Yarn Bowls

Last but not least today is our Yarn Bowls. They come in three different sizes, small, medium and large.

Yarn bowls are made from a variety of woods including, but not limited to, Big Leaf Maple, Cherry, Oak or Black Walnut. The all have a recurve at the rim of the bowl to keep the ball in the bowl as it rolls. Typically they are between 7” and 10” in diameter. One and sometimes two curved slots have been cut in the side with a loop at the end to capture the yarn as it is pulled forward and upward. The slots have been sanded smooth to eliminate any possible snagging of the yarn.

Prices for these lovely Yarn Bowls are as follows:

$100 for small

$110 for medium

$125 for large.

We aren’t currently set up for ordering on line, but you can contact us and we’ll arrange for shipping or pick up.

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Ring Distaves and Nostepinnes

Tools no spinner should be without. Ring Distaves and Nostepinnes.

Both tools are typically turned from local Big Leaf Maple because it is durable but also a little lighter than other hardwoods. Sometimes I use black walnut, ash, oak or other hardwoods simply for the sake of appearance

Ring Distaves


What we have lots of Nostepinnes in stock right now. We have a variety of woods and sizes. Some basic woods and some premium. The shafts are pretty much the same tapered diameters, but there is an option for short or long shafts. The handles are also short or long which can come in handy for a variety of hand sizes and shapes.

Prices for these right now vary:

Short Handle Basic Wood (Big Leaf Maple) is $45.

Short Handle Premium Wood (Oak, Ash, Eastern Maple, Black Walnut) are $50.

Long Handle Basic Wood (Big Leaf Maple) are $48.

Long Handle Premium Wood (Oak, Ash, Eastern Maple, Black Walnut) are $53. All in CAD.

We aren’t currently set up for ordering on line, but you can contact us and we’ll arrange for shipping or pick up.

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Drop Spindles and Cups

Now, moving on to the Supported Spindles.

Like the drop spindles, the whorls are all balanced prior to assembly and the finish is a friction polish. The “nub” or point that supports the spindle is typically the end grain of a very hard, dense wood. Holly is my wood of choice, but I use other similar woods that are equally resistant to denting and general wear. The tips on my supported spindles are rounded to provide a steadier spin than can be attained by a sharp point. Like the drop spindles, the shaft is a dense, close-grained hardwood and has two grooves for catching the yarn. The finish is Danish oil. The taper at the top functions just like the taper on the drop spindles, taking little effort to flick the spindle while providing a high-speed start. When the yarn has just the right amount of twist inserted, the spinner will hear a subtle clicking sound as the fine point of the spindle shaft flicks against the twist in the yarn.

What we have in stock at the moment is a variety of sizes and weights. All whorls are made of Figured Maple and the shafts are usually made from Eastern Maple or Black Walnut. They are all balanced for top performance.

Prices for these right now are $75.00 CAD.

We aren’t currently set up for ordering on line, but you can contact us and we’ll arrange for shipping or pick up.

Spinning Cups for Supported Spindles

We have two types of these in stock. One is for a table top or you can make it into a bean bag and have it on your lap, the other is for having in your lap. Hint: To make the table top into a cup for in your lap I just took a couple bean bags, wrapped them in a facecloth and used a hair elastic to secure them together.

Like the point of the supported spindles, the cups are turned from the end grain of very hard, dense wood (usually eastern or sugar maple) for smoothness and longevity.

Prices for these right now are:

$25 for table top and

$35 for lap. All in CAD.

We aren’t currently set up for ordering on line, but you can contact us and we’ll arrange for shipping or pick up.

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Spinning Tools

We have listed below descriptions and photos of all the tools that Ed is currently making. There will be more to come. For example, the niddy noddy and dizzes are on the way. If you see something you like give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll make arrangements for shipping, delivery or pick up. Also, please remember that if you need something custom made, give us a call. Ed is a whiz with special requests. He also does Spinning Wheel repairs if that’s what you need. You can also hit him up for anything else you want custom made. Just give us a call or drop us a line. Contact info is here.

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Drop Spindles

As promised the new spinning tools! Lets start with the Drop Spindles.

Wood is not a homogenous material, so by nature it has varying densities throughout. The handmade hooks are fashioned from stainless steel with the ends deburred after cutting the wire. The nature of the wood together with the variance in the handmade hooks is why I take the time and care to balance all my whorls with copper weights prior to assembly. My whorls are finished with a friction polish sometimes known as “French polish”. The shafts are made of a variety of dense, close-grained hardwoods finished with Danish oil. The taper acts like a “transmission” by allowing an easier start transitioning to a high speed at the tip. The small “stand” where the hook attaches to the whorl can be used for “parking” the yarn while the spindle is not in use.

What we have in stock at the moment is a variety of sizes and weights. All whorls are made of African Mahogany and the shafts are usually made from Eastern Maple. They are all balanced for top performance.

Price for this series is $75.00 each CAD.

Right now we aren’t set up for ordering on line, but you can contact us and we’ll arrange for shipping or pick up.

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Tools for Fiber Artists

Recently I was asked by a fiber artist to make drop spindles. I had never heard of them before, so a little research was in order. My first impression – from photos – was that it was no more than an upside-down top. I couldn’t have been more wrong! I suspected it had to be more sophisticated and I was right. Fortunately, I was directed to two very knowledgeable fiber artists, Kim and Diana. Not only were they very experienced, more importantly they were very keen to pass on their wisdom.

Wood Choice is Important

I felt I should master one implement before moving on to the next. I started with drop spindles then moved on to supported spindles. I am quite familiar with wood densities and physics so understanding the dynamics of spindles came relatively quickly. Adding the various practical features that Kim and Diana suggested made the move through the prototypes an interesting journey. Typically, I use a dense, straight grain wood for the shafts; eastern maple is ideal for the smaller drop spindle shafts while that and black walnut works well for the slightly larger supported spindles. Denser woods that are more suitable for the whorls are typically the more “exotic” varieties, of which Mahoganies, Rosewoods and my very favourite – African Blackwood – are excellent choices.  Some of these woods do not require a finish because of their high oil content, creating a lovely soft sheen. We have a few locally grown species like Acacia and even Black Walnut that also work well. Lighter woods like figured Big Leaf Maple work but the whorls are larger, which affects the spin dynamics. That being said, the appearance of fiddle back, quilt or burl maple when coloured is spectacular!

While on the subject of exotic woods in particular, I make use of reclaimed wood as much as possible and when milled specifically, I ensure that it is ethically sourced. I have a block of Lignum Vitae which is now illegal to cut but was purchased by a friend many years ago. It will be used for very limited editions of both suspended and drop spindles.

Making: What I do

To me as a woodturner, feel and function is important in a tool and as a wood artist, aesthetics is equally important. I like colours that either compliment or contrast, surface textures that feel good in the hand and woods that will make it possible to do the job intended. This is my opportunity to combine woods that I like to turn and like to colour, to make tools that are pleasing to the eye and that are satisfying to work with.

Other tools like ring distaves and nøstepinnes are really fun to turn and I make them from hardwoods that both look good and make a lasting tool that feels good in the hand. Eastern Maple, Big Leaf Maple, various Oaks, Black Walnut and Ash are all durable, attractive woods. Wooden tools develop a patina over time from constant use and contact with fabrics, and that only makes their appearance better. Eastern Maple is ideal for niddy noddys and it holds the hardware I use for switching the center shaft very well.

Dizzes are new on the list but the harder woods that are suitable for whorls are also suitable for dizzes. I suspect the fiber being drawn through the hole could cause wear over time, so softer woods would not last. Kim is working with me on a design that will be very functional.

Some tools are still on the horizon, dealigans for example. I can see that a variety of woods would be suitable for them. For me, they look like they will be fun to turn so I’m looking forward to that. I understand that spinning flax is becoming more in vogue which will require an addition to some, if not most, spinning wheels. I have prototypes in the works and they will be made from Eastern Maple. It’s hard, strong, wood that will get the job done and the appearance will closely match the small variety of woods used in most wheels.

Custom Work and Repair

Although I am developing a “line” of tools for fiber artists, I am prepared to work with anyone who needs something custom made. For instance, if a particular style of working requires a modification, or in cases where physical requirements (like small hands) require modifications to a design.

I have also learned very quickly that spinning wheels break down in various ways. Our very first outing at a spinning retreat found me making repairs on the spot and later that week, so it appears that I am also in the business of making repairs to spinning wheels.

In Conclusion

It seems that creating tools for fiber artists has come to me at a good time. It’s nice to turn something small so that I don’t have to use a hoist to get it on the lathe, LOL! Unlike many woodturners, I really enjoy production work. It challenges me and keeps my skills sharp. Some of you may identify with that. Most of all, it is very satisfying when people get their own enjoyment from something that I make, whether it is to please the eye, do a job well or, better yet, do both at the same time.

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A Journey Through Time

When teaching new turners I always try to instill in them the need to honour the wood, to always give it their best effort. In the past, wood was so prevalent that it was considered – and still is by some – utilitarian and disposable. Nothing is more disrespectful than referring to wood as mere “fiber”. This is the story of wood that took me to the other end of the spectrum; reverence.

I often collaborate with my friend Steve Smith (Dla’kwagila Oweekeno), making turned vessels and sculptures for his contemporary First Nation art. He asked me to turn some vessels from some old growth Red Cedar he had from Vancouver Island. Although Cedar has many wonderful qualities, it is one of my least-favourite woods to turn because it is hard on tools (very abrasive) and suffers from excessive tear out in the end grain. Nevertheless, I agreed because it was Steve. The wood was magnificent; tight grain, straight, clear – and huge.  

I turned the pieces then let them dry for a couple of months, finally facing the part I dreaded: sanding. The largest was 24” tall by 11” diameter, there were two natural edge pieces for his “eagle nests” and three smaller conventional vessels but still quite deep. The vase/bowl forms were turned end grain so the bottoms inside were nasty and hard to reach.

It was a days-long process, so I had lots of time to reflect on the pieces I was working. My first observation was that the tree had undergone both good times and bad, several times in its lifetime. There were bands of wider grain lines about a millimeter apart but there were also bands that were so tight I couldn’t discern actual grain lines without a jeweler’s loop. Usually the change between the two was sudden, adding mystery to the story. I decided to try to determine the age of the tree. Anything to take a break from the sanding. Even though much of the heart of the tree was not present in the pieces, the arc of the innermost rings offered a clue to the missing years. Several times in my past I have counted annual rings in a tree, but this one was tougher than most (I counted the rings in three Douglas Fir trees that were felled on our property when I was a kid. All three were in the order of 1500 years). Without being able to stick pins in to assist counting I resorted to very thin pencil marks (that I could sand off), so the count was not completely accurate but still provided a decent order of magnitude. After a couple of trips through time I estimated the tree to be about 1000 years old.

I started to put that into context. The sapwood had been laid down between about 2005 and the present time, so during my retirement, more or less. My whole adult career (when I had a real job) took place in the next 1 ½” and I was born a ½” before that. Captain James Cook first sighted the island where this tree grew in 1778 when it was about 3 feet in diameter. It was a pretty decent sized tree at the time of the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and the tree probably started growing somewhere around the Battle of Hastings in England in 1066. That gave me pause.

But then a staggering thought crossed my mind. I had been using event markers from history that related to a background drawn from history textbooks. A background that by modern era standards are way back in time relatively speaking. It suddenly struck me that in other relative terms, this was a mere blink of an eye. Steve’s Kwakwaka’wakw ancestors called the northern end of Vancouver Island (and adjacent mainland) home thousands of years before the tree ever sprouted. Thousands of years before all the markers that I had been using. Thousands of years in a defined culture that honoured – among other things – the mighty Cedar. In another age, this tree might have yielded a sea-going dugout canoe, a house post or posts in a longhouse, countless utility items like blanket boxes or possibly a massive totem greeting visitors to a long-established village.

I always try to honour the wood, giving it my best effort and wasting none of it. Any unused pieces of this cedar that can yield small carvings will go back to Steve.  I’ll use the scraps around the shop if possible and what I can’t use will go to heat the shop at the Farm Museum. The shavings will one day provide a beginning for new plant life. I don’t know how I can fully honour this wood other than to acknowledge how insignificant my small part played in the life of this tree. A tree that watched down on this land over the ages, then came through Steve to my lowly shop.  The physical things that I make from it are but a tribute to that legacy. Steve’s art will give it a new life. Wherever it ends up I can only hope that the legacy will continue to be honoured by the new keepers.

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New IRD dates for 2021

We have posted the new dates for 2021 IRD (Interactive Remote Demonstrations). Don’t miss out! Book early. Here they are:

Beyond ABC – 26 January 2021 – 3:00 – 5:00 pm PST

Butterfly Crack Repair – 10 Feb 2021 – 3:00 – 5:00 pm PST

This is a Wednesday group, sorry, but my birthday is Tuesday the 9th.

Colouring Wood – 23 Feb 2021 – 3:00 – 5:00 pm PST

Sharpening Woodturning Tools – 9 Mar 2021 – 3:00 – 5:00 pm PST

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Sharpening Woodturning Tools

This demo covers sharpening equipment requirements and options including grinder/belt types and wheel types and accessory grinding jigs. Basic tool steel pros and cons are explained. Considerations when sharpening all types of tools (including vee vs. parabolic fluted bowl gouges), how to pre-determine the shape of any type of gouge are demonstrated. Honing vs. straight-from-the-grinder (with magnified viewing), handled vs. unhandled tools, possible modifications and addressing any specific tools that someone might have are all discussed.

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Sharpening Your Woodturning Tools Properly

Originally written for Craftsy’s by Ed under the title: “Sharpening Woodturning Tools Properly Changes Everything”

So many people attempt woodturning and struggle with it or give up altogether. Others have stuck with it faithfully, trying to advance but stayed at a frustratingly low level of achievement. Properly sharpened tools will change that. Even if you are an experienced woodworker, sharpening woodturning tools is counter-intuitive to sharpening flat woodworking tools. Understanding the difference makes your woodturning experience enjoyable rather than frustrating.

Sharpened Chisel

Bench chisels and turning chisels are two different animals

Bench tools use either the flat side of the tool (i.e. bench chisels) or the tool surface (i.e. planes) for reference for guiding and depth of cut. To control the cut effectively, the reference surface must rest against the wood. Imagine, for a moment, a plane with the iron out even just a fraction too far and you have the idea of an uncontrolled cut.

When using a turning tool, the bevel of the tool rests against the work and is therefore the reference surface used to guide the direction and depth of cut. Most woodworkers are familiar with honing a secondary bevel on a cutting tool to make it sharper by tilting the hone off the bevel by a couple degrees. This makes an ultra-sharp edge that is also stronger because of the steeper angle. There is no change to the reference surface in this case. Because the bevel is the reference surface on a turning tool, honing only the edge eliminates the bevel as a control surface. Having no control surface produces the “catches” that scares the willies out of turners and at the same time prevents them from getting the shapes that they want.

Highlights of a properly sharpened turning tool

The top photo shows the features of a properly sharpened skew. This skew has a clean grind from cutting edge (tip) to the end of the grind (heel) and a hollow or concave grind, providing a control surface from tip to heel. Note the hone marks on both the tip and heel. If honing is required, equal pressure is applied to the tip and heel at the same time, maintaining the line through the two points leaving the reference surface intact.

Note: Honing is required on a skew. (See below)

Hollow Ground Bevel

The photo above shows not only a proper hollow ground bevel, but a second bevel further down to reduce the width of the main bevel as well as a rounded heel. On this bowl gouge, the reduced width of the cutting bevel provides more maneuverability on inside curves and the rounded heel prevents bruising of the wood, however the cutting bevel is still wide enough for control. Note the hone lines are still on the tip and heel of the cutting bevel.

An Edge Straight Off the Grinder

This photo shows an edge straight off the grinder. This is acceptable in all turning tools except a skew. Because both bevels on a skew are reference surfaces, the burr from the grinder must be honed away on both sides.

Sharpen accurately, quickly and often

The style of grind on the bowl gouge above is referred to as an “Irish” or “swept back” grind, making it a very versatile tool. It is also a very complex grind, which is extremely difficult to produce freehand. Almost impossible for a novice without grinding off ½” of tool each time.

So how do you get the sweet, clean, consistent bevels on the tools pictured above?

First, buy a good grinder (1725 rpm maximum) with a “blue stone” (gray burns tools) available through retailers dedicated to turning supplies, online or otherwise. There are various wheels available. The CBN wheels I use are about $200 each but worth every penny and pay for themselves due to their long life.

Next, buy one of several grinding jigs dedicated to turning tools available at the same retailers. The price of the grinder and jig will be more than offset by the tools that you don’t grind away because you remove practically no material each time at the grinder. Bonus points for having the same exact grind every time. I guarantee your turning experience will be enhanced a thousand-fold because of the consistent and sharp edges that you will produce.

Turning tools are more akin to planer knives than bench chisels considering the lineal feet they cut in a short space of time. For that reason you should be sharpening at least three times in one bowl (1. rough cut outside, 2. finish cut outside/rough cut inside, 3. finish cut inside). It’s not unusual to have to sharpen more than that depending on the size of your project and material used. It’s not hard to see that sharpening is an oft-used skill and the more repeatable it is, the better your turning will become.

You MUST be good at sharpening woodturning tools, like it or not. A grinding jig will do that for you. I have been turning for over 50 years and I use a jig as do many, many world-renowned turners.

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