Category Archives: Reports

Strett Nicolson– Toy Gun

Club Meeting: 16 November 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

In tonight’s demo Strett shows us how to make a toy gun. In a previous show and tell he had demonstrated a highly effective toy bow and arrow. But how safe was such a toy in the hands of a reckless child?

Not to be dissuaded, Strett pursued his theme with enthusiasm to create a safer alternative. In his own words: “Grandpa’s developing a range of renewable energy toy canons. These are carbon neutral, so a very PC toy. Perfect for Christmas prezzies for the green brigade. Awaiting COP 27 approval.”

To be pedantic, in speaking of canons instead of cannons, it is clear he is confusing theology with hoplology. But moving on….

In the following picture, the toy at the top is the closest representation of the bow and arrow, and the toy at the bottom is similar to the toy Strett makes in the demonstration, except it utilises the short “bullets” shown above it in the picture.

To make the toy, Strett starts with a piece of wood approx. 45 x 45 x 150, which he will turn between centres to make the handle. Strett offered this an opportunity to practice using the skew, and he explained the correct presentation of the tool to the wood etc, an aspect of the demo which less experienced turners found very useful. The handle was shaped and sized to fit a child or young person’s hand and decorative features added. One end was tapered down to 16mm to fit the hole which had been pre-drilled in the piece of wood from which the gun barrel would be made. Test fit, and then part off. A tight and tidy fit is important for both looks and strength of purpose.

The gun barrel is fashioned from a length approx. 60 x 60 x 220. One end of the blank may be used to make the plunger, or firing mechanism. More on that shortly. The key to making the barrel is to drill the bore longitudinally through the centre. To do this Strett rounded off the blank and cut a spigot on each end. Lacking a drill bit of sufficient length to drill through in one pass, he had to turn the piece in the lathe and drill it from both ends, ensuring a clean meet in the middle. The diameter of the bore should be marginally wider than the dowel from which the bullets are made, to accommodate slight variances in the thickness of the dowel. Once the bore is drilled the barrel can be shaped to a suitable design of choice. One point to remember is that eyes (as in hook and eye) will be screwed to the barrel for holding the elastic band, so be sure to leave enough thickness for this in the barrel. Once finished, a skew chisel is used to make a clean parting cut.

The next component is the plunger, which fits on the non-firing end of the barrel. This knob-like piece has a 15mm deep hole drilled in to it to accept a dowel, and two eyes through which the elastic cord will pass. The velocity with which the dowel bullets are fired may be determined by the positioning and strength of the elastic band. All the pieces were sanded before being taken off the lathe.

Thank you Strett for an enjoyable, instructive and innovative demo.

Bruce Wiseman – A Bit of Everything

Club Meeting: 28 September 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

Wow! It is the last meeting for term three. Where did that go??? It is fitting that the term finished with another demo themed around the term topic of “Natural”. Bruce engaged the clubbies with a challenging (for some) discussion around design opportunities for wood which still contains original features enabling it to be designated as natural, and which preserve the characteristics which mark each piece as unique.

As an introduction, Bruce told us about a time long ago when he and Ross were members of a Maraetai club when Terry Scott visited and did a demo. This was Bruce’s inspiration to begin woodturning, and he produced a live edge bowl he turned in those early years. Of course club nights wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t a degree of toing and froing between the demonstrator and the audience, and in this instance the topic was “recess or tenon?”. Terry encouraged tenons based on both practical and safety reasons, but of course Bruce’s early turnings featured a recess to hold the piece.

From his box of tricks Bruce took out a beautiful, large, dark coloured bowl which exhibited all the holey features of a burl. Next he pulled out a smaller piece turned from the same burl, and which still had a flat where it was sawed off the main piece. Finally, from the same burl, a pretty lidded bowl. This last offering underwent a design transformation while Bruce was turning it, because he saw the opportunities to better highlight the natural beauty of the wood. These three pieces, he said, would stay in his possession until his time was up. After that, it was up to his family to decide what to do. Obviously very treasured pieces.

The next block of wood Bruce brought out was a largish block of macrocarpa, chainsawed on all edges. From the front view, it looked like a clean piece suitable for a decent size bowl. But when Bruce first turned it over, it had a large bark inclusion. Once he chiselled out the bark it was a deep river running right through the piece, rendering it totally unsuitable for any conventional types of turning. What to do with it? All saw the inherent opportunities the piece offered, but opinions were varied. I think the majority saw a resin fill as presenting the most suitable use.

Next up was a nearly finished turning of a large, three sided, winged bowl, too big to fit over the bed of most lathes. This attractive piece, pepper I think, was thin-turned with stepped-down thicknesses on the underside of the wings. Having lots of natural cavities, the challenge was how to remove the tenon and finish the foot. Suggestions indicated that this was not as difficult as it might seem. Dick said that covering it with gladwrap and using a vacuum would be a satisfactory method. Alternatively taping it to a big faceplate.

Bruce showed another burl which was milled in such a way to retain a small burl on one face, and from which a number of small burls had already been cut off for various types of use. He had a live edge pepper turning, and then unwrapped a pepper burl which he had started to turn. This burl had a very coarse bark adorning the top, and was semi turned with straightish sides angling towards a foot near the bottom. The problem with this piece of burl, Bruce said, was the triangular, V shape in which it was cut made it difficult to envisage a design which maximised the bark, grain and colouring etc. Much discussion ensued with the final outcome being that it needed to be re-positioned between centres so that the top would be better balanced. Some height would be lost off the bottom, but it would be an opportunity to create a more graceful external shape for the sides. The top would probably benefit from applying the 1third 2 thirds rule for determining the ratio of bark to bowl size.

The last piece of wood that we looked at was a small burl, I’m guessing about 80mm diameter, sitting fairly centrally on a length about 120mm. The consensus was that this could quite simply be turned in to a nice bud vase. Bruce positioned it between steb centres in long grain mode and turned a tenon on the bottom. Grabbing it in the chuck, he drilled a 21mm hole the right length for a glass insert, before shaping the neck with a spindle gouge. With a bit of off-lathe finishing, this will become a distinct and unique bud vase.

Bruce’s demonstration was an interesting foray for all present in to the endless possibilities for design and form options with these beautiful natural wood formations. Sometimes they look impossible to get something out of, and at the same time, actually have so many possibilities that it is difficult to know what is the best option. Thank you Bruce, for closing out our third term with a thought provoking examination of design opportunities.

Ian Connelly – Resin as a Component

Club Meeting: 21 Sept 2022
Report by: Graeme Mackay

A demonstration event that was full of questioning and audience interface. Ian presented an open approach to Resin, in all its forms, as part of the process and/or one of the components. Questions gave rise to an introduction to resin as part of enhancement and to encourage new turners to take it up and consider its place in the woodturning process.

Determination of the process was seen through Ian’s magic box. Resin pieces were set solid in record time, hard and ready to use. The challenge was put up for those try using Greenwood. In this case Ian used Camellia branches and trimmings. Small pieces were used to allow a realistic goal and initial target.

Newcomers were introduced to fixing pieces into the mould using very standard technologies i.e. hot glue. In this part of the process, the question of bubbles was raised, that is bubbles on the resin rather than in a bubbled wine class. Along with this was raised the aspect of technology level and simple ways around standard problems i.e. using a vacuum pump.

Again a question and challenge to introduce measurement volume (weight vs volume vs calibrated pump), ratios of materials and curing. Then discussions moved on to levels of clarity and how this was achieved. Then broaching the aspect of hardener ratio and the aspect of additives and extras.

Leading on, the Ian drew a whole range of inquiries. The audience participation and discussion providing contrasting views differing types of colours used and the ways in which resin enhancements can be approached. A very neat introduction to jam trucks, friction drive and a whole lot of very basic technologies such as double sided sticky tape. A simple approach using standard tools i.e. bowl gouge raised the question of carbides and associated tools and generally opened the proceedings up to discussion and developing a large range of opinions.

A positive aspect was a need for preparation and associated, the need for a well-prepared Demonstrators magic box which showed of a range of tools, product stages, simple approaches and processes and a willingness to try.

All in all, a well-balanced demonstration and a night of audience participation and opinions.
Everyone had an opinion about one or other parts of the Resin process.
The key point of demonstration as that you should give it a go.

Anwar Jahan – Natural Edge

Club Meeting: 14 Sept 2022
Report by Bob Yandell

Report on the first demonstration by Anwar. It a first for Anwar but it was the first for the club where the demonstrator had his wife his daughter, his son in law and his grandchildren present for the demonstration to give him moral support, not that he needed any.

The demonstration was part of the terms natural edge projects and Anwar talked about the various ways you can mount your wood to achieve the natural edge by using long grain and cross grain,the tools that we can be used to achieve a satisfactory result. He took us back to the beginnings of his Woodturning learning and reinforced what are the key elements of making a well finished product.

He showed us various various examples of what he had achieved over the period using natural edges. Those shown were dependent on the wood choice and some of it was dependent on the objective of achieving a vase or a dish. Regardless of the experience, of those present, all of the points were well made and reinforced need to think through what you were doing to achieve your objective and deciding on what tool to use and when.

Having reinforced all the points that we should remember and practice when turning he then gave us the process by which you can achieve a balanced edge, that is the width of edge when the piece of wood has two high and two low sides, as we do when turning a half round cut from a branch or the trunk.

Anwar then demonstrated turning a dish/bowl and was started by turning cross grain between centres. A forstner bit had been drilled into the centre of the grain side and opposite side to enable the location of the live and drive centres. The inside of the bowl was cut to just below the bark and the piece remounted between centres.

The piece is turned until a cylinder has been achieved. The position of the high side and the low side is marked. The position of the live centre is moved, not much, so the distance between the high and low side is roughly equal and the external side of the bowl is turned checking the width of the natural edge and adjusting the position of the live centre to achieve equal width.

David Gillard – Burning and Colouring

Club Meeting: 7 September 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

Dave is a fairly tall guy – I dunno, about 6’2” I suppose. Anyway, to set the lathe up at a suitable height he has elevated it on two stands, each with wheels, that go under the legs. He begins his demo by taking a pre-cut sphere, still on a spigot at one end, and mounts it in the chuck. He then proceeds to burn two lines around the circumference of the sphere with a wire. “That’s all the turning we’re going to do tonight” he announces. And the heavy lathe, on its tiny wheels, gets pushed out of the way. Seems like a lot of trouble setting up for such a short display of turning.

To be fair, he did also use the lathe for one other thing – to show us how to use a stanley knife to cut a roll of masking tape in to thin strips by mounting it on the lathe and using the stanley knife like a parting tool. But that’s not woodturning is it? More like Here’s a Hint or Over the Teacups, that they used to have in the Women’s Weekly back in the day, before there were computers.

Next he pulled up a table cluttered with all sorts of paraphernalia and sat himself down behind the table. Using a moderately impolite phrase, Dave said “tonight we’re going to burn the snot out of some wood”. The topic for the night is burning (pyrography) and colouring. Now a confession from me – I rather wish someone else was doing the report tonight, because I know next to nothing about pyrography, and am completely unfamiliar with the tools and terms of the art. Nevertheless, at the end of the demo I approached Dave and said, “Man, I’m really impressed with the precision and detail of your work, I could never do anything like that.” His response was “I could sit down with you for 10 minutes and at the end I could have you doing work like this.” I guess he’s saying it’s not that hard, give it a go.

Before he started Dave unleashed a monster of a tool that was so long it would barely fit in some turners’ workshops. This was the new Rolly Munro hollowing tool. In case you didn’t know, Dave is an agent for the Rolly Munro line of tools (always an opportunity to get a plug in). Dave explained that there is a formula to define the depth capabilities of a hollowing tool. If you take the diameter of the shaft, multiply it by two, and put a zero on the end, that is the capability of the hollowing depth. For the tool he was showing, the hollowing depth was about 460mm, which coincidentally fairly well matches its price.

But back to the demo. The first thing to think about is what pattern you wish to create, and setting it out on the workpiece. It’s no use starting out without a design in mind, and just doing random burning. The two horizontal lines that Dave had burned around the sphere with wire served two purposes – they defined parts of the boundaries of the segments in which Dave would burn his patterns, and they also created an edge which would act like a barrier to stop burns “running” along the wood fibres and across into the next segment. Using the indexing on the lathe, Dave had already marked equal points on his sphere, and now he ran thin strips of masking tape diagonally from point to point, along which he burned lines, effectively dividing the sphere into a number of equal triangle-like segments.

With the basic outline for the pattern defined, each of the segments can now be filled in. Using different tips, and sometimes this way, sometimes that way, but always to an ordered pattern, the burning is continued until the whole piece is blackened.

Dave used a Robbie Graham machine which apparently is capable of very high heats and has a quick heat up time. It has air cooling to keep the pen temperature down. Having never seen this type of work done before, I was surprised at the apparent ferocity of it. The tip glowed red hot, and each time it was applied to the wood there was an instant burst of flame and smoke. Dave had a desk fan running to expel the smoke away from the audience. I heard the term “branding” used in relation to this work, and I can sort of see why, but I can’t say specifically whether that is a particular type of pyro work or just a general term.

It would be fair to say that the demo was accompanied by a high amount of banter from Dave and an equally high amount of stirring by the very receptive club members. A video recording of the demo was being made, and Dave confessed he was glad to be able to edit the video to his own satisfaction.

Next was a demonstration of how Dave creates the flame pattern which he uses on his pepper mills. He uses the pin stripe masking tape which he has cut to define the gentle curve of the flames outline. This sounds like a simple artistic manoeuvre but is actually an awkward contortion of knees and hands to hold and shape the tape into a sweeping curve. Using a blade tip, and starting at the narrow top, Dave begins to burn by rolling rather than plunging the blade in to the wood. He uses the tape like a fence, and rests the tip of the blade on the shoulder of the tape as he continues to burn the outline of the flame. A further purpose of the masking tape is that it also serves as a template and a barrier when it comes time to colour the design. Dave uses a pillow slip filled with rice as a working surface to rest his workpiece on.

With pyrography, of course safety is paramount. If Dave needs a break and a cuppa, he turns his equipment off, unplugs it, does a visual inspection of his work piece and his work area for charred embers etc, and then waits ten minutes before leaving the room.

Dave showed us some examples of how to do repair work so that the repairs are least visible in the finished work. In making pepper mills and other items, there are frequently nail holes or other faults in the wood. It is preferable to repair the hole while the wood is still not fully turned, and use sanding sealer before applying glue. Sanding sealer and/or CA glue can create impervious finishes which appear as blemishes under the final finish. The three repair options Dave described were drilling out a nail hole and using a dowel plug, superglue and wood dust, and a wood filler. The dowel plug option was frequently the superior option.

Once burned, the work can be coloured. Dave uses airbrush paint to which he adds just the right amount of mica powder. Too much, and you lose the lovely pearlescent effect created by the powders. Brush the wood with a toothbrush or similar brush, or give it a burst with an air gun to remove any ash dust left over from the burning. When painting Dave described a motion in which he sweeps his paint brush from one edge of the burn mark down and upwards, always working in the one direction, so the shimmer of the metal powders is not erased. It is hard to describe in words, but those of you who have looked at his delicate painted art will know what I mean. Dave told us that colour combinations of three work best, and we should always use complementary colours from the colour wheel.

For further paint effects, Dave showed us how to use an embossed paper towel to daub on paint in a way which was random but also structured because of the reappearing sameness of the embossed pattern. Different household items can be used to create paint effects, and it is worth experimenting with as many as possible to achieve different results. For example, a mandarin bag stretched tight over the wood and then painted over will give a diamond-like effect. Give it a go.

Dave stressed to us that it is important to be comfy when doing this type of work, and a tool that he finds invaluable is the Woodcut Pro-mount which can hold the workpiece in any variety of positions to achieve a comfortable working position.

Thanks a heap Dave for an illuminating demo which will inspire us to extend our skills into this fine branch of art. I can’t wait to view the finished video and see how much of the stirring you leave in.

Denise Donovan – Live Edge Boxes

Club Meeting: 31 August 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

Denise was keen to demo something that members may not have seen before, and it occurred to her that in her time at the club she had not seen a live edge lidded box. In keeping with the term theme of “natural”, Denise applied her creativity to turning a box with a live edge rim and a matching live edge lid.

Although lidded boxes may be turned cross grain (the butterfly boxes club members turn for the Beads of Courage Programme are often cross grain turnings), frequently lidded boxes are end grain, especially if they are of a smaller size. In this demo, the turning is cross grain. Denise took a small length of branch, approx. 130 x 90, and with a hole drilled in the side for the screw chuck, mounted it longways on the lathe. She turned a tapered curve to form the outside edge of her box. Next, at the tailstock end, she formed a spigot. The bark was cut off the bottom in this process. Turning it around, it was remounted in the chuck.

With a bowl gouge, Denise commenced to hollow out the box. Initially she formed a 6 – 8mm recess for the lid to sit in, and then she used a square edge scraper to hollow the remainder of the box.

The key element to a successful live edge box is having the lid match the box. This means carefully choosing your box blank and your lid blank from the same branch in such a way that the curve and appearance of the lid will be symmetrical with the top profile of the box. Denise took a longways slice of the branch she had selected for the lid, and as she had with the box, attached it to the lathe with a screw chuck. Measuring the depth and diameter from the box, she turned a lid to these dimensions. Removing the piece from the lathe and fitting a handle or finial in the hole made for the screw chuck will complete the piece.

During her practice for the demo, a split formed in a lid Denise turned from a wet branch. She shared a tip – if you wet the piece and clamp it, the split will close. Not perfect perhaps, but nevertheless useful in some circumstances.

Denise also demonstrated an alternative lid for the same box, but in this case the lid was turned with an end grain aspect, and incorporated a one piece finial.

Thanks to Denise for an innovative and entertaining demo. It will be interesting to see how many live edge lidded boxes are on the show and tell table next week.

Dick Veitch – Rough As

Club Meeting: 17 August 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

Dick’s mission tonight was to show us the many variations of form and shape that can be turned to meet the definition of “natural”. As per the NAW Art of Wood page, this is “Any single piece of wood, which may be turned on the lathe or shaped with other tools and retains a part of the natural surface of the wood as it was found, or after the bark has fallen off.”

Dick had brought in a large number of natural edge pieces he has turned from wood in varying stages of dryness and from any number of different wood species. These included pohutukawa, olive, apple, pepper, robinia and puriri, the latter being a delight to turn. Shapes included bowls small and large, hollow forms, a lidded box, a winged piece. When questioned, Dick advised that there is no way of pre-determining which types of wood are better at holding their bark during turning, although generally wet wood will retain its bark better. The only issue that can arise from this is that as the wood dries the bark may shrink if it dries at a different rate, causing it to turn over at the edge and present difficulties for final sanding.

Dick has drafted two pages for the SAWG website showing the multitude of natural edge options. These are titled “Natural Edge Options” and “Natural Edge Bowl”. I’m not sure if the webmaster has posted them yet but they’ll go in the Projects section of the web pages.

Using a piece of fig (ficus) to demonstrate, Dick spoke to us about the challenge of deciding what you want to make from your wood. He covered the many options available to the turner for mounting the wood to the lathe. At the end of this Dick put the fig piece on the floor with the pile of turned and semi-turned pieces and a whole lot of logs suitable for natural edge turning, and offered them for free. These were gratefully received by members at the conclusion of the demo, especially some of the newer turners.

For the practical part of his demo, Dick selected a half log of wet olive. With a forstner bit, he had pre-drilled a 40mm wide hole to a depth of 50mm. Dick mounted this on the lathe using a home made pin chuck, and brought up the tailstock. The pin chuck generated a lot of interest from the audience and was passed around for everyone to have a closer look. The project page for the pin chuck will also be posted on the SAWG website.

Having ascertained who was doing the cleanup, Dick then proceeded to spray shavings far and wide as he shaped the underside of his bowl. He put on a spigot, made the base about 1/3rd of the bowl diameter, and shaped a curve which would give the bowl lift off the table. Care needs to be taken not to dislodge any bark during this process, so cuts made from the bottom should not extend all the way to the top. Using a very sharp chisel, and with delicate cuts because the fibres are unsupported, make the finishing cuts from the top down and blend them in to the existing cuts. Next Dick turned the piece on the lathe, mounting the spigot in the chuck. He partially hollowed the inside, leaving a central core for stability. He stopped hollowing at the point where the 35 degree chisel began to chatter as it came off the bevel.

Now comes the interesting part. Dick wants to thin turn this bowl, so starting at the rim he will cut down step by step. Placing the work light close to the outside of the bowl, Dick began turning down until the light showed brightly on the inside. He was at a wall thickness of approx 4mm to achieve this transparency. Working his way down towards the bottom of the bowl, he gauged his thickness by maintaining an even brightness of the light as it shone through the bowl wall. Dick double checked his thickness (or thinness) using digital calipers for a more precise measurement. Dick switched to a 55 degree bowl gouge to finish with a nice curve on the bottom.

To complete the bowl Dick needed to remove the tenon and cut the feet. He used a reverse adaptor to turn it around and bring it up on a vacuum chuck. Inside the vacuum chuck he taped an LED light so he could see the thickness as he finished the base. The issue that potentially arises at this point in the process is that the thin turned wet wood can be porous and therefore the vacuum suction may not be sufficient to hold the piece strongly. Dick brought up the tailstock again, with a small live spur drive, just to play it safe. He cut away the tenon, and shaped the bottom so that it formed a continuous curve with the sides. The lift created earlier needs to be enough to ensure only the feet touch the table, and not the bottom part of the curve of the bowl. Dick checked his curve with a profile gauge.

The position for the three feet were marked out at intervals of 8 notches on the indexing plate and cut using an arbortec carver fitted with a hedgehog ball gouge. Dick noted that the lathe should be locked and the tool held in two hands for safety reasons. With the feet shaped out, withdraw the tailstock and gently nibble away the remaining nub from the tenon.

Wrap the bowl in one or two sheets of newspaper and store it for drying. It will lose weight as it dries, and it is dry once the weight is stable. Now it can be sanded. This can be tedious, but Dick uses a power sander. To do the inside he holds a block of wood in the vice, pads it with a folded towel, and places the bowl over the top of it. The outside is sanded against a folded towel laid on the benchtop.

Thanks Dick, for a comprehensive and most interesting demo on the limitless options for natural edge turnings. I don’t know why he titled the demo “Rough As”, because it was anything but. How was that cleanup Denise?

Garry Jones – Bottles

Club Meeting: 10 August 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

In keeping with the theme for the term of “natural”, Garry chose to demonstrate a simple but aesthetically pleasing subject of bottles, which he advised look cool in a set, and which are great as a gift, or a good seller at the markets etc. The thing about Garry’s bottles is that they are made from old posts – totara, puriri, whatever, or from a tree branch, and then turned to retain most of their original shape and patina.

Making bottles is a good way to use cracked or damaged wood for purposes other than firewood. With a hole drilled through the top they can be used for dry flower arrangements, or with a glass tube inserted, as a conventional vase. Timberly, or a florist, can supply the glass tubes.

With the post shortened to an appropriate length, find an approximate centre at each end. Dead centre is not important because the look is natural and the shape of the post is irregular anyway. Mount between centres and turn a spigot at one end. At the other end commence to shape the neck and top of your bottle. Decide what form you want the neck to be – short or long, fat or thin etc. Bottles look best in a set, and even better in groups of odd numbers, with each bottle having different characteristics – height, shape, neck etc. Garry likened this to having rocks in a garden – two rocks looks like two rocks, three rocks looks like landscaping.

Complete turning the neck to the design of your choosing. Remember to leave enough wood for the hole you will drill. Give it a quick sand if needed. You can get ideas from old bottles for different shapes. Next give a little bit of shape to the bottom of the bottle. Garry prefers to create a slight concave so the bottle sits nicely. Make sure to leave a shoulder for the chuck jaws to sit against.

To complete the turned piece, grab the spigot in the chuck. Line it up on centre using the live centre in the tailstock. Tighten the jaws. Turn the lathe speed down to around 500, and with a 20mm drill in the Jacobs chuck, drill your centre hole. If necessary, tidy up the entry point of the drill with your chisel or with sandpaper.

To remove the tenon, Garry used a home made mandrel which mounted in the chuck and fitted neatly into the newly drilled hole in the neck of his bottle. With the tailstock up, he nibbled away the tenon until just the nub was left around the point of the live centre, and once off the lathe this was removed with a chisel. A final sand to the bottom, and a bit of wax or oil to finish, and hey presto you’re done.

One trick that I hadn’t heard before – if your wood chips (which totara is very prone to do), and the chipped area looks new against the weathered look of the rest of the wood, give it some fast aging by soaking it in yoghurt or stale milk.

Thanks for the demo Garry, and for showing us that wood art doesn’t need to be technically complex to be highly effective.

Terry Scott – Turning Burls

Club Meeting: 3 August 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

About 10 years ago Terry purchased a large load of Australian burls, and many of his signature pieces have been turned from these burls. Terry commenced his demo tonight by showing us a range of completed and partially finished burls which he was still turning. The unfinished pieces comprise a stock of canvases for him to apply his finishing skills to, including carving.

Preparing for a demo can be time consuming and Terry spent a fair while turning and putting together the tools and materials needed for tonight’s demo. However even the best don’t get it right every time, and Terry managed to forget at least two finished pieces and a chuck with the correct size jaws to hold pieces that he was meant to use in the demonstration. However, despite these small setbacks the show went on without a noticeable hiccup.

A noteworthy aspect of Terry’s presentation was the quality of his commentary. Throughout the demonstration Terry peppered his audience with useful tips and advice to both entertain and inform turners of all skill levels.

The prime piece of advice Terry gifted to us tonight was to use a support ring when turning a potentially fragile rim or winged area on a bowl or platter. Hopefully our photographer captured a good photo of this which will be the easiest way to demonstrate the support ring in use. Terry explained that many of his burls are too shallow to be considered useful for a traditionally shaped bowl, but can still be turned into a “bowl which is not a bowl”, at the same time displaying all the inherent beauty of the burl.

The wood Terry chose to turn for tonight’s demo was a shallowish coolibah burl. Coolibah is a eucalyptus and is one of the hardest woods in the world. Typically it is an irregular shape, and Terry mounted it with a screw faceplate on the flat side and the knobby and knurly bits facing the tailstock. His first tip was that before bringing up the tailstock he will turn a flat for the live centre to sit against. The purpose of this, he explained, is so that the live centre is accurately centrally positioned rather than perhaps pulling slightly off centre. Throughout the turning process maintaining true centre is important especially because a tiny degree of off-centredness (a new word, add it to the OED) can cause a very noticeable variation at the perimeter, especially with a narrow rimmed bowl.

The first operation is to face off the area which will form the upper side of what will be the winged area of the bowl. Terry shared several hints as he commenced cutting:

Bring your visor down before turning on the lathe
Many catches occur after finishing a cut, so don’t look away until you have safely withdrawn the tool
Due to the non-round shape of the burl there is a lot of air, so turn the lathe speed up to increase the amount of tool contact
If you have suitable extensions use these to create turning room between the piece being turned, and the headstock and tailstock
Finish with a skew, using it as a scraper, to create a smooth finish. Terry explained the properties of a negative raked scraper versus a traditional scraper and how it reduces the likelihood of a catch.

On the tailstock end Terry cut a spigot before commencing to shape the underside of the bowl. He continued to create the thin underside of the wings, with the lathe spinning at around 800rpm at this stage. Terry was using a draw cut, stopping the cut when he reached air. The nature of the burl wood is that it is extremely hard, and as it does not follow any grain pattern, it comes off the chisel in chips. The commentary was ongoing as Terry turned. Listening to the wood and noting the sound variations gives good clues to aid the cutting process. Terry applies the heel of the gouge to the wood, listens for the tap tap tap, and gently lifts the tool to begin the cut. You could hear the hardness of the wood. A scraper is used to bring the finished shape of the underside to a point where minimal sanding is required.

When the underside is finished the piece is reverse chucked and turned. At this point the support ring can be hot glued on to the underside of the bowl, typically directly under the rim, or near to the top of the bowl. The support ring gives much stability to the piece being turned, reducing vibrations and preventing the movement which occurs in the wood as tension is released in the wood due to the fibres being turned away. If the glue begins to dry before you have finished applying it completely around the ring, give it a burst with the hot air gun to soften it again. Terry advised that sometimes with a larger bowl he will use two support rings. In the same manner as the ring provides support in a bowl, he also uses struts with some of his winged vessels.

The next step is to turn the inside of the bowl. Starting with the wings, and finishing as you go, work towards the centre of the bowl, about 10mm at a time. Maintaining a continuous flow, and cutting a small bead to mark the point where the wings dive into the bowl creates an impression that the bowl is larger and deeper than it actually is. Measuring with calipers, Terry cut down to an even 5mm thickness. He pointed out that he prefers to use a spigot over a recess because it is easier to get a measurement of the bottom thickness. The tailstock was kept in place for as long as possible while the central core was cut away, and Terry cut downwards rather than crossways, still rubbing the bevel, so the pressure was against the headstock. Finishing cuts to get a regular curve were with a 55 degree bottoming chisel and a scraper, then checked with a profile gauge and a glue stick to ensure a perfectly smooth curve. With the scraper, pivot the tool rather than dragging it across the tool rest, to get a flowing curve. Sand with the lathe stopped so as not to round over the edges of the wings.

The final step is to carve three feet on the bottom to give lift to the bowl. Using dividers, mark out opposite points across the longest diameter of the bowl, and then opposite points across the shortest diameter. Position two of the feet on the longest diameter, and the remaining foot on one of the shortest diameters. Carve the feet taking care to blend the bottom so the line of the bowl flows through.

Terry showed us a partially turned burl which had a naturally occurring void in it. He advised that it is possible to use the turned chips and superglue to invisibly fill the void. Sometimes it may be necessary to add strength to the void by inserting panel pins to make a cage to hold the repair. Instead of using wood chips, turquoise or copper could also be used. However as a word of caution, if a piece is being added to a collection it must not have superglue in it. Over time, superglue can deteriorate, so collectors will not buy such pieces.

Conversationally, Terry advised that buyers always seem to want to know how long a piece takes to make. His reply is 34 years. He says it is irrelevant how long it takes to make, because time can never be recovered. When he bought the burls ten years ago they cost about $140 each, but they would be worth double that now. Pieces like those being demonstrated tonight might have a selling price of $1200 to $1800. When you look at the beauty of each piece of wood, the quality of craftsmanship that goes into making them, and the sheer beauty of the artistry, you can see they are worth every penny. Thank you Terry.

Bob Yandell – Hidden Within

Club Meeting: 27 July 2022
Report by: Kieran FitzGerald

The theme for this term is “Natural”, and this meeting marked the first club night for the term. Accordingly, Bob chose a naturally themed item to turn for the enjoyment of members.

Bob encouraged members to turn to nature as an inspiration for woodturned art.

A seed pod from an unknown tree triggered his idea to turn a piece in which the original shape of the blank is retained in its natural form, but the piece is turned in such a way that the form of the object is silhouetted within the piece.

Before picking up a chisel, Bob used a profile gauge to outline the shape of his hidden object, in this case a bud vase, and transferred it to graph paper. From here he was able to translate the dimensions to suit his blank piece of wood. The wood he chose was a branch (possibly camellia?) about 200mm long and 90mm diameter. To simplify his turning, Bob transcribed the depth measurement of his cuts on to a length of masking tape which he stuck to the tool rest.

Bob had pre-turned the spigot on his blank, and he fitted it in the chuck. With an engineer’s twist drill (one with a morse taper which eliminated the need to use a Jacobs chuck), he commenced to drill a 20mm (approx.) hole into the centre of his blank.

Starting at the tailstock end (the top of the vase), and using only a parting tool, Bob made a cut to the depth of his first measurement. Next he took a narrow strip of masking tape (approx. 6mm) and wound it around the blank beneath his first cut. This it to delineate where he will make his next cut. Then he made his second cut to the next measurement on the masking tape on the tool rest. More masking tape, another cut to the next measurement, more masking tape, next cut, and so on, until the shape of the hidden vase is fully profiled within the length of the branch. Initially Bob checked the depth of his cut with calipers, but as the form of his piece took shape he was able to eyeball the depth of the cuts. Each cut was refined so that rather than having a square edge it was angled towards the next cut to create a continuous line.

To make the outline of the bud vase stand out more within the natural form of the blank timber, Bob took a small paintbrush and with a dark coloured acrylic paint he coloured the interior face of each of his cuts. To flash it up from a weed pot to a bud vase a glass tube can be inserted in the drilled centre hole.

The demonstration was a lively affair with considerable audience participation, and our thanks go out to Bob for kicking the term off with such an entertaining demo.