Since I returned from the Marc Adam’s School, life has not offered much opportunity for me to get into the shop. Rest assured that I will soon be doing some work to complete the Huntboard project and then I will be back onto the Sculpted Rocking Chair…nothing like having too many irons in the fire, huh? Well summer is traditioonally my slowest woodworking time so, at least I’m consistent!
What I have been doing when I get a little time in the shop is more turning on the lathe. As I have mentioned in the past, I’m a member of the Rochester Woodworkers Society. I’m also a member of the Turning special interest group of the club. This is a segment of RWS that is associated with the American Association of Woodturners. For a couple of months now I have been working with a mentor from the Turning SIG in his shop. My mentor Ralph has been turning for something like 30 years and teaching woodturning for a good portion of that time.
I started the mentoring relationship because I wanted to learn more about turning hollow-forms. However before we got started we thought it might be a good idea to work through some basic bowls in order to check and refine technique. The thinking was that we could progress from an open bowl to a semi-closed form then to a hollow-form. At this point we are working on a semi-closed form and I can definitely tell you that starting with the basics was the right way to go. I have learned as much about sanding as I have about refinements in tool technique! Additionally, the process has taught me a lot about looking for the right form in a piece and the subtleties of why some forms look better than others.
I have said in the past that certain techniques seem to be well-suited to subtle hands-on illustration and correction. Hand tool operations are one, and I think that woodturning is another. There are certain things that are difficult to learn from a book or even videos. However, when a mentor reaches over and slightly adjusts the angle of your gouge as you turn a bowl, the message becomes clear very quickly!
In the pictures you can see a Chinese Elm semi-closed form that we are working on in Ralph’s shop (a couple of the pictures are of the bowl on my lathe as I complete the sanding sequence). Also, you can see a Walnut bowl that I did in my shop after some mentoring by Ralph. For the Walnut bowl I followed the sanding and finishing sequence that Ralph teaches to achieve a nearly flawless glossy finish.
If you don’t belong to a woodworking club, I’d urge you to join one – the commeraderie alone is a great benefit. If you turn wood, finding a mentor is also a definite plus to help you progress at a much faster pace than you would if otherwise on your own.