The Person With The Saw

One of the things that Dennis mentioned really rang a bell with me personally, which is “Don’t let the person with the saw determine the size (and shape) of your project.” 

I know that when I started turning, sourcing wood was one of the largest concerns that I had. I was under the mistaken impression that turning blanks were difficult to find. Then, when I found one, I wanted to make the most of it. This led to some problems. I felt like I needed to make a bowl with a profile that matched the shape and size of the blank that I had which was often half of a tree trunk. This could lead to bowls that were quite deep. This in turn resulted in bowls that were difficult to “ride the bevel” of the bowl gouge all the way to the bottom of the bowl. In addition, “turning the corner” at the transition point between the wall of the bowl and the bottom of the bowl became difficult. Finally, sanding out these deep bowls became practically impossible.

As I became more aware of these difficulties, I also became more aware of the need to do a little design work. For a hands-on person like myself, it seemed silly to sketch a bowl. However, when I did so, it made me more aware that there is value in doing so. Simply drawing something out with a pencil can help to make you more aware ahead of time whether or not it is going to please the eye.

I ran across a similar situation when I began making acorn boxes a few years ago. I would make an acorn “bottom” (or body), and an acorn cap and then fit them together. Once I got the hang of it and made a few, I began to self-critique the shape, and determined that I was not happy with what I was creating. The body of the acorn was too long and the cap was to shallow (or short). I took a piece of graph paper and took an hour or two one snowy afternoon and sketched out the shapes for the body and the cap that I thought looked better, and then worked to duplicate those on the lathe. The result was much better. At least, I was happier with them.

An added benefit was that the acorn boxes then became more easily “scalable.” If I wanted to make a larger or smaller box I could more easily calculate the size of the turning blank that I needed to make the different size blank. Finally, when I got the blank on the lathe, I had a measurement in mind that I could peel away wood with the roughing gouge until I was close to the desired size.

A program I have used with limited success is Sketchup. The Sketchup program allows the user to draw in 3D. After the user masters a few basic skills, they can get an idea of what the project they are thinking about will look like when it is completed.

The bottom line is that you may profit from thinking about what you want to make and then sketching it out before looking for a turning blank that you can make it from. If the blank you find is too large, you can cut away or turn away the excess wood to make the form you want to make, in the size that you want it to be.








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