Turning a Lidded Box

Originally written by Ed for Craftsy as “Turning a Lidded Box: Free Step-by-Step Tutorial”.

One of the most fun and varied items you can turn on a lathe is a lidded box. In the photo below you can see that there are several designs, usually related to how the lid fits to the box. There are an almost unlimited number of designs when creating a turned, lidded box. Not bad for such a simple little project. Lidded boxes are also a quick seller at everything from craft fairs to art galleries, so they can also be quite profitable.A selection of turned boxes

The photo above shows several lid orientations and also the use of multi-media. The method I will describe isn’t shown in any of the examples above. An interesting feature of the type I will describe has, if carefully crafted, a “hidden” joint between the lid and the body. The wood is initially turned between centers so, because of the grain orientation, is often referred to as an “end grain ” box, meaning that the grain will be aligned vertically and the hollowing will require end grain cutting techniques. The good news for some of you is that scraping is one acceptable or even preferred method — if you don’t have a specific tool for the job — when hollowing the inside.

Turning a lidded box

Step 1:

The vertical grain lines are going to be a defining part of the appearance.The more the grain varies from the vertical, the more obvious the joint between lid and body will become. For this reason, a piece with straight parallel grain is the best choice if you want the closed box to appear as if there is no break in the grain at the joint.

Turn your piece between centers, roughing the major diameter and create a tenon for holding in a chuck. This end will be the top of the box.First step

Step 2:

Set the piece up in a chuck, holding it by the tenon as in the photo below. Create a recess on the other end for holding the work in the chuck using the expansion feature. This end will be the bottom of the box.

The photo below shows the cutting being done with a scraper using a shearing cut (rather than a pure flat scrape), leaving a finely cut finish. Since the piece will be held by the recess for hollowing the body, consider a design short enough that vibration will be reduced or eliminated when hollowing. The recess will be part of the finished piece, so using care in creating the recess at this point will reduce the amount of finish turning in the end.

Make the diameter small enough to leave enough material between that diameter and the outside diameter so that the piece can be mounted securely without breaking from the outward pressure of the jaws.Cutting the recess

The photo below shows the recess completed with a bit of decorative work. The jaws will leave minor tooling marks on the inside diameter of recess. These are easily removed once the piece is complete by creating a jam chuck for holding with a piece of waste wood.Recess completed103

Step 3:

Mark the location for the separation between the top and bottom of the piece, as indicated in the photo below. Use a skew chisel to incise two lines on either side of the line as shown. A parting tool will be use to cut a reduced diameter between the cuts and the cuts will stop any chipping of the wood into the finished portion of the piece.Diameter turned

Use a parting tool to size the tenon of the box joint (higher quality wood would have allowed for a better finish in this case). The portion of the piece on the left in the photo below will be the top. The short tenon will extend into a matching recess (or mortice) in the bottom (right) created when that portion is turned later.

Ensure that the bottom of the main cut is square to the sides. The very thin parting cut is where the two pieces will actually part company. By using the thinnest parting tool possible you will reduce the amount of material used in creating the joint, which will reduce any discrepancy in the grain lines at the joint. The thin parting tool used in this case was a re-purposed kitchen knife. The pieces can be separated with a saw if you are uncomfortable using a thin tool for cutting to the center (not a bad idea at all).Joint cut second view

The view below shows the parting cut made just slightly away from the bottom portion. Because the bottom of the cut was square to the sides, the ring left will indicate the exact diameter required to accept the tenon without any measurement. This is important because once the bottom portion is completed it will become the jam chuck for completing the top, so it must be a tight fit.joint cut

Step 4:

Part the bottom from the top, leaving the top in the chuck. Hollow the the top and sand the inside.

Because you will be hollowing end grain, one acceptable method of removing the wood is scraping. There are several tools available specifically for this procedure but a simple scraper sharpened on a grinder leaving a clean burr as the cutting edge will do a nice job. This edge is not strong so will need to be refreshed often and as in all cases, make the finish cut with a freshly sharpened tool.

In this example the handle will be created as part of the top so material was left to do that as part of the last step. It is always an option to turn a separate handle to add later if you prefer.

Note the pencil line on the outside diameter. This indicates the depth of the hollowing when working the top later.DSCN3107

Step 5:

Remove the partially completed top from the chuck and put the bottom in the chuck using the jaws in expansion mode as shown below. Use care when tightening so the piece is secure but also that you don’t break it with too much outward force.

Note that the tail stock has been brought up and used to apply axial force on the piece. By applying a force on the end of the piece you will guarantee the piece will be seated squarely and solidly against the end of the jaw faces. This is a much better practice than just holding the piece with your hand, resulting in less vibration and a truer running piece.DSCN3108

In the photo below the slim portion of the reduced diameter of the box joint is evident. Use this as your guide when creating the mortice portion of the joint.DSCN3109

As in the photo below, hollow out the bottom of the box. It is perfectly acceptable to hollow the piece right out to the diameter of the mortice once it has been completed. I have chosen in this case to leave a thicker wall separate from the joint so that the two will be clearly evident. By keeping the joint portion separate from the box portion it is also easier to create a tight fit as described below.

Hollow the bottom at least deep enough to create the mortice portion of the joint. At this point we are actually creating a jam chuck to hold the top for finish turning, so it needs to be a tight fit. Use a bowl gouge to perform the next step, using the nose of the gouge to cut in line with the grain over this short distance. Using the raised ring as a guide, cut a slight taper inward so the the top just fits into the recess at the opening but goes no further. Gradually expand the taper so that the top can be forced into the bottom and held securely for turning (the tail stock will be used to further secure the top when doing this).

Finish sand the inside of the box portion but do not sand the joint.DSCN3110

Step 6:

The next photo show the top held in the bottom. The fit is secure enough to drive the top while it is being worked and the tail stock prevents the piece from coming out. Now you can see the importance of the pencil line on the top portion indicating the depth of the hollow inside.DSCN3111

All that remains is to create a handle (or finish the top to accept a separate handle) and finish turn the outside diameter. In this case it is a simple straight side. If you planned to have a more decorative shape, a much thicker wall would have to be planned in the beginning.

The nub left on the top of the handle will be carved away later off the lathe. In this case be sure to leave enough wood to cut away the hole in the wood left by the point in the live center.Making a lidded box on a lathe

The joint between the top and bottom is fairly clear in this case but depending on the grain pattern it can be quite difficult to detect. Another option in this case is to make a slight vee cut right on the joint line and a matching cut just to the left or right, hiding the actual joint in plain sight.

Remove the top from the bottom and sand the mortice portion of the joint to make it loose enough to make a nice fit with the top so it is neither sloppy nor too tight. The photo below shows the completed box (except for a finish). You can see that I added a couple of vee cuts on either side of the joint and they truly do hide it in plain sight. Despite the slanted grain the variation caused by the material removed for the joint, the grain alignment is still quite good.Completed wood  box

At this point you can create another jam chuck from waste wood to hold the bottom to remove any marks made in bottom recess made by the chuck. I would recommend holding the bottom by the outside diameter. Holding the piece by the inside diameter in a jam chuck will put the wood in tension and likely break the piece.

When sanding the joint to fit, consider any finish you will be applying. It is completely acceptable to not apply any finish to the joint if this will cause problems with the fit later. A bit of wax applied to both surfaces of the joint somewhat seals the wood and makes it look similar to the finish on the rest of the piece.

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Woodturning Safety Tips

Originally written by Ed for Craftsy as “Safety at the Lathe: Woodturning Safety Tips”>

It’s the only machine tool in the shop where the machine moves the wood and the cutting tool is held by the operator. The lathe, therefore, has its own unique safety considerations besides all the other risks that are ever-present in any shop. Observing some basic woodturning safety rules will make your time at the lathe far more enjoyable.

Wood in motion mounted on lathe

Wood rotating on a lathe can catch loose clothing and hair in its grasp in a heartbeat.

For simplicity, most guidelines for woodturning safety fall into three main categories: protection from entanglement; protection for the eyes, face and body; and respiratory protection. Of course there are myriad other operational considerations so for detailed guidelines, visit this website to view the American Association of Woodturners Safety Guidelines.

Woodturning exercising woodturning safety precautions

A woodturner using all the protective gear and  precautions noted in this post.

Protection from entanglement

While it is possible to become entangled in other woodworking machinery, the danger is heightened at the lathe. Your hands, body and clothing are closer to the hazard and the diameter and irregularity of the wood itself has a greater tendency to “grab” anything long and loose. Once clothing, hair or hanging jewelry become entangled in the wood, severe injury occurs in a microsecond.

  • Clothing should be close fitting without being restrictive.
  • While close fitting cuffs on sleeves are acceptable, short sleeves eliminate any possibility of having your arm wrapped into the spinning wood.
  • Long hair is very easily drawn into the spinning wood so must be tied back into a ponytail or bun.
  • Hanging jewelry should be removed completely. Tight fitting watches and rings are less of an issue but removing them removes the problem.

Woodturning wearing a powered air helmet

Eye, face and body protection

Eye protection is always a must but depending on the cut, the lathe can shower the operator with shavings directly in the face with considerable force. Because of that, safety glasses alone are not enough. A face shield not only more than doubles the protection provided by the safety glasses, it eliminates the painful shower of chips in the face.

More importantly, the face shield provides some protection from the work piece itself. The centrifugal force when the wood is spinning at high speed is tremendous, causing loose bark to fly off and cracked wood to separate or break up entirely. People have been severely injured and even killed in these situations. For that reason, a simple splash shield is not enough. Suitable face shields for woodturning should be strong and fit well so that they are not easily dislodged.

Eliminate the problem as much as possible by not turning questionable wood. Cracks can be quite artistic but not at the expense of serious injury.

You should be fully clothed with decent footwear. Turning in shorts with no shirt is akin to frying bacon in the same getup. Loose fitting gloves can get caught easily but a close-fitting, fingerless glove on the hand closest to the work when doing heavy roughing will prevent the solid stream of chips from abrading the skin of your hand.

Hearing protection is a must like any other machine tool. Earplugs are often more suitable than muffs because of all the other protective equipment that must be worn.

Respiratory protection

Respiratory protection in the wood shop at large is of extreme importance. At the lathe, much like eye protection, the hazard is super-sized. The moving wood tends to create its own “wind”, making it very difficult or sometimes impossible to control the dust that comes off the work when turning or sanding.

The most effective measure is to control the dust at the source with a high-volume dust control system. Should you be fortunate enough to have a good dust control system, you should still wear a good half-face respirator at all times while turning.

If you have to think about it, do it.

It’s fair to say that it’s impossible to note every single hazard in every situation. I worked as a firefighter for 36 years and encountered many situations not covered in the textbook. The one piece of advice that an old hand passed on to me early in the game was, “If you have to think about, you better do it.” In other words, if your sixth sense caused you to wonder if something might be unsafe – it’s unsafe and you need to deal with it. Trust your instincts.

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Sharpening Woodturning Tools Using a Jig

Originally written by Ed for Craftsy as “How to Sharpen Woodturning Tools Using a Jig”.

A sharpening jig for woodturning tools pays for itself in two ways. First, metal removal is almost nil with each trip to the grinder. Second, and most important, your turning experience will be far more enjoyable using sharp, consistent tools. In this post I’ll explain how to sharpen woodturning tools using a jig.

Grinder with basic jig setup
8″ grinder with basic jig setup and CBN wheels

In my last post, I talked about the importance of having sharp tools to be able to turn properly and that a sharpening jig for woodturning tools was one of the most important accessories you could buy. Choosing a jig is the first step, learning to use it effectively is the second.

The Wolverine jig from Oneway Manufacturing is the standard in the industry. There are a few others available that are “the same only different,” so the descriptions here are quite universal. The Wolverine has an accessory tool holder called a Vari-Grind jig that is required if you are sharpening bowl gouges with an “Irish” or “swept back” grind. It also makes sharpening a “fingernail grind” on spindle gouges a piece of cake.

First, a bit about your grinder

In my last post, I commented that your grinder be limited to 1725 rpm. 3400 rpm grinders are less expensive, but the speed causes balancing issues, which causes excessive vibration. Also, the heat generated by a 3400 rpm grinder can destroy the hardness of carbon steel tools and damage even high-speed steel tools. The tool rests on all grinders are inadequate for sharpening woodturning tools, making an after-market sharpening jig a valid consideration.

An 8″ grinder is ideal and recommended. 6″ grinders are acceptable, however, as soon as the wheel starts to wear, the arc of the concave or hollow grind is too severe, weakening the edge. Jigs are designed for 8″ grinders while 6″ grinders need to be shimmed up to make the geometry work.

The type of wheel on your grinder is important. Gray stones are too hard, so do not dissipate heat readily, burning your tools. White stones are very soft, keeping your tools from burning, however, they wear down very quickly. Blue stones are the Goldie Locks of grind stones for sharpening. They last a very long time, while still being soft enough to not burn your tools. CBN (cubic boronitrate) wheels are steel wheels with an impregnated abrasive. I love mine because there is no vibration, they are always true, they virtually never wear out, and heat seems to be a complete non-issue. I run an 80 grit wheel for reshaping and grinding scrapers and a 180 grit for all general sharpening. Many folks like 80 and 100 or 120, which are fine.

Setting up

I will explain how to sharpen woodturning tools using a jig, however it’s important to understand that a jig provides control over the angle of the grind but not the shape of the grind. Any jig will come with detailed instructions about setting up the base plates on your grinder base and how to adjust the components to get the desired shape. Once you’ve turned with those basic shapes, you will develop a preference for finely-tuned shapes through experience.

The Wolverine comes with a long extension arm and a flat tool rest. The long arm is used for supporting the Vari-Grind jig and though it can be used to support some tools directly, I don’t recommend it. Any tools that I sharpen other than spindle and some bowl gouges are supported by the flat tool rest while sharpening.

Vari grind jig
Vari-Grind jig showing tool and arm adjusted to constant settings

Vari-Grind jig

The “stick out” of the tool past the jig must be constant, typically 2″. Drill a hole in the base or mount a stop block to make that measurement accurately and quickly. Adjust the arm and mark the position with a line so that it can be repeated consistently. I use two different settings, some people use only one. Set the extension arm at a constant distance from the wheel surface. Because the wheel wears down you cannot measure from the clamp base. Make and use a jig to repeat that measurement.

When sharpening a gouge, work the sides of the grind first because that’s where the most material is to be removed, then carefully work on the curved front of the “fingernail.” It is very easy to remove too much metal at that point. This method offers more control than trying to sweep from one side all the way around to the other side in one pass.

Gouge ready to grind
Gouge set properly in jig and jig set in extension arm

Extension arm

The only thing I use the extension arm for is to support the Vari-Grind. You can get an accessory that attaches to the extension arm to sharpen skews. This isn’t worth purchasing and will limit the number of shapes that you can apply to those tools to one. The extension arm is not for sharpening spindle and bowl gouges directly from the pocket. It will only produce a sharp point on the tool.

Flat tool rest

The flat rest is very versatile. I recommend that you either buy or make jigs that allow you to set the rest at the various angles you require accurately. Again, it’s all about consistency.

Never, never, never, adjust the flat rest while the grinder is running! If it binds the wheel, something will break – including the wheel – and you could be severely injured.

Spindle roughing gouges and traditional grind bowl gouges are sharpened in the same way. Holding the tool perpendicular to the wheel face, rotate the tool from one wing through to the other wing until the full bevel has been ground completely. It’s OK and sometimes useful to have a very slight angle on the sides of the tool by holding it at a very slight angle to the wheel, but it’s important to keep the tool square to the wheel while grinding the rounded portion.

Skews can be sharpened with a straight grind by holding the tool flat on the rest with the skewed edge of the tool in line with the axis of the grinder. Of course, use a jig to set the grind angle you prefer for your skews. Grind both sides evenly then hone both edges as described in my post on sharpening woodturning tools. To produce a curved cutting edge, simply place the tool as before but place your thumb on the tool and use it as a center point to rotate the tool in the desired arc. I prefer that the top of the curve is just less than 90 degrees from the top edge of the tool – emphasis on “I prefer.”

Scrapers are the easiest to grind. Simply set the flat rest at the angle you prefer for your scrapers with a jig and follow the shape of the scraper or reshape it as required.

It’s fair to say, “the lathe is the cheap part.” Like anything else, it’s all the goodies that can break the bank. Being able to sharpen your tools is not an option. Using a jig is an option, however, one that will pay you back in dividends of enjoyment of turning as well as reduce the cost of your tools over time.

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Bowl Turning Tips & Tricks

Originally written by Ed for Craftsy as “Bowl Turning Tips & Tricks” The title works for this one, so I kept it.

Turning a bowl can be a challenge no matter what your level of expertise, but as long as you set reasonable goals, you will gain skills and achieve that sense of satisfaction your are seeking rather than a great sense of frustration. Let’s look at some ways of keeping your goals reasonable but still challenging so that your skills improve each time you step up to the lathe.

Design impacts difficulty

After many years in two guilds, I have watched a lot of new turners start out on their journey. It’s safe to say that to a person, their first design is usually the hardest you can imagine: flat bottom, large base and straight sides, just like the turning blank they started with. This shape appears very heavy but worst of all, the sharp turn at the bottom and the flat bottom spell disaster right away. The shank of the tool binds on the rim when turning the tight corner at the bottom, causing the bevel to come off the work and catch. And flat bottoms are just pain hard to do. Instead of maximizing the volume, you will gradually learn to maximize the form within, as in the simple yet elegant bowl below.

Shallow Woodturned Bowl

When teaching, I always start students off with smaller bowls with a shallow arc, not much deeper than a platter. The curve is easier to turn than a flat bottom and by its nature, has a light, satisfying appearance. As you gain tool control and confidence, make your bowls gradually deeper and deeper.

It’s a personal choice, but bowls with re-curved sides are the most pleasing to me. The rim casts a shadow on the inside, giving it a deeper appearance and also prompting the viewer to look inside the bowl. It’s also a bear to turn without a very steep angle on the gouge to facilitate the turn from side to bottom. Your confidence level will tell you know when it’s time to tackle something like this.

Blue Woodturned Bowl

 A tips on bowl turning to help you on your way:

  • Start by considering the foot to be about 1/3 of the overall diameter — that gives it a light look but if you need a bit more for stability, go for a bit wider foot, remembering that at some point it will look “clunky.”
  • The curve of the bowl should appear to converge above or just below the table surface to make it appear light. Steeper sides that appear to converge well below the table give the bowl a very heavy look. They’re also hard top pick up.
  • The rim can take any form, but if undecided, a flattish rim often looks nice if it is about 90 degrees to the inside curve at the rim.
  • Less is usually more. Use the K.I.S.S approach when considering decoration. Features like lines or beads look nice with one or two only. If more, stick to odd numbers.
  • A thicker wall near the bottom adds stability and heft in the right place. There is no rule that says the wall thickness has to be exactly the same all the way, nor does it have to be whisper thin. Other woodturners are the only ones who might be impressed by that. A bowl should feel “right.” Too light can make it feel too fragile.

A few tips and tricks to make things easier

  • ALWAYS uses sharp tools and tools adequate for the job. A 1/2″ gouge is too small for the reach needed for deep bowls. Bigger bowls need bigger gouges.
  • Drill a 1/4″ hole to the finished depth before starting the inside. This is your “bottom indicator” and also removes the wood in the very center, which is difficult to turn.
Woodturning Drill
  • When turning the inside of a larger bowl, it’s a good idea to turn it in stages for stability (usually 2 or 3). Rather than hollowing the whole bowl, do the top half or third, leaving wood in the center to support the bowl. Once finished that portion, move on to the rest. Do not go back once you’ve moved on because the bowl will no longer be round in the first section. Clean up any “steps” with a light shear scrape.
Unfinished Bowl on Woodturning Lathe
  • Always sharpen or hone your gouge before you make your finish cut. Make that a slow, fine cut to avoid tear out.
  • The path of your gouge does not have to go from rim to center in a straight line. Often by sweeping the gouge up above center then tracking it back down to end at the center you can get around a tough transition from side to bottom if you don’t have a second gouge with a steeper grind.
Making a Turned Wooden Bowl
  • This is possibly the most valuable tip: When starting your hollowing cuts, the flute of the gouge must face the center of the bowl. If the cutting edge at the tip of the gouge is not perpendicular, it will run in the direction of the angle of the cutting edge — typically toward the outside, ruining the rim. Once it has entered the cut, you can rotate it to the ideal cutting angle.
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Turning Spindles or Replication Made Simple

Originally written for Craftsy by Ed titled: How to Turn Stair Spindles Step by Step.

My last post talked about the basic concepts behind turning multiple pieces between centers on a lathe. I just completed a set of 42 spindles for the Kaslo City Hall restoration so what better time to follow the process step by step?

Follow along to learn how to turn spindles.

Carefully sanding the cylinder next to the bead to maintain crisp detail.

Since there are several pieces to be turned, the time-consuming process of simply marking the centers would be a good place to find a time saver.

Step 1.

A “box” slightly larger than the size of the stock will cause the stock to center itself when inserted and twisted tightly against all four sides of the box. A screw inserted at absolute dead center (remember there are 84 ends that have to be dead on) will clearly mark the center when the stock is struck with a dead blow hammer on the opposite end. Make sure there are no “feathers” from trimming to cause an error in setting in the jig. They can actually cause a significant error, marking off center.Center marker showing the protruding screw for marking the center point.

The floor is a good spot for long stock and the bed of the lathe is a good spot for short stock, basically somewhere with a solid base.Center marker on the floor beside the lathe.

Step 2.

In the case of these stair spindles, the turned portion is in the center leaving square stock (pommels) at each end for fixing to the stair runners and railing. Always measure from the same end, marking the turned portion and the end of the pommel cut. These marks will appear as a solid lines when the stock is spinning.Unturned stock marked for pommel cut.

Step 3.

Make a relief or clearance cut with a skew or spindle gouge to allow the tool room to make the pommel cut — in this case a half bead. There are many shapes used for pommel cuts, which are simply a transition between square and round portions of a spindle. The relief cut should be as deep as the major diameter of the stock and does not have to be measured because that is the point at which the stock becomes round.Pommel cut started. - Clearance cut for the pommel cut.

As you can see in the photo below, the relief cut allows the  skew to make the cut while the waste easily clears the cut. Not seen in the photo is my index finger locked under the tool rest for absolute position control.

Making the pommel cut.Step 4.

Cut the pommel cut with the toe of the skew. The heel can also be used for this cut, this just happened to be my preference with this particular skew.

Once both pommel cuts are made, defining the ends of the turned portion, the stock can be rough turned then the major diameter sized with a parting tool and caliper as in the photo below. The caliper used on this project is a “direct read” caliper showing the diameter as it is being cut. It’s very handy and fast but a bit expensive and limited to a  range between about  3/4″ and 2 3/4″, which is fine for most work.Sizing the main diameter with a caliper and parting tool.

In the photo  below you can see the left hand used as a traveling steady rest to support the cut. This is often required in long and/or slender spindles to prevent or at least reduce vibration. The spindle roughing gouge is held securely against the body, along the forearm and guided by the bevel, freeing up the left hand for support.

Normally gloves are listed as one of those things NOT to wear when turning. This glove is fingerless for proper control in other operations and thick to prevent being wrapped in the work and resist wear. Note that the hand resists the thrust of the tool on the opposite side but but does not wrap the work.

An alternative to the direct reading caliper used on this project is a separate spring caliper for each size (usually two or three at most). In this case it is wise to turn a cylinder with the “master” diameters to regularly check the calipers since vibration can slowly change the setting. Using a single spring caliper for all settings is very time consuming, frustrating and typically introduces a lot of errors.

Sometimes for a short job I will use my vernier caliper because it is fast to set and reset, very accurate, but awkward to use.

Rough turning the spindle - Using the left hand for a traveling steady rest.Note the polished surface of the glove after much use. I doubt the palm of my hand would fare as well. It is imperative that the fingers do not come into play, wrapping the cylinder. Wrapping the cylinder could cause your hand to be drawn into the work and cause significant injury. Not to worry, once your fingers start to burn, you quickly get the hint to keep them free of the work.

Gloved hand - Glove used for traveling steady rest.Step 5.

Once the main diameter is turned, it is possible to use the story stick to mark all the major linear dimensions. The shading on the stock in this photo indicates which side of the lines the sizing cut will be made. After a few pieces, these shading marks are not required.Story board in use. - The story broad rests on the turned portion wile rotating.

Note the “V” cuts in the story stick to ensure the pencil point is put in the same place every time. Even a 1/16″ error in the height of the elements can be picked up by the eye from a distance. The “X” marks which side the sizing cut is made and the diameters are noted. Once the “beta” piece was turned a couple of the dimensions were changed.Detail of story board. Note 'X" indicating which side to make the sizing cut.

Step 6.

Once the dimensions are marked, sizing can be done and waste removed. In the photo below, the cove’s major diameter is cleared between sizing cuts and a relief cut has been made on each side of the two large beads. The depth of the cuts is measured by the consistent depth of the tool in the cut. Practice and experience will allow you to make these cuts very accurately and the same every time.

Cove diameter and beads - Cove diameter set and clearance cuts made for beads.Step 7.

After making a few pieces you begin to alter your procedure as required. In this case, I started working from right to left but quickly determined that if I cut the top end of the cylinder first, working left to right, the skew could be run against the waste wood of the bead rather than running into and marring the completed bead. Always be on the lookout for ways to reduce time by making the  work flow better.

Note the heel of the edge is used for making this cut. Rather than a simple straight planing cut using the center of the cutting edge, this is more like cutting a bead (note the shape at the top of the cylinder in the next photo) so as the depth of cut increases, the heel of the edge comes into play.

Turning the top of the cylinder.Step 8.

The beads are next, using the heel of the skew again to cut the bead from larger diameter to smaller, both ways from center. This allows you to cut with the grain rather than against it.

For smaller beads the cut is made with the gouge square to the work and rolling the wrist only. For broader beads like these the tool is angled slightly away from center before rolling, angling farther for broader beads. I keep my thumb on the top of the tool handle at the start of the cut allowing a comfortable grip through the roll. If the cut is made with anything but the heel, you will cut a straight taper rather than a curve.

A rough cut and finish cut were made on each side of center. By making this cut the same way every time the shape of the beads will all be the same. After making a few, the eye will know the shape and any necessary adjustments are easily made.

Turning a bead.Another change in procedure: I typically cut a cove then trim the sizing cuts with a slight taper using a very small skew reserved for just that job. I found that I had room to make the trimming taper with the skew immediately after cutting the beads with the larger skew I was using, thus avoiding picking up a second tool for the job. Cutting the cove after this operation was backwards to my normal routine but everything worked just fine.Flats cleaned

Like beads, coves are always cut from larger diameter to smaller diameter from each side. Note that the cove is first roughed out for relief with either a scraping or peeling cut with the nose of the gouge.

Like the bead, the cut is made with the gouge square to the work and rolling the wrist only, starting with the flute completely closed (facing toward the center of the cove) and ending up completely open (facing up). In this case, I keep my rear thumb on the side of the handle at the start and end up with it on the top. The cut is made only with the sides of the very nose of the gouge (say, 11 and 1 o’clock).

Once the cut is complete, there is often a small raised line left at the bottom of the cove. I always try not to have one, but it is easily sanded away. If it is present and you try to cut it away, you end up chasing from one side to the other, eventually cutting the cove far too deep. By making this cut the same way every time, they will always have the same shape and depth, so they won’t require measurement.

Cutting a cove. - The cove is cut from each side to the center.Step 9.

Note the small tapered flats on both sides of the cove and at the pommel cut in the photo below. Cutting this taper is a better and quicker way to eliminate the torn wood from the sizing cut than sanding such a small space. Not only that, the taper highlights the separation in a far more appealing way than a simple straight flat. Sandpaper never touches this completed surface. It may be a matter of taste, but I think you will find it not only far easier but visually superior. A crisp line at the junction of the bead and cove visually separates the two. If not accomplished at the completion of the cut, just a touch with the point of the skew (or completely closed gouge) does the job.

The pencil line on the cylinder to the left in the photo below is the point at which it tapers both ways. It is easily sanded away.

Top detail complete.Step 10.

The photo below shows the sizing cut for the minor diameter of the tapered cylinder. The shaping was done with a roughing gouge then finished with a skew planing cut on the long taper and a planing cut with the roughing gouge on the large half cove. It is very important that your tool rest is not only clean and smooth, but also waxed for most of this work but for long cuts in particular. Wax completely removes the tendency of tools to grab as they slide along the tool rest. This momentary hesitation shows up drastically on the turning. This is a great trick for all your turning.

Turnign a taper.Step 11.

It’s time to sand. Sandpaper can be the enemy. Make sure you don’t eliminate the crisp edges in your elements. Those crisp edges are what make the turning so attractive. Note the shaped block for the cove below and folded edge for sanding into the line between the bead and cylinder in the next photo. The use of both helps prevent any crisp edges from being sanded away. The tool rest is absent in this operation.

Snading a cove.Carefully sand the center of the cove to maintain crisp detail.

Snading body.Carefully sand the cylinder next to the bead to maintain crisp lines.


This is the finished product in the photo below. Two places you will not sand are the tapered flats between the beads and coves and the shoulders of the pommel cuts. At this point, your cuts should be clean enough that the objective is to eliminate minor tool marks and burnishing from the bevel, giving all the large surfaces a uniform texture. If you are trying to clean up tear out, you’ve been scraping instead of cutting. The polished, clean cuts from the skew on the very narrow flats and pommel cuts are not noticeable, therefore it’s not necessary to sand them.

It usually takes me between six and 10 of something for me to hit my stride. By then I’ve ironed out the kinks, found the best way to proceed through the process, found the best place to lay my tools and calipers, memorized the sizes of the various diameters and their location, then the time drops dramatically. These took me about 20 minutes each because the stock was green and very long. As a result, there was a lot of vibration if I made heavy cuts. The first few took me over half an hour each as I plodded through my discoveries, so don’t be discouraged if you attempt a few of something and it takes you what seems an eternity to turn each piece.

People often comment that production turning must be boring. I find it anything but boring. In fact, I find it meditative. Focusing on one thing to the exclusion of all else is exactly what meditation is. If I have a significantly large number of pieces to do I will break it down into manageable chunks. Because I had the time, I did these in three sets of 14 and even though I was tired at the end of each session, I felt satisfied. I then did something else with the rest of my day rather than plunging in to the next set. That being said, because the wood was tough to work with, I was glad to see number 42 on the third day.

Turned section complete.Stacked with the original, these spindles are ready to be put back on the pallet on which they came. Each one will  differ minutely from the next but as my dad used to say, “A blind man running for his life would never notice.”

I’d like to think the differences — if noticeable — would indicate that they are hand crafted but crafted well.

Forty two spindles (plus the original) ready to go.

Interested in learning more? Check out Ed’s Interactive Remote Demonstration (IRD) for Replication Made Simple, and others.

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Beyond ABC – Tips and Tricks

Originally written for Crafty’s website by Ed, titled “The ABCs of Woodturning: The Basics”

ABC. What topic doesn’t have its “ABCs”? Following the A, B and C of woodturning basics will give you the ability to control any tool to get the direction and depth of cut that you want to produce the form that you want. Tool control is everything in woodturning.

Anchoring the tool before making a cut

A is for anchor

Your objective is to hold the tool so that it is stable without having a death grip that will tire you and actually prevent the fluid movement that you need.

Anchor the tool by placing it on the tool rest and securing it with your body by keeping your elbows against your body, the tool handle (such as a long-handled bowl gouge) on your hip, and your feet about shoulder-width apart. There are times (i.e. start of a cut when hollowing a bowl) where you aren’t able to keep your arms close to your body. In that case, hold the end of the handle to increase your leverage on the tool.

The heel of the bevel contacting the wood
The full bevel contacting the wood

B is for bevel

Keeping the whole bevel rather than just the cutting edge in contact with the wood is the secret to controlling your cut. Place the heel (opposite the cutting edge) of the bevel against the wood first as in the photo on the left above. While resting the heel on the wood, bring the tip (cutting edge) up to the wood until you see light dust coming off the edge as in the photo on the right. The bevel is now completely supported on the wood and the tool is stable. In this position you are using the bevel as a guide to “point the way.” Test your new skill by slowly tracing the surface of a round piece with the tool “in cut” (dust coming off the cutting edge) but not actually removing wood.

A dull tool will cause you to lift the bevel off the wood to make it cut, which makes the cut unsupported. Use only sharp tools.

Cutting with the bevel in contact with the wood

C is for cut

Changing the angle of the bevel to the wood at this point will allow you to start the cut. Do so by rotating your body very slightly or rotating the tool in your hands. Once you move forward in the cut, the bevel will continue along the line described by the bevel. You are now controlling your cut. The hallmark of a controlled cut is a smooth surface rather than a “rutted” surface where the tool moves in and out. This is much like a bulldozer traveling on its tracks controlling the path of the blade on the front.

When cutting a curved shape (almost every shape you cut will be a curve), simply rotate your body in that direction. Do not move your feet (remember: anchor). Instead, shift weight from one to the other by moving only at your ankles, knees and hips. Prior to making the cut, place yourself in a comfortable position at the end of the cut, then without moving your feet, move the tool to the start of the cut. It stands to reason that the more off-balance you get, the less stable the tool becomes. Better to be less comfortable at the start, becoming more comfortable as the cut progresses.

Skew fully supported by the bevel

The acid test

The skew is the great equalizer. If you follow the ABC of tool control you, too, will be able to tame the dreaded beast.

Remember, keeping the bevel in contact with the wood will not let the edge dig in, thus causing that spectacular “catch” for which the skew has become so maligned. The instant you either lift the heel off the wood or present the edge to the wood before the heel, the edge digs in. This forces the tool to twist and dig in even deeper, supercharging the catch. Always present any tool heel first. If starting from the end of a piece, turn a small portion (1” or so) from the opposite direction to make a clean flat at the end as a starting point wide enough for the bevel of the tool.

Practice any cut by turning the wood by hand and holding the tool against the wood as described. Watch the action of the tool and get used to keeping the bevel on the wood in that controlled manner. With experience, the action of heel-then-toe will morph into one fluid motion.

Interested in learning more? Check out Ed’s Interactive Remote Demonstration called Beyond ABC. Click here for more information.

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Designing Furniture Legs

Originally written by Ed for Craftsy as “Things to Consider When Designing Turned Furniture Legs”>

There are so many considerations when designing a piece of furniture. Does it have to match other pieces? Is it to conform to a particular genre? Ornately carved? Simple, yet elegant? In any of these, turned legs may be part of the picture. If the design includes turned furniture legs, let’s take a look at a few things you should consider.

Bed with Turned Furniture Posts

Though not a hand made piece, this bed incorporates several turned elements including the legs.

Basic elements of a turned spindle or leg

There are only three elements that make up a piece turned between centers: beads, coves and straights (cylinders). Even at that, straight lines are rare and usually in the form of a cone rather than a pure cylinder. If you look closely at what appear to be cylinders or cones, they will most likely have a deft curve to them. Your brain will tell you right away: “Straight lines are boring!”

By combining a very few beads, coves and sweeping curves in various combinations, the result is very often something that appears far more complex than it really is.

Light and shade

Artists use light and shade to create drama and depth. A woodturner can create those same effects by combining beads and coves. This is the same effect as the shadow lines created by the shapes in a crown molding or casing. Similarly, sweeping curves add depth with the more subtle shadows they cast upon themselves. If this is taken into consideration when designing a turned leg, a very attractive piece can be created that is actually very simple in execution. “Less is more” applies here.

The secret is in the execution. The crisp line that defines the edge of a bead or cove is key in producing a shadow line cast over the gentleness of the curve of the bead or cove. The significance is that beads and coves, for example, should never appear beside one another without a small step between to create that crisp delineation between the two. The enemy: sandpaper. Even the slightest rounding of an edge can kill the effect. The line of a sweeping curve should have uninterrupted transitions without even a hint of a flat. If there is a tiny flat, the eye may not see, but the brain will know that something is amiss.

Turned Furniture Legs

While the photo above is of newel posts rather than legs, they exhibit beads, coves, sweeping curves and the light and shade they create upon themselves very nicely. Once a finish is applied the effect is even more dramatic.

The human form

If you look carefully at examples of table and chair legs and other similar forms you will notice that the shape is sometimes reminiscent of the human form. We are attracted to that form by nature, therefore making it a good choice when considering a design.

Noted furniture designer Mark Sfirri turns the simile into a metaphor by employing abstract human forms he creates using multi-axis turning as part of his work to produce award-winning pieces.

Because our hips are more or less 5/8 of our full height, it is therefore no accident that the golden mean applies in this case. The golden mean is the ratio between the overall length (in this case) in relation to the lengths of the major portions of the piece. Usually stated as 1 to 1.6, 5/8 is a reasonable approximation.

Structural considerations

Wood Table with Ornate Turned Legs

Structural stability and process cannot be ignored when designing turned furniture legs. Rails are more easily mortised into a leg at a flat section and the flat surface offers a reasonable thrust face to increase resistance to lateral forces when required. Square sections are left at the top and often near the bottom of a leg to accommodate rails for this lateral support. These square sections are called “pommels.” The transition between square and round is called a “pommel cut” (clever terminology don’t you think?). The execution of the pommel cut can create a very attractive and flowing ogee (“bird mouth” or “lamb’s tongue”) or a very simple half bead (curiously dubbed “half bead”) depending on the overall design of the piece.Wood Side Table with Turned Legs

Clearly the load bearing requirements and the use to which the piece will be put could require either a hefty, squat leg on a large dining table or a finer, more delicate leg on a hall table. Both are attractive in that they are appropriate for their intended use. Switching rolls would cause your brain to recoil in abject horror, never mind the dinner table crumpling under the weight of a light lunch.

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Turning a Bowl with Feet

Originally written by Ed for Crafsty as “Turn Better Bowls: How to Make a Bowl with Legs”

In my last post I pointed out a few design considerations for turned forms. One primary consideration was that bowls will appear much lighter if the curve profile appeared to complete itself above, on or slightly below the surface upon which it sits. The bowl will have a lighter appearance if it does not have an overly wide base relative to the diameter of the bowl. I turn a series of forms which I call “Zen Candles” that present a problem as far as the required diameter of the base.wooden bowl with black rocks and 3 candles in it

In the photo above, the profile of the bowl form appears quite graceful and light, yet the piece is physically very heavy because it is filled with rock. Considering that the rock makes the bowl top heavy it cries out for a wide foot, at least as wide as the inside diameter in this case, to maintain its stability. A foot that wide would hide the elegant curve of the bowl and dominate the design to the point where it would take away from the intended feel of the piece. The answer then, is to make the footprint or stance as wide as needed for stability but in some way allow the line of the bowl to show.

Feet! Feet provide the width of stance but also allow a visual insight into the line from rim to center. You can add separately turned feet – which I have done – but you can also make them an integral part of the piece. How slick is that? A feature like this can really showcase your craftsmanship. Let’s find out how we put feet on a bowl that appear to “sprout” from the piece.

The obvious answer to the question is to turn a ring then carve away the wood that you don’t want (which is what turning is all about anyway – getting rid of the wood you don’t want). The tough part is making the curve of the bowl on both side of the ring appear as one.

Turning a bowl with legs tutorial

Step 1:

I used a jam chuck with a soft foam face to support the piece in these photos so the tail stock is required to keep it in place. A vacuum chuck would be suitable as well as any other method that you care to use as long as the piece is held firmly while you work.

Three feet are ideal because the piece will always sit level on a surface without rocking but you can make as many as you want. After turning a ring that blends nicely into the form of the bowl, mark the location of the boundary between the feet and the bowl form with a line on both sides of the intended foot. Your rough cuts will stay above the lines and finish cuts will go to the lines. If a cut is made below the line it will interrupt the line of the curve.

Mark out the centers of the feet in equal thirds around the  circumference using the index head on your lathe or by setting a compass at the radius of the ring and step it off around the circumference. This is your opportunity to cut away any unattractive flaws like bark inclusions  but be mindful of grain direction for strength. Mark the width of the feet, then using a template, draw a pleasing arc from the bottom of the feet to the  line. I’ve done this often enough now that I draw these arcs freehand – so will you after a few bowls.bowl with Marked foot

Cut a trench through the ring in an area where the wood will be removed between the feet. I used to cut a cardboard profile placed in this trench to determine when the profile inside matched the profile outside but now I use a profile gauge seen in the photo at the end of the post. It is wise to leave more wood than necessary on the inside and gradually turn that away to match a pleasing curve with the outside, using either the cardboard pattern or profile gauge as a guide. Above all, make sure the curve completes at a point where the bottom of the bowl is above the feet (in relation to the support surface) so that when the feet rest on the table, they hold the bottom of the bowl above the table.

Step 2:

Now it’s time to make the rough cuts to remove the wood you don’t want. In the photos I used a coping saw and rasp. This is quite time consuming but it gets the job done with less danger of cutting too deeply. Now I use a “Lancelot” cutter on an angle grinder and a small belt sander but great care must be taken not to remove too much wood.

If using a Lancelot, be absolutely certain the piece is anchored by a spindle lock or similar. Use both hands on the grinder – not one on the grinder and one holding the piece. This tool is extremely dangerous and you must maintain full control. I place a steel shaft in the banjo in place of the regular tool rest, making a vertical tool rest to help guide the grinder. Typically I can work on about a 2″ stretch of the ring at a time this way. Leave enough material for a finish cut.bowl on the Coping sawUsing rasp and bench chisel on the bowl

At this point you can use a rasp and bench chisel as in the photos or the small belt sander. If you have some other wood removal tool that is suitable, then by all means use that. Using your hand to feel the curve will tell you far more about your progress than anything else. Be sure to blend the sides of the feet into the curve as well. The masking tape helps to protect the finished surface to some degree.bow with finished surface cuts

Step 3:

Once you have a fair curve and a nice blending of the feet, block and hand sand until there are no discernible steps anywhere. In the photo below a profile sander is being used to sand the sides of the feet. This helps keep their shape uniform.sanding the profile of the bowl

Once the legs are done the piece can be removed from the lathe and the center spot carved away and sanded. This whole process could be done on the bench if you desire but I find it far easier to use the lathe for a clamp. If you are using a Lancelot or similar cutting tool it is imperative that you clamp the piece securely.

This whole process can take as long or longer than turning the actual bowl, but the effect is well worth it.

The photo below shows the three tools that I use now that I didn’t have at the time of these photos. The profile gauge is very handy and quite inexpensive. The power carver speeds the process immensely as does the small belt sander, however it is very easy with both to take too much wood away, ruining the effect.profile gauge, power carver and small belt sander

One last time, if you are using an angle grinder with a Lancelot type cutter, I can’t stress enough that you should use both hands on the grinder and have the piece held securely with clamps or in the lathe with the spindle locked.

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Preparing Bowl Blanks

Originally written by Ed for Craftsy as “All About Turning Blanks: The Starting Point for Every Woodturning Project”

Anything turned on a lathe started out as a “blank.” Turning blanks come in various forms, but either way you cut the pie, they are the raw material that become your things of beauty or things of absolute necessity. Sometimes it is purchased from a supplier in quite civilized square or round stock with a lot of milling to get it to that point, but sometimes it fell in the back yard during last night’s storm. Let’s look at “blanks” and discuss all the things you might consider.

Milled spindle blanks, dried and milled bowl blank and a blank cut with a chainsaw

Milled spindle blanks, dried and milled bowl blank (both purchased) and a blank cut with a chainsaw in the back yard (free).


Safety may not be the first thing you look for in a blank, but it is the most important. Certainly dimension, species and cost might come first, but once you find your perfect blank is structurally unsound, you’ll have to start your hunt all over. Cracks are sometimes obvious, but sometimes not. Be thorough in your inspection before starting and while you are turning. If a crack is desirable from an artistic standpoint, weigh the benefit against the risk. Lynn Yamaguchi, one of the world’s most talented turning artists, has been sidelined by an intentional cracked blank that exploded. She’s lucky to be alive.

Turning Blanks with Cracks

These cracks seem small but will penetrate deeply into the blank and will be present even after removing some material. They will extend past what appears to be the end of the crack.

Knots are always suspect, particularly if they are “loose” (a dead branch surrounded by bark). Large knots may be stable, but can make turning very difficult because of the change in density.

A Classic Loose Knot on Turned Wood

This is a classic loose knot. Note the dark line between the knot and clear wood. That is the bark around a dead branch engulfed by the growing tree. This knot did not show on the surface of the blank.

If there is bark on your blank, ensure that it won’t come off while turning. Bark is every bit as dangerous as solid wood when it flies off. The bark on winter-cut wood is the most stable, but the best solution is to take all the bark off every time before turning.

Loose Bark on Woodturning Blank

This bark is obviously loose and can be removed easily. Not all loose bark is this obvious.

Poorly balanced blanks can throw themselves right out of the lathe. Always start at the lowest speed and increase slowly. If you have step pulleys, “bump” the start button a few times until you are certain vibration won’t be a problem. If possible, bring the piece back into balance with counter weights or remove wood as required prior to turning.

Wood on a Woodturning Machine

The piece above is intentionally off-balance for multi-axis turning. Using lead attached on the outboard end is one way of bringing a piece into balance, however, it is better to balance the piece by removing wood as required prior to turning.

A Large Natural Edge Blank

Although this is a very large natural edge blank, the piece was in balance. Some of the wood was removed evenly prior to turning. The piece was harvested in the winter and the bark in this case is very secure. It is mounted very securely on a faceplate.

Grain direction is significant in spindle blanks. If the grain angles across the piece rather than parallel to the axis, it is possible the piece may break in the lathe or during its intended use.


In a face-turned piece it is nice to have the grain centered, but you may have a reason to have it shifted to one side. Either way, this is a consideration when choosing your blank that shouldn’t be left to chance. The orientation of the growth rings in a flat-grained piece will greatly affect the final appearance, yielding either an hourglass shape or a series of ovals in the grain pattern in the bottom of the bowl or platter.

Two examples of grain orientation on turning blanks

The grain in the piece at the top was intentionally shifted to the front to frame a turned stone ink well. The grain in the bottom piece was intentionally centered to visually balance the piece. Subtle, yet important considerations.

Figured grain adds excitement to a piece, but can be quite difficult to turn because it is often prone to tear out. If chosen for a spindle, the change in grain direction may be severe enough to cause the piece to break at the smaller diameters.

Spalted wood can have wonderful, exciting patterns but it can be a nightmare or even impossible to turn and finish due to the tear out. Spalt on the surface may seem sound, but often is complete punk a half inch under the surface.

Green or dry

Both green and dry wood have their advantages and disadvantages depending on your needs. Do you want a piece to stay round after turning? Do you want it to be warped? Do you have time to rough turn a piece then dry it before finish turning? Describing all the options is enough for a whole other post, so certainly is a major consideration when choosing your blank.

Turning Blanks

The qualities of green arbutus (madrone), dry black walnut and the natural edge of a quilted maple were used to create this illusion.


This may be the first or the last consideration, depending on your needs and point of view, and of course “expensive” is a relative term. The term “cost” should also apply to your safety and the effort that you put into the piece. Will you be safe while you are turning and will you be happy with the result in the end? What you paid for it – a lot or a little – may have little or no bearing on the outcome.

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A Small Woodturning Project

Originally written for Craftsy by Ed titled: A Small Woodturning Project you Can Whip Up This Weekend.

When describing woodturning to someone “browsing around” for a new hobby, one of the first points I like to make is that it is possible to create a finished piece in an evening or Saturday.

The turned box below is a good example of one of many small woodturning projects that can be completed in just one session. This project is admittedly more suitable for a turner capable of using the bevel as a guide when making interrupted cuts, but it is worthy project for a novice turner who’s up for a challenge. Creating job-specific jamb chucks for final steps defies detection of any means of work holding to the casual viewer.

Turned box with lines inspired by Oriental architecture.

Turned box with lines inspired by Oriental architecture.


In the above example, my inspiration was informed by classic Oriental architecture. I have an affinity for the sweeping roof lines seen in many older buildings as well as the often solitary gates seen in gardens or entrances to enclosures. I enjoy contrasts and surprises, so chose to make the body with black walnut then ebonize it to make it almost black. The black walnut contrasts nicely with the very light yellow cedar lid. The gold leaf in the bowl form offers a surprise when you open the lid. The body and handle compliment one another and reflect the sweeping lines of roofs and gates to work together to imply a feeling of comfort.

How to make a turned box

Step 1: The body

The body is turned from a rectangular blank with the sides relieved at 15 degrees. I find that is an appealing angle that can be cut on a table or band saw, then sanded to completion at that point. When turning the curved top of the body, the sides will automatically generate sweeping lines on the sides and ends.

Mount the blank in the lathe on a small faceplate or screw chuck so that you can turn a tenon on the bottom to mount in a chuck. If using a faceplate, be careful to use screws only where wood will be turned away later.

Turning the tenon on the bottom. Blank mounted on  a screw chuck

Turning the tenon on the bottom. Blank mounted on a screw chuck

With the bottom tenon mounted in a chuck, you can now turn the curved top surface and the bowl of the box.

Turning the top surface. Note the blank area for the bowl portion and the tape on the tool rest indicating the "no go zone".

Turning the top surface. Note the blank area for the bowl portion and the tape on the tool rest indicating the finger “no go zone.”

The bowl form is simply a bowl, so standard bowl turning technique is required. I chose to create a rabbet in the top of the bowl form to receive the lid, but you can leave it flat and have a rabbet only in the lid. If you chose the second option, the sides of the bowl should be as close to, if not completely vertical, to allow the lid to fit well.

Turning the bowl of the box.

Turning the bowl of the box.

Turning the piece around and mounting in a suitable jamb chuck allows you to turn the bottom of the body to match or compliment the top curved surface. Once complete, carve away the center left by the tail stock by hand.

Turning the bottom surface using a jamb chuck and tail stock.

Turning the bottom surface using a jamb chuck and tail stock.

Even better, the use of a vacuum chuck allows you to turn the bottom completely.

Using a vacuum chuck allows you to turn the bottom completely.

Using a vacuum chuck allows you to turn the bottom completely.

Turning the two curved surfaces of the rectangle is unlike turning a fully round project. When turning the wings of the body, it’s better to keep the speed quite high, making light cuts with a slow, steady feed using the bevel as a guide since less than 50% of each revolution presents wood to the tool. The rest of the time the tool is unsupported in the air. Be as steady as you can and use only a very sharp bowl gouge. Do not attempt to sand this portion on the lathe. Sand the wings only by hand.

Turning the bottom reveals a  sweeping line from end to end, but since it is a rectangle the cut either does not penetrate the ends or penetrates only minimally. You can leave this flat so the box has two wide legs or cut an arc in the ends later, creating four legs. The whole body will require quite a bit of hand sanding.

Step 2: The lid

Cut a blank for the lid and mount it in a chuck so that you can turn the inside first. Turn a rabbet to fit the body using the body itself as a gauge before turning the inside shape. The lid should not be tight, yet it should not be a sloppy fit. In other words, just right. A very slight taper in the rabbet will allow the lid to fit on easily yet still seat without too much play.

The inside shape is your choice but I prefer a concave form that reflects the shape of the outside of the lid. Sand the inside shape. Turn the outside diameter and at least a small portion of the outside shape at this point — this prevents chipping of the edge of the lid when turning the outside shape.

Turning the inside of the lid.

Turning the inside of the lid.

Create a jamb chuck for the lid, then turn and sand the outside shape of the lid. Note that in this case, there is a channel cut in the chuck to allow you to easily pry the lid from the chuck or blow it off with air pressure. The latter works well and leaves no marks on the wood — as long as you’re a good catch!

Turn the outside of the lid in a jamb chuck.

Turn the outside of the lid in a jamb chuck.

Step 3: The handle

My objective in the handle was to reflect both the color and theme of the body so used ebonized black walnut. The uprights are turned on the lathe but the cross beams are carved and sanded. Rather than drilling holes I used a power carver with a small bit to shape the holes in the beams and lid because they are tapered and mounted at an angle rather than vertical, requiring tapered holes at an angle.

By applying masking tape to the lid, it is possible to mark the holes out without marking the lid. By leaving the tape on during the glue up, any squeeze out is removed with the tape. With a linear handle such is this, take care to align the handle with the grain of the lid. If you do not, this final step could totally distract the eye from all your good work up to that point.

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