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 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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January 23, 2017

Freeze Drying Wood

Filed under: Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , — peteblair @ 4:49 pm

I know this will not put all the questions about this method of drying wood to bed but I may answer a few of the questions.
My wife decided that she would rather have an extra refrigerator than an extra freezer. So I was charged with emptying the wood I have been storing out of the freezer.

I am not really good at keeping notes and as I age my memory hasn’t seemed to improve and as a result I am guessing about the length of time the wood has been in the freezer. There are lots of different sized pieces of Vine Maple, Big Leaf Maple and Cherry. The best I can do is to say that all pieces have been frozen for at least 3 years and I suspect more like 5 years.

I have 2 x 2 spindle blanks, large cut pieces about 8 or 10 wide by 8 to 14 inches long. In addition I stuck a few uncut pieces of the main trunk of a vine maple.

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I do need to qualify that a year ago we had a mishap and the freezer was unplugged for a week in which we lost a lot of frozen fish.

Some of the pieces of wood were actually frozen in the bottom of the freezer in the water from the mishap. Some pieces seem to have spalted during their time in the freezer.

I moved all the pieces out of the freezer to begin to thaw. It should be noted that the weather in here has been cool from about 0 and night to 8 or 10 during the day.

Removing the wood from the freezer the only checking I saw was in two of the larger blanks where the wood in two blocks has split on the annual rings. img_3570Absolutely no checking was seen on the ends of any of the whole log sections, these all still have bark on them.

Today I took a number of the spindle blanks and turned them round. I coated half of the rounds with Anchor seal, at the same time I coated about half the rest as well.

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Time will tell if either the coated or untreated will check and/or crack.

I did notice when turning the spindle blanks that the wood while still partly frozen seemed quite dry and the curlies felt dry. Quite unlike some other wood that I have been turning that was cut recently and frozen as a result of our cold spell. That wood all felt wet and the curlies did as well.

I am keeping most of the wood outside on a concrete pad, sitting on some cedar strips under a tarp.

Tomorrow I will bring a couple of pieces into my shop and weight them to allow me to judge exactly how dry they are after the freezer treatment.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave me a note.

I have since turned and finished two of the pieces from he bottom of the freezer. These both have lots of salting. I noticed they were VERY hard, such harder than any spalted maple I have ever turned. The were absolutely dry as a matter of fact they were so dry it was difficult to turn them without a very sharp gouge and very light cuts.

I have lots more to turn but believe the freezer dying, if the wood is left in it long enough is a very good way to dry wood.

November 23, 2016

Coring Silver Maple

Filed under: Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 4:10 pm

I have been really lax and haven’t blogged in a very long time and it’s about time I got back to it.
A few weeks ago a friend let me know that he was having a huge Silver Maple removed from his yard and told me I could have as much of it as I wanted. Oh boy! problem was I had just had a hernia repaired and was out of commission for several more weeks. Luckily for me I have some good friends and a strong young and willing grandson who were able to cut the large pieces into small enough chunks that they could load in my trailer.


As I began to feel better and after a talk with my surgeon who said I was able to begin lifting and with the help of my wife I was able to slide the pieces one at a time, a few a day, onto a furniture dolly and push it into my shop where I was able to cut them into more suitable pieces with my faithful electric Poulain chain saw.

After they were cut we moved them with another dolly to the back of our yard where I coated the ends with Anchor Seal and covered them with a tarp.


This past Monday I brought one of the larger sections into the shop and prepared it to be cored by cutting it mostly round on my band saw.




Next it was mounted on my lathe and I began to core.


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I was able to get four bowls from this blank.

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Coring is the process by which little wood is wasted as the center of each bowl produces a smaller bowl. If the wood is dry more bowls can be cut, but because this wood is wet I have to leave them thicker to allow me to turn them to final thickness when the are dry.

I am now in the process of Microwave drying them, the biggest is 12″ in diameter and will be a great salad bowl.
Upon coring them I discovered a small amount of ‘birds eye’ which is most predominant on the second largest bowl.

March 6, 2016

Oneway Easy Core Laser aid

I have and love my Oneway Easy Core System. Before I purchased it I watched a video on the Oneway website which really got me going in the right direction and help me decide this was the coring system I wanted.
In the video were instructions to make several spacers that enable the user to position the cutter appropriately for whichever set of knives were being used.
I made dutifully made the spacers

IMG_2228and labeled them although they worked as advertized they never really worked as well has I had hoped, primarily because I often use different chucks and sometimes want to position the cutters off center.

Whenever I would use a different chuck or a different location for the cutter I was mostly guessing what the core would look like and exactly how thick the bottom would be.

At first I would position the system where I thought it should be and by holding the cutter over top of my wood, sort of swing it back and forth and look down from the top to try to guess what I would wind up with.

Next I made a pointed stick with a metal rod attached that I could position over the cutter and adjust it for each size of cutter. This actually gave me a better idea of where the cutter would cut, but still not quite what I was looking for.

I soon realized that I wanted a better ‘mouse trap” and realizing that I could easily adapt the laser from my Kobra Hollower to accurately position the cutter without the concern that I might cut too thin a bottom or even go through and hit my chuck.

Here is a photo of the set-up I am now using, it’s fantastic! Quick to set-up and adjust no matter which size cutter I’m using or how I have the blank mounted.


I simply measured from the center of the pivot to the outside edge of the cutter and scribed these distances on the arm of my Laser. I have the three smallest cutters. Measured from the center of the pivot to the outside edge of the cutter they measure 5″ – 6 1/8″ – and 7 7/16″.



I am lucky that I use a 1″ threaded bar to adjust a router table when I use it on my oneway and was able to utilize it on the end of my Kobra Laser.


While taking these photos I thought why don’t I also do a mock-up that could be utilized  by turners who either don’t have the same laser set-up I do or don’t already have a laser.

Here is a similar design that anyone with the Onway Coring System can easily make and use to take all the guess work out of the process.


If you decide to make this tool, don’t forget to make the upright long enough for the biggest bowl that you can turn on your lathe.

Here are the components. First the bar to hold the laser and enable it to be adjusted for each cutter. I left mine a little long just in case I ever get a larger lathe. I drilled a hole for my laser a little smaller than it’s diameter, cut a slot with a hole at the end to allow the bar to open and gently pinch the laser. I then drilled holes for a screw to allow for the adjustment for each cutter as described above.


These are all the components. I suggest that if you are following this design you fill the hole in the end of the upright with superglue to strengthen it(don’t insert the screw until the glue has hardened the wood around the hole). This will allow you to use it many times without stripping the screw hole.

IMG_2225In use, both designs work wonderfully. Here are a few photos of them in action.

One other major advantage of this design is that if a blank has bark or a natural edge it is easy to see exactly where the cutter will cut relative to that.


January 11, 2016


Filed under: Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , — peteblair @ 7:13 am

I’m trying to find a method by which I can turn a complete spoon on my lathe. presently I am turning the shaft and outside of the bowl but can’t get my head around where centres need to be to allow me to turn the inside of the bowl in spindle orientation.


Here’s a shot of a couple of spoons I am working on. Right now I use a Foredom and course burrs and sandpaper to finish the bowl but it is sooo dusty and a pain I really want to find another way. I do have a router setup for my lathe and wonder if that might be the way to go . . .

June 28, 2014


The continuing saga of my path to discover an ‘easy’ way to sand the inside of hollow forms.
If you read the previous post and are following along then here is the next edition.

I previously purchased a rock tumbler at a garage sale this is a much faster turning devise than either of the BBQ motors I was trying earlier.

With the increase in speed I can in two days get the same revolutions I was getting in 2 weeks. I do realize that at some point if it spins too fast the glass will just cling to the outer walls and not tumble or grind the inside of the hollow form as I intend to.

The rock tumbler uses a 1725 rpm motor connected to a 1.5″ dia pulley which is then connected with a vee belt to a 9″ pulley. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong but by my calculations this devise now spins my hollow forms at  287.5 RPM. I wondered if it might be too fast but I can hear the glass and marbles (yes I have included marbles this time around) sliding and grinding as it spins. I am certainly not a machinest and the part that is in between my chuck and the shaft of the pillow block is not a tight fit and as a result the chuck ‘wobbles’ a little which i believe may add to it’s ability to sand.

Here’s a shot of my ‘re-cobbled’ devise.


I tip it slightly toward the bottom and alternately the top in an attempt to get the glass and the marbles working more on the ends where the torn grain is. I try to tip it about about 2″ and run about half time with it tipped each way.

Here is a comparison shot of one piece before sanding and after about 300,000 rotations.


And a closeup of the one on the right.


I think you can see quite an improvement as far as sanding and removal of ridges goes but as you can see it hasn’t cleaned up the torn end grain.

If I was to do a finished Hollow form I would spend a little more time with my tools to try to minimize the torn grain prior to using my sanding devise.

Please feel free to email me if you have any comments or questions.

Great Store

Filed under: Art, Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 2:20 pm

I have just reached an agreement with Cathy Goodman to sell some of my pieces in her new store here in Ladner at the  “Muddy River Landing”.

She has a wonderful store offering BC Coastal Curios and Bling including lots of local artists work!

If you live in the lower mainland of BC and would like to see or purchase any of my work this would be a great place to see it first hand.
Cathy has also kindly offered to exibit some of my whimisical wooden walking sticks.

May 25, 2014

Darn Raven

Here is another piece of Yellow Cedar “Darn Raven”. The Raven is stealing the sun, again? I have included Cat Tails and Geese.
I now will refer to the influence as from the art of the indigenous people of the Pacific North West. This piece is also influenced by Douglas Fisher who turns ‘world quality’ pieces using similar techniques. Most of his pieces include an off centre and off access turning, both of which I included in this piece. Having said that his work is in another class all together!

I have used pyrography and wood dye to add the details.  This piece is about 11 3/4 ” diameter and 3/4″ thick. It was finished with several coats of rattle can lacquer.


I find Yellow cedar quite difficult to work with, it is somewhat soft and as such is susceptible to scratches and nicks while it is being detailed. All work as far as the tuning goes was with the usual wood turning tools but I plan to try to do some detailing with a router to see how that will work.

My work can also be seen at


April 28, 2014

Molly Winton’s Influence

Filed under: Art, Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 2:30 pm

I have become enamoured with turning miniature hollow vessels after the full day Workshop I took with Molly Winton, see earlier post. These very light, small turnings are textured with a burning pen similarly to how Molly does hers. I would be flattered if her influence can be seen in my work I just adore what she does.

I am not totally pleased with this piece but I do believe it is a good beginning. I plan to incorporate a more West Coast theme in my future work.

These are turned from green Cherry, about 2″ tall and 2″ wide with my rendition of Peace Doves flying around the top.

To view more of my work please visit my website woodbowlsandthings.com.

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