Hail to the Chef

Had a busy weekend out in the shed, madly making sawdust (which is always a good thing!)

In this case though, it hasn’t generated much content for this site, as it was for the next edition of The Shed magazine.

Here are a couple of the images from the build, but if you want the full article, it will be in the next edition of The Shed (NZ/Aus edition).  If previous writeups are anything to go on, it gets about 9 pages which is pretty awesome!

A fun build – took a weekend to complete, and that is with lots of on the fly design decisions and problem solving.  I quite enjoy building without plans, and just designing as I go.  It throws up all kinds of interesting issues, and solutions that would not have been seen if it had been a sterile, plan-following build.  I’m not saying there isn’t a place for pre-build design, in fact that is the recommended route 99 times out of 100.  I just happen to enjoy the challenges of working with that 1%!

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The unit was even thrown into action before I even had had a chance to finish it!  Needless to say, that has been resolved now, using Ubeaut FoodPlus mineral oil.  Came up a treat, and really useful to boot!

Soothes the throat, and clears the nose

Well perhaps not so much of the former, but definitely the latter in spades! I’m referring to turning camphor laurel. The (late) evening was spent turning a CL bowl, and the aroma permeated the shed. I had a face shield, and an air filter running, but by the end of the night, I still looked like I had seen a ghost- my hair was pure white, as were my eye brows and eye lashes. Insidious stuff that sawdust.

Things are really starting to click out there- the bowl went smoothly, and I’m gaining some good ideas on how to use each of the chisels.

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This blank had some defects- a bark inclusion at one point at the upper edge, and a large knot hole right through the side, but I’m finding that I prefer to ignore they exist while turning, as I am not looking for a perfect material, but rather am using a natural product shaped as I want, and these defects become additional character for the resulting item. They remind us that this has been made from a natural product, not some homogenous piece of plastic shaped to be an item without a story, without a history.

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Only problem is turning is rather addictive, and when you find you can’t stop and turn until 2am, it does absolutely nothing good for the head the next day! Paying the price now 😦 😉

The re-re-conceptualised bowl

Otherwise known as try, try and try again.

The timber of this bowl made a recent appearance here, after being bought back from the discard pile (well, not exactly: like many woodworkers I rarely have a discard pile, I have an “offcuts, but I’m sure there will be a future job to use that scrap of timber” pile) – a bowl blank (some kind of plum) that didn’t go well the first time I tried it, and the recent attempt was going really nicely till I blew the base out. So I tried again, this time turning it to quite a different shape from first envisaged in the hope of getting some result that would at least showcase just how beautiful the timber is.

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This time, I took a bit of inspiration from the “Classic” router bit profile, with both concave and convex features, a hint of “Roman Ogee” and a sharp dividing line between them.

I used the same trick as I did on the previous bowl of friction burning the rim to stand these features out. This time, I turned the outside for shape, including a foot to be gripped by a contracting chuck, then reversed the bowl and hollowed it. This too mirrored the outside, with a sharp change in curvature, and a friction burn to accent it.

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The inside was finished, as was the outside top of the rim, so that when the bowl was again reversed, and there would not be any way of mounting it again, that these areas had been finished.

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The bowl was reversed using the Mini Cole Jaws, and the optional retaining clips, which held the bowl securely for turning and finishing the base.

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The completed bowl, about 3″ diameter, with EEE and Ubeaut Glow finish, and friction burnt accents.

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The base, in two lighting conditions showing different characters in the timber finish.

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So another interesting little project, all done outboard (45 degrees) on the Nova DVR XP lathe from Carbatec, using the SuperNova2 chuck with 45mm jaws, the G3 chuck with Mini Cole jaws, and a selection of Hamlet turning chisels (bullnose scraper and German spindle gouge).

Primary shaping was done at 1000RPM, finishing turning at 2000RPM, and finishing at 3000RPM (the beauty of variable speed lathes- you use the different speeds because it is easy to set the speed for the different roles). While applying the fricton polish, you really get to appreciate the DVR motor and you can hear it loading up, maintaining a perfectly constant speed irrespective of load. The finish is all Ubeaut friction polishes – if you haven’t investigated these before, they are a great Australian product (available worldwide), and you can see the results they give.

Whispering Timbers

More often than not, probably 9 times out of 10, when I head out to the shed, I have no pre-conceived ideas of what I am going to do out there. Some times I may be doing a bit of clean up, some times a re-organisation,  some times nothing more than a beer, listening to some music or watching an episode of “The Wire”, and some times, occasionally, some woodworking!

Even when I discover that I will be woodworking, I still then listen to the timbers to find out what I am going to do.  Today was no different.  I found myself picking up a square of, well I still am no good at working out the different timber types, and mounting it on the lathe.  The timber whispered, and it was to be a square bowl, with a scooped out round section from the middle.

To start, a mounting ring was screwed to one side, which mounts in the jaws of my Nova chuck.  Once finished shaping the base of the bowl and cutting a recess for the jaws, the bowl is reversed, remounted, and the ring removed.

I didn’t take any more progress photos after this one – combination of getting too absorbed in what I was doing, and no idea if there would be a result anyway!

However, a result there was, and so to the Roving Reporter, I see your salad bowl, and I raise you:

The finish was achieved first with the Ubeaut Rotary Sander from Carbatec, then Ubeaut EEE followed by Shellawax.  I tried some of the Ubeaut Glow, but on this timber it was hard to pick the difference between the Shellawax and the Glow finish.  Both looked good!

All these finishes are available from Carbatec, and Carrolls, and a number of resellers overseas (the products are now exported to the USA and Canada, not sure about the UK but wouldn’t be surprised!)

I got the base pretty thin in the end, perhaps a little thinner than I was expecting!  In a dark room, you can actually see torchlight through it!

I’m rather pleased with the result.  I’m sure it is still pretty amateurish, but then I still have a long way to go on the woodworking journey.  I still like it!

Guess the timber was talking today 🙂

New Foodsafe Finish

It has been out for a little while now, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, Ubeaut have a new product- a foodsafe oil for wooden cooking utensils (chopping boards, salad servers etc), and it would also be suitable as a safe finish for children’s toys if you wanted to maintain a natural timber look (much better to have that chewed on than varnish, paint etc).

The Hall Table finds its way home

After leaving the Hall Table in the shed for a couple of weeks (or however long it has been), I found the table was still looking a lot duller than I was expecting.  On having a closer look, it appeared to have a wax coating over the whole surface, and rubbing through that revealed a subtle, smooth finish.

So out with the 0000 steel wool, and rubbed down the whole table, which took a while because the waxy layer was quite thick.  This left a nice finish, although a bit more matt than I was hoping.  So I picked up my Ubeaut Swansdown mop, mounted in the drill and gave the surface a good buff, and the desired shine became quickly apparent.

Ubeaut Swansdown Mop

Promo image of 4" buff

The mop is genuine swansdown, woven into a soft fabric, then layered up to 100 folds (the term for each layer), secured and cut.  Unlike a lambs-wool buff that puts swirls into the wax, the swansdown spins in the direction of the grain.  Instead of buffing by hand, this takes moments to get the same result that 10 minutes or more of hand rubbing the surface would achieve.

Now as pretty as the mop is in the image above, it isn’t functional when it is that new.  A well conditioned mop is a well used one, laden with waxes from previous jobs so it isn’t so dry and clean, with a tendency to strip the wax off the surface (a few non-critical jobs will quickly get it working, as will spinning it against the edge of a hacksaw blade to strip the initial loose fibres away).

Mine is a little more worldly-wise.

Swansdown in action

This one is a 6″, 100 fold mop.  The surface looks shiny, but not glossy.  Looking at it at quite an acute angle, and you can see a very good reflection in the surface.

In location

Just a drawer to go.

The Camera is (still) Mightier than the Pen

There is a pen style to suit everyone, from the thinnest slimline designs, through to the bulkiest, heaviest ones.  The price can vary from a few dollars to $100 or so, simply for the mechanism.  You’d certainly want to be on your turning game when working with the expensive models.

Elegant Beauty Kit

There are stacks of different pen kits out there, from slimlines, through sierras, sedonas to emperors and on and on.  Some require one turned section, some 2, either the same diameter, or with lids, or other sections.

Sedona Kit

Some are more complicated than others!

Blank Drilling Vice

A blank drilling vice holds the blank steady, and parallel to the drill bit.  Until recently, I used a standard metalworking drill press vice which was ok, but this style of dedicated vice eliminates the problem of ensuring the blank is actually vertical.  It also makes it easy moving from one blank to the next, or to remount a blank for redrilling.  Changing to a larger or smaller blank is easy – certainly no harder (and I’d say easier) than a standard screw vice.  The quick-action lever is a definite boon.

Tube Inserter

This simple tool is a tapered shaft, and allows the brass core to be inserted without you directly coming into contact with the finger -joining Superglue!  I tend to find it also prevents over-insertion, where the brass tube sticks out the other side (and the speed the glue sets typically prevents a fix).  However, it is a rather gentle taper, so is not as effective for the larger tube diameters.

Pen Mill

Once the tube is inserted, and the glue set, it is time to dress the ends so they are flat, and perpendicular to the tube (and therefore the components).  Some mills have different diameter central bores for the different pen types.  This helps keep the mill accurately aligned, and also cleans out any glue (etc) that happens to have gotten in where it shouldn’t have.  However I still haven’t found a mill that I am happy with.

Pen Mandrel

Have a couple of pen mandrels here – the top one is variable (ie has variable length with a chuck)  The mandrel is critical as it supports the blank as it is being turned, and given that the finished pen can be as thin as 0.5mm, providing decent support is rather important.  A knurled knob at one end holds the blank firm as it is turned.

Bush

Different pens have different diameters, both outside to match the components, and inside – the diameter of the brass tube.  Rather than have a mandrel the right diameter for each pen type, bushes are used to fit inside the brass, centering the blank on the mandrel, and the outside of the bush provides a reference for the final thickness the pen needs to be turned down to.  These are a consumable – they do get worn so occasional replacement is necessary.  However, they are only $5 – $8 for a set, so it isn’t too expensive.

Live Centre

Instead of my normal live centre, (or my new Nova one) both of which are too sharp and have too thin a cone end to fully support the end of the mandrel, I found this cheap chinese one, which is hopeless for the job it is designed for, but perfect for pen turning.

Centre matching Mandrel

The short, wide angle and blunt/rounded tip is useless as a live centre, but matches the end of the mandrel surprisingly well.

Sandpaper

Getting the required finish requires sanding (unless you are an expert turner, and even then I imagine they use sandpaper too!), and you always need to work through the sandpaper grits to ensure there are no scratches left to ruin the finish.  This pack provides a convenient storage, and to keep it all in order.

Cyanoacrylic & Accelerator

Other than glueing the tube into the blank, I also use CA glue as a finish, typically with 18-20 coats to produce a very durable finish.  To apply so many layers, the accelerator is necessary.  If one layer is not fully set before the next one is applied the finish is ruined with a milky layer under the surface.  I prefer the aerosol can applicator – a fine, even application.

There is no different between the CA glue here and the Superglue in the small 2g tubes, other than convenience.  A 2g tube will do about a pen, including the finish, give or take.

Acrylic Sanding Pads

Getting a really fine finish requires going to an increasingly fine abrasive, and the acrylic sanding pads are excellent for this, especially when used on acrylic pens, or CA finished ones (you don’t need to CA finish an acrylic pen!)  These pads are coloured based on the grade of abrasive, so it is easy to move from one to the next.  They can be used dry, but they are superior when kept soaked in a bowl, and used wet. This cools the finish, which is important for both types – they are easily destroyed if they get too hot with the friction of sanding, leaving no option but to strip back to bare wood (if a CA finish) and start again, or if an acrylic to drop right back to a rough grade and work you way up again, hopefully the heat affected zone is not too deep.

The pads themselves are also damaged if they get too hot.  A simple rule of thumb is: when used wet, watch out for any dry spots that form which will quickly indicate an area where the temp is rapidly rising.  Watch out for any steam, and feel with your fingers too.  Keep wetting the pads down (dipping them back in the water) – not only will this keep them wet and cool, but also washes off any abrasive particles that have come loose.

The finish these pads do achieve is superb.

Hut Pen Wax

There are other finishes out there, including Hut Wax PPP (Perfect Pen Polish).  These look great straight off the lathe, but I have found them very disappointing with their lack of durability.

Ubeaut Shithot Waxtik

This is a wax by Neil Ellis of Ubeaut, and as you can see I haven’t used it yet (bought it for the name first and foremost!) It got its name from wood turners though, as each when asked how the wax stick was, remarked that it was……., and the name stuck!

Ubeaut was originally going to be called Shithot, but the business licensing organisation cracked it.  At least the product itself, with a typically Aussie approach to naming, made it to the market.

Pen Press

Finally, when it has all been finished, the final assembly can be done.  I used to use a Superjaws for this step, but a dedicated pen press is a much better solution.

Perfect Pen Presentation

Finally, it is imperative that the finished pens are displayed proudly, which leaves only one problem – deciding which one to write with!

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