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.



November 11, 2017

Video Hollowing

Filed under: Wood Lathe — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 4:03 pm

I know that there are lots of turners who are either already hollowing using video of are thinking about trying this technique. This Blog is meant to be a jumping off spot for those who are still contemplating the process. It’s only the way I do it and not by any means a difinitive way to proceed. I do not plan to share the details of the equipment I use because there are so many choices and I purchased so many years ago the items may no longer be available.

As far as I can remember, the use of video in hollowing became known about 5 years ago when a world renown turner began demo’ing and selling his system.

For those of you how have been living in a cave or on another planet for the past 5 years the technique involves positioning a camera above the cutter and then drawing it’s outline on a sheet of mylar which then appears on the video screen when the cutter is actually in the form. I hope I have explained it well enough but please feel free to contact me should I be able to add anything or help you better understand the technique.

So about 5 years ago and being the cheap SOB that I am, I thought I could hack together my own system. I had an old MS laptop laying around and I had WIFI phones and cameras with the ability to connect to it, but, of course that wasn’t enough for me. I soon was scouring Amazon for cameras etc. I found a very cheap, new I was told, Colonoscope camera. I sure hope it was new!! It had it’s own light but the picture was a problem.
Anyway, to cut a long story a little shorter, I found that the Lap top was a pain to set up and take down and by the time I ran the software to get everything working I could have hollowed several vessels using my laser. In addition, the web WIFI cams all had a short ‘lag’ which drove me nuts!!  This led me to stop trying the process and continue my old ways using a laser.

I hadn’t totally given up though as I discovered that several turners were using Back-Up Automobile camera set-ups which included a small monitor and camera. Yep, a few were even shown with the lines to back between which I apparently were pretty easy to ignore when hollowing.
So of course, I had to try those as well and also found a really cheap video surveillance camera without the monitor and bought that too.

When the part arrived I took a quick look and with all the wires etc. it all seemed way too involved. I’d just rather be turning than messing with all those wires!!

It might be my age or ?? but I have a great deal of trouble remembering peoples names and the turner who demonstrated his video techniques at the last meeting of the Vancouver and District Wood Turners Guild has fallen into that category.
It’s too bad because it was his demo that got me thinking a little more about utilizing this technique.

So the next day I hunted around my shop, it took me about 2 hours to remember that I had stashed all the parts in an old sewing box.

The only easy to hook up was the surveillance camera because it came with a 12 volt brick power supply. The back-up-system was designed to wire directly to the 12 volt of a vehicle. Lucky for me I have ‘bricks’ of all voltages and designs in boxes and drawers. I found a 12 volt one, cut the cord and wired it to the back-up system and hooked up the surveillance camera and quickly discovered that the distortion was way too much at close range to be usable.

So with wires going every which way I connected the complete back up system. Dragged it over to my lathe and with a few minor modification had it up and running in no time. It worked great but the back up monitor is only about a 7″ screen. I need something bigger.

I remember that we moved a cable box from a 17″ tv in our kitchen to a room where one of our grandsons ‘hangs’ so he could use it on a large tv that his dad has left for us to store. My wife was quite happy to have it out of the cabinet that it was in now she has more shelf space to display her ‘stuff’.

Ok, so now I am really on to something. I quickly disassembled the foot that the tv stood on and made an aluminum plate from which I could hang it on my exhaust fan box right at the end of my lathe. With a few quick changes it was up and running perfectly.

As you can see from the photos I hold mylar film on the tv with magnets and draw the outline of my tool on it with a sharpie. One cool thing about using the magnets as opposed to tape or ?? is that I can easily reposition it  should I change the angle of the cutter. In addition I can keep all the old sheets to reuse anytime I am using this system and thus don’t need to keep redrawing the cutter. If I like I could actually leave the TV in place but I need to come up with some sort of cover to keep the dust out so for now I stash it on a shelf. The camera and arm it is attached to simply hang on the wall behind my lathe. The camera does have a small lens cover. I’m not totally convinced that the camera is totally suitable and I continue to search for a cheap replacement. What I believe would work even better is what is termed a ‘closed circuit’ camera.

A couple of ideas that were shared at our last meeting that are exceptionally helpful are to place a white or black piece under the turning to provide contrast at the edge which helps to see where the cutter is. Another is if a round magnet is placed on the screen over the cutter and extending outward it provides a means to ensure the finished thickness is easily delineated.




March 15, 2017

Drying Wood

Like many if not all wood turners I often get lucky and am able to turn green wood. Of course this means that we need to find a way to get it dry after we either rough turn it or turn it to finish. Sometimes I turn hollow forms so thin that they are almost dry when I finish but more often there is still some moisture that needs to be removed without the piece cracking.
Some turners let it dry by gradually allowing exposure to the air by many means such as bagging, boiling, putting in shavings, setting on the floor and gradually moving them higher in the shop. Most of the methods take a while and we really want to hurry the process.
Most turners agree that if the inside of a piece dries faster than the outside the wood tends to sort of compress and limit cracking. Some people wrap with the outside with plastic wrap, some coat with paint or a wax in emulsion. This lead me to my new method.
This winter has been pretty damp with lots of snow and rain and we were often drying boots and runners etc with a relatively cheap ‘Boot Dryer”.

The one I have is adjustable as to time it runs and has the option of using heat or not.
By adding hollow sections of plastic pipe etc to allow the air to get into and circulate inside the bowl or hollow form the drying process is sped up.

I am not a scientist and have a very limited knowledge of it’s principals and as a result I am unable to actually quantify the results of my method. All I know is that pieces treated like this tend to dry in about half the time of pieces left on their own.
I have only been trying this with fairly thin hollow forms and bowls that I will return to the lathe to sand and finish.
I have no experience with twice turned pieces dryed with this method.

By using the weight of the item I now am confident that the pieces I dry this way dry twice as fast as they do if just left to dry on their own.

I now have a little more information. The week before last I used my boot dryer to dry some small fairly thin bowls made from Gravenstein Apple wood and again the wood dried about twice as fast as a piece I left on its own and I had no cracking. At the same time I dried a small cup shape, it can be seen on the other blog (https://woodbowlsandthings.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/gravenstein-apple-wood/ ‎) about Apple it was dyed and then sanded. I sort of messed up as I didn’t manage to get the bottom as thin as the rest and after about 12 hours on the dryer I noticed some small cracks on the inside. I stopped using the boot dryer and the cracks mostly closed up and never made it to the outside. d

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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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.


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!

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.

March 2, 2014

Candy Dish

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — peteblair @ 4:00 pm

Some of you may have seen this on another site but just in case. . .
It’s a ‘negative space” cherry lid that sits in a small grove in the vine maple bowl. I used vine maple for the handle and inside lid detail as well. The real challenge of this sort of piece is to get the rounded ends of all the rays the same.

Hopefully you can see at least a little of Harvey Fein’s influence in this piece.

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