Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A time for turning...

A friend and I decided to take a lathe class, so last week we spent a few days with Jimmy Clewes. You remember my friend - we went to the Star Trek convention together.

She's adventurous and hilarious, smart and supportive - people like that don't come into your life all that often. So when she mentioned wanting to learn more about lathe work, I jumped at the opportunity. A refresher course is always a good thing!

Jimmy doesn't waste a lot of time talking about what you'll be doing - he assesses your level of expertise, and within minutes, you're starting your first piece. Ann began making a small lidded box

while I started a shallow platter.

Along the way, Jimmy will stop the class and demonstrate a technique, or speak about a pertinent design point - anything from dying wood

to tool sharpening, to polishing compounds.

After day one, we both felt much more confident about everything - and left with a much better sense of what we could accomplish.

Way back when I first started teaching, I asked a friend for a bit of advice, and the one bit that really stuck with me is that people respond to praise. That may sound oversimplified, but praising one's work will elicit better results over anything else - and throughout the years, I've always kept that in the back of my mind. Even if someone's project isn't coming out in a spectacular fashion, you can always find something about it to compliment.

Jimmy teaches quite similarly - he's quick to praise, yet will step in to help when he sees that you need it. The best thing I can say about him is that he teaches with an open heart, which is a wonderful quality to employ. He loves what he does, and still has that zest for sharing his expertise.

Day two, I tackled a slightly more complex project - a square lidded piece. Here it is mounted on the lathe, this will eventually become the bottom of the piece.

A small tenon is formed in the bottom, so that I'll be able to mount it in a chuck.

A little more wood is removed, and you can see the form is starting to take shape.

A coat of sanding sealer and a coat of Watco make this piece start to sing.

Then it's flipped around and the bowl is starting to emerge.

It's not really that difficult turning a square piece, but you have to know where those corners are spinning. There were a few times when I lost track of them, and whacked a knuckle or two on the wood.

Once the base was completed, coffee and some critiquing allowed me to rest up a bit before I started the lid.

My main goal for taking this class was to familiarize myself with various lathe accessories that are available. I'd never used a chuck before, but instead, had relied upon gluing scrap wood to the bottom of a piece, so that I wouldn't screw a faceplate directly into the bottom of a bowl. This class was a great introduction to lathe accessories - and with the plethora of products out there, now it's just a matter of deciding which ones I want to add to my tool arsenal.

Back to the lid - here it is in the chuck, and I'm forming the bottom lip that will fit into the base. Calipers and a good eye make this easy.

Once I've got a good fit, I flip the lid around in the chuck, and tackle the top. This lid is fairly small, about three inches square, so a delicate touch is necessary.

And finally - the finished piece.

Ann finished a small lidded box on the first day, so she started a platter the next day. Here is the bottom being sealed with a bit of Watco.

When dry, it is flipped around in the lathe chuck and top of the bowl is worked. A lathe chuck is quite similar to a drill chuck, it has jaws that tighten around something, to hold it in place. Those jaws can hold something inside, much the way a drill chuck holds a drill bit.

Or then can exert pressure outward. I know it sounds confusing, but there are tons of videos on YouTube that will help illuminate how lathe chucks work.

These platter projects were a perfect introduction to aniline dyes, something I've been wanting to add into my work for a long time.

Jimmy gently blends the dyes together with the help of a spray-on top coat.

If you've considered taking a lathe class, but can't muddle through all the offerings out there, you might want to consider taking a class with Jimmy. I've been to quite a few classes/workshops/seminars/wastesoftime - and have to say that Jimmy's class was one of the best I've attended. He shares his talent in a multitude of ways - both in the shop, as well as in the kitchen (he cooked lunch for us both days) - and is a pure joy to be around. His enthusiasm is infectious, so here is my prediction - the turning bug will bite you. Hard.


Vegas Lupe said...

The class you took is (F word expletive here...) AWESOME! Thank you for sharing your experience and images. After seeing and physically touching the pieces you and Ann finished, I am definitely interested in checking out woodturning. It has always intrigued me. I have checked Jimmy's website and even requested to be in his class in January. It will be a good start to 2012. Thanks again!

Rob said...

very cool, makes me wish i was still in vegas!

What kind of wood did you use on the square lidded platter??

Wood It Is! said...

Rob - the square piece was ash, or as we woodworkers say... nice piece of ash!

Jay Amundson said...

I think I'll take a class next year!! Thanks for sharing.

John said...

If I didn't tell you, the turning you did from the square piece is absolutely stunning! Love the Asian feel it gives out, really beautiful.