I went to collect an Holly tree yesterday. Freshly felled, and left in large section by a woodturning-friendly tree surgeon. It was big. And heavy! One section, from near the top of the tree, was almost 7′ long, and tapering from 14″ to 11″. I decided that the log had to be dealt with straight away. You know how Holly is. So I cut it down its length, marked out seven bowls on each half, and cut the blanks. I then spent the rest of the day roughing them out and coring them. The result is twenty-eight Holly bowls. Fouteen pairs, if you prefer.

I’ve never roughed Holly before, always turning it thin and allowing the warping, so I have no idea what the drying will do to them. I expect to lose some, but have no idea what the ratio will be. Tomorrow I’ll seal the end grain with PVA, and put them on one side to dry out. As the sap is now rising the wood is especially wet, and will no doubt take longer to dry than the usual autumn/winter rough-outs. So we’ll see. If I remember I’ll post an update in a few months.

If I were a pole-lathe turner…

If I were a pole-lathe turner…I wouldn’t have been unable to work this afternoon. The Craft Centre suffered (another) power cut this afternoon. Apparently a pylon cable fell into a field, caused a fire, and outed 3,000 homes and premises. How we rely on it. Electricity. No power and we can do nothing but stand about groaning and moaning. The world – well, our little tiny piece of it at least – comes to a crashing stop.

Power was restored within an hour or so, but so to my own village, where it was off until 9pm. Not the end of the world, UNLESS…that is, your village has no gas supply, and all your energy needs are electricty, oil & propane. So we were kindly advised by the power company, EDF in this case, to, “Eat out”. How nice of them to think of us! Sadly we didn’t have their charge card to hand and had to pay ourselves.

Back to normal tomorrow…maybe it’s time I built that bungee=powered lathe I have plans for? I have the Oak, can buy a bungee, and the steel components are easily made…a summer project, perhaps. It may be a goodd idea…we may need such alternative powered machines sooner than we think.

some people…

I get a lot of woodturners calling in the gallery, and most are eager to “have a few words”, or simply look in the workshop. Today I had an “I do a little bit myself” turner in (and I’m almost certain he’ll never see this Blog, so am happy to report here. I wouldn’t want to embarrass anybody)

I turned a lovely stool in Yew, he tells me

So I think, well he must do more than a little, a stool is quite a task to get right.

I put it in the bedroom, and it looked lovely.

That’s great, I say.

Yes, he continues, but in the morning the legs and the seat has split. It was ruined.

Did you use seasoned wood?

Yes. The yew tree had been cut down months before.

Seasoning is a complex process, and one that often seems to me more of an arcane art than a science, but I would have thought anybody with the knowledge to turn the components of a stool to completion would have at least a basic understanding of the term. Even guaranteed seasoned wood will (can) move, or warp and split, if removed from one climatic condition to another without a period to acclimatise. Just ask the turner who took a batch of freshly turned fruit indoors, went to bed, and was awoken by “a gun going off!”. There was no gun. Only his apples splitting with loud ferocity.

Funny thing wood…

Play Days

As I have jobs to do for the remainder of the week, I thought today should be a play day. Commissioned work is good to have, and long may it continue to come in, but it is certainly more fraught than play days.  The problem with play days is deciding what to do! Unless an idea has been pestering me for a while, it’s usually a case of looking around until a piece of wood screams, “me! Me!”  And that’s how it was today. And the screamer was the Chestnut burr I bought at the AWGB AGM.

Well, I couldn’t wait.

Due to the dimensions of the boards…thin! I decided that they had to be wall pieces. And I a concerted effort to escape the “red & black”, I decided to go absolutely mad with colour. These boards are full of burr, ripple, and lovely figure, so would take colour very well. The problems were going to be related to the size, the largest is 26” long, and about 20” wide, and the straight and natural edges. So the main considerations are related to safe turning. Good fixing, low speed, sharp tools to reduce resistance to the cut, no distractions, an impact rated face shield, and constant vigilance are the keys.

After this it’s simply a matter of turning, and trying to accentuate the existing beauty of the wood. I like wall pieces, and enjoy making them. And if I thought I could get away with it, I’d turn them all the time. One of the joys of turned wall sculptures/plaques for me is that they will be hung, and looked at every day.

So that was today. Tomorrow it’s back to the job book.


chestnut burr wall plaque

chestnut burr 2

All of a sudden people have opinions!

10 emails today concerning the post here, culled from the original Blog. It seems that all the respondants so far are in the “there to learn” camp, which is interesting really. But then did I really expect people to email saying, “learn something? God forbid. I’m only there for the tea and biscuits”? Probably not.

The 10 responses may also simply be indicative of the kind of people who would respond in such a manner; the very same people who take the time and the trouble to read woodturning websites on the web. There’s a deeper message here somewhere, but I’m too tired to look right now.

I turned a wall plaque today out of burr chestut…and, SHOCK HORROR, stained it quite a bit. A lot. Well…all of it! It struck me that we are, as woodturners, very conservative. There are taboos which are ingrained pardon pun), and take an act of will to overcome. Staining burr seems to be one of them. I have to admit that it does somehow feel wrong. Silly, I know. But it does. But then the burr, ripple, and figure all take it so well! The effects are quite stunning IMHO. I’ll photograph it tomorrow and post later on.

For now…good night my 6 wordpress watchers!

another blog?

So why another blog?

I have almost decided to change the existing non-software blog at www.cobwebcrafts.co.uk/blog.htm, but wanted to try it here first.

So here it is. Another woodturning blog. The same woodturning blog, but different in so many ways. Same turner, same thoughts and comments, different layout and different methodology.

So here’s the most recent entry from the above…just to see how it looks….



April 19th 2008

I had to collect some very fresh Hawthorn this morning, which was kindly donated by a villager. Pictured is only one pile of quite a few. I was only able to take a half load in the van due to the weight of the wood. Hawthorn is very dense and heavy, compared with a similar sized piece of, say, Ash. As usual when I’ve collected something interesting, I couldn’t wait to turn some. Turning wet wood is always fun, long streamers and very little resistance to a sharp tool, but Hawthorn is a particular pleasure. It’s a lovely wood to work, cutting like butter that’s been lightly frozen. From experience I know that Hawthorn is prone to sometimes quite severe warping and cracking if turned from wet too thickly. In fact, even rough turning Hawthorn can be less than successful. So I turned some natural-edged vases with 2-3mm wall thickness. Buoyed by the first three turning so well, I thought I’d push it a little and tried for a 1mm wall…BANG! Thank heavens for face masks. Looking at the resulting debris afterwards, there was a small, but in this case significant, knot about a third of the way down. Obviously this was where the weakness was. So next time I try a 1mm wall, I’ll make sure I check the surface more carefully.

Hawthorn Harvest

Fresh from the lathe


Today was a very quiet day, and aside from a visit from my F.I.L, and a client with final details of a commission, I was untroubled by anybody, so was free to turn in peace and quiet. When it’s like this, there’s time to think while you turn. These can be productive times, and provide an opportunity to consider ideas for turning, and lots besides. Today it was demonstrations. What exactly to audiences want from a demonstration? I’ve seen a lot of demonstrations over the past few years, and sat through professional and amateur demonstrations. Now, I give quite a few myself, and wonder how the audience actually feel afterwards. I can’t imagine there’s a turner doing the rounds of the demo circuit who doesn’t wonder about this at some point. You want to give an interesting and informative demonstration, and leave them feeling that it was worth it. But do they?

At a number of demonstrations I’ve attended, I have left feeling slightly cheated, feeling that what I witnessed was more a demonstration of the cleverness of the demonstrator, rather than an instructive demonstration, which is what I would personally prefer. So when I started demonstrating I thought I try to ensure it was instructive first-and-foremost. My method of achieving this has been to concentrate on the techniques and related information as I turn to illustrate them, and not to concentrate on completing a finished piece to rapturous applause. My feeling is that in order to truely finish a piece of work, a considerable amount of time is spent on activities that need not necessarily be included in a woodturning demonstration – sanding, sealing, Etc. Who wants to sit and watch you while you spend half the alloted time doing these things? So I’ll take along some examples of related finished work, and concentrate on getting the detail of the techniques across clealrly. If people want to watch me do a start-to-finsh piece, they may as well come along to the workshop, get a coffee, and take a seat.

On the whole this seems to have worked well in the main. But there have been the odd members of the audience who seem to feel that they haven’t watched a demonstration unless you complete a piece to shelf standard. So which is the right way? What is that audiences want? Do they really want to watch a demonstrator showing just how clever he is to be able to complete a project in the alloted time, with a coffee break, a Q&A, and a break for a table critique? If that’s what the majority want, demonstrating would be a doddle. But I’d suggest that that they’d learn a whole lot less. But maybe it’s my own relative inexperience that’s the problem, in that I haven’t figured out yet that what they actually want, is simply to be entertained?

Maybe you have thoughts?