Turning Archive 2005
>I don't know what started me writing this, but I just spent a half hour writing up a bowl turning scenario that included every unsafe thing I could think of, in the form of a diary written by a very enthusiastic and lucky, though not-too-brilliant turner. Hope you find it at least mildly amusing.
I was spinning some wood late last night, and had an interesting experience. I had a really nice piece of birch on the lathe. A square blank that I had mounted to a faceplate and was roughing down with my ĹĒ spindle gouge. Chunks were flying everywhere, bouncing off my nose, getting in my shirt pocket, and even though my sleeves were rolled up, some got in the cuffs too. I looked at my watch. 11:30pm. I needed to hurry to get through this, because I had to get to bed for a meeting in the morning.
The turning was a bit tricky, because the blank was just going ďbam bam bam bamĒ on the gouge, but I felt something between my toes. I looked down, and there I found a small piece of 60-grit sandpaper. Mustíve fallen off the lathe table with the vibration. As I was standing back up, the gouge slid off the tool rest and dug into the wood. I heard a huge ďBAMĒ sound over my head as the gouge was slammed against the bottom of the tool rest. Then I heard a chunk of wood hit the opposite wall of the basement. I stood up and stopped the lathe. The gouge had taken out a sizeable chunk of one of the square corners. What a break! Probably saved me several minutes of shaping right there.
As the moments went by, the wood diameter got smaller, and eventually was round. Lots of tearout, but I figured that would go away as I removed more wood. The blank now had a nice round shape to it. I moved the tool rest a bit closer to my work, then I wiped the dust off the tool rest with my index finger Ė the spinning blank always feels so soft against the back of my hand when I do that, and got to work. I already had the roughing gouge in my hand, and it had done a pretty good job so far, so I stuck with it to round off the bottom of the bowl. I had no idea how fine a tool this is. The shavings are so fine they almost look like dust.
The first few passes werenít that great, but then I got in a groove, and started getting a really nice shape. The tool left marks that looked like rows in a freshly sown field, but I figured I could sand that out later with more of my 60-grit. Then the edge of the gouge took a big catch where I had been rounding. Oops. I stopped the lathe. Yep, there it was. Doggone it though, it had to be a half inch deep. I figured this might become more of a finger bowl, but that was ok, I liked the shape and figuring in the wood. There was also a lot of tearout, mostly on the end grain part. Thatís what sandpaper is for, right?
So I fired the lathe back up. This time I leaned into it really hard Ė I could feel the lathe table moving up near my toes a little Ė and I got my head right in there so I could see what I was doing a bit better. I kept the blade right on top of the area where the catch was, and just kept at it until I stopped hearing the ďtick tick tickĒ sound. Pretty soon, I had a nicely rounded bowl, and just had to make a recess and sand it down before I could turn it around to hollow out. I used the edge of my roughing gouge to cut in a recess. It was kind of round though, and there were lots of mini-catches, so I changed to a parting tool instead. That worked a bit better, but I had to keep wiping the dust out of the recess in front of the tool rest to see what I was doing.
Wow. That was a lot of sanding. Funny thing though. The wood is really smooth when I spin it toward me, but really fuzzy the other way and lots of little tiny holes on the end grain section. You have to understand thatís just the character of wood. There are still lots of little lines in the wood, but I canít tell if those are tool marks or sandpaper marks. They donít matter. Once I put the finish on youíll never see them, and Iím sure the ďvalleysĒ are nice and smooth considering how long Iíve been sanding. I ran out of some sandpaper grits, so I progressed from 60 to 220, 600 (I love that stuff!), and then bit of a paper bag to burnish it out. It didnít feel too smooth at first, but then I set the RPM to 3,300, and then it felt great! End result was not bad, just kind of fuzzy on the end grain in the one direction. Also managed to sand back some of those mini-catches on the recess.
Finally got to flip this bowl around onto the expansion chuck. It didnít sit as well as I had hoped, but I just hunkered down on the key and really made it tight. That puppy isnít going anywhere! I wiped an armful of dust from beneath my nose and then did my eyebrows to. Thatís better. Now its time to make a bowl. And Iíd better hurry it up too Ė Iíve got to wake up at 6:30!
I fired up the lathe. The blank shot right over my shoulder and landed in a wastepaper basket full of oily rags from previous projects. What a break it wasnít ruined! Guess I didnít tighten the blank down enough. This time I really leaned into the key on the chuck. NOW it isnít going anywhere. I fired up the lathe again. Phew, is that ever fast. The bowl seems a little wobbly Ė when I lay a tool on top of it, it sounds like popcorn popping, but as long as I hollow it out ďroundĒ I donít think anybody will notice that the edge isnít uniform thickness.
I turned around and rummaged around the top of my workbench until I found a bowl gouge. Now that I was on the bowl part of the project, it was time to use the right tool. Hadnít seen this one in a while!
First thing was to smooth out what will be the open end. Tool kept slipping off the edge of the bowl, but those can be sanded out later. Or maybe Iíll just have a shorter bowl than I thought. Thatís ok. Then I started hollowing it out. Chunks flying everywhere! A couple of times I hit big catches, and after those the bowl didnít spin true, but I just started at the lip of the bowl and turned my way in, until it was nice and round again.
Well, Iíve hogged out a lot of wood now. When I get to the end of a pass, the bowl gouge keeps bouncing around down there. It isnít hitting very hard, so I donít think it is leaving any marks, and it still takes out wood, so Iím pretty sure itís fine. I canít find my depth guage, but if I put my hand on top of the tool rest and reach my finger to the bottom, I can get a good feel for the depth. Then I hold my wrist over the outside edge of the bowl to see how close I am to making a lampshade.
The walls were a little thick, so I tried to go back and thin them a bit, but the tool was only in contact with the wood twice on every revolution. Not sure why. It just goes tick tick tick, and then BAM if I move the tool too far in. Gave up on that pretty quickly Ė donít want to ruin it at THIS point!
WHOA! I can see light through the side of the bowl in one section. Almost looks like one of Saturnís rings the way it goes all the way around the bowl. That will look cool when I finish it. Guess Iím done with the walls, and it is time to finish off the inside bottom. Boy, is it ever rough down there. Must be the height of the tool rest. I lowered it a bit, and that helped, but I nicked the outside edge of the bowl when I did it. Sandpaper will take care of that little dinger.
Well, the bowl is a bowl now. The bottom is a bit rough, but the bottom above the recess is so thin I can flex it with my finger. Better stop with the steel tools and move to the paper tools.
Best thing I can think of to do is hold the 60-grit in one place at the bottom of the bowl until some of those ridges go down. Then Iíll work my way up the wall being careful not to push to hard on the Saturn ring. Grip the paper in a u-shape over the outside wall Ė that should round it down a bit. Time for the 220 grit now. Boy does this stuff get hot. I have to fold it into four squares before I can bear it and still push down hard enough to get any work done. Thatís the way Ė now Iím yielding some aggressive results. There is a cloud of dust around me so thick I can barely see the bowl. My mouth is all powdery.
The top of the bowl is funny to sand, since the paper only hits the two spots per revolution. If I could just get those two spots to sand down to the level of the rest of the bowl Iíd be golden.
Well, thatís about enough sanding. My finger tips are just on fire after that. Time to finish up and get to bed. Whereís that tung oil? There it is, next to the soldering iron. No time for gloves, Iím running late. Better just wipe the stuff on with a rag.
Why do these rag bags always have pieces the size of a shirt in here? I just want a little bit, and the stuff is like trying to rip a phone book in half. Who cares, its just a rag. Iíll just use the whole blasted thig, but Iíll try to only use one corner. That way if I ever find my scizzors I can cut the big piece up later.
Here we go Ė first the inside - hey, this stuff goes on easy! The wood got nice and dark. Looks great. Rubs right in nearly dry at 3300 RPM. I stopped the lathe to admire my work. Bad news. Iím only getting coverage on the two same spots where the tool was going tick tick tick. Iíll rub some more in there while Iím stopped, and when I fire it up again, Iíll just bear down harder and get it all worked in. Now the outside. I canít believe how hard it is to keep my hand on the bowl. It bucks me off like a bronco. Same deal, I had to stop the lathe to apply the rest. Now a clean part of the rag to dry it off, and weíre done except the back bottom outside of the bowl where I canít reach. Had to stop the lathe again. That darned huge rag got all tangled up in the chuck. I couldnít reach the off switch right away because it kept interfering with my hand.
Time to take this baby off the lathe. Ahh, now it looks like something. Wish it didnít have all those little holes in the inside bottom, but what do people expect? This isnít easy to do! Now just some tung oil on the bottomÖ.there. And now Iíll just wipe off the excessÖ..there. Hmmm. Not as shiny as the rest of the bowl. Iíll just rub really, really, hard, andÖ..there! Still not as shiny. Close enough!
Looks pretty good to me, except for the ripped up parts of the recess where I had to remount it, maybe should have sanded that again, the too-thin part right above the recess and the Saturn ring are a lot darker than the rest of the wood, the walls look a little rough, the outside of the bowl is a fuzzy on the end grain in one direction, all those torn out chunks in the botton of the bowl sort of tick me off, and I donít think anybody will really notice all those sanding/tool lines unless they look at it really closely. Perfict! Another trophy for my shelf. Wait until the wife sees this one.
Blew my nose while I was still downstairs. What a dirty mess! Iím sure I didnít get it all out, but Iím not going to stand down here honking my guts out for the next half hour. Iíve got to get to bed! Wiped my face off with a wet paper towel to get the dust out of my eyes. My hands feel sticky when the water and tung oil mix, but they wonít feel sticky by the time I wake up for my work. Snuck into bed after peeling out of my dusty clothes in the bedroom. Tossed them over my wife and into the hamper. Boy, that stuff gets everywhere. I can feel it in my hair Ė yuck Ė but I guess Iíll take a shower tomorrow and that will be that.
Have a great weekend Ė try to spin a little bit safer than this fictional guy!