Saturday, July 28, 2012

Andy's Project

There is something about heritage, that path that others walked that leads to the place you are standing.  This blog started out being about heritage,  the heritage my father forged before me and the heritage I hoped to pass to my children, nieces and nephews, or anyone reading this blog, the heritage of woodworking.  I have been honored to have my son Andrew (Andy to most) working in the shop this week.  So this entry is Andy's Project.  

A few months ago Andrew read a the bible verse, Matthew 5:14 - "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden."  This gave him the idea of creating a tea light holder that would be rounded like part of the world.  He then put a post out on facebook stating the first five people to comment would get something he would make.  Andrew being Andrew it didn't take long for him to get his five comments.  Of course with there being 600 miles between him and the shop this was a project that would take a little coordination, and a trip to Upstate New York.

Andrew explained to me what he wanted to do and we had a few discussions as to what would be possible and practical to do in a few days of a busy vacation.  I knew I didn't have enough turning stock that would complete the job.  I did have some black walnut limbs that had been cut off a tree out front but I never got around to sealing the ends ( Dad always suggested using paraffin as the sealant and about two years of drying time. )  By not sealing them I paid the price, they were badly checked (big cracks running into the wood from drying to quickly).   But I thought I'd giving it a go anyway and went out with the chain-saw and trimmed up one hoping we would be able to get enough stock out of it for the project.  Once cut down a bit I took it to the band saw trimming off much of the outer layer, some of which had begun to rot.

Roughed Out Limb
At this point Andrew and I headed to the shop.  The first conversation we had was about safety.  So when I couldn't find the over the glasses safety glasses we headed out to the local home center to get a pair and pick up a face shield and new dust mask.  A little frustrating but when it comes to safety it is not worth making compromises.

Resawing at the Band saw
Once back to work we needed a piece of wood that we could cut down to a block that could be turned on the lathe.  The answer was to resaw the block at the band saw.  I only have a stock blade and I'm sure a resaw blade would have done a quicker better job, but the stock blade worked and we soon had a board about an inch and a half thick.  Andrew then made a rough cut freeing the block that would become the first tea light.
Turning Blank and Faceplate

Drilling Holes for Faceplate

When I was turning with dad we would glue a block on the back side of the turning with a sheet of cardboard in between.  The cardboard was the kind you would find backing up a pad of paper.  Glue can actually be stronger than the wood so when the turning was complete the cardboard would allow the turning and the faceplate block to easily be split apart.  We're now using a chuck system that will hold the turning without the need to glue the block on.  To use it you attach the faceplate on what will become top of the turning and do your rough rounding and flatten what will become the turning's bottom.  You then turn a socket into the bottom that the chuck expands into fitting much like a circular dove tail.  Once your sure where the faceplate is going to go the corners of the turning block are cut off.  The faceplate is screwed directly on the piece without care that the screw holes are going into the turning because once the chuck socket is turned the faceplate is removed and the holes are just turned away.

Roughing with the Roughing Gouge 
Once the block is on the chuck the turning begins to take shape.  Roughing gauges, gauges, skews, parting tools and scrapers, enough to make your head spin.  Don't let the edge catch, roll the tool with your fingers, drop your right hand; I would imagine Andy hears me calling out in his sleep.  It turns out the best teacher for any given tool is the tool itself.  Plunge into the work at the wrong angle you know not to do that again.  My job was to give the basics, stand by watching for anything that would get him into trouble and keep my mouth shut.

More Roughing

Cutting the Chuck Socket
The vision Andy had in his minds eye quickly started to appear in the wood.  He would ask a question, "I want to make ...." and I would tell him what I thought.  Before long he was sanding and finishing.  So this will let the secret out, I don't like finishing.  There I said it, that finial step, the shine you first see when looking at a finished piece, the all important finish I don't much enjoy put on.  So I came up with a quick little trick for turned pieces - beeswax.

Sanding is the first part of finishing, that as you recall I don't like, but on the lathe sanding goes quickly and can yield extraordinary results.  So the finish starts with having sharp tools and progressing from a course grit sandpaper to a fine grit sandpaper.  I have been hand shaping my tools since I got them and they are not what remember dad's being.  I know that dad eventually got a grinder but I also remember him using several stones.  His tools were always as sharp as could be, mine are slowly getting better; time will tell if the ever compare.  Andrew started with a 60 grit backed with a tightly wrapped washcloth.  By the time he was done he was down to a 220 grit.  Then he hit the turning a beeswax stick.  As the wax rubs against spinning wood it heats up and melts onto the wood.  You then take a rag and rub it in.  This time the heat generated burnishes the wood and evens out the wax turning  it into a glossing surface that really makes the grain pop and is reasonably well protected.

You are the light of the world...

So what started out as a simple little project became an awakening,  both for Andrew and for me.  Andrew realized the joy of woodworking and I the joy of extending the heritage path one more step.  I hope this will be the first of many opportunities Andrew and I have to be in the shop together.  Thanks guy for a great weekend!