Segmented woodturning is an interesting craft. It is one of those wood projects that requires more than just a wood lathe and some lathe tools. It helps to have woodworking equipment such as a table saw, a planer, a jointer, a mitresaw, an open stand drum sander, and a disc sander. Also when starting out you’ll need to design for your segmented woodturning project . First, decide if you want to turn a bowl, a vase, salt and peppermills, or even a lamp. Next, you’ll need to draw out the design on paper or perhaps you’ll choose to layout your project design with software. You may even find it helpful to sketch out your ideas on paper to come up with a basic plan and then finalize the design on paper or software. This is an important time for creativity and brainstorming. One thing to remember is that all of your work from this point on will be following the plan that you are creating.
The design you create will determine how many segment rings your project will have along with how many segments will be included within each ring. Your project design will also include your choice of wood species and the placement of these woods within your design. As you know, the various wood colors become part of the overall design.
Once you have the design worked out it is time for determining the cutting list for the segments for each ring. This too can be done on paper, however the software for segmented woodturning becomes very convenient at this time. The software will provide a cutlist for you with all the necessary information to get started. Then it’s just a matter of working off the cutlist until you have all of your segments cut and organized to be glued into rings.
Now it’s a matter of gluing the rings. Take your time as it is a time for patience. Typically, I’ll use Titebond2 yellow glue and put the segments together on a flat surface of plastic laminate. I’ll place the glue on the side of the segment and rub it with the adjoining segment while aligning the joint. Once I’m satisfied with the joint I’ll wrap a rubber band around both segments and the rubberband will serve as a clamp until the glue sets up. I’ll then continue this process with other segments within the ring by pairing two segments together. Once the glue is set up within the pairs of segments then the pairs can be glued together. At this time create 2 half circles for each ring. This way you can see how the joints are going to come together to form a complete ring. You may have to lightly sand the outside ends each half ring until you get two good fitting joints. Once the joints of the half rings are satisfactory you can apply glue to the joints and place a rubberband around the circumference of the ring. Allow the glue to set overnight.
Note…the above step can be time consuming and tedious. Often times I will simply glue all the segments of one ring at one time and then tighten a hose clamp around the ring and tighten. I only do it this way if I know that my mitre saw is set up very accurately and a test ring has been cut and fit with good tight joints all the way around.
I use a Wixey digital protractor to ensure the angle of the mitre and I use a Wixey digital angle guage to provide the necessary blade tilt. These two set-up tools are invaluable as they allow for very accurate results. it’s better to be dead on accurate rather than just close!
The saw blade I like to use for my mitresaw is a 10-inch 80 tooth Forrest Chopmaster.
Once the glue of the segmented rings is dry it is time to remove the bandclamps. At this time the all rings need to be sanded flat on one side. I use the open stand drum sander for this operation. After the rings are sanded flat it is time to sand the opposite side of the rings and of course all the rings need to be of equal thickness. The open stand sander is great for this.
The next step is to glue rings together. Begin by making sure all the rings are numbered in their correct order and then pair the rings together. For example 1 goes with 2, 3 with 4, and so on. When gluing a pair make sure that you have proper alignment with the joints in a brick-like fashion. In other words the joint of one ring should be staggered with joints of another adjoining ring. This not only provides strength for your segmented turning, but it provides for a pattern in the overall design. Once the glue of the rings are setting up add a weight or clamp the rings together for a good tight fit.
Note…It’s really important to accurately align the joints of the rings. It will make all the difference in the world for the finished project. You will then see if the joints are truly aligned or not when the project has been completely turned.
Once all of the rings are stacked, glued, and the glue has dried it’s time for turning, then sanding, and finally finishing.. (Typically, the time spent turning is much less than the time spent preparing and building the project.)
Sometimes I think of segmented woodturning as high risk, high reward. It requires patience, time, and focus. Also, like anything there is a learning curve to it. Yet it can be a great challenge and also quite satisfying.
(The vase pictured above is made of mahogany, maple, walnut, and cherry. There are 18 rings and 432 segments.)
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-- Bob Simmons, Las Vegas, NV, http://TheApprenticeandTheJourneyman.com