How bad the skew?

So what is all the fuss about the skew? We all know about it because we are told, constantly it often seems, how difficult it is to handle…and we believe it.

I decided quie early on not to be put off by the negative hype and tried and tried until I was comfortable with it, and could make it bend to my will and not its own. And as battles go, it was a painless and short lived one.

So today I has a student who had never touched a lathe, let alone a skew, and what’s more she was new to working with wood as well. So after getting her to rough down a square I presented her with a skew, showed her how to stand, hold, and address the wood, gave a ten second demonstration, and away she went. Within minutes she was cutting coves very cleanly, and turned most of her first project, a spurtle, with it. So how bad can it be?

Perhaps preconceptions are our enemy here, and not the dreaded skew?


Cleaving with a froe…

So I made a froe on Saturday. A froe is the tool you properly use to split a log into billets. The blade is sharpened to an inclusive angle of about 30 degrees, but it isn’t sharp in the skew chisel sense, or it would cut a path rather than follow the grain of the wood. The blade is placed across the pith and the back hit with a maul. Once into the wood, the blade is waggled back and foward…to and froe…to force the split all the way down the log. Simple and effective.

You could always buy one, but this one was made from an old carbon steel woodturning tool, a piece of galvanised scaffolding pipe, and a turned beech handle. The welding was expertly done by the Earl of Henstead…and without a single spark burning his Persian silk cumberbund!



Next week begins with an unusual task. Teaching a former client to do a little turning. She commissioned some pieces for a Brazillian Government campaign last year, and then visited me from her agency in Milton Keynes and became a customer. Well, she called and asked if she could “learn to turn”. Of course you can! Should be fun. But I’d better not teach her too much or I’ll lose a customer!

Wood prep the Greenwood way…

Okay, so it’s not new. Not by long way. But it’s kind of new for powered lathe users. Inspired by the polelathe turners over at their forum, I made a maul, sharpened an axe, and cleft a log of Yew. No bandsaw or chainsaw used. It was surprisingly easy considering I picked a knarly Yew log to try it on.

Once halved, you can chop out a fairly round blank with relative ease. I loved the cleft edge the cleaving left, and decided to keep it in the completed bowl. Scorching it to provide a contrast.

It’s a handy technique if you don’t have a bandsaw, or have a limited cut depth.Give it a try! 

Henstead Symposium?

So right now over the water the AAW symposium is going ahead. And clearly I’m not there. But It did feel like I have been in my own weird little symposium today. So many turners, and a number of people with relatives who are turners. It’s a good job I didn’t have anything very pressing to complete today…

I wonder if I should close the gallery and open a consultancy? A nice desk, a leather chair, and fancy phone system and a powerpoint presentation running on a loop on a 56″ screen behind me. Maybe a white screen hooked up to a laptop and a laser pointer for indicating the finer points.

Or maybe the key is to have somebody at “front-of-house” whilst I’m locked away behind a heavy door?

Or maybe I consider it a perk, accept it, and just keep hoping that days such as today only occur when it’s convienient less inconvienient?

So what did I achieve between visits? A small Yew bowl, and a large maple bowl that was completed and then carefully cut into two and rejoined. Busy, busy, me.

Meanwhile, a friend was doing a photo shoot with a 28 year-old female model! I wonder if I could trade the Wivamac for a Nikon?

And another wheel…

I finished the X’s, and they were collected today. So all’s well there, except now I’m even more tired then usual.

An interesting spinning wheel came in for restoration today. I restored one last year for the same people, and they seem to have been bitten by the bug. This one is an odd one. Firstly it has been stained, but it seems to have been done when it was made. And the wheel is very high quality compared with contemporary wheels of this pattern. Maybe made for the high-end market of Ladies-who-do?

The spindles seem to have been pole-lathe turned, and the legs could simply have been made on a shave-horse with a draw knife. Whilst other components, which seem contemporary to the others, seem to have been more finely turned.

The wear points are consitent with reasonable usage, and there are considerable deposits of lanolin where you might expect them. So…

The question is always how to resore…repair and age? Not for me. Repair and replace where appropriate but leave it clear that work has been carried out? More to my taste. But not always to the customer’s.Thankfully this customer is of the same opinion, and merely wishes to have a complete, working, wheel, and has no inclination to pass-it-off. Should be fun restoring this one. The last one was a nightmare!

old spinning wheel

And then there was one…

I’ve had a student in for the past three days, Steve. He’d never turned a thing before, which is sometimes a worry, sometimes a blessing. In this case it was the latter. He’d no bad habits to correct, and listened and learned very quickly, and has, I’m sure, gone away enthused and encouraged. He’s another of that group I like to refer to as “natural tool users”. There are those for whom tool use is anything but natural, and they struggle usualy. Thankfully I haven’t had too many of those, because it always leaves you, the tutor, feeling like you’ve been unhelpful.

So it’s been a good three days tutoring. The only problem was un-related to the student…a call saying “I’ll be down to collect X on Thursday, and can I have X more X’s please”. Of course you can!

But that meant a return to the workshop last night, after a day’s tutoring (which is exhausting) and another three hour stint at the lathe. And the same tonight after dinner. I could have said, “no” of course. But I don’t like to let people down, and I can’t afford to turn work down…so another long night looms. Oh well. Just me, the lathe, the shavings, and Radio 4 then.

And I’ve decided that the workshop JUST HAS to be extended. So that’s on the cards over the next week or so. But what a thought! Moving all that STUFF!!!

And if I have more room…I might even build a small pole lathe. Well…I could use the excercise.


I think that says, “woodturning” in Japanese. At least I hope it does! If I’ve said something rude in Japanese, forgive me!! But if it does…that’s quite cool.

Demostrated at Simon Hope’s today. I think it went well. I hope it did! I got a close-up look at one of the bellows he makes to go with his pipes…very nice indeed. I’m not a pipe player, but I’d imagine a pipe player would be pleased as punch with a set…if you want to see some very finepipes, and fine tolerance turning have a look here…

You will also see Simon profiled in an up-coming issue of Woodturning magazine.

So…well that’s about it really. A drive, a few hours turning, another drive home, a washing machine repaired (she burnt out the carbon brushes overloading it!), and that’s me today…It doesn’t feel like I’ve done a day’s work really…