A week in and still no turning!


Mark Baker

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It’s the first full week in the New Year and still no turning, other than creating a potential front cover image for the issue we are working on. So I have nothing to show yet towards the 365 items I have committed to do this year. Eek! Since the weather is due to be nicer than it has been recently, I will be starting on replacing my broken fence. That will help me work off the holiday excess!

It is interesting how the challenge I have set myself has sparked a lot of comments and interest from others. Many are setting themselves some new personal goals and objectives, and such things are always great to do. That said, many people set themselves goals, but how many are kept or fulfilled? Let me know what challenges you have set yourself this year.

I have been trying to cultivate some spalted silver birch. I did a project many years back, for one of my earlier books, and loved the timber so much that I keep coming back to it time and time again. The trouble with it, is that silver birch spalts well but does so very fast, and if you don’t get it at exactly the right time, you end up with a soft fibrous mess with no substance.


With many spalted timbers, one can find soft areas, and one trick I learned a long while ago was to harden the soft areas using cellulose-based sanding sealer or similar. Once that area is dry, continue the turning of it. I have had great success with this method, but – depending on how large the project is – I now use cyanoacrylate to harden the areas. The downside with this, is that cyanoacrylate can stains the timber, and there may be a colour mismatch when finishes. Think of when you use it to keep, or stick, an errant piece of bark back on natural-edge work. You end up with a colour mismatch. Well, to avoid this, I coat the whole piece of work in it if I use it on an a soft area, and note a mismatch in colour. If it is a natural edge piece, I would run a line all around the bark edge to avoid the colour mismatch.

The downside with using this method on larger work, is the cost. So ever the one to try and save a bit of money when I can, I go to the bargain stores - Dollar, Pound or 99p stores - and pick up the blister packs of cyanoacrylate. You usually get a lot for not very much. I have found that it is good for the purpose I need it for, but takes a bit longer to dry - sometimes a lot longer – so I guess it may be older stock. Anyway, the smaller, or bottles/tubes, are ideal as they are one-shot wonders to be used and then discarded. No issues of how to store any leftover, to increase its life etc., and cheap enough to coat the whole project if necessary.

There is a caveat though. The structural integrity of the wood is compromised, and turning it is a weigh-up between using the nice timber to potentially good effect, and the possibility of the piece coming apart when turning it. If you opt to use you compromised timber, then here are some helpful hints. Be mindful of the lathe speed selected. I would advocate using lower speeds than the recommended speed range for the project size. Use very sharp tools and also, once the outside is turned, stabilised, sanded and finished as necessary, consider wrapping the outside with stretchy self-sticking food wrap. This keeps everything together/more stable, and less prone to flexing while you turn the inside; it also serves to minimise the risk of pieces coming off, should something should go wrong. Some people wrap parcel tape around the outside, instead of before or after the food wrap. This technique is something worth remembering for when you work with timber that has voids and fissures too. A bit of added security and a reasoned approach, where you analyse risks and do something to minimise them, is always a good approach.

Have fun


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