February 13, 2018

Colouring Wood

Filed under: Art, Silver Maple, Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 12:41 pm

I know it’s probably been done to death but here is how I add color and pop to some of my wood turning.
I first start by turning to shape and sanding to about 220.

This piece is destined to have some sort of blow paint applied after the dye and then a shallow bowl turned in the center. I want a dark green for this piece.

Next I apply black Leather Dye.

Once this is dry I then sand it back quite aggressively with 220 grit.

At this point the piece could be complete. Ed Pretty from my Guild has finished at this stage and the piece was wonderful. I plan to go further and on this piece I wanted a little more black so another coat of the Leather Dye.

This is again aggressively sanded back.

I like this better and stopped  here. While most people seem at this point to go with the darker color I sometimes go light first and then the dark. In this case, Yellow and then Blue for the dark green I’m after.

Sanded back again but less aggressively leaving quite a lot of the yellow showing. I then applied the dark blue dye.

Doesn’t look like too much here but after a very light sanding with 400 here is what I have. A Hair dryer is sometimes used at various stages to hurry the project along.

A couple of coats of sanding sealer with light sanding in between.

Then on to my finishing turntable and a few coats of clear lacquer.

Now all it needs is the blow paint. I’m thinking gold iridescent but I might add a little yellow. Sorry no finished piece yet because I am in Hawaii and this piece will have to wait another week or so for me to get to it. I’ll add photos of the finished piece as soon as I have it done.


February 6, 2018

Horizontal spinner for wood art

Filed under: Art, Silver Maple, Tools, Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 7:04 pm

Ok, starting over, yesterday I  began this blog and something went wrong I lost the last half of my text and all my photos . . . . . . .

Greetings again from Kauai. Today we did manage to see and sit in the sun for about 2 hours, now that’s progress.

Wow, two blogs in two days (or three now) I often don’t do two in a year!

Killing time during another rain storm and waiting for spuds to cook on the BBQ.

Todays topic has been rattling around in my head for more than a year. Some time ago I decided I wanted to be able to mount finished or partially finished items on a horizontal speed controlled turntable. This I felt would allow me to add color in a more controlled manner than when I do this on the lathe with the wood vertical. I wanted a device that would spin horizontally, be easy to adjust it’s spin speed, be reversible, be cheap and dependable. This is a photo of my first attempt. I’m utilizing a small chuck I use on my mini because it is easy to get threads to match from readily available bolts and threaded rod not like the M33 on my oneway.


I started out thinking that I could use a fan motor and have collected a number of them over time but it soon became apparent that they were not as powerful or controllable as I wanted, primarily because they are not ‘brush’ type motors. I then switched my focus to an overhead fan. Knowing that people remove and replace them occasionally I advertised locally for a free used one but had no luck. There were a few that came available for a small cash outlay but being the cheap guy I am I stuck to my guns and decided not to pay for something I wasn’t certain would work for me.

In the end this all worked out for the best. I am known to peruse and buy on line from several local auctions and wound up with a “tool lot” that had an old beat up cord shredded 1/2″ drill. Ok, this should work fine, it was cheap, easy to control speed (brush type motor), reversible and top speed was about 1000 rpm.

I changed my mind about mounting the a lathe chuck directly on a motor as I did with the fan motors and instead decided to use an old Pillow block I had laying around. I took a section of 1″ 8 TPI threaded rod and turned it to fit thought the bearings of the pillow block on my small metal lathe. I turned a short section on one end to 1/2″ so it would be easily gripped by the drill. I then mounted it to a section of plywood and discovered that with a small piece of rubber under the drill it lined up perfectly with the 1/2″ end of the shaft. As can be seen below this tool will now function as a lathe as well should I want to spin wood while finishing it or ????

By mounting it on the edge of my heavy bench I thought it just might be able to take the shake it might get if the turned piece wasn’t quite balanced. Much to my surprise it spins with hardly a shake.

For now I am just clamping it to the work bench but soon will add some sort of fastening system. As you can see from the photo I utilized a dimmer switch in the supply line to the drill but soon discovered that I needed to be able to control the speed from above the table.

I now have a plug, on/off switch and the dimmer on long leads, these boxes are held together with a couple of magnets which allows me to separate them for storage.

Ok all works great but the dimmer I have, has the off position next to high speed and so I added an on off switch to the plug in box. The only really remaining issue is that I may want to move the reversing switch from the drill handle to the top with the rest of the controls. For now I simply use a small clamp to hold the drill switch in the full on position, and when I want to change the direction of rotation I have to remove the clamp, slide the reversing switch on the drill to the other position and re-clamp the drill switch. When I need to reverse the direction it is never in a situation where it has to happen quickly so this set up may continue to work.

Here’s a shot of my first piece with just a piece of cardboard as a table, I have since added a piece of MDF that screws to my bench top giving me a much more stable work space.

To control the paint/dye splatter I simply cut a couple of slots in a scrap piece of wood and bend a section of plastic laminate into the slots. Easily taken apart for storage. The photo below shows my first try at this when I was working with the fan motor above the bench top. I now have done away with the legs which are redundant.

Here are a few of my first attempts. I don’t consider anything I do a failure just an opportunity to learn. The photo of the unpainted/dyed silver maple was just that. It was easy to remove the unsightly dye and start over.

I am most interested in the ability to have the paint/dye move from the center or other locations in curved line.


February 4, 2018

Buffer for Wood Art

Filed under: Tools, Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , — peteblair @ 1:22 pm

I am sitting in Kauai waiting for the rain to stop. I know, poor me, right? At any rate, I thought this would be good time to let anyone who is interested know what I have made to buff my wood art.

I should start by saying my journey started with the Beale Wood Buffing System. That’s the one with the three 8″ buffing wheels. It works like a charm but for me the closeness of the wheels to each other and the fact that I had to use my lathe made the system somewhat less than ideal. I do however continue to use the Beal Balls to do the inside of bowls, this I now do very infrequently.

I often watch local Auctions and saw a really nice two wheel buffer for sale. It had 2 12″ wheels, a 5 hp motor all on a stand etc.  I just had to have it. It was ok except for the fact that the buffing wheels were meant for metal or something and were sewn together in a spiral patters. I took a sharp knife and removed most to the sewing to make them a little softer. As you an see from this photo I had to make a few  modification. The wheels were set up to be in the center of the stand which wouldn’t allow me to access the buffing wheels as much as I needed. Another issue was the the motor needed to be physically moved to a different location any time I wanted to change the speed.

This buffer had 3 step pullys which did allow me with a little fussing to get a speed that worked. The problem was that the stand and set-up was just a little big for the space I have in my shop so I advertised and sold it locally. In retrospect I probably should have kept the parts and junked the stand but that’s water under the bridge.

I kept watching auctions and soon located a older but still very nice long shaft Baldor buffer. Got it home, set it up with my existing wheels but quickly discovered that the 3350 rpm speed was way too fast. I did a lot of research on the net to try to find a way to slow this puppy down without success. I must admit what with the technology available today that no-one (read here the Chinese) have not come up with a cheap speed reducer for a 110 brushless motor.  So once again this one went on the market and was grabbed right away. Oh, in the background you can see the Danish built bench grinder I also got at another auction. I didn’t even know it was included as it was hidden in the bottom of a metal cabinet I bought. Adding to that I didn’t know the Danes made stuff like this but it is a gem! Quiet, powerful and runs as true as any bench grinder I have see.

Before selling the Baldor I had decided that what I need to do was to build my own. Over the past many years I have collected quite a few bits and pieces of tooling and felt confident that with a small outlay of cash for a few items I would have no trouble making exactly what I need.

I should mention that while I had the Baldor I made 3 attachments one for each of the three buffing compounds I use Brown (tripoli), White (rouge) and Wax (carnauba). To make these I simply cut the heads off of 3 3/4″ bolts. I think I use 4″ bolts. I then drilled a 1/2″ hole it the end without the threads and drilled and tapped for a set screw to hold them in place on the motor shaft. By adding two nuts and washer I had easily replaceable arbours for my buffing wheels. I knew that my next model needed to be able to utilize these pieces.

On to the build. From Princess Auto I purchased two 1/2″ pillow blocks and a 5′ section of 1/2″ steel rod. I already had the bench, I wanted to share with the Bench Grinder so all that was left was to put a motor on the lower shelf, cut a slot for a V-belt and mount a length of 1/2″ shaft and the pillow blocks. I had a motor (1725 rpm) I had saved from a clothes dryer and also had a couple of 1/2″ pulleys. I didn’t take a photo but I do keep all three buffing heads in plastic bags to ensure I don’t add bits of metal or other items that might scratch my turnings. I raised the pillow blocks to get a more comfortable height for me and hinged the motor to allow it weight to tension the belt automatically. The pulleys are the same diameter providing me 1725 rpm but should I find the need to change speeds a simple pulley switch will do the trick.

Please don’t hesitate to ask or make suggestions for future posts or to comment on this one.

May 20, 2017

Inspiration is where you find it

I am lucky that I seem to be able to find inspiration for my art everywhere I look but lately I have been trying to use nature’s beauty to embellish my work. It all started last fall while I was exchanging some pieces with the Kizmit Gallery in Fort Langley I noticed that there were some fabric scarves on which an artist (whose name slipped my mind) was using leaves and flowers to enhance her pieces. I was so impressed that I wondered why no one in my art space was doing the same thing. And so it began. I immediately started experimenting with methods to transfer vegetation patterns to wood.
I was lucky enough to have been given quite a large quantity of Silver Maple that for the most part is very light in color and has little character. This of course means I get to add my own embellishment.
Fall in BC provides a multitude of natural color options and I began by trying to ‘pound’ leaves from a small maple tree onto some of my work with limited success. Firstly, the wood I was using was not as light as I would like but non-the-less I was encouraged that I was able to get some crude patterns and colors onto a few pieces.
Recently I have made some inroads and am becoming, at least in my mind, a little bit better at getting a reasonable likeness onto wood.

I use a multitude of aids, mostly various types of paper, from wax to paper bags both brown and white, copy paper and paper towels depending on how ‘damp’ the petal is. Sometimes I get a better transfer to the paper than I do to the wood. I’m sure I haven’t exhausted all paper options but for now I seem able to get a reasonable transfer.
I use a small hammer I purchased from Lee Valley which I believe is Japanese and has on one end a slightly semi-rounded face, which seems to work about the best for me. I have tried tapping and rubbing with steel ball bearings of various sizes, rubbing with a short section of smooth drill rod and I continue to experiment.
Here is a shot of the items that I am currently experimenting with.

The process begins by turning a piece of wood with little color and grain. I think a cup or vase shape works best. I have found that if I leave the hollowing for later it is easier for me to do the transferring on a mostly solid piece of wood. I did discover that the surface that works best for me is one that is convex. I generally sand to about 800 but have had some success with 400 as well. After my recent experiments where I tested on wood from straight from a skew to 600 grit I believe better detail is achieved on the more highly sanded wood.
Next I choose a flower petal or petals, so far, Pansies have worked the best particularly dark ones with lighter highlights.

The process is fairly simple, I place the petal or petal cluster on the object where I think it will look the best. If care is taken a small piece of masking tape on a stem might secure the petal. I then carefully cover it with whichever paper I have chosen, wrapping it around the piece and holding the ends of the paper tightly with my fingers without any wrinkles. Masking tape might work to hold the paper here as well.

Now comes the difficulty/exciting part. With the small hammer or other tool, gently tap tap tap the petal trying not to pound too hard while still tapping all parts of the flower. It is easy to pound too hard and wind up with a sort of mushy mess. In the end, the petal or flower part is stuck to the turning and I gently pick it off with a pair of fine tweezers.

Sometimes it doesn’t all come away cleanly, in those cases I don’t scrape it with the tweezers I just leave it to dry and then gently rub it off with a finger or paper towel.

I would still like to be able to add leaves etc. but to date have had little success. I think this is mainly because leaves are too moist. I am presently experimenting with drying them a little in a microwave or just letting them sit for a while before using them but with little success.

If you decide to try this technique please let me know about your successes and failures.

A good way to test this process is to turn a cylinder of the same or a similar wood to that on which you want to transfer and do tests on it. Take notes and then you can later refer to this sampler.

It is quite easy to re-sand and start over and I’m certain that you will have quite a few failures. Keep notes with details such as time of year what wood and which paper you used especially for the times when you are able to get it just right.

Here is a shot of the ‘aftermath’ of my experiments yesterday. I did get some good results and after I let out Pansies produce few more flowers I will be ‘imprinting’ on a few more pieces.

Incidentally, last fall I discovered that I had to hit the item a lot harder to get it to transfer than I am doing this spring. I suppose the colors have set or at least have lost some of their moisture.


February 16, 2017

To Brand or not to Brand

Filed under: Art, Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 7:49 pm

I wonder how many other artists have wondered if a ‘brand’ might be a good idea? I know there are a lot of Artists whose work can easily be identified but for artists like myself this is a real long-shot!
I really like to identify my art with my name and a number. The number primarily for me to keep track of where my art winds up and to be able to keep a data base of information.
The problem for me was that on occasion I make smaller things to sell and often don’t have the inclination or space to actually sign them.
For about the last 2 years I have been adding a ‘brand’ it is a stylized icon combining my first and last initials. P and B. i have been burning my ‘brand’ with a pyrography pen which is a real pain if I am ‘branding’ 20 or 30 items at a time!
Here is a shot of the ‘brand’ I just bought on line. I was able to purchase just the branding end as I already have a Weller soldering iron I wanted to use.
I am now using on all my art work. I still sign my better pieces, and add the brand, but for craft type items I can now brand a bunch in a very short time.


February 10, 2017

Cut and Paste

Filed under: Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 6:42 am

This is part of another piece that I can’t seem to get finished. I needed, I thought to post them here so I could use the photos on a turning site but I can’t get it to work. At any rate, the first shot is the sail which I cut from a platter of Horse Chestnut the other photos are the sail boat assembled. The hull started out life as a bowl from the same wood, all of which I was given by John Spitters, the end grain was so punky I was unable to cut it cleanly so I removed it and glued the two remaining sides together for the hull. Hopefully, one day I will get my act together and finish the piece.

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June 30, 2016

Wooden Rings

I have been watching with some interest individuals on the net especially on Instagram who make wooden rings.
I am not much of a jewellery person but I thought I’d like to learn to make wooden rings from woods I have in my shop.
I soon learned that solid wood rings are not really the way to go because of grain issues which make rings made this way quite fragile. I noticed some people adding a thin lining of antler and because I had a chunk of old moose antler laying around I thought why not.
My first four attempts were with an outer ring of solid Desert Ironwood with a moose antler lining. They are a little big and are not that comfortable, but wearable.
Next I thought I should try ‘bent wood’ rings. I have a large pile of veneer laying around from a previous idea and thought I would give them a try but all the boiling and mico-waving etc. etc. I soon gave up on that idea.
The next method I decided on was ‘bent wood’ rings made from shavings or curlies that are cut from a suitable piece of wood with a sharp wood plane. These are just outright fun to make. I have now settled on this process and am really enjoying the exercise.
Here is a photo of the strips I am using.


And a shot of the ‘pink’ one I made for my Grand daughter!


Lastly, three rings, the left one is one I made for myself with Desert Ironwood c/w a moose antler liner. The middle ring is a ‘tie dyed’ one that currently lives in my lovely wife’s jewellery box, when she isn’t wearing it and the right one is similar to the first only much larger (although unfinished in this photo it is now done) which I made for, and gave to my son today!!

If anyone is interested in the process I will be adding another blog with photo’s of the process I use.


February 16, 2016

Pro-forme Hollowing tool

Last week while I was hollowing an 8″ tall cup form I decided it was past time that I tried the Pro-Forme Hollowing tool that I bought about 5 years ago.


It has been sitting mixed in with the rest of my hollowing tools and every once in a while I would take the plastic cover off of it and then put it back. I had read that it was especially nice in end grain and even better if the wood is green. Today was the day for a trial. I put it in my Kobra Hollower, but before I started to hollow I drilled a hole with one of my modified spade bits to the depth I wanted to go. The Pro-Forme was set at the factory and worked like a charm. With practice I’m certain I could get as good or better finish inside than is possible with a scraper. I did notice that as I got beyond about 6″ the 1/2″ bar I experienced a little vibration but I was able to go the full 8″.
Thinking about how much I liked the way the tool worked and seeing that I had a spare cutter I felt I should do something to help with deeper hollowing. My first thought was to ask a friend of mine if he could make me a 1″ bar with the end modified to fit the Pro-Forme but this of course required me to buy a 1″ polished steel bar and seemed like it might be more work than it was worth.
I realized I already had a 1″ bar for my Kobra and all I needed was a short extension that could be installed in that bar to which I could attach the Proforma.
Luckily I have a few pieces of drill rod hanging around my shop and was able to find a 2 1/2″ long piece of 1/2″.

I clamped it in a vise and proceeded to notch it out with a zip cut blade my cordless grinder.


After some grinding, polishing and filing I completed the adaptor and hopefully can now go up to about 14″ deep.


February 8, 2016

Which came first?

This question has been asked about the chicken and the egg for a long, long time. I think I finally have the solution.

If you have followed my blog at all, you will know that I really appreciate the art and turning skill of Betty Scarpino. I sat in on a wonderful all day Demo of hers and the next day was lucky enough to spend the day in a workshop with her as well.

Betty informed us that during the workshop we would be making and egg which would be finished with Liming wax, a pod and a candlestick holder.

After watching her demo I had a hard time sleeping that night as I was determined to use some or all of her ideas but bring my own slant to them. After all, I sure didn’t want to do a Scarpino, because no one could do one as good as she.

Sometime during the night I came up with a plan.

I would make an egg as per her suggestions and make a pod but my pod would be turned with more than two centres and would house the egg.

A little head scratching during the work shop but in the end I came up with this piece.

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The pod is maple, turned and hollowed wet. I finished it with a light coat of yellow glue and wood filler to give it some texture. Usually we texture by taking material away but a fantastic turner by the name of John Keeton suggested that I should try adding texture instead. The feel of the pod is really interesting, what a great idea John. Then with acrylics I painted the inside, added the branch from my driftwood collection and put the egg inside.

My solution to the age old problem is, the egg came first, it came from a pod . . .


Thanks Betty!

December 17, 2015

Seed pods

Filed under: Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 4:01 pm

After spending some time in the presence of a really wonderful person and great turner
Betty Scarpino. I decided to try my hand at making seed pods.

Here are a couple of pictures of one I made in which I found a stowaway!!



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