Stones River Woodworkers Club Murfreesboro, TN

Jay’s Ramblings

November 2014


     As I do projects, I think ahead as to what a scrap left over from the current project can be used to make at a later date. Projects such as Christmas ornaments are usually repeated with each passing season so I normally keep several bins to toss “Christmas Ornament” scraps and that is where I am now as Christmas 2014 draws closer. The only thing is that I wasn’t making “Lidded Boxes” a couple of years ago. Another factor is that our Christmas tree consists of a 7’ artificial tree that resides on the end of our kitchen table. The result is that large ornaments don’t fit and tall ornaments don’t work either. I have refined my ornament shape down through the years and the novelty of inside-out ornament has worn off and I try not to go overboard with size anymore. Now years ago I started turning my scraps into cylinders with a tendon on one end then tossing them in a bin. Times change in the unforeseeable future. My wood cylinders are in many cases too large and I now own more various sized chucks, so I now prefer a different sized tendon and some woods don’t detail well, they just chip or break. 2014 is reevaluation time! Big wood can make a small-lidded box and I need to insert the pieces between centers again and turn smaller diameter tendons.  During this process where I use a knockoff stub center I got from Penn State at what I must say was a reasonable price, I have found that the spring loaded center gums up from crap and freezes in place. After freeing up the center, I disassembled my other centers and cleaned and oiled them to prevent future problems. Perhaps the really expensive ones gum up as well.


     Some small balls made with Box elder or spalted woods are so light that I just drill a 5/16” hole through the center and don’t even attempt to do any hollowing. Making some lidded boxes as I go along breaks up the monotony of doing the same thing over and over but it really slows down my ornament output, so far I’ve only got 20 ornaments made but I have 3-lidded boxes for Christmas gifts. While almost any pretty wood makes a nice ball, tiny finials are wood type sensitive. Soft woods and brittle chippy woods are a no-go. I bought a lot of 1” x 1” x 12” stock from Craft Supplies and have found out the hard way that White Ash, Blood wood and Palm don’t turn well when you get below 1/8” as well as soft woods such as Box elder and Spalted Maple. Stick with Yew, Redheart, Osage Orange, and Padauk - though it will bleed color on you, hard Maple, Cherry, Walnut, Mesquite, Persimmon and a lot of oily tropical woods. Elm can be iffy but if you’re careful and sand a lot it can make a really pretty finial. I’m not enough of a masochist to even attempt Cedar though I suspect a combination of white and dark purple wood would be pretty but you would have to handle it with kid gloves.


     I saw an article in an old Woodturning Design Winter 2010 Issue 24 by Kurt Hertzog about making Boutique scoops using a sterling silver wire wrapped around a grove and twisted with the twisted portion inserted into a hold in a handle and glued. Having just completed two coffee scoops from Penn State (the kits did include all required parts and instructions) for 10 bucks a pop and the fact that I had some coils of stainless wire hanging on the wall, which in my opinion is much better than silver wire, and I got lots of wood scraps, I decided to try my hand at some homemade scoops. I started off small and then tried to make a 4 tablespoon scoop for my 4 cup coffee maker. Let me tell you that a 4 tablespoon scoop is big and I didn’t quite get there but the stainless wire worked great. Scoops are another reason that Christmas ornament production is down.  I also found an article on making “Elegant coffee Scoops in an August 2011 Woodturning Design magazine that I got from Doug Pelren, so I glued up some blanks. While the idea sounds good but I wasn’t all that impressed when the scoop blew apart on the lathe. The idea is that when inserting a wooden handle tendon into the scoop you need 1/4” of scoop wall thickness so a band of wood is left 1/4” thick for the tendon while the remainder of the scoop is turned to 3/16” or less depending on your skill and the type of wood.

I have some extra blanks so I may try again.


     While all of this was going on I ran across a bag of Burr Oak acorns that I found on the Greenway some years ago. It also brought back memories of another Joe Simon story. After finding the Burr Oak acorns, I showed them to Joe and told him where I’d found them. Now Joe walked the Greenway regularly and from that time on I never found another acorn on the ground. I later found that Joe was collecting every one that dropped to insure that members of our wood club never lost any to other walkers. I woke up the other morning with the idea of turning a hollowed out wood replacement nut, since acorns do tend rot out, drill out a hole and attach a bird and perch and insert the new acorn into the top husk along with a fish-hook eye and you have a neat bird-house Christmas ornament. Since I have to make more for my daughters and granddaughters I decided to see how many different kinds of wood I could use - I’m up to six. Some time ago Larry James announced that he had some old chunks of Osage Orange that might possibly get burned if no one wanted it. I took it but found one piece was some kind of Oak or maybe Hickory or just “Mystery Wood”. I planked all of the wood up on my band saw, stickered it up in the garage attic. The “Mystery Wood” had some nice figure but was well endowed with cracks, so I thought maybe I could glue up a piece to make a little acorn and it worked. The “Mystery Wood” acorns look more like the real thing than the Osage Orange, Cedar, or Maple and that is the one that Nancy say’s will stay for our tree.


Once again I placed some mail order for woodworking stuff and I’m increasingly being told that some items are either backordered or discontinued. I think in the future we’ll see these firms carrying less and less inventory. Doug Pelrin has already experienced a mail order firm charging Tennessee sales tax. If the cost to order items includes sales tax as well as shipping and handling --- what’s the point of mail order? I also called Penn State and ordered an item only to be told it was discontinued but that afternoon I got a Penn State catalog in the mail which still included the discontinued item and it was on sale


Jay.