As predicted by a comment from George on my last post but one, I have been neglecting regular woodworking of late in favour of my new toy.
Many moons ago I had need of some handles for a turning saw I was making and, as I did not have a lathe, I had to improvise. The job got done, albeit imperfectly, but I was hooked on the idea of one day owning a proper lathe.
Unfortunately, secondhand lathes are as rare as hen’s teeth around these parts, so whilst I waited for one to turn up I joined my local woodturning group. This group is a very agreeable bunch of men and ladies that meet once a month to exchange ideas and techniques and to support, encourage and advise new turners such as myself. There are a number of club lathes available to practice with during the session and usually one of the more experienced members will demonstrate a project or two during the evening.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, shortly after my first woodturning meeting, I found a chap who was selling his turning gear, lock stock and barrel: variable speed lathe, C jaw chuck, freshly sharpened tools, face mask and respirator, and many many wood blanks. I went to his house, made the deal and a few minutes later he was helping me secure the lathe in the back of my van. The next day, when I returned his rope, he gave me another load of wood, including some old gun stocks. He was a thoroughly nice chap.
Anyway, back at the workshop, I installed the lathe and made some shavings turning some practice pieces. After a while, I bit the bullet and turned my first proper item – a rather amateurish looking honey dipper. unfortunately, by then my tools needed sharpening again, and I hadn’t yet managed to set up a suitable sharpening system.
The bevels required for usable bowl gouges and spindle gouges are a tad beyond my capabilities for freehand sharpening, and so I had done some research about the right sort of grinder and jigs. There are slow speed wet grinders on the market but they are well out of my price range. However, it turned out that a decent sized bench grinder with the right sort of wheel and jigs is more than up to the task.
I settled upon a reasonably priced 8″ Record Power grinder with a 40mm wide white wheel, but unfortunately this was promptly wrapped up and put under the Christmas tree, so I would have to wait untill Boxing day before I could try it out! While I waited, I enlisted the help of my Dad who, being much more proficient in metalworking that I, was tasked with putting together a couple of support arms and a jig that would clamp onto the various tools.
In the meantime, I had promised the chap who sold me the lathe that I would turn him a handle for his wife’s weeding fork. He had promised to do this for her a long time ago, but had only got as far and loading the blank between centres, and it was his lack of enthusiasm on this score that had contributed to his decision to sell his lathe in the first place. Luckily, a fellow from the woodturning group agreed to sharpen my tools for me and I was able to deliver the handle in time for Christmas.
Christmas came and went, and I finally got my hands on my new grinder. Dad came through with the jig as well. He really went to town with the jig, turning it on his metal working lathe from aluminium (the main body), steel (the arm and clamping bolts) and brass (for the tommy bars and clamp ends). It works a treat. By adjusting the length of the support arm and the amount of tool protruding from the jig, virtually any angle can be matched, and swept back wings on the gouges can be accomplished so as to avoid catches, as this YouTube video demonstrates.
Just after Christmas, Goatgirl commissioned a pair of candlesticks, which I turned from laminated cherry and walnut. There is a steeper learning curve than I expected to this turning business, but it is a very enjoyable pastime, so practicing won’t be a chore. I dare say I will get to my new workbench in due course, but the novelty might have to wear off a bit first.