Mark Baker

Monday, January 12, 2015

I am working alongside a few people at the moment, concerning routing on the lathe. It is an area that we looked at some time back and it"s one that has a lot more possibilities to it than one might initially think. I use the technique quite a lot on some pieces, but also hand-carve a lot more work than I do route it – not that one route is better than the other, it is just different.

Routing is no different to a powered form of carving, if you want to be a bit controversial. Is it any different to free-hand carving with a rotary power tool? Actually, yes it is one sense and that is that you don"t freehand use a router like you do a hand-held rotary carving tool - so no waving a router all across the work without proper supports OK! Proper supports and other safety considerations are needed when using powerful and possibly quite heavy routers and spinning cutters. So being in control, guarding and stabilisation are just some of the things to be aware of and deal with. Of course, this is where you can also make your own homemade jigs and accessories or buy ready-made ones. Options, options, we always have decisions to make. I know some people who love problem solving and the making of relevant jigs more than the using of them to create the resulting effect required. I like all the aspects involved, as long as I get to where I need to.

I know it is something that people might be cold towards, as with any form of "enhancement" and apart from the linear fluting one creates on table legs and balusters and such like, there is so much more one can use a router for. That said, it does require jigs and some setting up and, it has to be said, that get it wrong with an error in sizing or spacing - no matter how small - the eye can see every mistake in a millisecond. Conversely, if the same decoration was hand carved where there are minute differences anyway, the eye sees what should be there rather than what is there, so, is more forgiving of such small differences.

The beauty of what we do is that we choose to make what we want - unless you are making to a commission - so you can do as you please. Yes, everyone once they see it will have an opinion and they are usually mixed. So in reality, you must go down the path you decide to walk along. Yes, we all do that to an extent and change direction from time-to-time as a result of realising this is not where we want o go or is in fact a mental dead end for us. Whatever the route, have fun and don"t be afraid to try something, even if it results in your not liking it. Without walking such paths and doing or trying different techniques and such like, we don"t develop. But remember, above all to have fun.


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