July 2021 Show and Tell

July’s Theme – Simplicity 
National Simplicity day (yes, it’s a thing!) is happening in July, which has lead to this month theme of simplicity. We are looking for good from, simple design and excellent execution. No colour, resin, pyrography or such. We’re going back to the key fundamentals of a piece of wood becoming something simple yet effective. Will it be a bowl, vase, candle stick, spurtle? The choice is yours. 

Deadline for entries is the 31st July.

Prize – £75 total voucher for Brandon Bespoke Oils & Waxes. Brandon Bespoke Oils & Waxes will kindly add £25 to the £50 AWGB voucher.

Winner – Roger Groom

John McNay

I was given this piece of Burr Elm some 10 -12 years ago in a wet & dirty state after the tree had been felled & cut up but left lying on the ground. I put it in my wood store & checked it every now & then for moisture content, cracks etc. It didn’t look particularly interesting & had a number of fairly deep voids so it took me a while to grasp the nettle & tackle it.

I decided that the most sensible project for it was a bowl, because of the shape of the burr, so set about cutting off the excess parts to try & balance it. Doing this exposed some beautiful graining in the wood so that clinched it – a simple bowl was the answer.

I mounted it using a face plate on an area I flattened to get a good grip. It was still badly out of balance so speed was kept very low until I had it roughed down. The tool I mainly used was a ½” bowl gouge in a long handle to give some control.

I had to decide whether to expose the voids & have holes in the bowl or leave it a little thicker & get the best effect from the grain. I opted for the latter.

The bowl measures 11” in Diameter & is 3” high.  It was finished with 2 coats of hard wax oil & then a coat of Microcrystalline wax.

The main lesson learned with this is when nature provides something with such wonderful grain & colour, keep it simple.

My advice to anyone trying a burr turning is don’t be put off by what may look an uninteresting piece of wood. Mount it  safely using tailstock support for as long as possible & of course, use all appropriate PPE.

Remember, sometimes less is more!

During the 2012 Olympics I volunteered as a coastal ranger along part of the Dorset coast and part of the role was to clear litter and other ‘rubbish’. An old oak fence post and parts of an oak gate fell into the latter category so these were cleared to my woodshed.

As we all know oak is exceptionally durable and although the outside of the post might show lots of signs of weathering (especially where the posts have been subject to winter storms and salt water), the inside can be as good as new. These posts were no exception and the title of Simplicity for this Show and Tell led me to make a series of bud vases.

I managed to get five blanks from the two- and half-inch square post each being five and a half inches long – enough length to hold the 5inch test tubes. The base of this blank was prepared with a short 20mm hole drilled off centre in the base as method of holding the wood in the chuck. A 16mm drill was used to drill through the length of the blank to hold the 5inch long test tube. Because this blank was being shaped off centre the tailstock was brought into play with live revolving centre. 

A 3/8 spindle gouge was used to cut the shape of the neck and then various grades of abrasive before applying a finish of sanding sealer and wax. No finish has been applied to the original parts of the post.
I love the way the oak on the inside of this bit of old post is as good as the day it was cut from the tree and its always good to be able to recycle some ‘rubbish’!
Steven Fearnley
This trio of tea light holders I feel fit the description of simplicity in turning. The whole emphasis of the pieces is in their shape and form, and their relationship to each other. No beads, no colouring, no texturing. Just form.

The holders are all made from a single branch of yew, just over 12 inches long, with a very even diameter. Some serendipity in the balance of creamy sapwood and darker heartwood has allowed a very pleasing natural patterning, just slightly suggestive of wax dripping down a candle. I have tried to reproduce the effect with other yew branches, but bark inclusions and non-circular cross-sections have resulted in a different effect, less satisfactory in my view.

Sizes are 5”, 4” and 3” tall, and 2 ½ “ diameter at the base. They were turned on a spigot, with a recess to hold a tea light at the top. This then served to hold the candles when reversed (with very light pressure so as not to crack the thin wall), together with support from the tailstock until only a small nib remained, while the spigot was removed.

The holders were given a coat of cellulose sanding sealer, then finished with three coats of wax – Tripoli, white diamond, and finally carnauba. All applied using the Beall three-mop buffing system. This leaves a high sheen finish.
I only use colouring and texture rarely and sparingly, and over the years have reduced the ornamentation on pieces I make, though I do like small coves, beads and fillets to set pieces off when appropriate. I remember Mark Baker often talking about form, small variations in curvature and proportion being so important to the “right look” of a piece. 

Simplicity is well worth pursuing.

Ken Webb

Most of my spindle turning starts with a square section of timber that is turned to a cylinder using a roughing gouge. The shavings from the square corners very quickly make a pile on the floor, or as my grandchildren say “Granddad is making hamster beds again”. I have often wondered what could be obtained if some of the square corners were not removed and left to form part of the finished piece. So the idea of a goblet with a square ring section was born, this is now my entry to ‘Show and Tell’ and how it was achieved.

I used a block of sycamore 4.25 inches square x 6 inches long mounted on my Apollo Woodpecker lathe using a steb centre drive at the headstock and a steb centre in a revolving centre at the tailstock after carefully identifying the centres using the diagonal cross points. The block was then turned to a cylinder while leaving a 0.75 inch square section 2.5 to 3.25 inches from the headstock end. Next a 0.5 inch spigot 2 inches in diameter was turned at

each end to enable remounting in my Nova scroll chuck. Choosing which end was going to be the top of the goblet the work piece was mounted in the chuck, again using the tailstock steb centre mark to ensure true centring.

The base of the goblet with the square part slightly curved upwards was turned ensuring crisp detail to all sections. The base was then partially

parted 2 inches from the square detail. The work piece was reversed in the chuck, again using the steb centre mark to ensure true centring. The outside of the goblet was turned ensuring it matched the part below the square section and the square part turned to follow the curve turned previously. The goblet’s bowl hollowed, insuring the goblet wall width and the square

section was the same. Sanding, sealing and waxing were now completed with frequent counts of my fingers as the flying corners are quite capable of removing one or two. The goblet was again reverse chucked using a jam chuck this time and the steb mark for true running. (I really must get a proper set of bowl reversing jaws).

The final parting of the base and the detail added to the base finalised and finishing completed. The finished goblet is 4 inches high and 4.25 inches along the square edge. The crisp detail was obtained by using a solid 6mm HSS bar with a long fingernail grind.

An interesting project that I hope will be tried by many people.

Ewan Dorward
My entry is made of wood from the log pile- an unknown type of wood log (ash?) for the end grain dish and the vase was made a little while ago from a half dead broom bush from my Granny’s garden which happened to have beautiful grain and colours hidden within.
Happy birthday me! I’m 15 and so’s my dish – it has 15 growth rings in it. My birthday is in July which gave me the idea to turn the dish end grain rather than the usual side grain. This is the second time I have made a container end grain. The first end grain thing I made was a lidded pot with straight sides so this is my first dish. I just held the log in a chuck and turned it round with the tail stock brought up. I shaped the inside first so I could feel how deep it was and the outside afterwards, deciding on a flat bottomed profile. I used a planing cut with the skew chisel as far as I could on the outside of the dish to give a smooth finish. I finished it with friction polish.
It is about the same size as a pinch pot (about 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall) and my mum says it is perfect for her earrings. The vase is made from the stem of a Broom bush, but according to the rings it’s about 40! I made a series of these little vases at Christmas from  various bits of wood. This is no.3 and the one we kept – it is 3 inches tall. It did have tinges of purple and orange when just made but these have all disappeared, I don’t know why though because it doesn’t sit in the sun.
After shaping the outside, I drilled a hole down the centre on the lathe then held it by the small waste block in the chuck to shape the inside at the top. It is not as shiny as the pot as I finished it with the only thing I had at the time which was two coats of satin hardwax oil.
I had no idea that such beautiful colours and patterns could be found in an ordinary garden plant.

Roger Groom

One of the turners who I have always admired is the late and great Bert Marsh. His work is admired and replicated world wide. I say replicated but very few actually achieve the form and quality of work that he did, including myself.  However this is my attempt to try. It is a piece of Walnut from a tree which I cut down and converted using an Alaskan Mill.

The blank, from one of the slabs, was placed on the lathe using a screw chuck to rough turn the outside shape, a spigot was cut just slightly bigger than the optimum diameter to allow for reshaping on final turning. The piece was reversed and the inside taken out leaving a wall thickness of about 1/2″. I then placed the rough turned bowl into my mini-kiln, which is basically an insulated box with a thermostated light bulb, which I used to use for brewing wine. It was left for about 3 weeks, being weighed every couple of days until the weight did not change.

It was now ready to be put back on the lathe to finish turn. With the rim placed against a faceplate and the tailstock pressing against the centre point, the spigot was resized to optimum size for my chuck, and the outside reshaped to an ogee shape and sanded to a fine finish.

The bowl was then reversed into the chuck and the inside turned out to follow the outside shape, leaving it slightly thicker at the base. Sanding followed once again to a fine finish and then the bowl was once again placed against a protected faceplate and the spigot turned into a small foot.

I always do my finishing off the lathe and this piece was finished with 4 coats of Rustins Danish Oil, cut back between each coat with Webrax. The wall thickness is about 3mm. Nowhere near as good as one of Bert’s, but my attempt nevertheless.

Graham Brooks

I decided to submit a recently turned bowl which was turned on two axis for this month’s submission.
The overall diameter is 300mm and the depth is 60mm. The internal diameter of the offset bowl is 150mm.
The bowl was turned from sycamore which shows signs of ageing. The finish is microcrystalline wax over sanding sealer.
The bowl was turned on a faceplate in a multi axis chuck. The main problem was having sufficient lathe speed without excessive vibration. An additional in progress picture is included which indicates the offset and hence out of balance.

Peter Jackson

Early in the year I was very generously given a couple of yew logs from a friend’s woodpile. The wood was very recently felled so I decided to try and turn one of them straight away and leave the other to dry for a while. The size of the log that I chose lended itself to a simple vase shape with the middle of the vase being the greater diameter.  As the pith of the log was fairly central I was hoping to be able to get the pale sapwood right around the diameter.

I started by turning the log to round centred on the pith and turned a tenon on one end. Once the piece was in the chuck I started to shape the outside with my usual 3/8” bowl gouge. At this stage I found the wood to be very wet so once the outside was shaped satisfactorily I drilled out the centre of the piece and continued to hollow it out with various tools. Once this was finished I sanded the piece inside and out. While the piece was now fairly dry I decided to leave it for a time before final finishing. Of course a couple of small cracks appeared so these had to be filled and sanded back. (CA and yew dust). The vase was then finished outside and in with two coats of Chestnut hard wax oil. You can see the result in the photos. The final dimensions are 130mm diameter and 206mm height.

I have turned a lot of yew during my woodturning journey without ever feeling any effects although none of it has possibly been as wet as this piece was. So it was a bit concerning the day after I turned the piece that I felt a bit queasy and generally not well. Was it coincidence or was it perhaps the toxins in the yew having an effect? I don’t know.  I have met a few people who have had side effects after turning yew so it may have been.  I always wear respiratory protection but in this case it is possible that the excessive moisture in the yew either affected exposed skin or minute droplets penetrated the respiratory filters. Fortunately I recovered quickly after a day or so but the other piece of yew is still drying!

A recent article in the Woodturning magazine by Andy Coates (issue 354) highlighted the risks of using green yew. One pertinent fact was that the taxines (the poison!) are in highest concentrations during winter which is when the tree where my logs came from was felled. The long and the short of it all is that I will not stop turning yew but I will take more care with my PPE and not just while turning, you have to clear up aswell!