In the responses to yesterday’s blog, I told a friend of mine, Grizz, that I would turn him one of my bowls. I don’t know why, as I’m still learning, but he hinted that he’d like one.
Also, some things Bearpie said in response to that blog kept sticking in my mind. The main thing is sharpen my lathe tools. I’ve been and am using the Paul Sellers method of sharpening these days for pretty much everything. It works great for all my tools, except those lathe tools. It puts a sharp edge on them, but they never seem to cut as good as they used to when I was simply hitting them on a bench grinder.
The thing is, my sharpening on the grinder was sort of a hit and miss thing as well. So I started thinking about it. I remembered seeing a video by Alex Harris, the teenage woodworker, about a jig he built for sharpening lathe tools. I looked it up and built this.
It was easy to build, and easy to use, just as Alex said it was. So I sharpened up a few of my tools, chucked up a piece of wood and tried it out. It made an amazing difference.
Then I went back to thinking about Grizz’s bowl. I really didn’t have anything large enough to get started though in the way of wood. So I walked outside to smoke a cigarette. While standing at the fence, I looked out across my neighbor’s field, and remembered the pecan tree he’d cut down about a year ago. It was just laying there in pieces that he had cut up. So I walked on over and asked him for a piece. He said to take all of it I wanted, so I took the only piece at the time that I was capable of carrying back to my shop.
After chopping some of the edges sticking out off with an axe, I mounted it on the lathe. There was still a tiny bit of wood sticking out hitting the tools rest bracket though. I really did not want to take this heavy piece of wood back down again.
Then I thought about an electric chain saw my wife had bought me some time ago. I’d never even turned this thing on before.
Back story here:
I have a messed up back, as some of you know. The last time I put myself in the hospital with my back, was from trying to crank a gas powered chain saw. Before I made it home from the hospital, my wife had sold the chain saw and bought me this electric one.
I had scoffed at this little chain saw until today. It did a real good job though of trimming the offending wood off the pecan log that was on my lathe.
Now let me tell you, I have to thank Bearpie and Alex Harris. The advice, and the now sharper than ever lathe knives made a world of difference.
Now, some of you may be asking yourself right about now, why in the world am I so determined to get this lathe thing going?
Even before I got into woodworking as much as I am now, I have always, for some reason, been in awe of seeing guys take logs, bark and all, spinning them on a lathe, and using only knives, turning that log into something useful. The thing I’ve wanted most for a long time was to happily turn a bowl while standing ankle deep in wood chips, while more fly over my shoulder. I know some people may find it weird, but this is something I have just wanted for so long.
So, if any of you can understand what I wanted, and why, then you ought to already know where the topic of this photo is heading. This was FUN!
This photo was taken before I even finished today. By the end of it all, I was turning a bowl, ankle deep in wood chips, and neck deep in heaven.
Up until this point, things were going just great for me.
As I got deeper into the bowl though, no matter how sharp the tools were, no matter how careful I was, edges would sometimes dig in on the inner sides, or in the other material I was trying to hog out, and things got dangerous, QUICK. This last photo was where I decided that enough was enough. I had to back up and figure out what I was doing wrong before I wound up getting seriously hurt.
So there I stood, as I sometimes do, thinking things over. As I was doing so, I started rolling my turning round and round on the lathe with my hands. I noticed something didn’t feel right. Now, I’m no expert turner. I’m only a beginner, but I knew that there shouldn’t be that much wobble up and down in this. The outside seems perfectly round, but the inside was off. I can’t explain it, but it was just off. It was off center and off round. What was going on here?
The first thing I checked was that the turning was still firmly in the jaws of the chuck. It was. I couldn’t figure that out anyway, because the outside still seemed fine.
Then I took the bowl out and spun the chuck itself at low speed, under the power of the motor. It looked like it had some wobble to it. So I pulled out my micrometer and set it up in a makeshift stand. Sure enough, the chuck was turning out of round.
So then I pulled the chuck off and checked the shaft on the lathe itself. Sure enough, the shaft was not turning true.
The first thing I thought about was bearings. So I tore the head of the lathe apart. I could not feel any play in the bearings though. So I started checking everything that could possibly be causing this.
I couldn’t believe it myself, but the offending part if the shaft itself. It is bent. I rolled the shaft by itself along the best know flat surface in my shop, the table saw. There is noticable wobble at the inner threaded section of the shaft. With this crude checking, I cannot tell if the bend is somewhere in the middle of the shaft, or just at the end. It appears the outboard side is running true, so I don’t think it’s the middle of the shaft. I don’t know. What I do know is that, being a cheap chinese made machine that I bought used, I have no dilissions of finding a replacement shaft.
So, unless I can figure out a place to find parts for this machine, or win the lottery (and I don’t play) so I can buy a new lathe, my bowl turning days are done for the time being. That just turned my day to crap, because I was thoroughly enjoying it.
So Grizz, how about something besides a bowl???