I was asked recently to turn some bowls for a client from his old chopping block he used at work. He worked in the Forestry Commission and decided to take redundancy and move to Spain. I had my doubts about turning seasoned hornbeam on a pole lathe. It is, as you can see, heavily spalted. Splating is what we call the patterns you see in the wood caused by fungi eating the wood. Let the spalting or rotting go to far and all you get is wood that is now sponge. Once the wood has been dried the rotting stops.
The wood sat outside in the rain for a couple of months, this helped with getting the wood wet again and softer to turn. I was worried a bit about the softer, spongier portions of wood, which turned well in the end, a sharp hook tool helped. The serving spoon was made from half of the centre portion of the log.
Spalting this far gone is not quite to my taste, I prefer something a bit more subtle. The form of the bowls and especially of the spoon get lost, it is all about the marks, lines and colours of the wood.
This is the level of splating I prefer, these are beech bowls.
This is the other end of the scale, silver birch which comes out white and very little in the way of figure in the wood.
I have recently finished a new bowl lathe, made from odds and ends of wood around my workshop. The only metal in the lathe is at the centre points to hold the bowl and mandrel in place, 2 bolts for the treadle and the pivot for the return spring. It seams to work very well and is extremely stable in use. Made mainly for bowls, it is also good for spindle turning and will take competition-size chair legs for when I race next year. I use bungee cord most of the time, and not using a stick or pole as my spring, but I need to set up the lathe in all sorts of the situations and sometime indoors when demonstrating to turning-clubs. Setting up a pole on hard standing can be an issue and usually involves a very heavy lump of wood. I carry enough weight in the van as it is.
Click on any image to enlarge it.
Dan turning a walnut bowl.
I do not know if you have noticed, but most of the joints are sliding tapered dovetails. The lathe will go together and very easily knock apart whether it is bone dry or sopping wet. No more desperately trying to get round tenons out of round mortices at the end of a show.
A few of the bowls we have turned whilst demonstrating at the last 2 shows. All bowls turned from beech apart from the square one which is sycamore. Dan and I are not that fast yet but we can certainly finish the bowls well, with very little grain tear out on the 2 quarters that go against the grain.
The shows are really bad this year with takings down again. I am glad that I no longer rely on them like I once did. I have some big commissions going on, so probably not so many blog posts in the near future, and not so much more bowl turning either.
At one of the shows Dan made a bowl after messing up the axing of the blank, have a look here to see the beautiful bowl he made from a bit of wood I said to throw away