As The Lathe Turns #56: Back To Basics

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Blog entry by William posted 11-01-2013 01:47 AM 1260 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 55: Burls Part 56 of As The Lathe Turns series Part 57: What I Like »

As for the title of this blog, I had to get back to basics while turning the last couple of days. Before I get to that though, I want to get the one pen for this blog entry out of the way.

This is made from one of the pen blanks I bought on my recent trip to Pickens Hardwoods. I talked about that in my last blog entry.
I was excited to turn this because it was labeled as spalted lemon wood. I usually love spalting, so I wanted to see what it looked like. Spalting is like burls, it’s always a surprise as to how they are going to turn out. Well this one was really a surprise, but not the kind of surprise I was hoping for. From start to finish, I found no spalting in this wood at all. So it is just lemon wood, minus any spalting. I only payed fifty cents a piece for two blanks, so I am not too bummed out by it.

Now for the back to basics.
What you see here are my bowl tools. I have a few others, like my depth drill and such, but these are the ones designed for actually working the wood. Some are made by me. Some are bought. However, while turning a bowl the other day I got a little frustrated. I just could not get a clean finishing cut on the inside of a bowl I was turning. I tried the Oland tool at every possible way and direction I could think of. I had done it before, but it was a different type wood than I’d done it in and it just wasn’t working out like I had planned. I sharpened the tool and tried again. I tried cleaning it up with very light passes with a scraper. Nothing I tried seemed to give me the results I would be happy with though.
So I sat with a cup of coffee and thought about this for a moment. That’s when the thought came to me that I didn’t have this problem in the past with this same wood. I had turned it before. So what was different? The only thing that was different was that I was stubbornly insisting on using these new tools that I had made myself.

So the answer to my problem was to get back to the basics that I had learned when I first started studying and learning to turn any bowls. All those tools, whether bought or made, are nice to have for those different circumstances. When it comes down to it though, there just is no substitute, in my opinion, for a good detail gouge and a skew chisel for getting clean cuts.
If any of you are reading this and thinking of learning to turn, let me offer a bit of advice that I have learned, at least for me.
There are all kinds of tools. There are oland tools, hook tools, hollowing tools of all shapes and sizes, carbide, and a host of other ways to hollow bowls. I even seen a guy hollow a bowl once using nothing but a diamond shaped parting tool. If you want good clean cuts though without burnishing or catches though, learn to sharpen and use a gouge.
Next, on the outside of the bowl, or any spindle type work, if you can’t get a clean cut with a sharp tool, even a gouge, a skew chisel will make quick work of it. For the longest time, I was scared to death of the skew. The skew, to me, was just a quick way to ruin anything I was trying to do. One day, I decided to just throw a piece of scrap on the lathe and not stop until I could use a skew, and boy am I glad I did. There are times that there is no better tool for the job than the skew. If you don’t know how to use one, there is no other way to learn it besides practice.

This bowl I turned really just to test how the power sanding attachments I’ve been talking so much about worked on small bowls. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to easily get the direction I wanted inside this bowl while power sanding. So I wanted to see how that was going to work out. I was worried it would leave radial lines much like on a pen that one has either skipped grits on or failed to sand the length of after sanding with the lathe running. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. With a little tilting back and forth with the drill, it did a great job on this little piece of sapelle.

I felt I was finally ready to turn this piece that I’ve been holding back on. I was wanting to build my confidence a bit before tackling this chunk of rosewood because I just knew I would cry like a baby if I messed it up.
This was from a six inch square chunk of rosewood that a friend (Bearpie) gave me a while back when he visited my shop. I know there are many, many turners out there that could have done a better job than I with it, but I am quite proud of myself with the results.

This one did not turn out being what I originally intended it to be. It was a two inch thick piece of six inch square lacewood. I intended to turn a shallow bowl. Midway through though, with the size and shape, I remembered a wooden ash tray I had seen somewhere and remembered that I had thought how much I would love to have one. Well this presented a perfect opportunity for me to do just that. It was the right size. So I used my tailstock to hold a scrap piece against the top of the bowl. Then I turned it down to the same as the sides of the bowl and use a drill and forstner bit to drill holes with the point where the bowl and scrap block met. Then I finished turning it.
Well that is all I have to show today.
Till next time, happy turning.


14 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 2740 days

#1 posted 11-01-2013 02:26 AM

That unspalted lemonwood looks a lot like hedge or mulberry. I LOVE that bowl with the sapwood on part of the top edge!

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

View DIYaholic's profile


19623 posts in 2725 days

#2 posted 11-01-2013 02:58 AM

Although I haven’t yet started turning….
Your thoughts, insights and tips will go a long way towards making my entry into this world much more successful!!!
Keep up the good work, both blogging and turning. It is all appreciated and enjoyed.

BTW: The bowl looks awesome!!!

-- 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


9950 posts in 2892 days

#3 posted 11-01-2013 03:09 AM

Andy, thank you. I was thinking the same thing as I got near completion of the pen.
Some woods I swear I think are known by different names dependong on what part of the country you are in when you ask what it is called. Hedgeapple and oasage orange comes to mind.
As for the bowl, that is exactly why I wanted to turn that bowl. I knew that sapwood on the top edge would create a dramatic look. As always with turning though, you never know exactly what it’ll turn out to be until you spin it and reveal what is underneath the outter layers. That is part of what makes turning so exciting to me.

Randy, thank you.
I cannot stress the importance of learning that skew enough. I’ve talked with some turners who have been doing it for a lot longer than I have, yet still shy away from the skew chisel. For some tasks, knowing how to handle that skew will make all the difference in the world.


View Nate Meadows's profile

Nate Meadows

1132 posts in 2256 days

#4 posted 11-01-2013 03:29 AM

William, It is such a pleasure to watch you grow! You truly cut yourself short! Your skill is much higher than you think but I do like that you always remain humble and ready to learn. The rosewood bowl is beautiful! Outstanding work! Keep it up!!


-- "With a little bit of faith, and some imagination, you can build anything!" Nate

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2892 days

#5 posted 11-01-2013 04:14 AM

Thank you Nate.
It is so good to see you back.


View Roger's profile


20929 posts in 2854 days

#6 posted 11-01-2013 01:12 PM

The turning I have done has been by gouges. I’ll take your advice on learning the skew. Thnx for your output William, it’s appreciated.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2892 days

#7 posted 11-01-2013 02:10 PM

Thank you roger.
I too used mainly the gouge for a good long while.
I decided to learn the skew after watching a video from Eddie Castilan (so?)
They call him captain Eddie.
I’ll post a link next time I’m on my laptop.
He made the suggestion, strongly.
I am glad I learned it.


View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2589 days

#8 posted 11-01-2013 02:32 PM

Looking amazing! If you keep at this as much as that scrollsaw I expect to see some amazing things. Keep it up.

-- I never finish anyth

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

8153 posts in 2378 days

#9 posted 11-01-2013 03:02 PM

You just keep gettin’ better and better William

-- It’s the knowledge in your head, skill in your hands and motivation to create in you heart that makes you a woodworker. - Mainiac Matt

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3068 days

#10 posted 11-01-2013 03:38 PM

You have improved a heap! Next step is to see how thin you can turn keeping uniform thickness! It is a lot harder than it seems it should be! I always love watching customers pick up a large vase, thinking it would be heavy, and using more muscles to pick it up and watch their expression change when they realize how light it really is!

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2892 days

#11 posted 11-01-2013 05:57 PM

Thank you all for your kind words.

Bearpie, I have learned the hard way how difficult it is to get walls super thin, and know it will take me a long time to master that one.
So far, everytime I try going too thin, I wind up with a bottom with no sides or a bowl that is much shorter than I planned after slicing part if the side away.


View lew's profile


12143 posts in 3805 days

#12 posted 11-02-2013 03:34 AM

Your advice about the skew is right on. The only thing I would add is that, like playing an instrument, you need to keep using the skew once you master it.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Doe's profile


1408 posts in 2880 days

#13 posted 11-02-2013 11:28 AM

Thanks for the important lesson about the basics, William. It’s so true and I’m glad you reminded me. The rosewood bowl is perfection. A wooden ashtray? I like the idea a lot, but isn’t it a tad risky?

-- Mother Nature talks, I try to listen

View William's profile


9950 posts in 2892 days

#14 posted 11-02-2013 05:25 PM

Thank you lew and doe.

Doe, it isn’t risky as long as you make sure the cigarette is out completely. Actually I got the idea from a Chinese restaurant where I first seen a wooden ash tray. I did not like the design they had for sale though. It was small and deep. I like a large shallow ash tray do my big hands will fit down into it so I can easily snub out the fire.


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