A Tale of Two Turnings

I’ve been getting in some time at the lathe, turning one bowl blank that I’ve had for a year or two, and one that I just got the week before.

The first bowl was a small 2″x6″x6″ blank of redheart that I got in a mixed lot from Westpenn. I had a pre-plan to turn a thin, flared, undercut lip with a shallow bowl. The redheart was ideal for this because of its tight grain. Since it doesn’t have any pronounced figure, the form and the color are the stars of this show. The wood didn’t pose any problems turning, responding equally well to the gouge and the scraper (for the final smoothing). I strived to get the lip as thin as possible, while still having it provide a handhold. Since the wood was dry, I didn’t have any movement as it got thinner to worry about. The only finish was a tripoli polish after sanding to 400 grit.

The other bowl started as a fairly fresh Butternut Burl, about 8″x14″x10″. (One customer of my supplier who saw it said that it looked like a turtle. Luckily, he had already promised it to me.) The first step was to saw it into a circle no larger than 9″ in diameter. Since most of the flare was thin, I didn’t really waste any wood rounding it. Then, attaching it with a screw chuck, I shaped the outside outside, adding a tenon for the chuck to grab onto when I inverted it. Being a little wet still, the gouge took off the wood easily, although not too cleanly. The scraper and sandpaper fared better at that. My objective with this bowl was to turn it completely in one session and dry it in the microwave; accepting, and even encouraging, any resultant warpage.

After finishing the outside, I inverted it and began to work on the inside. With the grain and figure from the burl, I went with a plain, inverted, bell shape, letting the wood itself be the star. As I worked my way in, I could tell that as the first part of the wall was thinned down, it was drying and getting out of round. So I didn’t dare go too thin with this one. Getting it scraper smooth every inch or so was the order of the day; no time for fussing, and no coming back to an already finished section, it would be out of round by then. I worked my way to the bottom, and then sanded the inside to 400 grit.

I didn’t want any foot on this bowl, so I reversed it onto a jam chuck, with a live center to hold it on, and removed most of the tenon, leaving a raised base with a center recess. The last part of the tenon I took off off the lathe with a sharp gouge. Then to the microwave. Short 1 minute exposures at medium to low power – taking it out immediately to let the moisture escape and the bowl to cool down. I don’t know how many times I zapped it, but it was quite a few. Then after thoroughly cooling, I sanded it back down to 400 grit. Not only did I get some warpage, but the curls dried at different rates, providing some surface variations. The wipe-on poly brought out all of the figures and colors of the burl.

In an earlier posting, I had show what happens when the wrong length brad is in the nail gun. After removing the errant brads, I applied some shop sawn veneers to the wounded areas, refinished, and glued and stretched a new paper. There is a little color difference from the older wood getting some sun prior to repairing, but that will blend over time.

Next up, an electric guitar build.

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