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!)…

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.

2011 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 29,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

End of year thoughts…

Another year is about to end, and in the tradition of woodturningblog I thought I’d do a year in review post.

The Blog year began on January 9th with what was to become a recurrent theme – an apology for lack of posts. In the same post I also questioned whether or not to continue with the blog. Well here I am one year on and the blog is still here. It is only due to the comments and emails I’ve received through the year that I continue to blog. Without the communications from readers it would be a pointless exercise and I’d stop in a heartbeat.

Overall it’s been a hard year and one I fully expect to be repeated in 2012. A notable number of makers, artists and craft workers have given up this year as strings were being pulled so tight that it began to cut off circulation. A number have diversified and begun to take on work which is not strictly in line with their original aspirations, and I did quite a bit of that myself in 2011. But then sometimes you have to just to be able to continue.

At the risk of repeating myself, our problem is that what we do in the main is at the luxury end of the market and our products are easily ignored when purse strings are also tightened. The choices for makers are to buckle down and live on far less, to drop prices considerably (which devalues the work, effort, skill and material), diversify, or accept defeat and find work elsewhere. All easy typed than done.

I had a hobby turner question my outlook during the year. “Well I’m still doing great!” he assured me. “I took over £350 last Saturday at a one day event.”

Of course he did. Nothing on his stall was priced at more than £20. And nothing on his stall was priced at anything like a realistic price for the materials, time and skill required to produce them. We can all sell £14 bowl blanks turned into bowls for £20. What we can’t then do is make a living doing it.

The back end of this year has thrown up a few promising developments and contacts, and I am working on a few approaches that I hope will redress the balance a little in 2012. I have been given some advice from a seriously successful source in the art/craft world, and have been implementing it over the past month or so, and hope to see results in the New Year. Some of the activities are necessarily away from the lathe and involve activities I’d far rather not be concerned with, but needs must.

So what do I expect from 2012?

Not a lot actually. I know what I’d like to do; I’d like to lock the workshop door and work. But that’s not possible in the real world. In the real world I’ll have to continue doing all the things I only do through expediency and hope I can find time and energy for the things I actually want to do.

What I have enjoyed this year has been the contact and exchange with Blog readers. Both public and private. It would be nice if more voiced opinions publicly, but I do understand the reticence of some to speak out for all to hear. Or “read” in the case of a blog.

Well, not a very upbeat blog post, but then it’s not been a very upbeat year. It’s been a year of bloody hard work with little reward for most makers, but tomorrow is another day and most of us will be around to carry on doing what we do regardless. Damn fools.