Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Lessons from the Notebook

Here is a collection of two years of tips and techniques from my notebook, that may help you as much as they helped me.', 'As many of you have seen, I carry a small hard backed notebook with me to most woodturning meetings, demonstrations, and symposiums.  I use it to jot down information concerning that particular event, helping me to better capitalize on what I might learn from the featured woodturner.  I have even started carrying a digital camera, so that I can take a picture of a particular technique (it even works to take pictures of the TV monitors, unlike regular cameras).

Most of the time when I read my notebook, it is to specifically look up one tip or technique that I need, or want to try, at that time.  Recently, I had the opportunity to go back through my notebook with a more leisurely approach, and I was struck by how many little nuggets of woodturning wisdom were tucked inside.<br /><br />So here is a collection of two years of tips and techniques that may help you as much as they helped me.  I also inserted a tip or two from my own experiences that might help out, as well.  They are in no particular order (other than the order they are in my notebook).  I have given each note a general topic, and give credit for whom that tip came from.  I think you’ll see several familiar names, and I hope you enjoy them.

Happy Turning!

Jim Byrom

Tool Usage:  Always ride the bevel in order to give yourself greater control and stability.  The tool also cuts best when riding the bevel, and should always be used in that manner, except when you choose to use it in another way.  – Nick Cook

Tool Selection:  You can’t much go wrong with a selection of five basic tools: standard parting tool, skew, roughing gouge, 3/8” spindle gouge, and 3/8” bowl gouge.  With these, you can do most woodturning techniques.  – Nick Cook

Tool Selection II:  Don’t worry if one person does a technique with a skew, and someone else does that same technique with a gouge.  Other than some basic safety rules like not using a roughing gouge inside a bowl … the only rule to follow, is to use the tool that you understand and feel most comfortable with.  – Nick Cook

Off Center Turning:  Your alternate center points should fall on or within a circle that is no larger than ¼ of the diameter of your stock (measured from true dead center).  This controls possible ejection of the stock from the lathe.  – Jim Talley

Sorby Double Sided Ring Tool:  Used primarily for end grain hollowing, this tool doesn’t work fast, but does leave a smooth surface.  Present the tool with the cutting surface mostly vertical (opening toward the 9 O’clock position).  The more you open up the tool (through a clockwise twist), the greater the bite, and the greater the chance of a tool breaking grab.  Ask me how I know this.  – Jim Byrom

Skew Notes:  1¼” skews are steady.  ½” skews can vibrate if extended more than ½” to 1” over the tool rest.  Keep your body close to the lathe and “choke up” on your grip … a long grip can transmit small movements into large marks on the wood.  Always cut in the center third of the cutting face, except when you need to use the heel or toe. – Nick Cook

Tear Out: Can be minimized by keeping your tools sharp, sharp, sharp.  You can also control tear out with tool angle … ride the bevel, then drop the tool slowly into the work piece.  – John Moss <br /><br />Sharpening:  Make registration marks (vertical lines) with a magic marker on the bevel face of the tool to be sharpened.  As they are ground away, you can quickly judge and adjust the grind angle.  This helps train your eyes and hands, no matter what method you use for sharpening. – Hal Simmons

Signing Your Work:  The signature of the artist lends authenticity, cachet, and maybe (one day) prestige.  Sign with wood burning pen, stamps, dies, burning blocks, or indelible non-wicking ink.  Seal the signature with the same finish as is on the bowl.  Resist the urge to date your work, if you don’t sell it that year, some buyers think your piece is “old” … never mind that the tree had been around for 100 years!  – Joy Moss

Face Plate Turning:  Stainless steel pan head screws, size #14, in 1” and 1½” lengths seem to work the best.  Look for screws with a large open spiral, not tightly spaced; this makes for a better grip.  Face plate turning is best for hollowing large forms, because you can break even a well made chuck due to shearing force. – Larry Hasiak

Hollowing System Notes:  Find a system that cuts well, and holds it edge for a long time.  Make sure that the primary hollowing tool has a gooseneck or other method to insure that the cutting edge of the tool is on or extremely near the centerline which runs the length of the tool.  A tool which does not have this is dangerous and can easily grab, catch, and perhaps even break your arm (due to being held in the arm brace).  – Larry Hasiak

Long Turning Sessions:  Keep fit at your lathe!  Start the session with stretching exercises, and repeat every hour or so during the length of the session.  Make circles in the air with your wrists and arms.  Perform trunk twists and leg stretches.  Remember, a lot of the work of a turner must be done with the body and legs.  Turners who use only their arms to “muscle through” the wood, won’t be turners for too many years.  – Ernie Newman

Skew Chisel Practice:  First, practice this every day.  If you don’t commit to 15 minutes daily, you’ll never really master the skew.  Use corn cobs and carrots for practice.  They are easily mounted, they cut similarly to green wood, and they are cheap.  Kids can also be better induced to eat carrot baseball bats and other oddities.  – Ernie Newman

Transferring Bottom Depth Markings To The Outside Of A Hollow Work Piece:  Use a combination or engineer’s square plus a sufficiently long steel ruler.  Mark an arbitrary line on the lathe bed with a pencil, somewhere to the tailstock side of the vessel’s opening.  Align the square with this mark.  Insert the ruler into the opening until it touches bottom, and read the measurement of depth where the ruler crosses the square face aligned with the pencil mark.  On the lathe bed, mark a new pencil line equal to this distance, starting from the original pencil mark and measuring back toward the headstock.  Align the square with this new mark, and transfer the depth measurement to the work piece using the vertical face of the square.  – Larry Hasiak

Sanding/Finishing:  For domestic woods, consider a three step sanding process using 150/180/220 grits.  Apply your finish in light coats, alternating with a scuff sand using 320 grit.  For exotic woods, continue sanding all the way up through 600 grit, then finish with paste wax and steel wool.  If using a urethane oil for finishing, such as Waterlox, apply with heat or friction for maximum penetration.  Let dry for 5 minutes, and then burnish it in again. – Nick Cook

Turning Philosophy:  Take every cut, as though it were your final cut … and never take that final cut.  – Nick Cook

Famous “Last Words”:  “Just one more cut ought to do it … Oops!” – Travis Barnes<br /><br />Cutting vs. Scraping and Tool Rest Height:  Using straight up as our zero degree reference point, any tool that is presented to the wood at less than 90 degrees (on the bevel or on an acute face angle) will cut the wood.  This gives us a cleaner finish with wood fibers that are sliced instead of torn.  Less final sanding will be required (if any at all).  Any tool presented to the wood at more than 90 degrees (using the tool rest as the pivot point) will scrape the wood (abrading or tearing the fibers).  This method is much more accurate than any notion about tool rest height in relation to the centerline of the work.  The tool rest should be adjusted to give you the best presentment of the tool bevel to the wood, and nothing more.  Pretend that the wood is going to sharpen your tool, and adjust the tool rest height accordingly to present your tool bevel.  – Jim Byrom

Pyrography:  Use woods like Cocobolo or another resinous exotic to burn dark lines in the work piece.  Credit card edges also can work well, as can pieces of Masonite.   Don’t use Purpleheart, it just burns.  Try using a pocket size butane torch for scorching large areas.  After scorching, use water and a Scotch-brite pad to remove carbonous remains.  Do this at least twice over the same area to increase grain contour.  – Nick Cook

Pyrography Retort:  Don’t listen to Nick Cook!  Use Purpleheart to help define and burn valleys carved into your work piece.  – Keith Gotschall

Pyrography II:  For burning sharp crisp lines on spindle turnings, get a potter’s cut off wire or make your own from Ni-Chrome wire.  The potter’s wire however, is thin, tough, and designed to take a lot of abuse.  If you make your own, remember to put on wooden handles … when burning lines that wire gets very hot!  – Jim Byrom

Coves:  For best visual interest, make your coves steep and deep.  – Ron Brown

Screw Chuck:  Use thin wood to make “washers” for your screw chuck.  This gives extra stiffness to the piece being turned and can help reduce edge motion or “flap” as you make a work piece thinner.  –Keith Gotschall

Sanding Speed:  Sand slowly.  Heat buildup destroys the paper and at high speeds you sand very inefficiently.  For all the same reasons why you turn fast, you must sand slow.  – Keith Gotschall

Rim Embellishment:  Think of the rim of a bowl or platter as a picture frame.  Use this frame to enhance the enjoyment of the interior of the bowl.  Straight grain needs rim embellishment, while curly or figured grain does not.  – Dave Hout

Urethane Oil:  The recipe is 1/3 mineral spirits, 1/3 pure tung oil or boiled linseed oil, and 1/3 urethane varnish.  This is food safe, easy to repair, and will not make “wet glass rings”.  Use three coats for best finish, and wait two weeks before buffing (due to the mineral spirits).  Warning: this mixture will make brushes and rags used for application highly flammable (spontaneous combustion) … dry rags flat on a exterior concrete surface before disposing of in flame resistant, OSHA rated, burn cans.  Be safe, get set up for proper disposal of these rags, even before making the urethane oil.  – Dave Hout

Jam Chucks:  Indispensable to a wood turner!  Hold in a four jaw chuck, gripping the jam chuck in a rebate (a circular form of what our wood working friends would call a rabbet).  The rebate insures that the jam chuck rides on the face of the four jaw chuck (which are square to the drive shaft … the bottom of the chuck is not guaranteed to be square).  These may also be made in a variety of shapes: cones, domed, flat, tapered, and cylindrical.  These can also be mounted on face plates if a four jaw chuck is not available for rapid jam chuck exchange.  To improve grip and reduce surface marring, cover these jam chucks with tape, shelf pads (waffle weave), or chamois (never leather, since it burnishes).  – Don Butler

Mini Jam Chucks:  Similar to a headstock jam chuck, a mini jam chuck can be made for the tailstock.  These mini jams can be used to hold a candle stick by shaping to a ¾” diameter and inserting into the recess designed to hold the candle.  Mini jams can also be used in conjunction with full sized jams to “pinch mount” a nearly finished vessel without leaving deep centering marks.  – Don Butler

Cyano Acrylate Glue (CA):  When using CA glue on green wood, no accelerator is needed.  This is because CA cures using moisture, and the green wood typically has plenty. – Doug Barnes

Waste Blocks:  Used typically on a face plate to glue mount thin or almost finished turnings.  Glue long grain to long grain (aligning the grains) for a firm hold.  Glue long grain to long grain (crossing the grains) or glue long grain to end grain for a medium hold.  Glue end grain to end grain for an extremely light hold.  Be wary of tear out when chiseling the glue joint apart later.  Insure that there is sufficient depth remaining to sand the glue joint to a final finish.  – John C. Lucas

Captive Rings:  Turn a bead, clear away waste on each side, then undercut from both sides.  Finish the outside of the ring to final finish before cutting free.  After freeing the ring, sand the inside by taping abrasives to the spindle.  Make extra rings, then interlock two of them by breaking one and gluing it back together (break lines are easier to disguise than cuts).  Keep some waste on the stem to use as a temporary jam chuck for rings, then remove waste before final finishing.  Tape rings out of the way when doing stem work.  – Jim Byrom

Friction Polish:  1/3 Deft, 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 lacquer thinner.  – Jim Byrom

4 Jaw Chucks:  Compression is a more positive hold than expansion.  These chucks are at their strongest when nearly closed, since more square inches of surface area are available for direct griping of the work piece.  This position is almost a perfect circle, minus only the width of the blade (kerf) used to saw the jaw blank into four separate jaws.  Although any reputable chuck is good, a dovetail based chuck allows you to reduce the depth of the grip ring (depression in the wood) and potentially disguise it or remove it later.  Mark the position of the No 1 jaw on the work piece for easy realignment if re-chucking is required.  – John Moss

Burnishing:  Burnishing is a technique done after all final sanding has been completed; another polishing surface is applied to the spinning work piece to help align the wood fibers exposed on the surface of the piece.  Good items for burnishing include handfuls of wood shavings, brown paper bags, and corrugated cardboard.  All of these are wood based products, and help achieve greater smoothness, a high luster, and more pronounced definition of grain or figure (through a slight darkening action).  – Joe Getty

Shoe Polish:  Clear paste shoe polish can be used to finish wood.  It contains a very high grade of carnauba wax.  Let dry before buffing.  Colored shoe polishes can also be used to stain and wax a work piece at the same time, but do not contain the same high grade of carnauba wax.  Myland’s friction polish is good for everything.  – Joe Getty

Bowl Grain:  No matter what way you orient the bat or blank in the lathe … On the inside of a bowl, the grain will always run from the outside toward the center; and on the outside of that same bowl, the grain will always run from the center to the outside.  Use this as a guide to avoid cutting uphill.  All finish cuts should be made downhill to reduce tear out.  – Jimmy Clewes

Turner’s Elbow:  What you get when you whack your elbow into the center point left in the tailstock (comment made while turning a chuck mounted piece).  – Jimmy Clewes

Tool Rests:  Don’t use the outside thirds of your tool rest.  There is not much rigid support out there, and any cuts made in this region can induce a harmonic vibration in the tool/tool rest which can show up as surface imperfections in the cut being taken on the work piece.  – Jimmy Clewes

Re-Chucking:  Do more than mark the No 1 jaw position.  Mark the No1 and No 4 jaw split position.  When first gripping the piece, slightly crush the fibers in the grip ring; then when re-chucking, slightly rock the piece as you tighten the jaws, allowing the jaw teeth to drop back into their previous indentations.  – Jimmy Clewes

Sanding Coves:  Do not apply pressure for sanding coves directly with your finger behind the sand paper.  This will quickly remove fine detail.  Instead, roll your sand paper into an appropriate sized tube, and then apply the tube to the cove.  This will restrict sanding to the center of the cove and save any nearby detail work.  – Jimmy Clewes

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