As The Lathe Turns #9: Now THIS Is What I Call Fun

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Blog entry by William posted 03-06-2013 01:48 AM 1620 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Close Only Counts With.............. Part 9 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 10: Round Bowl In A Square Block »

I sat here this morning trying to figure out what I was going to do. I was hurting so bad I couldn’t even put my boots on until my wife got home from her night shift at work to help me. I lurked around Lumberjocks until then. As soon as I got my boots on though, I was determined not to let the day be a total waste. I was going to do something, even if it was wrong. Not only that, but I wanted to do something on the lathe.

And I did do wrong. I had a good reason though. I could not bend over at all this morning. I could not handle running the chain saw or picking a large enough piece up and hold steady to cut on the band saw. I did feel though that if I could get something chucked up on the lathe, I could sit on a stool and hold a tool. So that’s what I done.
This was not from a prepared blank at all. I simply predrilled a hole into a short piece of a small log and run it up onto a screw chuck. I then just started rounding it down on the lathe while sitting. I had been seeing these type bowls on videos online and decided to try my hand at it.

Because I started with a whole log instead of a half, the pith runs right through the middle of this bowl. I’m sure this will probably crack pretty badly as it dries. I put it aside anyway to let it dry. I’ll see if it can be saved even for a display piece in a few months when it is dry enough to finish.
That brings me to my lesson for today. You may have noticed that I’m learning a lot of lessons lately.
My lesson today is that to never assume a piece of a log is dry without cutting into it and seeing what the middle is like. I actually thought this was a dry piece of log. It seems that way anyhow, until I got closer to the middle. The middle was wet. I’m talking about been soaking in the bathtub wet.

After getting it done though, I hope this is salvagable when it’s dry. I love the way that pith made this design inside the bowl. It looks so interesting to me.
That brings me to today’s entry title. Now THIS is what I call fun. It may be the wrong technnique turning the whole log as I done. I assume it is anyway based on everything I’ve read, seen, and been told. I don’t care though. Taking a whole piece of a log, round with bark on, and turning it into something on the lathe is the most fun I’ve had in a long time. I have enjoyed all the turning I’ve been learning, but after today, I can definately see myself making more live edge turnings. As soon as I’m able, I want to split some logs down the middle and do some that may make more stable pieces.

The rest of today’s entry isn’t wood turning, but I’m placing it here anyway because it is just what I done today.

By the time I got the bowl done, I wanted to turn another bowl. However, I seen no sense in turning another bowl with the pith through the middle like the other one, and I still knew I wasn’t up to preparing anything better at the moment. Actually, I was feeling even worse and didn’t feel up to even trying to get another small piece of log up to the lathe. So I had to find something else to do, with easily prepared material, that I could do on my stool or another chair.

I noticed some blocks of wood I had cut wrong for another project sitting on one of my many wood catch all places. They were wrong for what I originally cut them for, but they were the perfect size for something I hadn’t done in a while. Besides, I’ve had several people the last couple of months ask about them. You see, I used to have several of them around that I would show visitors to my shop. I have since given them all away to different people though.
These are made with sapelle blocks. The middle is a cube in a cube. The other two are a cube in a cube in a cube.
These are about the size of the largest I’ve ever done. The reason is that these are the largest I can cut and get square with enough accuracy to do them right with the equipment I have. One of these days I want to figure out a way to get perfectly square wood that is large enough to do four, or maybe eve five, cubes inside of each others. Three is the most I’ve been able to do successfully with this size.


19 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2655 days

#1 posted 03-06-2013 01:58 AM

William, you get more done in a day when yer feelin bad than most folks get done in a month! I no from nothing about turning but I wonder what would happen if you shellacked the devil out of that live edge bowl right now before it dries and cracks? Just a thought. I love that bowl and hate to see it fall to pieces.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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19597 posts in 2640 days

#2 posted 03-06-2013 02:02 AM

Well, I wood have to say you done good!!!

I like the Non-Rubiks cube in a cube ina cube. I’m gonna have to figure out how to do them! Along with figuring out how to do woodwork and turnibg and finishing and…...

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#3 posted 03-06-2013 02:05 AM

I’ve thought of that Andy. The shellac may slow the drying down though. Nothing will stop it. I’m new to all this and still learning the effects of drying and constantly changing my work as I learn what I need to know.
Based on what I do know, I don’t think it will actually fall to pieces. It’ll just be cracking, around the pith especially, as in that area the wood will be drying and moving in all directions at once. It will simply be cracks that will keep it from actually holding anything like food or liquid.
I don’t think these type bowls are really meant for that anyway. I see them more as dicarative pieces. Depending on just how bad the cracks are, I may leave them and finish over them, or fill them with something and finish. Sometimes, defects such as crack, in my opinion, simply add more character to a piece.


View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#4 posted 03-06-2013 02:15 AM

The cubes are just something easy to do when you’re hurting like me, or simply wanting something easy to do.
1. Cut some perfectly square cubes to whatever size you wish. These are 2 3/4”.
2. Setup your fence and a stop block on your drill press so that the center of a drill bit hits dead center of one of the sides. Be careful and take the time to get this perfect, as this will be the reference to drill all six sides.
3. Use your depth stop, drill into the block. I like to start with about a quarter inch of depth. Drill that hole into all six sides.
4. Move your depth stop so you’re going a tiny bit deeper and drill all six sides again. I go about an eighth of an inch at a time until I get close to being done.
5. Keep moving the depth stop and going deeper and deeper until the inside cube has only a small bit holding it to the outside block at each corner.
6. Use a small, extremely sharp chisel and break away the four corners from the outside cube.
7. Use a needle file or similar tool and clean up the inside edges of the outside cube, and the outside edges of the inside cube. I use my dremil tool with a small rasp bit to do this. You can use a needle file or sandpaper though.

This give you a cube in a cube.

To do a cube in a cube in a cube, do steps 1 – 5.
Then, without breaking the inside cube loose yet, use a smaller bit and do steps 1 – 5 again to get a tiny cube inside another cube, inside another cube.
6. use a sharp chisel and break away the smallest cube from the rest of the assmebly.
7. Use your method of choice to clean up this assembly before moving on.
8. Now use your chisel to break away the middle sized cube.
9. Repeat the cleaning up process.

This same method could possibly be used to make as many cubes as you like in as many cubes as you like, depending on cube size, drill bit size, and how thin you get comfortable making the walls. The thinner you make the walls (size of bit in relation to size of cube) ,the more delicate you’ll have to be in order to assure that things don’t just break into pieces.
Speaking of that, I have pushed the envelope on this one before and have had many failures. You have to experiment to find that sweet spot that you’re comfortable with when it comes to wall thickness.


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8565 posts in 2579 days

#5 posted 03-06-2013 02:36 AM

William you are getting a grip on that turning , i admire that ,you get your mind set and aint no holding you back ,great job ,like Andy said making hay while it day , got to try the cube one day ,right now in the middle of benches for the spring time ,

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

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7207 posts in 2041 days

#6 posted 03-06-2013 02:36 AM

I second what Andy said, you did well for being in rough shape today!

I like the cubes.

-- No, I don't want to buy the pink hammer.

View DIYaholic's profile (online now)


19597 posts in 2640 days

#7 posted 03-06-2013 02:37 AM

Thanks for the instruction.
While researching a CNC router build, over on the, many a metal cube in a cube in a cube were posted. It has intrigued me for many a year now. This is the first time I’ve had it explained. I will try this some day!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#8 posted 03-06-2013 02:44 AM

Thanks Eddie. If I let difficulties stop me, I may as well lie down and die. I can’t do that. I’ve still got too many people to annoy before I am allowed to kick the bucket. It’s like my job I think.

Thanks Sandra. I only wish I could do more. Of course, I feel that same way when I feel well and get plenty done. My wife says I’m my own worst critic, and my own worst enemy.

Randy, they’re not that difficult. After doing your first one, you can do them in your sleep. The hardest part is learning to not go to far, completely releasing the inside cube while still on the drill press with a forstner bit buried in it. You’ll learn quickly why the first time it happens to you. I suggest doing several cube in a cubes (one inside cube) and get used to the process before trying to do anything more complicated.


View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#9 posted 03-06-2013 02:46 AM

One last thing about the cube in a cubes,
I like to hand them to people who come into my shop and ask them can they get the cube out.
Usually, eventually, they’ll ask how I got the cube in.
My answer?
It was always there. I just took all the material away that was trapping it.

I do a similar routine with the captured ring turnings.
I like to keep people guessing, and it gets them interested in seeing more of my work.
I don’t know why, but it works that way.


View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 2983 days

#10 posted 03-06-2013 03:15 AM

I would suggest putting some kind of oil finish on the bowl, it will slow down the drying process. I suggest Tung oil or mineral oil, linseed oil. Even putting a poly finish on it will slow the drying process. At least you may have a salvageable bowl rather than something you may just look at and wonder why it cracked so bad. At least you will be able to say you tried to save it.

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

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#11 posted 03-06-2013 03:57 AM


-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#12 posted 03-06-2013 04:13 AM

Thanks Erwin.
I thought you did not put finish on wet bowls.
I’ll give it a try.

Thanks Marty.


View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3044 days

#13 posted 03-06-2013 04:45 AM

I’m just wondering what would happen if you applied wood hardener to the wet bowl. I applied 4 coasts in quick succession on a basswood carving and it seem to stablize it as well as harden it. You might try it on a piece of scrap first just to see what would happen? :D

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#14 posted 03-06-2013 04:52 AM

Thanks Paul.
That’s something to consider.


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#15 posted 03-06-2013 10:23 AM

Now that’s what I call a quantum leap William! Great looking bowl and the cubes are cool too. You could try soaking some superglue into the bottom of your bowl to stabilize those cracks. I have turned many of these from wet wood without any cracking and also without aging them, you just have to keep the walls and bottom and even thickness.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

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