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Archive for April, 2015

The Next Phase

The next phase
I have been asked several times when I would have bowls for sale again. When I went to pole turning, I built the lathe to do spindle work, so there was not enough room between the turning centers and the top of the bed beam to make more than a 5 inch diameter piece.
Last Summer, I re-worked the turning center supports to allow more clearance, about 7 inches, so I can make bowls and plates of useful sizes. Still, until last week, I had not turned any bowls or plates. I had some tools that would somewhat useful for the work; an old sabot maker’s hook knife ( longest of the handled tools in the picture) and several hook tool inserts that were too hard to sharpen and so brittle they broke. I realized I would have to “get tools” if I wanted to continue. I have resisted making tools, hoping I could find a local blacksmith who could provide such service, but I have not found anyone in my area that was willing. Buying real bowl hooks is expensive and, as I said, the current thinking seems to be that the tool needs to be super hard so it will stay sharp longer. I have found that, with green wood working, this is not really an issue. All of my spindle tools can be shaped and sharpened with hand files and honed with regular sharpening stones, as it would have been in the 17th and 18th centuries. After snapping off the extra hard hook tool end while attempting to make a bowl, I set myself to being able to forge my own tools. I knew enough about metal work but lacked practical application; experience.
I went to the hardware store and bought a bottle of MAPP gas. Then, I gathered together a cross peen maul, a ball peen hammer, and an anvil made from a piece of rail road track. I annealed the broken hook tool to make it malleable. Then I heated it enough to bend the end around to form a new hook. That was it. I didn’t harden or temper the metal. I just touched up the edge with a needle file and went to work. Before, I had to use a diamond cone file to get any sort of edge. Now, I have a usable out-side bevel tool ( the shorter of the 3 handled tools in the picture). OK. Now some real excitement. Using a piece of 3/8 diameter round stock of questionable pedigree, I made a longish inside bevel hook (the piece laying next to the bowls). I thought I could use to under-cut the core. Not. Of course I tried it un-handled just to see what it could do, so I’ll revisit this tool later. Next, I took a diamond point masonry chisel (it was almost the right shape) and pounded out a short, straight hook with inside bevels .
With tools (?) and fresh materials in hand, I set about making a tool rest for my new endeavor. That done, I turned some bowls. I went through the bottom of the first one. Go figure. The rest, as you can see, were successful if smallish. I used quarter split white oak from the log in the picture so the width was quite limited. I also made a couple of plates, 7 and 8 ½ diameters, from tulip poplar.
All in all, a very satisfactory venture, with triumph, exhilaration, and success to a point. It is always good to finally break traction on something that holds one back from achieving personal goals. Beyond that, I find that bowl and plate turning, while more physically demanding than spindle turning at this point, could be somewhat additive. The return on effort is amazing. The end product is as fascinating as it is useful.

tools and bowls

tools and bowls

tool rest

tool rest

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