|Project by HappyHowie||posted 12-20-2016 09:20 PM||752 views||0 times favorited||13 comments|
When I asked my children what they would like for a Christmas gift this year, my daughter Jenny was the first to respond. “I would really like you to make me a wooden bowl”. This request became my challenge. I had only turned two bowls previously. Those were done nearly a year ago. I guess the one I gave to my step daughter that lived near my Jenny was “good enough” to become presents this year.
I had already purchased several bowl blocks and I even had several larger blocks that I intended to turn into lidded boxes. I would use those plus a few more that I would purchase from my local Woodcraft store in order to make bowls and lidded boxes for gifts this year.
As usual I underestimated the amount of time it would take to make these eight items. I had intentions to make seven bowls and three lidded boxes. That would leave me a couple of extras. I was wondering why I hadn’t bought the eighth bowl blank when I had gone back to the store for more supplies. I should have, but in the end I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew.
Making this many bowls and lidded boxes at one time has become a great learning experience and a chore. I have seen my techniques at turning improve; one bowl at a time. I have become more secure standing over my lathe; able to decide shapes and curves as I approach each project. I have also improved my sharpening techniques with my Tormek jigs and water grinder machine.
Even though I had recently turned a lidded box test piece from Douglas Fir, I decided to turn all of my bowls first before beginning any lidded box. I thought the bowl turning would help me gain experience and techniques that would be needed for fitting the lids on the bases, etc ; and it did help me.
The bowl blocks I have owned the longest and stored in my shop were wenge and lati hardwoods. They were sold as a pair. The price was seductive. I bought it thinking the wood was cheap and it would help me gain experience in turning. What I did not know was that the wenge was going to test me to my limits. Its grain was so open and difficult for me to turn; to make its surfaces and curves smooth, no matter how fine a cut, or scrap I made. Its grain was impossible for me to tame.
On the other hand, I loved the grain in the lati hardwood. It was easy to work with and its grain and color was beautiful. Other hardwoods I discovered were also very nice to turn: bubinga, Brazilian cherry and African mahogany. The ambrosia maple was soft and easy to work with but its end grain was as difficult to cut smoothly like I experienced with the wenge’s grain. However, for the ambrosia maple it was just the end grain that was the difficult part. The rest of the wood was easy to work with.
My biggest disappointment was losing the block of bloodwood I was turning. This wood’s color and grain was fantastic! It was so beautiful. I was excited with its prospects, but while turning the inside of this bowl it fractured. I was trying to be very careful. I think now that in the few days I had been turning this wood that it dried enough to create small cracks, checks. Maybe those more experience woodworkers here could tell me more about bloodwood and what to expect from it. My guess is that being a desert tree that it can dry out very quickly and become brittle. For now that beautiful broken piece of bloodwood is a paper weight in my shop. I figure that I was a lucky man not to get hurt. I also have become smarter, or more experienced or wise enough to know when to quit. You know: “if it feels dangerous to you, then it is”. I have had a serious accident and I do not want another.
It is a great feeling when you can fit a lid onto its base and know that it fits snuggly. You made it that way. It works.
I know I have much more to learn about turning bowls and boxes. I plan to join the local turning club that meets monthly. Seeing and watching very experienced turners I am sure will be a big help for me. For now, I am going to take a few days to rest. I have been worked to my limit. These many bowls and boxes have beat me up; cut me up, and bruised me up. I need to heal for awhile.
-- --- Happy Howie