Playing with new toys

An interesting week, not terribly productive in terms of finished work, but I did make progress in less direct ways.

I tried out my new McNaughton Center Saver. It wasn’t quite as straightforward as I was expecting. The biggest complaint I have is that the system comes with insufficient documentation. There isn’t even an illustration of the setup of the unit. And the instructions on how to use the Center Saver are minimal. I’m lucky: I have seen Mike Mahoney demonstrate the McNaughton system, so I had some idea of what to do, but without that experience, I would have felt pretty lost. I think Kelton should include at least a brief video of its use (on CD or DVD)—or at the very least make such a video available for free online. I know that Mahoney has published a DVD on using the Center Saver, and I trust that it’s good, since he is an expert with it, but it’s also $25. Instead, I used a helpful article by Steve Russell as a guide to using the system. (Kelton does provide a shorter version of the article on its website; I suggest you print it out to have on hand as you try out the system. The version I used came from the DVD Woodturning with Steven D. Russell, Volume I.)

I prepped two pieces of wood, one mulberry, the other eucalyptus. Both were heavily checked, and this may have caused some of the problems I had, though ultimately that didn’t appear to be the case. I started with the mulberry and the least curved of the curved blades, trying to remove the largest possible core. I cut the first couple of inches without problem, but then the blade began to catch, and catch hard, so that the lathe stopped altogether, and this with minimal forward pressure. I tried systematically adjusting as many variables as I could identify—widening the kerf, changing the angle slightly, pushing even less, making sure the blade was up against the cross brace, etc.—but the blade kept catching.

I finally switched to the eucalyptus chunk and fared better. I got much deeper without a catch, then when the blade did begin to catch, I was usually able to back off a little and resume without the lathe stopping dead—though it did stop a few times. Eventually, I was able to cut the whole core out. Woohoo! The wall thickness of the outer bowl was even fairly consistent, so I had followed the outer curve pretty closely.

I was exhausted by the effort, however. I went home early, and I was ready for bed by 7 p.m. that night, whereas (as some of you know from my posting times) I’m usually a real night owl. And I was clearly using muscles I wasn’t accustomed to using, because I had pain in my hand, my elbow, and my shoulder!

I haven’t given up on the Center Saver by any means, but I do have to set it aside for a while as I concentrate on preparing for my next show, which comes up in just a little more than four weeks. My inventory is still low from my fall shows, so I need to get in gear and get productive. In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions on improving my Center Saver technique, please share!

Also this week, Pat and I rearranged the studio, relocating my old lathe to the opposite end of the room, in front of the garage door. I also finally installed pegboard on the divider behind my lathe, so I have my tools better organized and at hand, which will let me be more efficient. Of course, that means that the shop photos I just posted are already out of date. Ah, well.