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Thread: From Roots to Bowl

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM

    From Roots to Bowl

    Since "serial" posts seem to go over well here, I figured I'd start one here to chronicle one of my bowls. Since I wrote this all up for my website, forgive the fact that I'm describing some turning terms and tools in a pretty elementary manner. Some of my family and friends reading my websites are not up to speed on turning terms. (Then again, not all FW members might know what some of the terms mean either.)

    A while back, the Facilities Manager at my office had some long-overgrown shrubbery up-rooted and removed. Being a woodturner, I simply had to see what might be inside some of the bigger pieces of this soon-to-be mulch, so I got permission to take home as much of it as I wanted. Here's a nighttime shot of the truckload I brought home. I cut the wood up after dark at the made it more exciting being able to see the sparks from the chain saw hitting dirt and rocks.

    Attachment 7211

    Although my first inclination was that this was some type of Dunno wood, I later determined that it was likely Myoporum, an ornamental, yet invasive exotic shrub from New Zealand. Science lesson over, it was time to try some of this wood out. After several months of procrastination, I finally got one of the root balls cleaned up and ready to try turning. (Thank goodness for pressure washers.) Sorry for the snapshot nature of these pictures.

    Attachment 7202

    When I "harvested" the wood, I painted the freshly-cut ends to seal them in hopes of preventing cracks from drying. That explains the white part in this shot...

    Attachment 7203

    Since that hunk of wood obviously wasn't going to spin real well on my lathe, I did a little chainsaw refinement to get it to a bit more manageable size.

    Attachment 7204

    And the white side, with the lathe faceplate attached. (You can see the Hoover Suck-O-Matic dust collector in the background. Click here to see that story.)

    Attachment 7205

    For those of you unfamiliar with woodturning, the red faceplate allows the hunk of wood to be attached to the spindle of the lathe. It looks something like this once it's attached. For those of you who are familiar with turning, you'll note that I don't really have anything solid to turn down to a tenon on side the opposite the faceplate. This will be strictly a faceplate chuck. I'll turn off the foot where the faceplate is later.

    Attachment 7207

    It's quite a blur when it's spinning at 400 or so RPM...

    Attachment 7206

    About 20 minutes of beating later, it was round-shaped and looking like this...

    Attachment 7208

    That long black and silver tool is from Monster Tools, and they call it the Monster Indexer with Handle. I call it the Beatin' Stick. It's a very versatile tool, and by far the beefiest "chisel" I have for this type of work. It accepts a range of steel cutting bits. For roughing out this hunk of wood, I attached a 3/8" bit that originally came with my hollowing tools (also from Monster Tools).

    Attachment 7209

    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM

    From Roots to Bowl continued...

    Another 20 minutes or so later, it's still rough, but it's starting to resemble the intended outside shape...

    Attachment 7212

    Next, it was time to attack the inside. Let the beatings resume...

    Attachment 7213

    That's about as deep as I cared to go using handheld cutting tools. It was time to break out the "captive" tool. a.k.a. the hollowing rig. This tool is designed to safely make hollow forms. It holds the cutting tool in such a way as to prevent it from being wrenched from your hands and hurtled at the ceiling (or your face) when the steel meets the spinning wood, now traveling at about 800 to 1,000 RPM. Although purists would argue that using a hollowing rig to make a bowl is a sacrilege, but I never really was one for rules, so I figure if I've got a tool to make something easier and safer, I'll use it.

    Attachment 7214

    Although it's hard to make out the details with the cluttered background in the picture above, the hollowing rig consists of a "handle" that's captured by the rear tool rest to prevent it from twisting. Attached to the end of the handle is the cutting bit. Also attached to the handle is an adjustable laser pointer that is set to indicate (on the outside of the piece) exactly where the tip of the cutting tool is (on the inside of the piece). This is very useful when working blind while hollowing out a piece of wood. In the case of this bowl, the laser was not really necessary, but it did help me know how deep the inside of the bowl was in relation to the outside.

    Attachment 7215

    By the time I took the previous two pictures, as well as the next one, I had progressed through a couple different cutting tools attached to the hollowing rig, ending up with a scraping tool to leave a relatively smooth finish. Also by now, some of the pieces of the root ball were loose and threatening to come flying off. (In fact, one piece was fully removable). As a self-preservation move, I wrapped the outside of the bowl with plastic stretch wrap, to contain any shrapnel.

    Attachment 7216

    A little more cleanup on the inside, and it the "rough" turning was done. If you look closely, you can see some very promising swirly wood grain patterns. Until the wood dries, it's common to leave the walls pretty thick. Then, after the drying (and any warping) is done, the piece is mounted on the lathe again and turned to the final dimensions.

    Attachment 7217

    This one will be a real challenge to finish up, but it should be pretty remarkable if it survives the ride.

    Attachment 7218

    I'll show the final results (whatever they are) in a month or so after the wood is dried. First, a day or two of soaking in denatured alcohol, then about 3 weeks or so wrapped in newspaper. (With a lock of hair, a bleached chicken bone, and the ash from a burned comic book. We woodturners are an eccentric, superstitious bunch.)

    Stay tuned!
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Southern Georgia
    Very kewl chronicle Vaughn!

    And very kewl bowl-to-be!

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to seeing that piece get remounted and finished...

    - Marty -
    Fivebraids, Inc.
    When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there’s no end to what you can’t do…

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Houston, TX
    Nice Vaughn. You left out eye of Nute and some toad.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    I always put some cigar ash in and some nutmeg too

    man that is way cool looking wood, looks like you got just a bit of it too eh?

    I've been banded from running powertools at night, as I ran the thickness planer, attached to the Cyclone, while on top of my worktable, which acted like a big drum and make it possible to hear the whole she-bang up on the 7th floor at 2 AM

    The lathe is one tool I can run, as it is totally isolated from the floor etc, but really, I've been trying to head to bed earlier and wake up earlier and then hit the Dungeon by 9 AM or so, so I am getting some turning time in.

    I've got to get my hollow rig going, I did get some good tool steel bits for it, so we shall see.

    Is that wood a hardwood Vaughn? I know that the best smoking pipes come from the roots of a shrub.

    Great post!!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Mountain Home, Arkansas
    Industrious and determined come to mind.
    I'm astounded you spun that hunk at 400 rpm. How far off the foundation did it move your house?
    You will have something very unique at the end of this project.
    I'm awed.
    "Folks is funny critters."

    Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too. ~Voltaire

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    North Ogden, Utah
    That is going to be a very cool bowl. You should print up that process into a small brochure to hand to people when they ask why that little bowl costs so much. Comic book ashes ain't cheap anymore!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    s. Barrington,IL.
    Vaughan thanks for the pictures I would have never even thought of turning the root. I learned a lot from the pictures and am waiting like the rest for the final pictures.After soaking in dna I use brown grocery bags with the inside of the bowl cut out then place on a shelf for a couple of weeks.Now I see how you turn out such good howl bowls that is some set up.Great job and thanks for all the pictures.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    San Antonio, TX
    Wonderful "tutorial" . I am sure it will come handy for a lot of new (and older) turners who haven't tried something similar.

    Looks very promising even at rough stage.

    Good luck!!!


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Charlotte, NC
    Neat project Vaughn! That bowl is looking good! I look forward to seeing the progress!

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