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Bowl Turning

After building the jewelry box at the high school last fall, I decided I wanted to do something smaller in scale and that I could do fully myself.  I saw some rather large lathes against one wall in the shop and asked the instructor if they worked.  He said they did but not many people used them and the chucks were old. I bought an 8-piece turning set and got started. By the end of the term, I decided I was scared shitless of this tool.  Think about it this way - on almost any other tool in your shop, you make a fairly fast cut, on a stationary tool with your hands and body well away from the sharpy bits.  When youíre doing turning, your face and body are right up to the machine, youíre holding a small piece of metal in your hands which you have to press against a rapidly spinning piece of wood which could break into many pieces and fly all over the room at any time.  Does this really sound like fun I ask you?  I have a new found respect for good turners, not just because of their skill and creativity, but for their courage to face that machine every day.

This first effort is about 6Ē across and quite shallow, more of a plate shape and was done from a scrap piece of mahogany. The grain is really nice and it got a golden glow when I finished it with lacquer

This second one is about 8Ē across and has a deeper, steep-sided shape. It was done from a piece of Lenga, which comes from sustainable forests in Chile and Argentina.

This piece below is a 5Ē diameter piece of purpleheart.  Itís upside down because I have only done rough shaping on the outside - this represents almost 2 hours work of getting it to this point from a bowl blank- itís VERY hard wood!. When done it will have very steep sides and be about 4Ē deep.  The three screwholes you see keep it attached to the lathe. When I have the outside finished, I will then remove the inside. Interestingly, purpleheart turns brown when you cut it then slowly achieves the purple color.  If you leave it unprotected from UV too long after that, it will turn brown again, so you have to put a UV-resistant finish on at exactly the right time.. Timing is everything! 

Everything went downhill from this point.  The rather ugly bowl you see on the left is the result of trying to get anything out of this piece of purpleheart after it exploded all over the shop! I never had a problem shaping the outside of the bowls, but it gets tricky when you start removing the material from the inside. Itís very tight and precise work and if you happen to catch the wrong edge of the gouge, it will dig in at high speed and then big chunks break off and fly all over the room.  I was so pissed off I didnít put a finish on it so itís just brown.

The chunk of material below is Palm. Itís not technically a wood species, but a tightly compacted series of very tough fibers held together with small bits of rock.  It took me 2 hours and 3 sharpenings just to get the outside to this shape. You can see the two big tearouts on the right and left side. At this point, I gave up.

What you see below is a beautiful piece of wood that met with another horribe wrong-edge-of-the-gouge accident.  I canít remember the name of the wood, but itís very nice to work with and the shavings come off a bright orange color. I had the outside shaped, with a fluted top edge even, when this happened as I was taking out the center material.  As it was the last scheduled night of the class for the year, I took it off the chuck, shook hands with Bob and thanked him for all of his help and insight and went home.