Stones River Woodworkers Club Murfreesboro, TN

As you saw at the last Show & Tell, I’ve been making little scoops that if sized correctly can function as coffee scoops. One style is with the wire band being used to secure the handle and then there is the style with the handle having a tendon that is inserted into a hole in the side of the scoop. The trick is you should have about 1/4” wall thickness where the tendon is inserted but 1/4” wall thickness for a small scoop is clunky so a thicker ridge is left where the handle attaches and the rest of the scoop is turned to provide a thinner wall, perhaps 1/8” to 3/16”. Now in the original article, a contrasting wood was used for the raised area under the handle and it improves the scoop cosmetically  “BUT” this scoop is end grain hollowed so when you glue up the contrasting wood, you must keep in mind the grain direction. I didn’t and the result was wasted wood and time. I just cut some 2” squares from some scraps I had and glued them together. Needless to say when the walls get thin, edge grain fails. I’ve blown several of these scoops and only completed one after gluing it back together and very carefully finishing it. Not being a contortionist, I have trouble standing in a position where I can get hit in the face shield with the feral projectiles produced when the project fly’s apart, but I do use a face shield just in case of a ricochet.8

At the last meeting I brought a small Cedar Christmas ornament and forgot to mention that Cedar, Box elder, Spalted Maple and other light but weak or chip-prone woods work well for the main body’s but the finials are another matter. What makes the light woods appealing is that they are so light that little or no hollowing is required. I make finials from many types of wood such as Red heart, Yew, Maple, Cherry, Mesquite, local Black Walnut, Persimmon, Canary wood, Lignum Vitae, Cocobolo, Hedge, or any dense, oily straight-grained wood. But I’m not a good enough turner to use woods like Cedar, soft spalted Maple, Palm, Blood wood, Ash or Oak but I think they might be sanded into a nice looking finial, that is if sanding is your hobby. I buy a lot of the cheaper 1”x1”x12” stock from Craft Supply just for making finials. Now shaping the finial is one thing but its impact resistance will come into play when dropped. Surprisingly I’ve had very few instances of finial failure even though I tend to make them quite thin on the bottom end. The weaker woods tend to break in the lathe during the turning process and never make it to the “Drop Test”. If I drop ornaments that I made and know are fragile - think about one in the hands of grandchildren? That’s why Osage orange exists!

When I was making the “Acorn” birdhouse ornaments from the Burr Oak acorn caps, I found in my bird bottle some tiny-feathered Cardinals that were just perfect  --But-- I came up about five short. I tried all the hobby/craft stores in town but couldn’t get waited on and couldn’t find any small enough on my own. At the November meeting I spoke with Mike Zinser and he pointed me back to Hobby Lobby but said look in the miniature furniture section. Again no help was available but I found some plastic miniature birds where Mike said. While not exactly what I wanted, but they did suffice and ornaments will now be mailed. Always remember to ask around because the club is a wealth of information that is filed randomly amongst the membership.

Some time ago, John Sadler donated quite a lot of wood to the club and Doug Pelren and I went over to John’s place and loaded up Doug’s truck and I took some and instead of making bowl blanks out of it, I cut turning squares out of the pieces and put a cup hook in one of the Anchor Sealed ends and hung them in my attic. This was in March of 2013 so they’ve had right at 1 ¾ years of drying, so I have begun bringing them down into the shop and turning them into cylinders with the intent of making a lot of lidded boxes and Christmas ornaments. Now when I spindle turn, I use a stubb drive clamped in my chuck for the drive and a live center in my tailstock. Because the tool meets a lot of resistance when knocking the corners off of square stock the stubb drive can’t keep the square stock from slipping and I have to keep tightening the tailstock to keep the wood turning. So the first thing I do is to cut a tendon on the drive end which when tightened in the chuck jaws gives me a better drive and so I spend less time tightening the tail stock. Now when I get ambitious and try “hogging” the corners off, my only limitation is when the “V” belt slips. I have made a number of boxes based on the various books and articles produced by many of the “Professional” Woodworkers. I have found that many of the methods require using a “Jam Chucking” procedure that is a pain in the buttocks. Richard Raffan uses a skew to cut a small recess on the inside of the lid into which the jaws of a small chuck can be expanded into in order to finish the top of the lid. I have come to use this step as often as possible to simplify making these boxes.  Since I have three chucks of various sizes this has worked quite well for me, allowing me to usually obtain one more box out of a single piece of wood than I was getting using the jam-chuck methods. The problem is my current mission is to use up my excessive wood and all of those wood scraps that relentlessly accumulate in my shop and by maximizing my wood usage feels less wasteful, it isn’t solving my wood surplus problems and our kitchen table looks like it belongs at a craft show.

Since this time of year contains “Christmas”, I did my usual bit and made a number of wooden turned Christmas ornaments. Over the few years I’ve been turning ornaments, trends come and go. Looking back through my magazines I’ve seen the ornaments go from balls with ornate finials to inside-out turnings to sticks that look similar to old fashioned close-pins with a screw-eye in one end painted to look like snowmen, candy canes or whatever you can imagine. I’ve gone through some of these “fads” and because of the size of our artificial tree and the lack of spacing between the branches, my ornaments have gotten smaller each year but I’ve stuck with a short plain top finial with the fishhook eye and a longer “icicle” bottom finial but tried to make them thin and delicate. The other day I had an a-piff-a-knee while looking at a standard old glass ball style ornament. Just a hook on top and  -- no finial on the bottom. They fit on a tree better!  Now I have to come up with a design with either no bottom finial or a very short neat looking one. I can possibly design a better-looking top finial without adding to the height. Since I’m trying to get a head start on next year’s ornaments now might be a good time to evolve my design into a more practical one. Wow - I’m going to have to stop thinking so much, at my age it can be dangerous and increase my workload. Not good for a retiree.




Jay’s Ramblings    Jan 2015