Mom visited last week, and with some ideas of things she wanted me to build, we checked out Anderson Plywood (LA, CA) – she loves zebrawood :) – and my favorite place: Rockler (Torrance, CA). While at Rockler, she fell in love with some turned bottle stoppers made by Robert, who I think might be a manager there, and decided she wanted me to make a bunch for her and her friends, starting with a set of 3 for one friend in particular.
They only had 2 chrome wine bottle stopper hardware packs left, so we got those, and chose 1 bottle stopper blank each of osage orange ($1.49), black and white ebony ($4.99), and tulipwood ($3.99).
Somehow this lead to a long talk about lathes and turning, and the small capacity of my Sherline mini machinist lathe, and suddenly she asked if I’d like an early birthday gift (birthday’s in August!) of the on-sale lathe we’d seen in the front of the store. It was the JET JWL-1220 12”x20” wood lathe. Of course, I said yes :) It’s normally $450, but this was the floor model, occasionally used for demos, and had light finish wear, though no actual machine wear, so they wanted to get rid of it for $380. I later found out the little yellow key for the on button was missing, so I’ll need to get a replacement, though one from a different machine worked, despite not fitting correctly. Also, the little tool rack on the back is missing, but it’s just a stamped metal piece with one 90° bend and a few drilled holes, so I think I’m just going to quickly fashion a replacement to hold the live center, drive spur, knockout bar, wrenches, and whatever else. Now I need a press brake!
I have nowhere left in the garage to put it, which is forcing me to do a tremendous, and much needed cleanup and reorganization, but meanwhile, of course I had to set it up on top of my table saw and give it a twirl. I don’t really know what I’m doing with larger things yet – and by that, I mean > 2.5” radius :) – so I’ve already caused my first 3 attempts at it – all in some really crappy European olive tree wood that’s splitting faster than a deadbeat dad – to fly from the chuck across the garage. Nothing’s hit me in the head yet, thankfully. I have the Oneway Talon, and the #1 jaws for it.
I’ve tried drilling out a hole in the bottom with a Forstner and clamping outwardly from inside it, and I switched to a blank of Eucalyptus from the tree I found awhile back, this time turning the blank’s outside between centers, and flipping it around to turn a large tenon, flipping it back around to clamp that from the outside. In all cases, the wood has given way when I’ve gotten to turning the inside. Either the jaws tear out of the Forstner hole, or shear off much of the tenon. I’m currently looking through how-tos, like this one.
One of the problems is that I’m turning smaller things, and don’t have much wood to waste on hollows, or tenons. Maybe these smaller things need to be glued to something bigger first, though that probably means I have a lot more waiting for them to dry out better first. I’m not excited about all the work and waiting of the glue-ups, either. Any thoughts here? I’d say the olive might be too soft, but I don’t think it is. It’s somewhere around birch, I’d guess. The Euc is much harder. I’m surprised that tenon sheared away, especially as I was taking light internal cuts with the internal tool, and wasn’t far in yet. Maybe I should have switched back from the #1 jaws to the chuck’s original ones, and used a much larger tenon – most of the bowl width, to provide a lot more clamping area to spread out the forces. I think the ultimate answer may be that I simply need to sharpen up my tools, and turn at a much slower speed. I have been taking it very fast, as I can get a really smooth finish that way.
I’m still too busy to take a bunch of fun pics, so here’s one I took just before we unloaded the lathe. It’s a heavy little thing. Oh, and that heavy-duty retractable cord reel is on sale for 50% off now at Rockler. Score!
-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator