Helpful advice for ladies who wish to try Woodturning…

Make sure you wear a high fronted top.  Ladies who experience problems with popcorn at the cinema will not need me to elaborate.   Let me just show you some “sawdust”

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Right, I have about a gazillion posts to make to try to catch up with all the things I’ve been doing because yes! I have actually been doing stuff, I promise.  I have proof of this in that I am, since September 5th, this year’s Arts and Sciences Champion of Lough Devnaree.  (I was trying to be serious, but my inner child has just whooped and started making airplane runs around my head it’s so happy.)   My plan was simply to enter some different sorts of projects to help Lady Cassandra realise her hope to get entries across the full range of Drachenwald’s competition categoires, and maybe raise a little interest particularly in the functional sciences category (I am running a science University soon after all)  I’ll take the entries as different posts, see if I can’t kick start this blogging habit again.

an_elizabethan_sycamore_goblet_circa_1580_d5323646hFirst up is the aforementioned turning.  I spotted this goblet on Pinterest.  It’s Elizabethan from about 1580,  made from sycamore and the original was sold at a Christie’s auction in 2010 for £9,375.   It’s original dimensions were 7 ⅝ inches/19.4 cm high, with a bowl diameter of 3 13/16 ” /9.7cm and a foot diameter of 3 ½ “/8.9 cm.   I liked the shape of it and decided I’d give it a go.  While I set out to try and get approximately the same sizes I determined that the original was probably turned freestyle, and that the piece of wood I was working with would have almost certainly end up with different dimensions just determined by the need to get a satisfactory finish.  The dimensions were roughly ⅗ allocated to the goblet bowl, ⅕ to the stem and the last ⅕ to the foot.   The goblet has a decorative pyrographic incised panel and bands.


IMG_0876I was working with a modern lathe, having neither a period lathe or the expertise (yet) to make one.  This would have the distinct advantage of being more consistently stable, but I do feel many of the actual setup, centering,  hollowing, turning and finishing skills are likely to be similar to enough, revolving around  the judicious application of sharp metal to rotating wood.    I didn’t have any sycamore wood easily available so I initially tried on a piece of ash timber that unfortunately ended up with a big knot hidden in the centre, which meant I couldn’t successfully hollow beyond that point.  I finished work on the ash just as a practice piece.

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I was then  gifted a very lovely block of linden (also known as lime) wood which works beautifully and has a pale colour, though not as pale as sycamore.  This I thought was auspicious as my device is a linden tree 🙂  Turning is IMMENSELY satisfying, it’s just fabulous watching a shape appear as if by magic from under your chisel with streamers of wood shavings spinning off.

IMG_0916The pyrographic bands were burned by holding thin metal wire into a precut groove and allowing the friction from the turning to burn into the timber.  If every you have frustrations and anoyances in your life allow me to recommend this practice as a stress reliever…
The geometric band was first plotted out on a strip of paper measured by wrapping around the top of the goblet and then plotted out in points around the goblet itself. finished with a hot metal rod. IMG_0922 (1) 


I discovered that walnut oil is a common, documentable sealant used by turners in the SCA through research on Stefan’s Florilegium http://www.florilegium.org/?http%3A//www.florilegium.org/files/CRAFTS/wood-finishes-msg.html  and since I hope to actually use the goblet I chose it over a beeswax and turpentine alternative.  

The hard bits:  Setting the block up, shearing the edges straight and making sure it’s centred.  Judging how far to push in with chisel when separating the piece, knowing that cutting in too far could end up with everything flying up at you from the lathe at speed.  Definitely the hollowing out stage, it’s hard on the nerves the deeper you go in. 

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