Turning Archive 2007

Re: Doing it backwards
Response To:
Re: Doing it backwards ()

Bill Neddow
>Art, although we may seem to be coming from different places, I really think we are close to having the same approach. I would not mount a two foot half-log of Walnut on the lathe and then decide to make a honey dipper. I have a pile of pieces specifically cut to the rough sizes for the non-bowl items I make like weed pots and bottle stoppers.

The decision on what I am making is made long before I ever get to the lathe. When I mention that I assess a rough block of wood, decide what shape of bowl it is going to be, turn it round and then stop the lathe and reassess the situation -- I know in advance I am going to make a bowl. These blocks of wood are cut from the log specifically to make bowls and are pre-balanced for grain orientation with a chain saw before they ever go near a lathe. Once the piece is round, and I can really assess the grain, I may decide to change from an ogee shape I had originally planned to more of a half-moon shape. But that will be because I have found some really pretty grain that would disappear into shaving if I continued with the ogee shape concept.

I have also had some good turners visiting, like Jimmy Clewes and David Springett. They do have requirements. Even Jimmy can't turn a square, lidded, Chinese bowl out of a piece of bottle stopper wood. And Jimmy's requirements are quite different from David's, who is generally working with much smaller pieces of wood. But I found that both of them were very sensitive to the wood. Jimmy even changed the shape of his Chinese bowl at our club demo to more of a rectangular shape than normal because I had a wonderfully curly piece of Big Leaf Maple he fell in love with.

I do not sit down and draft out mechanical drawings of where I am going like Mike Darlow. But I sure have a pretty good idea of where I am going before I turn on the lathe.

I remember one demonstrator we had who made the point that it is necessary to have a plan of attack -- and he did it in a very humorous way. The wood turner he described was the typical weekend turner who has been waiting all week to get at the lathe. He plans to turn a bowl on Saturday afternoon, and by 1 p.m. he is in his shop. He finds a block of wood, mounts it on his lathe, and waits for inspiration. It does not come, so he turns a bit, realizes he is getting nowhere, and decides to have a coffee. While he is in the kitchen, his wife asks him to take out the garbage -- and he meets one of the neighbors who wants to chat. Half an hour later, he is back in the shop, coffee in hand, and the wood is definitely not "speaking" to him. After a while, he decides a cookie would be good with the coffee, So he goes back into the house, gets the cookie, and flips through some old wood turning magazines to get inspiration.Then he realizes his son is watching the football game. Fourth quarter -- all tied. It wouldn't harm to watch a few minutes. Then it goes into overtime. A couple of beers later, the game is over. It is 5 p.m.. He has accomplished nothing, and because he has had a couple of beers, he decides he had better put off the turning to another day.

As the story was being told, I noticed a lot of smiles in the audience. He had obviously hit on something almost everyone had done.

His solution -- Check out your block of wood on Tuesday night. Dig out the magazines on Wednesday night and use them for bedtime reading. By Friday you should have found something to give you an idea of what to make with that block of wood. Whether you prepare mechanical drawing, sketch it out, or simply take the picture out to the shop with you for inspiration does not really matter. What matters is that you have a plan of attack. When you get to the shop Saturday afternoon, you can get right into making the chips fly. No need for coffee breaks. Somehow or other, a lot seems to get done this way.

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