Well, I tried out the tools I got from mom for my birthday recently. Of note:
1) My 1/2” Sorby Spindlemaster was not a good indicator of how the 3/4” and 1” behave. I’ve been using the 1/2” however I liked, never reading up on how to use it, nor watching any videos. I recently watched one and thought “Huh, I’ve been using it entirely wrong.” I’ve been holding it flat, and using a combination of things with both hands and the tool rest to get the curves I want. With the larger versions, these movements I’ve grown accustomed to cause catches, wrenching the tool this way and that. It’s nearly unavoidable. So, I went back and watched the video again. I was out there for awhile trying everything with both new tools, and I passed through the proper methods many times, but didn’t achieve the results seen in the videos most of the time. It’s going to take a lot more work with them to gain comfort. I did get it to act sort of like in the video several times, but could never achieve a smooth curve, nor did I ever get that burnished look (though it’s green wood – so probably couldn’t anyway).
2) The Sorby Sandmaster is pretty cool, save the bearing. The head spins freely, and by letting the work brush the bottom edge of the disc, you get it spinning, so it keeps clearing away dust and presenting different sections of grit to the turning. I found that the bearing isn’t quite the precision engineering I was expecting. The head was a tad rattley. The disc would stop frequently, and need a bit of coaxing to start spinning again, because the head bent ever so slightly, causing the mating surfaces around the bearing to seize up a bit. Once the dust got in the cracks, it gummed up and was scratchy when spun by hand. I sprayed some WD-40 in there and it got a lot better. It works alright, but I was just surprised that such a top tool needed babying right from the first minutes of use. It did give a good finish, and allowed me to round out the hollow form from the poor surface I was getting through my inexperience with the new Spindlemasters. The pad (60 grit only so far) stayed nice and clean, and no burned fingers was a real plus :)
3) Hollow forms are harder than I feared. I don’t really know what’s going on inside yet without being able to see. I don’t have good light set up, nor calipers, so it’s all guessing when turning, then trying to figure things out by feel with my fingers after powering down intermittently to check things out.
Here’s the chunk of Indian laurel fig (Ficus microcarpa) turned cylindrical:
It’s pretty green still. It’s a branch from a larger log that forked. The grain reminds me of an unsealed utility pole:
I was able to drill out a centered hole easily with the Sorby micro holder with boring bar insert:
Save for the fluffy bottom – green F. microcarpa logs get huge flaps in certain parts of their grain (a kind of tearout) – the outer form came out well. This is sanded with the Sorby Sandmaster with 60 grit, used to shape the curvature a bit after some wobbly Spindlemaster work:
I was having a really tough time past the first 2 inches. The micro hollowing tool, which fits in the red insert handle seen above (with the boring bar inserted) worked great at first, but then it was just too deep. I switched to the Sorby Hollowmaster, but it’s just huge. It was like playing Operation getting the head in there without hitting the lip walls, and then it was so hard to maneuver. I needed a hollowing tool halfway between them.
Eventually I lost my grip on the micro hollowing tool and it rattled around in the lip for a second before I grabbed it again, and it made some large cracks down the walls. I carefully tried to turn it a little more (for some reason), and then decided to open the mouth wide and just see what I’d done inside, as it was hard to tell in the dark interior. The 1/2” Spindlemaster made a really ragged edge when I did this, probably because the cracks were causing the whole lip structure to vibrate hard against itself:
That’s where I gave up on it for the night. I was a little low on patience. My first half dozen bowls were disasters, too (sent at least 4 of them across the garage after huge catches), so I’m not nearly ready to give up, but it was time to take a rest.
I have finally tried it, and now I have a better sense of what I’m in for. I think I might turn away the top of this thing, reshape what remains into a smaller version of what I made here, and use the micro hollower on what will be a much more properly-scaled turning for its length.
This fig is actually a bit hard. I think I’ve made myself into a wimp with that luxuriously soft jacaranda wood. It melts away like butter, in 1/4” deep cuts. I should probably glue up some oak blocks and strengthen myself up. Hollow forms are tough work!
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator