Thursday, May 4, 2017



This is a piece of very green, very wet  Big Leaf Maple.  See April 19th Blog, called "GRANDDAUGHTER" for the beginning.

In and out of the dryer and  here is Alyssa's Bowl. 11" diameter.

Eleven days in the dryer and six days for final turning and to apply the finish.  The bowl developed a small crack during the drying process.  I filled the crack with Turquoise Inlace Nuggets.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Coast Redwood Tree (Sequoia sempervirens); these behemoths are the world's tallest plant. The trees can grow from 180' to 370' tall and 8' to 23' in diameter.  The Tree pictured is about 16' in diameter and +200' tall.

Below are pictures of bowls turned from Redwood.  Many people have not seen this type of wood or tree, the pictures of the bowls show some of the different variations in color and grain pattern of the wood in Redwood Trees.

The wood in these bowls, is from the salvage of dead wood from winter storms or stump wood from trees that were logged  in the 1930's and 1940's.
Redwood is soft and brash, cuts very easy and sands easy.  End grain wood tends to pull rather than cut and the only way to to remove the marks is to sand them out.  Very dusty, a good dust collector is essential.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017


 Look at what my Granddaughter Alyssa gave to me.

It is 12 by 16 by 3 inch piece of Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum).

The wood contains both burl and fiddle back figure.  The figure in this piece of wood is shallow. Back side of the piece has almost no figure.  I turned the bowl so that the figure was on the bottom and as I hollowed out the inside of the bowl the figure was exposed.

The bowl is green and is rough turned to about 1 inch thick, 8 to 10 days in the dryer and it will be ready to finish.

I think she is going want her wood back.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Spalted Wood

Spalted wood is partially decayed wood, that changes color as it decays. The wood fiber is still sound and can be used is a variety of projects, the decaying stops when the wood moisture content is below 20%.

This is a slab of Oregon Myrtlewood.  Spalted Myrtlewood produces colors that range from cream to black with shades of green, red, orange and brown; in various shapes and streaks.        

The spalting process can produce some very dramatic colors and patterns.

Remember that spalting is decay which is the wood tissue breaking down because of the interaction with fungus.  It is always prudent to wear a breathing mask when working (sanding) spalted wood. Some people have an allergic reaction to spalted wood.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Curly Redwood

Curly Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).

I have several of these Redwood planks lying around the shop; for years. They are two inches thick and range from 12 to 14 inches wide.  Being shut in for the weekend I decided to turn a couple of platters.  I started with a face plate; turned the back and bottom and do all the sanding because your won't be able to go back.  Then I used a 6 inch vacuum cup to hold the platter and finished the inside.

Second platter.

Side view, they are only about 1 3/4 inches thick.

Redwood varies in color from dark red / brown to an light brown as you seen in the photo.  I alway start with a heavy coat of spar varnish; apply heavy and wipe off after a few minutes it seals the wood and brings out color and depth.

Anybody have any wood they want to trade?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Old Wood

Pacific Madrone Burl (Arbutus menziesii).  This was in my Father's shop and when he passed in 2008, it came to my shop shortly thereafter and I have been moving it around my shop to different places. Only because it was from my Dad's shop kept me from throwing it away.

Yesterday I decided to turn the burl, my only regret is I did not take a picture before I started. The bowl is 13" in diameter and 3.5" deep.  The wood has been kicked around a shop for at least 20 yrs. and is very dry, cracked and badly checked.  There was even termite channels in the wood. This has turned out to be a very usual piece, I am very glad I did not make firewood out of it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sharpen Your Bowl Gouge

This is my Bowl Gouge, it has an 60 degree angle; which is often referred to as an Ellsworth Grind.  I have reshaped the profile a dozen times so that it fits my woodturning techniques.

Once you arrive at the desired profile it's important to replicate the same profile each time you sharpen the chisel.  The least amount of material you remove during the sharpening process the longer your tool will last.

I use a Tormek Super Grind and since I purchased this system several other sharpening systems have entered the marketplace, not sure which is best but this is what I have and I like the various jigs for the different angles and profiles.

I use a 2 1/2 inch distance between the grinding wheel and the jig.  I set up a little gauge so I can set up quickly and at the same distance each time I sharpen the tool.

Use a felt marker and color the profile.

Adjust the tool rest to fit the profile and rotate the grinding wheel against the tool by hand.

If the jig and tool rest are adjusted correctly, the felt marker will be remove from top to bottom of the profile.

Three or four pass's accross the grinding wheel, the gouge will be sharp and you will have replicated the previous profile.  This technique will work on any tool.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Man Cave, Messy

Here's my shop, I have spent many years and dollars acquiring the tools and machines but it has been well worth it.
Have been working on Segmented Bowls, several orders for Christmas.  My next goal to upgrade the lathe to a 20" model, not sure which one.  This Jet 1442 has been a very good machine, I just want to turn bigger bowls.  Notice the LED flood light on the camera tripod, very effective way of lighting my work and it is movable.
 Picture of associated tools for woodturning
 Notice all the small pieces of wood, this is the result of making segmented bowls.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


The wood pictured left is Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum).  This is a picture of break because the tree was hanging over power lines and was pushed  over with an excavator; it shows the grain very well.  This grain pattern is referred to as "fiddleback" and if the wood is cut the opposite direction, 90 degrees to the grain in the picture it is referred to as "quilt" or sometimes called "turtle". These terms may vary between localities and industries.

The fiddleback is formed when the tree or part of the tree is under compression pressure.  This  particular tree had been blown over in a wind storm when it was much younger and then continued to grow twisting up towards the sunlight causing  pressure were the tree turned upwards and grew larger.  Sometimes this will occur when a tree growing in a forest becomes shaded by other trees, and as the tree grows it will twist and turn to find sunlight causing pressure where the tree bends. You can also find this type of pattern under large limbs that are putting pressure on the bole.  Very often this pattern will not be visible through the bark. Look for the pressure points.

A bowl  turned from wood near the break is pictured below,  about 13 inches in diameter.   Maple Bark on a natural edge will not stay on the edge of a bowl.

Other Species can also have this fiddleback grain pattern.  Trees that grow on a ridge top or high point that is subject to winter storms tend to have a hard and tough grain.  Trees that grow in lower protected areas tend to have a softer and more consistent grain.  Trees that grow under the forest canopy and are forced to twist and turn to find sunlight will have some very interesting grain patterns.

Whatever wood grain or texture you encounter, I have the woodturning tools that will make your turnings come to life.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Does Your Vacuum Chuck Leave Marks on Your Bowls?

I recently turned a Maple Bowl, when I mounted the bowl on the Vacuum Chuck and turned the bottom of the bowl, the vacuum chuck left a circular mark in the bottom of the bowl.  Needless to say I was very disappointed and started looking for a fix, below is a solution.

 This is the 6" Vacuum Chuck that I used on the Maple Bowl; the bowl is about 13 inches in diameter.  Notice the hard plastic between the two o-rings, that is what leaves the mark.  Larger Diameter o-rings might help the problem, but they will compress to seal  the vacuum chuck to the bowl and the hard center will be in contact with the bowl.

Enlarge the picture and you can see the mark left by the vacuum chuck, just above the blue tape

 This is Neoprene gasket material, it is about 1/16 inches thick. This material is fairly stiff but soft and flexible enough to seal
Neoprene gasket cut out of the sheet.
 Glue the gasket to the Vacuum Chuck.  I used contact cement in three or four locations on the hard center.  Avoid any large buildups of glue or debris under or on the gasket as this will not allow the gasket to seal.
 Gasket glued to the chuck and under vacuum.  Used a piece of heavy plastic so I would be able to see how the gasket reacted under vacuum.
 Vacuum gauge at 27 inches of vacuum.  This is the same amount of vacuum without the gasket.  I mounted a bowl on the vacuum chuck with the gasket and the chuck left no marks.

I think my gauge is off a little bit, it should read close to 30 inches of vacuum, because I am near sea level.
Here is the whole setup.  I purchased the parts from different suppliers and built the vacuum chucking system myself, saved a about $250.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wood Lathes and Their Tools

This Article is talks about the evolution of wood lathes and the tools used with the modern lathes.  Each of the tools have special uses depending on the shape and how they are sharpened.

Wood Lathes date back to about 1300 BC.  Egyptians first developed a two person lathe where one person would rotate the wood with a rope while another would shape the wood with a sharpened tool.  Romans later improved the lathe by the use of a Turning Bow.  Later in the Middle Ages a Foot Pedal replaced the Turning Bow and allowed one person to operate the lathe, the Foot Pedal is still used to some extent in Third World Countries.

Lathes continued to evolve through the ages; using animal power, water power, steam power and electric power.  Today we are fortunate to have a variety of variable speed lathes and sizes from small bench lathes to the larger lathes that will turn objects up to 24” in diameter and still bigger but these are special use, usually for commercial application.

When a lathe size is mentioned say as a 14 inch than means there is 7 inches between the center of the Head Stock and the lathe bed or Ways; 14 inches is the maximum diameter.

Tools for the Wood Lathe, there are many but they all fall into six tool groups. They are the Gouge, Scraper, Skew, Parting Tools, Specialty Tools and Carbide tools.  The numbers of these tools are greatly multiplied when you consider different sizes as in thickness, width and length. The many different profiles and shapes that also increase the number of tools.  After you have turned for a few years it is easy to have 20 or 30 different tools. 

Gouges, there are several profile shapes that have specific uses.  Spindle Gouge is used for shaping square wood into round spindles and because of its high sides it should never used on bowls.  Bowl Gauges have many different profiles that make bowl gouges very versatile and are great tools.  Detail Gouges have their purpose.  Gouges require practice to understand different methods of use and how to sharpen the tool.  If you take the time to learn how to use the bowl gauge you’ll never be without one in your tool chest.

Scrapers are used to smooth your turning, sharpened correctly they are very good.  Many experienced turners leave a burr on the edge, this will cause to scraper to cut very fine.

Skews have a double edge bevel and are normally shaped at about a 30 degree angle. With the double bevel edge the chisel can be turned over and used both left and right, some have a rounded edge.  Skew can be used for smoothing and special angels.

Parting Tools are used for parting off (removing) the turning from the waste block.  There are a number of other limited uses.

Specialty Tools are texturing tools, chatter tools, Chinese Ball Tools, and etc.

Carbide Tools and gaining a lot of use because of their hardness and ability to stay shape longer.  The carbide cutter is attached to the shank of a tool that can only be used for that purpose.  Different shapes are cups, flat round, square, diamond and etc.  They are a good tool and have their place in the wood turner’s tool chest.  The only drawback is the cost of the replacement cutters.

Beginning turners can purchase tool sets in a number different sizes depending on the size of the lathe. The sets will have one of each of the tools described above except the specialty and carbide tools. I hope this article helps those that are just learning this wonderful craft.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Green Wood With Natural Edge

A  few Natural Edge Bowls turned from green wood.  The light colored bowls are Oregon Myrtlewood (Umbellularia californica) and the red colored bowls are Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), both old growth and second growth.

Select the wood that you want to work with and cut it lengthwise.  I always over cut the length so that I can avoid the end checks.

A small diameter log will produce a bowl with high ends and low sides. A larger diameter log will have a more uniform edge

Use a circle pattern cut from plywood to locate and position the bowl on the log and then trim the excess with a chainsaw.  Be sure to locate and mark the center of the circle.
Following the circle pattern cut the log round on a bandsaw
Remove the pattern and attach faceplate.  I wrote a blog called "Reverse Chucking"
This will help to understand how to attach the bowl blank to the lathe.

Always use the tailstock to support the work.  Some of these green bowl blanks are very heavy.                                                                                        

Turn and shape the outside profile and create sipot with dovetail to attach the work to a chuck.
Turning has be reversed on the lathe.  The dovetail has a greater holding strength than a straight spigot.
Support with the tailstock.
Remove the inside.  Leave the thickness at about 1 inch uniformly
around the bowl.  If the thickness is uneven there is a greater chance the wood will crack during drying.
After the inside has been removed and the turning is lighter use a large Forstner bit to remove the center.

 Finished bowl ready for drying.  After the bowl is dried re-chuck the bowl and finish.

I wrote another blog on drying bowl in a Kiln, check it out.
This is a unique piece. You don't find these very often.  I finished this bowl and gave it to a friend for wedding gift.  He complained that it wouldn't hold soup and she threatened him with divorce if he messed with it.