Cold, Windy & Frustrating…

As the title suggests, that’s what today has been like. I had a very small job to do this morning which was six tiny handles for a dressing table. They were commissioned by the maker, a craftsman and bespoke furniture maker (amongst other things!). unfortunately he had supplied the timber, maple, and had laminated the stock from off cuts. Not always a problem, but he’d laminated it in such as way as to make his request for “end grain turned knobs” impracticable. It would have left a glue joint running across the middle of the face!

So okay, side grain isn’t a problem. It’ll just mean hiding the joint behind the first bead. Except the two pieces weren’t even close to having the grain aligned, and the inner cove had contrary grain which was a pig to turn. But I hate to be beaten and resorted to a small bowl gouge to hold back the inevitable catch and ruination of the knob. And it worked, but was quite tricky on such a small item even with a 10mm bowl gouge. Anyway, I got them done. So all’s well?

Not really. I wasn’t 100% happy with them, but was frustrated because he wouldn’t except anything BUT the wood he supplied (for matching), and I reckon that in total I spent two hours piddling about to achieve six matching knobs, and at £4 a knob that’s £12 an hour for labour, electricity, abrasive and sealer and all the other related overheads. I hope he makes more for the dressing table!

I decided to go home at 1 o’clock. The day seemed to be telling me that enough was enough and for once I listened.

Oh well. Tomorrow’s another day.

Beeplenish polish…

I was sent (along with, I suspect, lots of other turners) a couple of small pots of a new wax polish in the post the other day from a company called Beeplenish. All they asked was that I try it and see what I thought, but I thought it might make a small post here.

The leaflet that came with the wax explains that there are only natural ingredients, no turps, mineral oils, or other additives, and the wax is food safe. The packaging is 98% recycled to, so full marks for environmental care.

I tried it out on a template finial that was on the bench, and it’s nice wax to apply, not being a hard set wax, and buffs to a nice sheen. It travels well with friction, and covers very well indeed. I didn’t notice any problems with ring formation, but frankly didn’t expect any from a soft wax.

I wondered how the market could support another wax, but after trying it I think I’d use this for utility objects only. The anti-microbial properties make it perfect for salad bowls, plates, drinking vessels Etc., and offers an alternative to mineral oil which has environmental issues attached to it. The other advantage of course, is that being a wax you can achieve a nice warm glow which takes work with an oil.

As many customers are now also environmentally aware, and will often query which finishes you use, it could well be a small selling point.

I have no idea what the price is, but can’t imagine it being prohibitive. I’d certainly choose it for utility wear from now on.

Cold and slow…

It’s been so cold down by the river that the firewood pile was looking quite miserable, so with gritted teeth i opened the wood store for the first time since the flood. First problem is the frame, which has been for longer than I’ve been alive, had swollen and buckled and really needs replacing. But that will have to wait for a little while.

Inside there was a pile of leaves and debris that had washed in and will have to be cleared out…when it’s not so cold. As I expected the large lumps of black walnut are beyond saving and will now be posh firewood. Some construction timber is also damaged,so that’s the new bench off the to-do list for a while.

There are other obviously damaged lumps and boards, but I hadn’t the heart to check to closely.

Some of the beyond use stuff went next door to be split for firewood despite still being a little damp it’ll dry soon enough and do to keep the workshop dry and warm.

It’s still deathly quiet. If I hear one more “it’s the same for everybody” i’ll scream. I know it is but that doesn’t help. Another professional turner called the other day…just for a chat…and told me he hasn’t had a commission since July!

I’m glad he didn’t call this week because I’d have had to own up to having three! Don’t get excited. One is for a wooden base to replace a broken glass one on a lidded glass vase, the other a weird request that isn’t even woodwork and doesn’t amount to much, and then today “can you turn me six dressing table handles?”…oh! Let me check the diary!

Anyway…it’s cold and there’s nobody about so after the school run I’m going home to do something useful and fix the shower. Damned solonoids.

Steady Rest For Spindles…

Yesterday, still suffering from the dreaded bug, I wasn’t doing too well in the concentration stakes and gave up on what I was doing. I sat wondering what I might do when I remembered a promise made a little while ago to do a quick spindle turning video and decided upon that.

The promise had arisen when a number of turners had all claimed they “can’t” turn spindles. At least not so they look alike. Nonsense. And so I told them at the time. Since then a few more have added to the same chorus of cannots and so I thought a video would be a good idea. Nice and easy. No rush. No deadline. No straining and stressing.

So I made the video and brought it home to prepare for uploading to the cobweb6 youtube account (link in the side bar). Just after I uploaded it I happened to notice another video in the suggested videos bar on the right of the youtube screen. It was simply called “stair spindles”. I clicked on it out of curiosity and was rewarded with a short video of a very competent UK turner in a commercial workshop turning a pine (i think) spindle. But what grabbed my attention was a heath robinson steady rest…here’s a screen clip of it…

It was so simple, and appeared to work. The idea seemed to be a shaped wooden plate jammed against a roughly turned section of the spindle blank by means of a length of wood trapped between it and (possibly) the wall. So…

I decided to make one today.

Here’s the first version…

Because I don’t have a lathe screwed to a wooden bench I couldn’t make it as seen in the video, so I made a sled that sits snuggly into the gap in the lathe bed, cut and glued and screwed a carrier for the actual rest portion, cut and shaped a half-moon rest, fitted the carrier with a bolt to allow removal and placement on a pivot action, and used a length of slim baton to act as the hold fast.

My problem was the lack of a wall behind the lathe, so I screwed a length of baton to the bench and tried that. I think the force was from the wrong direction here, and whilst it worked more than well enough to vastly reduce the flexing of the 900mm 40mm by 40mm blank, there was some difficulty getting the force correct and there was significant friction and subsequent scorching – this wasn’t a major problem as the section turned away to act as the running surface for the rest would be re-turned later – but I felt it could be improved.

Version 2:

So I did away with the baton that locks it to the workpiece and used a small bungy strap.  This worked well, but a few small modifications were obvious.

So I added a lip at the front of the sled to allow for a safer and more secure attachment for the bungy, and cut some of the half-moon away as it wasn’t required and would allow turning through that section with the rest in place. The bungy pulling the rest in as the material is removed.

This worked very well indeed. The bungy pulled the rest section onto the stock just enough to resist the turning forces. I found I could make far more aggressive roughing down cuts, which of course speeds the whole process up. Excellent.

I made a coffee and sat down to drink it and cast my eyes to an earlier steady rest from a long time ago. I’d made it from skateboard wheels – the way people do! – but have never been happy with it. I wonder…

So whilst my coffee went cold I made another carrier -which can be removed and replaced in seconds – using two of the skate wheels instead of the static friction rest.

Version 4:

The bungy hooks are screwed to the front lip and the carrier is far longer to allow clearance from the workpiece. This works even better, although the wheels do make quite a noise. I think the bungy could be sited elsewhere, perhaps above and securing on a downward facing hook on the carrier.

Whatever it ends up as it works very well and will be a great help. It takes no time to set up and remove, it’s made from scraps, and is easy to modify and adapt. All in all the youtube clip was quite a find. So if you want to see it…here it is…many thanks to the author of the video for the inspiration…(I did leave a comment to thank him!)…http://youtu.be/6fNzAw1O0h8

Tidal Surge in Beccles…

It was not a very productive day at the workshop today. At 12.30 a.m. I had a message that the expected tidal surge had run on two hours longer than expected due to the strong winds. Had I heard the phone there’d have been little I could have done anyway, but having had another message via Twitter earlier in the evening I was prepared for things when I arrived this morning. Only I wasn’t…because this was the scene at the side of the workshop and gallery when I arrived…

The water had flood the wood store (at the back of the picture) and was lapping at the workshop door. fortunately we’d sand bagged the door only a week or so ago.

The river was as high as anybody can remember, and the boats moored on the wharf were floating higher than the jetty they were moored to!

Beccles Quay took most of the water though, and this was the view from the bridge…

It was a lake. But if you don’t know what it looked like before that’s not much use is it? So here’s a shot of what it looks like normally…

The water is now receding and tomorrow I can go and look at what damage has been done in the store.  One thing’s for sure. The firewood pile is not going to be much good for a while!

Perhaps the Environment Agency will now listen to locals who advised against blocking the sluices that used to spill the surge waters into an adjacent meadow? Or perhaps not.