was perfect for the bowl.

One Surface Finished

With the inside finished, and the outside also done as far as could be reached, it was time to again reverse the bowl to complete it.

Reversed in the Cole Jaws to Finish the Base

I used mini Cole Jaws to secure the bowl, gripping tightly enough to be able to turn the foot away, without causing extra damage.  These have the optional dovetail feet, which provide a more positive retention.  The lathe was again back to 1000RPM for this – didn’t want to go too fast with the Cole Jaws.

Base Turned Away

With the base turned away, it was time for the final sanding and finishing.

Finished Base

The base felt thin – lots of flex, so I didn’t want to overdo the sanding and finishing.

Completed Bowl

The finished bowl feels amazingly light – the average thickness is about 2.5mm.  Maximum 4mm, and down to 1mm or so.  As I get more practice, I will be looking for more consistency in wall thickness, however at this stage I’m just pleased to get a result!

Testing Thickness

When you get this result holding the bowl to the light, for me to go any thinner at this stage would be rather prone to disaster!

So with the first successful result off the Nova DVR XP, I’m pretty ecstatic with the new machine.

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