Little Help, Please?

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Blog entry by Mark Wilson posted 10-03-2015 02:05 AM 1246 reads 0 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here’s a case where I don’t know what to do with myself. I decided this afternoon that, rather than setting out to make something astounding, I’d just put a piece of wood on the lathe and make something. So, I grabbed a Hackberry turning blank, 4” X 4”, tried to figure out a way to turn it in the fashion of a tricorn, decided that wasn’t a good idea, and mounted it the normal way between centers.
Hackberry is a funny wood. Those dark lines that make it so interesting are sap veins. Rivers of hardened resin. Extremely hard resin. The wood itself is very soft. Very cork-like, in point of fact. I’ve turned this wood before, so I knew what I was getting into. (See the Candle Lantern in my Gallery.) I’ve also done things with it that it simply didn’t survive. With such a small billet, there’s not a lot one can do. My thoughts went to Lidded Box. This stuff is so hard to turn, but I got something going. Then, I started thinking Egg-Shaped Lidded Box. Here’s the blank after I got most of the wax off and had started fighting to make it round. (I’m gonna try to limit myself to about a dozen of the fifty-photos I took.) I made a plinth and flipped it into my 2” chuck.

You can see that tearout is a major issue with this species, due, of course, to the tool bouncing over that resin. I did most of this shaping by carefully using a skew like a scraper. That didn’t help the tearout issue, but, with a light touch, I was able to knock the high spots down.

When I got the shape I was pleased with – not a ball; not quite an egg – I started trying to fill all that roughness by spraying shellac and sanding it in with 100G paper. (Glue would work, but, discolors the wood; Sanding Sealer would probably work, but, that’s shellac, innit?) It seemed to be working, so I kept going.

And going. Seven or eight times. It looked good. So, I wondered how well it would polish up

I made with the Micro Mesh, and it got better.

So, I got out the Shine Juice. I picked up my Shine Juice rag, stiff from the last usage, and thought, This thing’s full of Shine Juice. I wonder…. So, I put the bottle of Shine Juice down and held the stiff rag to the Thing, and, it got better still.

I heated that puppy up real good. and wondered, How shiny can it get? I kept doing that, and, it got somewhat shinier. When it stopped getting shinier, I added more Juice, and went to town.

And went to town again and again.

The reflection in the center got sharper and sharper.

I moved it into the sunlight, and, it looked even better. I began noticing that I could see my fingers.

So, this is where it stands. I want to cut a small lid – one that doesn’t need to be hollowed out (there’s no way to chuck it up) – and hog out the innards. Or, I suppose, I could cut the top off and make a separate lid/finial structure. (That thought just came to me.) Or, I could call it a Pet Rock, leaving it as-is. It’s an awful pretty piece of wood. It really needs to be something astounding, don’t you think?
So, here’s where you come in. Suggestions. Ideas. What, my beloved Buddies would you do? And remember, you’re scared of screwing it up.

-- Mark

23 comments so far

View BrentH's profile


57 posts in 459 days

#1 posted 10-03-2015 02:15 AM

If it were mine, I’d probably quit before I did something to mess it up. Maybe cut out some eyes, a nose, and a mouth out of black paper and stick them on, and use it for a Halloween pumpkin? :-)

...But I’m sure you can do much better than that. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

-- Brent H. --"This retirement stuff is hard work. I need to go get a job so I can get some rest!"

View DocSavage45's profile


7648 posts in 2262 days

#2 posted 10-03-2015 02:22 AM


Looks like you are on to something? Possibly taking your smallest gouge or a 1/4 inch sharp chisel and work your way to the center? You can anchor the piece to a piece of material to anchor the finished half then hollow it out from both directions.

It’s a nice piece but if you do or don’t feel it’s finished is upp to you? Maybe put it on the side for now and the vision will seed itself?

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View doubleDD's profile


5056 posts in 1463 days

#3 posted 10-03-2015 03:02 AM

I agree with Doc. I could come up with a couple quick ideas if I tried but if I ponder on it a bit, I will have something more unique. Give it some time and start a new project.
Really a nice looking piece as of now, really, but you should shine it up a bit. lol

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Bob Collins's profile

Bob Collins

2259 posts in 3103 days

#4 posted 10-03-2015 03:27 AM

Like the above comments if you have gone this far without coming up with something spectacular, put it aside and come back to it later. Damn nice piece of wood with a great finish to be stuffed up now. Look forward to seeing what you finish with.

-- Bob C, Australia. I love sharing as long as it is not my tools

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1694 posts in 483 days

#5 posted 10-03-2015 03:59 AM

Tom, Dave, Bob, that’s a good idea. Putting things aside is a thing I’m not unfamiliar with. I have a chair that’s been sitting, half-done, in the driveway since June. I haven’t come up with a good way to attach the back yet. Mebbees I should add it to this “Works in Progress” series and get some help. Mind you, since June it’s been percolating. Brent, I’ve seen your work, and I don’t think you know how to mess something up.
Thank you all for your time. Any late-breaking thoughts are more than welcome.

-- Mark

View BobAnderton's profile


210 posts in 2210 days

#6 posted 10-03-2015 04:06 AM

So, by make a small lid you don’t have to hollow, you mean like this, right? Make a spigot on the lid so it will fit into a matching recess in the body.

I think that would work fine, but I think you’ll get a step or ledge where the lid meets the bottom because the lid drops down into the body by the length of the spigot, plus whatever the width of your parting cut is, and you’ll have to turn the body down to make the curvature match up with the lid again. With the finish you’ve got I don’t know if you are looking to do that.

If you want to part it into a lid and body without messing up the lines and the finish, drill a hole in the top, part through it at the centerline (equator) into two equal halves, mount the lid with a screw chuck in that hole, hollow both halves, shove the lid onto the bottom so you can finish a finail you glue into that screw chuck hole. At the centerline the diameter isn’t changing hardly at all so you could get away with making your parting cut and lid spigot I think.

-- Bob Anderton - Austin, TX - Nova 3000 lathe, Alaskan Mark III mill, Husqavarna Saw

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1694 posts in 483 days

#7 posted 10-03-2015 04:17 AM

Yeah, Bob. That’s about exactly what I was thinking. Just the right size,, too. Do you know that on SU, when you hit the C key or press the circle button, you can type the number of segments the circle will have. More segments, smoother circle. I usually type 48. It looks like you have the default 24 there,
Back to the Thing: I wondered for a moment of the feasibility of tilting the Thing in the chuck and having the opening come out off-center. I wonder, also, if sometimes, I’m just asking for it. But, it looks so cool in my head. That voice in my head again. Should I listen to it? Should I run?

-- Mark

View John's profile


414 posts in 689 days

#8 posted 10-03-2015 05:24 AM

Amazing what you can find in a piece of wood. First pic was looking like a small cup of some kind. Second pic I thought of a mushroom. By the last pic I was stumped, only extremely far out there idea I could come up with was mounting it like a globe, they are finding planets with odd spots on them, the lines reminded me of lat. and long. Good luck with it.

-- John, Sunshine Coast, BC, Canada.

View lew's profile


11263 posts in 3175 days

#9 posted 10-03-2015 05:46 AM

Build a doughnut chuck to hold the piece with the “chuck end” exposed. Hollow the piece. Create a 3 pronged stand to display it.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 1256 days

#10 posted 10-03-2015 06:34 AM

I vote pet rock. It is quite nice. If I was not afraid of messing it up, I would look at what you and Bob are discussing with the pictures and all. If you could cut the top off with a thin enough tool, you might make a seperate piece to glue to the lid that will fit the seat you carve into your shiny round hackberry box, without needing to re polish too much. Having never even seen hackberry, I do not know how much danger your piece will be in.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1694 posts in 483 days

#11 posted 10-03-2015 06:43 AM

I saw planetary things, too, John. Amazing what you can find inside a piece of timber, innit?
Lew, Lew, Lew. I know nothing about donut chucks. Oh, I’ve seen a few. But I don’t see how this is to be held by one. Tell me more. Hollow the piece from the bottom? Even if that’s not what you’re saying, it’s got me thinking about a Lid-On-The-Bottom-Jar, and, the stand idea is exciting me. (See: peteg, with his Upright and Tilted, etc. – he’s got a million of them.) He inspired me with those Things back in May, and I’d forgotten about them. Oooooh. Spitballs are beginning to stick.

-- Mark

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1694 posts in 483 days

#12 posted 10-03-2015 07:05 AM

Fatty, it’s very brittle. Hence my reticence. But, oh, these guys have got me going.

-- Mark

View robscastle's profile


3310 posts in 1624 days

#13 posted 10-03-2015 09:08 AM

Nice work.
The pictures dont do it much justice, I wonder could you mail it to me for a closer look.

I will send it back ….yeah…ha ha

-- Regards Robert

View Wildwood's profile


1850 posts in 1554 days

#14 posted 10-03-2015 04:20 PM

Outstanding piece!

Shear scraping nice to know info for next time.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Bill

View Wildwood's profile


1850 posts in 1554 days

#15 posted 10-03-2015 04:22 PM

Outstanding piece!

Shear scraping nice to know info for next time.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Bill

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