Archive for the ‘Woodturning’ Category

Carving on a Turned Lidded Container

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Walnut. 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter. 3 and 3/8 inches tall. The grain matches from container to lid. This is the first container turned on the treadle lathe, and my first turned container in about 30 years. Coins in the photo are for size reference, a 2 Euro (Italian/Dante) and a US Quarter (Indiana/Indy 500 – we used to live 1/2 mile from there.) The pig is an Austrian good luck charm. Turning and carving details follow these photos.

photo of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lidphoto of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lidphoto of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lidphoto of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lid

Having watched half a gazillion YouTube videos about container turning techniques, I did this one a bit differently than what I saw in any of the videos. Being of Scottish heritage and a bit “thrifty,” I haven’t yet bought one of the 4-jaw chucks we so often see used for this type of work.

Instead, I sandwiched the walnut blank between two pine waste blocks (saves wasting 50 cents worth of walnut) and mounted the sandwich on a simple $10 faceplate. I trued the blank with a live center taking up the tail. After truing the blank into a cylinder, I trued a perpendicular face on the tail end of the blank, i.e on the end of the waste block there. That prepared a surface for mounting yet another simple $10 faceplate for working the lid.

The rest of the turning followed fairly standard procedure.

  • Turn a rough profile for the entire container.
  • Refine the lid profile to nearly final shape.
  • Part off the lid piece.
  • Mount a faceplate on the lid piece.
  • Remove the body from the lathe and mount the lid piece.
  • This leaves the inside of the lid accessible. Hollow the inside to desired depth. Refine, sand and finish the inside.
  • Remove the lid from the lathe and mount the body.
  • Turn a tenon on the body that accepts the lid as a very snug press fit.
  • Remove the lid’s waste block and faceplate. (The waste block was glued in place with a paper separator layer, hence easily cut off.)
  • Press the lid onto the body’s tenon.
  • Complete the shaping and finishing of the lid. For this particular turning, I left a raised ring of wood on the lid that later becomes the “C-bars” in the carving.
  • Refine the outside shape of the body.
  • Hollow the body.
  • Sand and finish the inside. (Did I say “sand?” Hate sanding anything!)
  • Cut the body from the waste block.
  • While still mounted, turn the waste block to form a plug / jam chuck for the body.
  • Press fit the body onto the plug and turn a very slight concave bottom surface. Sand and finish the body.
  • Remove all from the lathe.
  • Remount the waste block used for the lid and turn it to form a plug / jam chuck that fits inside the lid. This is not used for any more turning, but as a mount for holding the lid while carving.

photo of turned box on the lathephoto of turned box on the lathephoto of turned box on the lathe

All that remains is a simple matter of carving. The design is a single letter monogram set between two classic “C-bars.” The carving is different from most in that it is carved in end grain. While that eliminates the usual grain sensitivity of carving, it presents another difficulty. Carving in end grain is like pressing a knife into the end of a bundle of soda straws. Extra sharp tools are the order of the day, along with a healthy helping of patience. Also helpful are a white wax marker and a fine spoon shaped chisel.

I’m not sure what the recipient will keep in such a container. It has enough room for about 211 calories worth of Gummy Bears, or maybe a few spare gold coins. We’ll see.

photo of carving the lidphoto of carving the lidphoto of carving the lidphoto of carving the lid

Carving on a Turned Object #2 – Lathe Enhancement

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Sometimes, there’s madness in my method. Back when I made the adjustable tool rest, I used a certain shape in anticipation of these carvings.

51+w65WS2cL._SL500_AA300_Inspiration for this pair of turnings comes from yet another Frederick Wilbur book, “Carving Architectural Details in Wood: The Classical Tradition.” A little rosette appears in the lower corners of a very ornate picture frame. It’s a classic rosette that’s frequently seen on period furnishings. Besides its appeal to me, it is sometimes carved from a turned base, one of the reasons I built a lathe.

photo of drawing and book images

As with many carvings, I like to draw the item a couple of times myself. It helps be get a better feel for the object, for knowing the turning profile, and for having a fair idea of how to create the result.

photo of steps in tutning the baseThe turnings are of walnut. Because the dominant features are on the face, these need to be mounted for faceplate turning. I used a small “Easy Wood Tools” faceplate, to which I screwed some sacrificial pine. To that, the walnut is attached by the technique of gluing a layer of paper between the pine and walnut.

The turning is straightforward. Walnut works very easily. The only unusual aspect is that I have not yet made a tool rest specifically for faceplate turning. So, I improvised by F-clamping the existing tool rest across the lathe’s ways in the only way it would fit … backwards.

photo of 4 steps of carving and completing the rosettesAt my level of ability, carving is about two factors, grain and sequence. Feeling grain interaction with tools is almost second nature now. The real consideration for grain on these pieces was orientation with respect to features. I decided to place the leaves between the pedals on diagonals to the grain direction. My hope was in minimizing the likelihood of breakage. That worked out great. Sequence is the other aspect that I find challenging. What to cut first? My instinct was to set in the spaces between pedals first, and to do that with cuts that minimize the pressure on what will be the sharp ridge of the leaves. That worked out OK. The rest of the carving was to remove everything else that’s neither leaf nor pedal. :-)

photo of enhanced tool restLastly, I drilled the back of each rosette with a 3/4″ hole the depth of a metal nut, and additional 1/4″ hole to accommodate a screw. The nut is set in a pool of epoxy. The whiteness of the epoxy is due to a filler.

Finish: simple boiled linseed oil.  NO sanding harmed either this carving or me!

The result is… some classy knobs to replace the ugly wing nuts on the adjustable tool rest!

Carving on a Turned Object #2 – WIP

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Work in Progress. Just one photo for now.

photo of a small rosette carving

Carving on a Turned Object – #1

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

The running dog caught the car. Now what?  I built a lathe. Now what? My first interest in building the lathe was like that running dog’s, “Just do it!” “Gotta make one of those!”

Along the way came carving and a fascination for carving on turned objects. Let’s go.

photo of book coverThis first turned object carving is a challenge piece, a skill builder. I selected it because it has several different sorts of carving on one piece. It is a combination of two pieces from Frederick Wilbur’s “Carving Classical Styles in Wood.”

Pineapples have long been used in architectural decoration as symbols of hospitality. Like the running dog needing a car, I really don’t need a pineapple or a symbol of hospitality. Call me hermit, not hospitable. Yet, it is a challenging carving project. My interpretation takes the form of a small finial about 6 inches tall. There a photo of one in Wilbur’s book. To that, I added a ring of beads just above the pedestal’s cove … for more challenge. I omitted the leaves at the top … to accommodate the blank I had on hand. I sketched up a drawing and headed for the lathe. The wood for this project is Northern Basswood from Wisconsin. It is moderately soft and has a very straight and even grain, excellent for carving.

photo of the finial on the latheTurning was relatively easy after all the firewood making beads and cove practice. I dulled the points of the outside calipers, and worked to the measurements from my sketch. Most of the surface was left as cut by the turning gouges. The only places I sanded were areas that will not be touched by carving tools, the base pedestal and the large half bead below the leaves.

Layout for carving is the fun part. I’ve watched Mary May’s amusement at the engineers who are frequently her students (myself included). She does layout the way an artist does, estimating spaces and proportions with a very keen eye. Engineers use scientific techniques and tools. Wilbur suggests leaving the pineapple in the lathe and using an indexing head to mark out 16 segments. photo of making and using a 13 segment rulerMy lathe doesn’t (yet) have an indexing head, and besides I wanted 13 segments … because nature does it that way. More on that shortly.

How to get 13 segments? The enginerd way, of course! Wrap a piece of paper around the turning to mark off the circumference. Strike 2 parallel lines indicating the circumference. Connect with a base line. Lay a ruler across the parallel lines in a manner to divide into 13 segments. Mark each. Drop a perpendicular at each mark. When done, cut off a strip to use as a ruler. Wilbur’s “in the lathe” advice is good for one part of the layout. I put the pineapple back in the lathe and used the tool rest for drawing axial lines. Next, laying out the field of diamond segments.

Here’s where nature comes in. All sorts of things in nature grow in spirals: pine cones, pineapples, sunflower seeds, flower petals, leaves around a stem, and on and on. Often they grow in double spirals. Look at a pine cone or pineapple from the end to see the effect, or watch this Vi Hart “Doodling in Math” video. The double spirals in nature always use a pair of adjacent numbers in the Fibonacci sequence. (1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,…) Our lovely pineapple often uses 8,13. Thus, my interest in 13 segments. Now, how to lay out the other spiral of 8? That’s where my head started hurting too much and I decided making both spirals as found in nature would be one too may challenges for this project. Apparently, most who create pineapples for pediments and other architectural purposes agree. Those pediments all have symmetrical diamonds.

My solution for marking off the spirals was to fetch an image of a protractor from that world wide web thingy, strike off a 135 degree angle, glue it to a magazine cover for a little more substance, cut it out along the baseline and 135 degree line leaving a strip about 1/2 inch wide, and use the resulting flexible ruler to mark the spirals. No photos. Doing such required 5 hands and a monkey to obtain a smooth curve and manage the pencil, leaving none for the camera. Aren’t enginerds clever?

photo of workpiece in an f-clamp, in a viseOK. now how do we hold it for carving? The vise on my carving bench doesn’t have enough extension to hold the piece securely. Both vises on my 12 foot work bench have plenty of capacity, but that bench is way too low for carving. Oh, my aching back. Bingo: F-clamp! I turned a small cup for the pointed end of the blank. Secured all in an F-clamp, and clamped that in the vise of my carving bench.

The rest was all carving. “In the zone” carving. Time disappears. Shapes emerge. Until…. other time-sensitive projects are demanding attention. photo of partially completed finialSo, I’ll stop for now. My learning goal has been accomplished. In addition to the enjoyment, two notable carving points stand out: