Monday, May 12, 2014

I'm Still Here!

Well, I let another three months go by without a word.  I need a few more hours in the day.

Still turning wood in all the spare time I can find.  I've been concentrating on segmented pieces - but rather than the strict, measured pieces I've been seeing, I like curves and free-form designs.  Even my pieces that appear to be square are deliberately cut at slight to radical angles and of different sizes.  Guess I've finally embraced my inability to draw a straight line.

I've made a couple of special pieces for special people.  The first was for a classmate from way back in the dark ages who asked me to make him something surprising.  I put together a questionnaire to gather information about his background and interests that gave me ideas about what woods and metals to use.  Included some woods from (or native to) his ancestral countries, some wood a friend brought me from our old high school, and put together something that surprised me, too!

It's so different from all the pens I've seen, I was a little scared about sending it off.  I took it along with a few other pens to my first meeting with the Inland Woodturners group (more on that later) and a couple of pen turners there gave it high praise - so I put it in the mail and crossed my fingers.

Turned out Wade loved the pen.  Phew!  I think that may be the last time I make something by request.  It's just too stressful.  Much more fun to make pens that interest me and if someone likes, them, all the better.

Next I made a special pen for my cousin Billy, who was doing a reading and signing event for his latest book, Remembering Gordon Street.  I love this book because he included little bits and pieces about my parents and quite a bit about my grandparents.  Much of it is set in the family home where I now live, the Grove House.  Coincidentally, the last of the original orange trees that he talks about has been slowly dying and we removed some of the branches a couple of months ago.  Of course, I added it to my wood stash, so when I decided to make his pen, it seemed only natural to include some of this wood.


 This gave me a chance to use my new stabilizing chamber.  I ordered this several months ago from Turntex Woodworks, but his products are so popular he has had a backlog of orders.  It was definitely worth waiting for - very well constructed and worked perfectly on the very first try.

Mad scientist time!  The bubbles you see here are the air being sucked out of the wood.  When I release the vacuum, the liquid resin in the chamber will get sucked into the wood.  I'll cure it in a toaster oven (never to be used for food after this) for a few hours and have some really stable wood to turn.

Billy's pen on the lathe.  The cream-colored piece is the orange wood.

Two sides of the same pen:  the brown is walnut, the red is bloodwood.  The bottom half of the pen is the orange wood.

 I also finished a pen I've been working on for several weeks and this is my favorite piece yet.  I started with four different pieces of wood, glued together into one block.  Then I cut the block into thin slices, rotated each slice an eighth of a turn beyond the previous slice, and glued them all back together.  Drilled a hole in the center, inserted a brass tube and turned it.

And here's the result.  I absolutely love this pen!

In the meantime, I took a bandsaw class at the Woodcraft store in Fountain Valley.  Learned how to change the blade on my bandsaw, maintain, and troubleshoot it.  Learned for sure what I already pretty much knew - the little bandsaw I already have doesn't have the oomph to make a controlled cut - especially a straight one.  So I think there's a big bandsaw somewhere in my future.

We cut and glued pieces for two small cutting boards.  Funny thing was there were three men in the class with me.  I let all three of them go first - each one swaggered up to the saw then slunk away when they couldn't cut on the lines.  Got a little bit of the "let's see what the little lady can do" treatment when it was my turn.  Turns out that cutting on a properly adjusted saw is just like guiding fabric through a sewing machine.  So I pretty much zipped through my turn.  Pretty funny seeing the smirks turn to disbelief.
These are the pieces I made...  we didn't have time to finish during the class, so we were sent home with instructions to stack and re-cut these crosswise, swap the pieces, and reglue to create two finished pieces with a wavy checkerboard pattern.  Doesn't really appeal to me, so I may cut them into pen or spindle blanks.

One of the best parts of the class was using the drum sander.  To get good joins in segmenting, your surfaces have to fit well - and this tool is recommended as essential for doing flat segments.  While surfing Craigslist a few days later for that big bandsaw, I spotted a drum sander at a ridiculously low price.  24 hours and a quick drive to Yucaipa later, I became the proud owner of a really nice Grizzly baby drum sander, along with a supply of sandpaper and an extra motor (drive shafts on these are designed to snap when they get jammed.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to my first meeting of the Inland Woodturners.  That month's demo was on turning natural-edged bowls.  Although I haven't been interested in bowls, I may have to re-think this.  There were quite a few show-and-tell pieces, including some marvelous segmented pieces.  I took along a portfolio of my pens and a friend told me I should put them in the show and tell.  He neglected to tell me I would have to go up front to talk about my work.  Yuck.  But I got a lot of compliments and some great advice. 

My second meeting featured a demo on inlaid pens. This is a technique I've tried without much success but I learned enough from this demo that I'm ready to try again.  If I can find the patience to place the inlay materials one tiny piece at a time.

I have more to tell about but this is long enough for one post, so I'm going to close with photos of  some of my recent work and works in progress.

Cutting a pair of blanks on the scroll saw.  I'll swap half of each piece for a pair of two-color pens.
First cuts on future segmented pens.  These will be sandwiched with contrasting veneer to make single-color pens with curvy lines through them.

Glue-ups clamped and drying.  A girl can never have enough clamps!

A quartet of pens made of olive wood from Bethlehem.  One of my favorite woods.

Free-Form Segments