Mark ( on September 27th, 2010

Today was the my first day of class on turning Thin Walled Vessels and Surface Design with Binh Pho at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking.

The morning started with a demonstration by Binh on turning a thin walled open bowl and the afternoon was left for students to try their hands at the techniques learned.  Starting with a open form is best for learning the techniques of thin walled turning.  We will be moving on to larger and taller vessels in future days.  Taller forms will lend themselves better to the surface design techniques that we will employ to embellish the pieces.

In the pictures you can see Binh turning a thin walled open bowl as well as a selection of his tools.  Binh’s assistant for the week Daryl cut up green bowl blanks for the class.   There were a selection of Maple and Cherry blanks available.

For thin walled turning it is beneficial to shine a light source through the bowl to show the thickness of the walls.  Green wood is best for this due to its high moisture content and translucence – plus it’s just more fun to turn!   Another benefit to a light colored wood like Maple is that if airbrushed it will show translucent colors more accurately and if desired it can be bleached for an even more accurate color reproduction.

I turned two bowls.  One Maple and one Cherry.  The darkness of the cherry made it more difficult to turn to thin even wall thickness because the light did not show through the walls as readily as with the Maple.  In the pictures you can see my Maple bowl in various stages of completion.

These thin walled bowls (turned to a wall thickness of 1/16″) will dry fairly quickly if just kept in a paper bag for a week or two to moderate the release of moisture.  However, because we are going to do surface design and embellishment on them this week we needed a quicker dry time.  We used a microwave in intervals of 30 seconds cook and 20 minutes cool times.  If done carefully this will dry the piece quickly without cracking or burning.  The issue that must be dealt with is the distortion of the form as it dries – round bowls go oval as they dry.  The bowls can be massaged a bit as they cool to help with this distortion.  Otherwise, you live with it and/or use your embellishments to minimize or enhance it in the final design of the piece.

A couple of final shots showing my output for today’s class and a view of the nice laser-engraved name plate that each student receives to identify their workspace for the week and as a take-home memento of the class.

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