Preparing for a show

I have a major show coming up in just a bit over three weeks, so I’m trying to get in gear and get productive. This is just one of the business aspects of trying to make a living as an artist. It requires a different mindset than simply creating what is in my heart. Unlike many woodturners, I don’t have a production line, which means I don’t make the same item or type of item over and over. I do have to consider the marketplace, however, and make sure that when I do a show, I have available a wide range of vessels, in terms of price, size, shape, style, etc.—mostly so that I can offer customers choices, but also because variety makes for a more-inviting display.

Variety also, of course, keeps the creative process fresh for me. Even when I am focused on producing a lot of work efficiently, I still want every vessel to be uniquely itself. I want the process to remain one of creation, not one of mass production.

The upcoming show also means that I need to put off solving some equipment problems I’ve been having—chiefly with my chucks. The spindle on my old lathe was 1 inch; that on my new lathe is 1¼ inches, which meant that I had to change the insert on my old Teknatool Supernova chuck. The insert had seized, however, and in removing it, I appear to have damaged a jaw slide, as the slides no longer meet snugly at the center (and jaws don’t close properly either). The damage isn’t readily identifiable, however, and I’ve already spent one afternoon trying to pinpoint the problem. That chuck used to be perfectly centered, with perfect repeatability when I would remove and replace pieces. My new chuck, a Supernova 2, isn’t perfect, but I can’t spare the time right now to tweak it either. I’ll let you know what I figure out when I finally have time, after the show. In the meantime, I just have to make do. To quote Tim Gunn, “Make it work!”

Correction to my last post

The Steve Russell article on the Center Saver that I mentioned was actually in Volume I of his DVD, an e-book, not in Volume III as I originally stated (I have corrected the last post), and the article is also available on his website. Had I spent a little more time with the DVD I would have discovered that Volume III, which is a DVD video, actually has a video chapter on using the Center Saver. Now that I have viewed it, I’ll try again.

I also discovered in reviewing both the Kelton instructions and Russell’s article that they contradict each other on the height of the cutting blade. The Kelton instructions say, “Adjust the height of the tip so that it is EXACTLY ON OR JUST BELOW CENTER. (If you have the tip above the center, the tool will tend to buck and jerk when you commence cutting.)” Russell says, “The tip of the blade should be set at centreline, or slightly higher.”

I followed Russell’s recommendation and had the blade slightly higher than center—mainly because the tool post is too long for my lathe’s tool rest, so I couldn’t get the blade down to center without cutting the tool post, and I was too impatient to try out my new toy to stop and find a hacksaw.

Let that be a lesson to me. I will cut the post down and try again, at center and slightly above and below, and report back on what I discover.

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.

Another day

Jean-François made an attachment for the hollowing tool to resist the torque from the curved tip, making the tool easier to control. Jean-François says he learned this trick from Alain Mailland. He later painted the handle black.

Two views of the attachment Jean-François made for the hollowing tool.

Making travel plans cut into the work day.

We took a break at lunch to plan our travel schedule. Siegfried bought pizza from Paolo’s to ease the process. It took a couple of hours of phone calls and emails, and we’re still trying to finalize plans. Among other places, we will be visiting Washington, D.C.; Wilmington, Delaware; and various spots in Pennsylvania. I’m hoping we can squeeze in a trip to NYC before the end too.

Sean continues work on the burl vessel.

Sean continued to work on the burl vessel. Note the inner spherical vessel he is hollowing inside the larger bowl. He has wrapped the entire outer bowl with shrink wrap to keep it from coming apart as he turns.

Jean-François turns a tool handle.

Jean-François was still trying to get to turning a bowl. First, though, he had to turn a handle for his bowl gouge. By the end of the day, he had at least mounted and rounded a chunk of ailanthus for a real piece.

Siegfried starts a vessel from a silver maple burl.

After tinkering most of the day with the vacuum chuck, the electric chainsaw, and the bandsaw, Siegfried prepped and started turning a glorious chunk of silver maple burl. Check out the inset. Siegfried usually works with less figured wood; he thinks that whatever vessel he turns from this, the wood itself will be the most beautiful aspect.

Sean works on carving a freeform scupture.

Sean took a break from turning to carve. He has assembled the framework of what will be a freeform sculpture from various scraps lying around the shop. Woodturners will recognize the corners removed on a bandsaw for turning.