Mark ( on October 4th, 2010

Well, the best laid plans to blog after each day of classes with Binh Pho at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking did not really pan out.  Sorry about that.  There was just too much going on and I was spending nights either in the shop or working on design ideas for pieces – and so it goes…

We began day 2 by being greeted with a display of some of Binh Pho’s work.  This was a great inspiration.  Binh’s work is truly magnificent and the pictures definitely do not do it justice.  The detail and intricacy of the work is something that can only be fully appreciated in person.  In the following pictures,  you can see the display that we were ale to look at for ideas and inspiration.

I had left off after day one – when we did thin-walled turning of face-grain-oriented bowl forms.  Day two started with a demo by Binh turning a taller end-grain-oriented hollow vessel.  The techniques here are very similar to those for turning a thin bowl.  However, since you are turning end-grain some different tools are used and the light used trick to measure thickness looses a bit of its effectiveness due to the depth of the vessel and amount of chips limiting your view as you turn.  Binh has a way around this that I’ll discuss later.

Binh uses a variety of hollowing tools for end-grain vessels.  These include: a spindle gouge, a Hunter Tool, a Rolly Munro hollowing tool and a Hugh McKay Boring Bar.  The first three tools are all readily available at woodturning outlets. The Hugh McKay tool is very unique and it allows Binh to turn his famous vessels with a vertical slab extending out of the top of the piece.  This tool allows the cutting head to be inserted straight through a hole in the top of the vessel and then bumped to angle it at either 45 degrees or 90 degrees from the shaft.  The original Hugh McKay patent has since been acquired by Deryl Duer (who assisted Binh during the week) and tools can be purchased directly from him.  Unfortunately, this tool is fairly expensive to manufacture and so the end customer cost s fairly high as well – still the tool does allow some very specific hollow turning that is not able to be accomplished as easily with any other tool.  Binh does not specifically favor any of these tools but uses all of them in particular areas  where they are most useful.

The hollowing is started by drilling a hole to the desired finished depth.  Material is then removed from the center out toward the rim – exactly opposite how you would turn a bowl because we are working on end grain for these forms.  This again is done in sections to the desired thickness as you move down the vessel.  One thing that Binh does to help with the measurement of wall thickness on these forms is to drill several 3/16″ holes into the form down one side.  Then as light is shined into the fom when stopped you can determine whether the walls are where you would like them.  Of course, this is only possible if you plan to pierce the piece later and some concept fof the design must be know so that you will drill into the right area.

The remainder of day two consisted of the class turning their own end-grain hollow forms.

For the rest of the week we moved on the surface design of turned pieces.  Binh uses three main techniques as part iof his surface design: piercing, texturing & burning, airbrushing and gilding.  Many of the initial techniques were demoed for us on a flat 1/16″ aircraft birch plywood panel.  These are very useful for prototyping designs and can be attractive in their own right.

Airbrushing was first as it is the most foreign to most woodturners.  Binh uses a dual-action airbrush that allows for separate flow of air and regulation of the amount oif paint applied.  The motion and hand control can be quite a challenge since you are moving your hand in fluid stokes while pushing doen the airbrush trigger for and and simultaneously pulling it back to regulate the amount of paint – let’s just say that I need to practice.  In the photos you can see Binh working on a demo panel.

There is a lot of masking and/or template shielding done for an airbrush design.  Things like masking tape and a clear tacky matt material called Frisket are used.  Every element of a design that requires a different color and/or treatment must be cut out with an X-acto knife and removed one at a time as paint is sprayed on.  Since we used transparent colors, darker colors are sprayed first and then lighter colors are added on top.  Needless to say, it is a time consuming process.

Binh often burns a thin outline around each element that he is going to airbrush or pierce.  This is done with a standard wood burning pen with a fine skew tip and minimal heat.  The desire is to just burn a faint line to define that part of the design.  Once the entire piece id designed and burned, then the painting and then piercing can begin.

Piercing is done last to keep the most integrity in the vessel or bowl while it is being handled for painting.  This is done with an air-powered dental NSK Presto tool that is actually used for dentistry – in fact the only difference between this tool and a dentists drill (which can also be used to pierce) is the form factor.  The NSK Presto is held like a pencil to allow you to almost draw on the wood.  The tool uses 1/16″ burs to pierce and/or carve the wood.  In addition to piercing through the wood the round-head burs can be used for various stippled effects on the surface.

In the pictures you can see the demo panel that Binh did during the class as well as a demo bowl that he did to show techniques on a round rather than flat surface.  The lower portion of the bowl is a peacock feather that is gold-leaf gilded in the center – a characteristic element of many of Binh’s designs.

After all of the turning during the first part of the week, I chose to work on a single panel and bowl design.  I tried to incorporate several of the techniques into both the panel and bowl for practice as well as future reference.  Below you can see several pictures of my work to the extent that I could complete it during the week.  The final bowl still needs the piercing to be completed at home.  Finally there is a class picture with everyone holding up their creations for the week.

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One Response to “Thin Walled Vessels and Surface Design Class – Days 2 to 5”

  1. not sure how I missed this post earlier, but it is very cool! I have never even attempted to make vessels. The art of hollowing out wood is one that I am not at all familiar with,sounds like a great class to be a part of!

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