Turning Archive 2006

my weekend with Alan Lacer

Tom Sontag - St. Louis
>The St. Louis Woodturners had Alan Lacer in for a demo on Saturday and workshop Sunday. And I was there! While this alone will not vault this furniture guy into 100% lathesville, it certainly was the nudge I needed to focus on how and where to practice some more with less frustration. As you would expect, it was all about the skew, with a short detour on the hook tool.

His theory seems two pronged: 1 - the skew is too useful to not learn how to use, and 2 - if you can control the unforgiving skew, you can handle most other tasks. This makes sense.

He showed how he makes hook tools, which apparently cannot be bought. Despite their incredible usefulness in shearing end grain cleanly, the closest you can get to buyng one is a circular hoop. Apparently these things catch rather spectacularly and liability issues keep manufacturers away. Just this metal-working demo included enough information to convince you this guy knows his stuff. Heck, he came from a smithing family.

We began the workshop portion today with grinding and honing. He prefers a rolled off profile on the two thirds of the skew on the short point. In other words, straight edge at 30 degrees off the long point, then rolling over a bit to the short point. This grind alone kept me from digging in so much when using the paning cut by exposing a sweet spot on the edge. His website shows this and virtually anything else I would try to describe to you.

I confess that I am not yet the skew's master. Rolling a bead is going to get some more practice. And my pride wants to make one of the eggs he had us attempt at the end to demonstrate our rolling cut and aesthetic talents. But Alan was a clear and thorough teacher that most of the experienced turners also learned plenty from. I hope I can remember it all!

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