Tuesday, December 20, 2005


The first ever bursary from the Crafts Council of Ireland has been won by a woodturner, Liam Flynn. The purpose of the bursary is to release recipients from their usual commitments so they can invest in the creative development of their craft.

You can see some of Liam's work on his website.

Read the full article in the Limerick Post: Top honour for Limerick woodturner

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Who influences your work?

Luann Udell made an interesting observation on her blog today titled 'Influence'.

She makes the point that 2-D artists will often declare that they work in the style of a well known artist. Craft workers seldom do this.

It made me wonder why this is so.

Could it be that more artists have had a formal arts education and have been exposed to thinking in depth about their work and have practiced analysing and talking or writing about it?

Or could it be that the art world is better developed, and is written about by art critics and art historians? This must give artists a strong incentive to declare their influences before the critics do so.

Perhaps if crafts publications paid as much attention to concepts and design as they do to technique, things might be different.

Sanding advise

I just found this article about power sanding on the Sandpaper Blog: Sanding Slow when Woodturning. Good advise I think. Maybe I need a new sander though. I use a power drill and although it has variable speed controlled by the pressure on the trigger, it is really hard to maintain a slow speed.

Who would have thought there would ever be a blog about sandpaper!

I have recently been turning a few salad bowls, and have been experimenting with sanding technique. One thing that I find really annoying is having to step back a few grits when I discover a deep scratch mark that I missed. So I have been alternating from power sanding and hand sanding.

For example, I might start by power sanding at 100 grit, then hand sand at 120. I will then stop the lathe and inspect the surface to make sure all the swirly sanding marks from the power sanding have been replaced by concentric circles made by the handsanding. Then I will power sand at 150 grit, stop the lathe and check that all the concentric circle marks have been replaced by swirly marks. And so it continues.

Let me know if you try this technique.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Treat your Cherry to a sun tan.

The good folks at Woodworking Magazine have been testing ways to accelerate the natural color development in cherry.

One of the tests included a trip to the local tanning salon. Now we have to wait for the spring issue to see how their tests worked out.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Stair Spindles

If you need some inspiration for your next stair spindle design, check out the Old Basing Woodworking Co website which has over one hundred examples shown.

I'm not suggesting of course that you copy a design. There is much more to be achieved by studying the designs and creating your own. A good place to start is to decide which ones you like, or dislike, and then try to decide why!

For example, on the first page I don't find any merit in numbers 11 and 13. They are both rather clumsy, and incorporate very little fine details to balance the large elements.

Not that a lot of detailing is essential to a good design. Number 9 achieves a simple elegance with just a few beads top and bottom, one large bead in the middle, and two graceful long curves.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Specialty bowl-gouge grinds

When you purchase one of those 'signature' bowl gouges with a fancy grind on it, what exactly are you buying? A piece of round steel with a flute ground in it, sharpened carefully to match a profile developed by a master woodturner.

A few sharpenings later, what do you have? A slightly shorter piece of round steel with a flute ground in it, sharpened as best you can to match what you think it looked like a while earlier. Even with a sharpening jig, it may not be very long before the edge of the tool bears little resemblance to how it was when bought. One of the fundamental skills involved in sharpening is knowing the exact shape you are aiming for.

My advise to anyone who has spent money buying a gouge with a speciality-grind is to either take close-up photos or careful drawings of it before you use it or take it to the grinder. I would recommend carefully recording the side profile, top view and bottom view.

The only supplier I know of who has done this right is Melvyn Firmager. He supplies a set of pewter models of the custom grinds he sells for natural edge and hollow vessel work.

One of the first things I explain to students who ask about purchasing bowl gouges is that what you are really buying is the flute, rather than any fancy grind the manufacturer has applied. The only real advantage I can see for buying such a tool is that it can save you quite a bit of work grinding the profile in the first place. Melvyn once told me that he grinds his signature tools before they are hardened, which I guess must make the job easier and faster.

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Mathematics or art?

If you think that cutting up and gluing together the pieces for a segmented turning is time consuming, take a look at the work of Elias Wakan. The site is quite extensive and includes some essays, and an article on The Arabesque Construction Series which jig making enthusiasts will enjoy.

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Grain raising

When I make salad bowls and other food use bowls that are going to be washed, I put them through a grain raising process before applying an oil finish. This helps to maintain a smooth finish when it is eventually put to use and washed.

Once the bowl has been turned, I dunk it into a sink full of clean warm water. This causes the grain to swell unevenly and the surface will feel rough. When dry, the bowl is lightly sanded and oiled.

This technique should also be used before using water based stains on wood.

Friday, September 30, 2005

WOODTURNING NEWS: Michael Hosaluk :: Exhibition, Groveport, OH

Michael Hosaluk has won the 2005 Saidye Bronfman Award which I mentioned last week.

From The Star Phoenix : Turn, turn, turn: Saskatoon artist wins prestigious national award. They report that the peer panel wrote:
"Michael Hosaluk's idiosyncratic turned-wood objects are recognized throughout the world for their inventive spirit and technical mastery. His ability to communicate his personal aesthetic and technique has made him one of the most sought-after instructors in his field."
Congratulations Michael, and thanks for everything you have done for woodturning!


Central Ohio Woodturners' Club are holding an exhibition "Celebration of Woodturning" at Groveport Cultural Arts Gallery, Town Hall, 648 Main St., starting Monday and running until Nov. 26; 614-836-3333.

The Village Reporter says that "all varieties of turned wood products will be displayed. Gallery hours are Monday - Saturday from 9 am - 8 pm and Sunday from Noon - 6 pm.

Central Ohio Woodturners next meeting is at OSU, 7pm, October 11, 2005 and events include "Christening" of their new powermatic 3520A, Multi-axis Candle Sticks and Beginners Corner.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Michael Hosaluk finalist for 2005 Saidye Bronfman Award

Michael Hosaluk, an internationally known woodturner from Saskatoon, Canada, is one of five finalists for the prestigous 2005 Saidye Bronfman Award. This is Canada's highest distinction for excellence in the fine crafts. The $25,000 annual award is one of the largest individual arts prizes in Canada. In addition to the cash prize, works by the recipient are acquired by the Canadian Museum of Civilization for its permanent collection.

Should Michael win this award, he will be the first woodturner to do so. In the past it has been won by wood carver William Hazzard in 1984, and furniture makers Michael Fortune in 1993 and Peter Fleming in 2000.

Michael's work can be seen in galleries such as Del Mano and Tercera. A retrospective exhibition of his innovative and inspirational woodwork can be seen at Saskatchewan Craft Council Gallery, October 20– December 4, 2005

He is also the author of a book published in 2002 by Guild Publishing, titled Scratching the Surface: Art and Content in Contemporary Wood.

The winner will be announced on Thursday, September 29, 2005. Good luck to Michael! It will be a great day for Canadian woodturning should he win.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

WOODTURNING NEWS: Joan Kelly :: Mid South Woodturner's Guild :: Bob Rosand

Woodturner Joan Kelly has been featured in commercialappeal.com of Memphis, TN. Apparently Joan only started turning in 2003 but has already quit her day job as art teacher and started her own business, Turningpoint Woodcraft.

Joan is a member of the Mid South Woodturner's Guild, and if you download the September 2005 issue of Turner's Talk you will find several photos of her work.

Also of note in that edition is a report on a deep hollowing demonstration given by Dennis Paullus.

The guild is also hosting a two day turning demonstration by Bob Rosand on October 1st and 2nd, 2005. This is open to non-members for just $45, which I think is a bargain considering Bob's expertise.

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Turning ProjectsTurning Projects
Raffan shows 23 woodturning projects..

Turning Projects

Friday, September 16, 2005

Woodturner of the month!

I am chuffed to be Turner of the Month at Woodezine.

And I am in the good company of Carver of the Month David James Calvo and Furniture Builder of the Month Stover Amish Furniture.

Other articles of interest to woodturners in this issue of Woodezine is their regular Turning & Carving News and article describing the construction of a lathe bench.

Be sure to check out their archives for other articles and subscribe to their mailing list so you don't miss future editions of Woodezine.

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Dining TablesDining Tables
Plans and complete instructions for building nine tables

Enjoying a meal at a handcrafted dining table can be one of a woodworker's great pleasures. Here, in his new book, Kim Carleton Graves, one of America's top woodworkers, provides plans and instructions for building dining tables that would make any woodworker proud.

Dining Tables

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What am I turning here?

Would anyone care to guess what I am making here?

Leave your answers in the comments below. Closest / best / funniest answer(s) will win a fridge magnet.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Splitting large logs

So you just got a big log of some nice wood that you want to turn into bowls.

Now what? It needs cutting down the middle for starters, and although it is possible to cut out a bowl blank nearly twice the diameter of a chainsaw bar, it is not a nice job nor without risk.

Two years ago I got a large maple log and was lucky enough to be able to get it cut right down the middle with a bandsaw mill. The resulting pieces were much easier to deal with than if I had had to do the splitting with the chainsaw. See the sidebar story here. Unfortunately I don't often have a sawmill handy, and many trees I get are from an urban environment and no sawyer will handle them because of the likelihood of nails being present.

A while back I was watching an archaeology program and they showed how long logs could be split with wooden wedges. I haven't had a chance to try it on a really big tree yet, but I did try a few smaller pieces and it worked quite well. The ends already had drying splits in them, so I started there. Otherwise I think a metal wedge, chisel or mason's bolster might be useful to get the job started.

The wedges I used were cut from scrap one inch maple. They were about 6" long and 3" wide, tapering from 1/8" to 7/8". They broke along the grain eventually, so another type of wood, maybe ash, might be more appropriate. I think I would also try making the 'sharp' end thinner so that it will start better in narrower cracks. Metal wedges would be preferable if available, but unless you plan on using them a lot, they are probably not an essential investment.

If the logs have been drying for any time at all there is probably a big enough radial crack in the end to get started with wooden wedges. Drive two wedges into the end grain both sides of the pith (assuming you are trying to split the log in half - I haven't tried anything other than splitting along a diameter). Then you should be able to get a wedge into the split that opens along the length. Open that up with a wedge on each side until the first wedges come free. Put those in further down the log. Keep working along the log in that manner until you have two pieces.

A book called Green Woodwork - Working with Wood the Natural Way, by Mike Abbott, has pictures and a description of splitting a log in there. He butts one end up to a rock, or other immovable object, and starts the split with a cleaving axe and maul.

He then opens the split with 'gluts' - wedges made from a 3 or 4 inch diameter branch. He recommends hard wood like hornbeam, beech or yew for making gluts.

Here are some other online resources on this topic:

Pat Rock blogs on Quest for a Plank from a Log -- Part1, and Part 2.

Over on Woodweb you can read how to do the job with black powder. Don't try this at home boys and girls.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

WikiProject: Woodworking

There is currently a lot of interest amongst woodworkers in expanding the woodworking entries on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that anyone can help edit.

The details of the project can be seen at Wikipedia:WikiProject Woodworking. There is of course plenty of scope for adding to the woodturning section.

Newcomers to Wikipedia should read the introduction and article about editing before contributing to this valuable project.

Thanks to Luigi Zanasi who drew my attention to this project in his post on rec.crafts.woodturning.

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Chuck maintenance

My lathe chuck slowly gets clogged up with fine wood dust and the key operation becomes quite sticky. So I will occasionally blow out all the dust with the shopvac, and lubricate the mechanism with graphite lubricant. This is a fine graphite dust and is sold in hardware stores for lubricating door locks, amongst other things.

After I turn the jaws in and out a few times, they become noticeably easier to operate. And when I put it back on the lathe I get a much better feel for the amount of gripping pressure I apply. I have been turning a lot of bottle stoppers lately, and before cleaning I was finding the dowel had a tendency to come out of the jaws at the slightest provocation. After cleaning the mechanism I get a much better grip. I can only assume that more of the key torque is transferred to the jaws when the gears are operating smoothly.

The investment of few minutes of maintenance time has paid off well.

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What is this RSS thing?

Do you want to be informed everytime I post a new article to this blog?

If so, RSS is the ideal way to do it. You don't even need to give me your e-mail address!

All you need is an RSS reader. The one I use and recommend is Bloglines. Simply register as a new user, and add the RSS feed URL (http://www.seafoamwoodturning.com/TheToolrest/atom.xml) to it.

Then you can log in to Bloglines everyday, just like you might check your email everday. If I have posted anything new to The Tool Rest, you can read it right there in Bloglines.

And the beauty of it is that you can keep track of any blog, news site or mailing list that has an RSS feed. Its a great way to keep track of all manner of things. Give it a try today.

If you want a more in depth look at RSS, a good starting point is Beginners Guide to RSS, XML & webfeeds.

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About me

Derek Andrews, woodturner
My name is Derek Andrews. I have been a full time woodturner since 1995. My business name is Seafoam Woodturning Studio. It is located on the beautiful north shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, in a tiny community called Seafoam. The nearest village is River John.

I mainly make small giftware items, some of which you can see in my online store. I also make a few pieces of a more creative nature, and you may also want to see some of my past works.

The Toolrest will be of most interest to other woodturners. I will include all sorts of hints, tips and techniques that I use in my own workshop. There will also be links to other websites about woodturning, other woodturning blogs, woodturning in the press, events - in fact, just about anything to do with woodturning. I will probably also mention other woodworking disciplines from time to time.

I also write another blog, The Chipshop, which is intended more for customers and collectors of my work. Its purpose is to provide background information about woodturning to non-practitioners, as well as to keep readers up-to-date with what is happening in the studio.

Should you wish to contact me, you will find all the usual channels here. If you have something to say about a particular blog post, please leave a comment, or make a trackback from your own blog.