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Turning into something

2011-11-25 13.21.17

One of my most recent distractions has been the shaping of spinning wood otherwise known as turning.  I’ve been making as many candle sticks as I can lately. Turning is a great way to wind down after laboring over a piece of casework.

I recently took my lathe apart, adjusted a few parts and reassembled it and managed to improve the performance, which has made turning easier and faster.  So far cherry is my favorite wood to turn.  Walnut is nice but often after sanding still has fibers on the surface that were missed due to the structure of the wood.  These make for a rough surface.  I had the same experience with sycamore.  The only maple I’ve turned so far was a failure, when a large chunk was  taken off by the gouge.

Most of my designs so far are dictated by the dimensions of the tool.  I’ll frequently use the width of the skew chisel to mark out the width of beads and coves.

When approaching the final steps in the turning process one can use friction to burn parts of the turning to darken and highlight them.  That’s what I’ve done on these cherry candle sticks. I like to emphasize the high points which makes for a nice contrast against the warm light cherry.  The candles are simple emergency candles from the store, 3/4 inches in diameter.

So far the biggest challenge in turning has been replicating shapes, maintaining the symmetry between the two pieces.  I find that I will often turn one piece, take it off the lathe, turn the second, compare the two then remount the first and make adjustments in response to the second.  In the end the one of the pair with the smaller dimensions however slight will guide me in shaping the other.

My finish on most turnings so far has been Tried and True’s linseed oil and bee’s wax finish.  One coat and we’re ready to light up a room.


Solid Walnut Entertainment

I’ve been drinking a lot more coffee here lately.  The end of my semester is fast approaching and the pressure of testing is palpable.  Teaching high school and trying to build two large pieces of furniture (and a smaller hall table) have really been taxing my resources physically and spiritually.  I was relieved to move this entertainment cabinet out of my basement and into the living room for photographing.  

When I work on a large piece like this (five feet wide) my awareness of the space limitations of my shop becomes heightened.  I’ve found work flow and transitions through my space to be very important, so when there is something large in the way, woodworking can become frustrating.  I learn with each new piece that I am both incredibly limited in what I can do, yet very capable of overcoming new challenges in design and structure.  I enjoy the freedom and spontaneity I bring to my work, but often don’t think several steps ahead and that can lead to mistakes.  

Existentialism does not always mix well with woodworking.  Sometimes I wonder how big a mistake I would need to make to get me to start making more thorough plans.  So far a rough sketch is all I need and room to take the next step.  

I’ll have a cherry armoire to finish building next.  At 6.5 feet tall and 5 wide, it will be quite a bit more imposing than the entertainment center and already I feel the deadline encroaching on my piece of mind.  More to come on this later.