Turning Archive 2006
Jim Shaver - Oakville, Ontario
“ That’s Champion Man “
That was a phrase well heard often spoken by Jimmy Clewes turning at the Golden Horseshoe Woodturner’s Guild meeting today.
We were very fortunate to have Jimmy at our club for a full day’s presentation. The information flowed fast and furiously back and forth from Jimmy to us and questions and comments back with him. The whole day was a very engaging experience for many of us, I know that I came away with a great deal of learning and appreciation for Jimmy and also his presentation skills.
He commented at one point that if he spoke constantly about what he was doing we would understand his process, but also we would not have time to chatter amongst our selves, so it was his goal to keep our attention…indeed he did.
Jimmy began with a spiraled candle stick, using a simple straight forward process that involved turning between centres using a Steb centre. Jimmy laid out point on each end of the rounded blank, 120 degrees apart then on the opposite end laid out the same points, but 120 degrees in rotation from the first set. He then turned the spindle in three set ups, moving from each laid out location to the next. He then turned a base for the stem, a shape that was very pleasing
Next Jimmy turned his Japanese Lidded box. It had a wow factor of 10 for me! I had never seen it before so the process was a bit of a paradigm shift for me. Jimmy turned the body of the bowl from a piece of spalted maple, I’d guess it was 9 inches long, maybe 3 inches wide and 2 ½ inches thick . Listening to it spin at 3000+ rpm was…..exciting!
One comment Jimmy made was turn at a speed you like, but for him faster was better, he likes the quality of the cut at a high speed….he turned the whole box at that speed!
He also does not spend much time at all measuring things, only a pair of dividers ever appeared in the demo that he used to size either tenon diameters or box openings. His line was “ Just Guessin it Man” when some one asked about a dimension, or when he wanted to skim a super thin amount off the edge of a tenon for a jam chuck..” as Thick as a gnat’s eye lash..”…we all laughed!!
In keeping with his minimalist feelings towards turning he said “the better the woodworker you become the less tools you need” I think that may be true for many aspects of woodworking or anything else in life, keeping it simple often yields results with predictable out comes.
I asked Jimmy if he ever draws out his designs or forms before he begins a turning ..His answer was that he had to his best recollection never made a drawing at all. He said he relied on his visual library for forms and shapes, going with the design he has in his mind and working with limitations if the wood presents changes to his path. He said he looks for what he calls Visual appeal in a work, that it needs to satisfy his visual esthetics to look pleasing. He also mentioned his use of the triangle in blending shapes together, such as the Japanese lidded box. He used that analogy to help define the shape of the lid as it was turned to fit the box.
The Japanese box was a wonderful design to watch come to life. With the flow of questions and comments Jimmy was able to touch on many topics of interest through the process, including issues around form, tool cuts/grinds and control and also many funny side stories from his life.
Jimmy also shared several tools he likes to use, encouraging us at the lunch break to go up to the lathe to try them out.
One that caught my eye was a skew that had no shoulders (no hollow and no break edge), it was ground with rounded shoulders that was a smooth transition to the cutting edge. He demonstrated it passing along a spindle with the heel, then the center of the tool and then the long point, leaving a super cut with all of the edges used.
Another tool was a 4 point tool that he used for detailing here and there.
Another tool he made he called the Cat’s Claw, inspired by his cat at home, the claw being used today to turn a captive ring.
Also Jimmy demonstrated on several gouges how he will grind a second bevel on heel of the gouge to allow for tighter sweep cuts within a turning with high sides.
Jimmy’s final turning that I saw (I had to leave at 2:30 PM to get Dana to a Birthday Party) was a lidded box with a finial and a captive ring. If you are familiar with the Raffan process for turning a lidded box it was very similar in some ways, but his use of a parting tool to hollow out the box for part of the process was new for me, seemed easy!
As I was leaving I heard him say he was going to turn a natural edge bowl and a cowbow hat…man does he fly!
I had a wonderful day, it was great to spend some time watching and listening to some one like Jimmy Clewes who has a passion for what he does and also sincerely wants to share what he knows, no pretenses, straight from the hip!
What can I say, being a member of a great turning club like the GHWG is a part of my woodworking journey that I really enjoy. I shared the day with my daughter also who came and watched…she said, it was not boring (it was okay)!!
It was as Jimmy would say… “ Just Champion Man..” well Jimmy you certainly were a Champion Today!
If you ever get a chance to See a Jimmy Clewes presentation, It’s a definite must!
Thanks for viewing,