10 Projects From Burrs archive

Thursday 24 February 2011

Sue Harker shows how figured British hardwoods can be used to create beautiful items for the home

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In this article I have created each project from a different wood. Each can be found in the UK and demonstrates the diverse varieties and colours available. You will have different but no less beautiful options available to you in your own locality.

I have tried to include some very simple turnings as well as more complicated ones, and hopefully I have included something for everyone. Many of the projects can be scaled up or down or tweaked to suit your preferences.

Each project has its own charm, and can of course be altered to suit your own tastes, requirements, and be created from any wood that suits your purpose.

The burr elm (Ulumus procera) bowl is an item to be viewed on its own as a centrepiece, whereas the other bowls and platter would look nice filled with a variety of turned fruit, for example. I hope you will have a go at some, if not all, of these projects and add your own personal touches to them.

Minimalist coloured beech bowl

This project is turned from a piece of coloured beech (Fagus sylvatica) that measures 298 x 64mm (11 3/4 x 2 1/2in). I chose to turn a very simple bowl with a gentle curve and stable foot. This style of bowl is perfect for using as a fruit bowl so you need to finish with several coats of food safe oil.

I experienced a surprise when I turned the centre out; the pattern of some of the grain resembles the side profile of a butterfly. To ensure maximum use of the timber a chucking recess is used and the bowl is mounted on a vacuum chuck, or other method of reverse mounting, to remove the evidence of chucking.

Tools used: 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 1 1/2-2 hours Cost: £17

Rippled ash oyster box

The choice of project for this particular piece of wood was very easy; the distinctive markings reminded me of an oyster shell. The blank needs to be 50 x 136mm (2 x 5 1/4in). The piece I used, ideally, could have been a little thicker, however, by using a sanding arbor mounted in a drill to sand one surface and gluing a sacrificial chucking spigot, the timber can be mounted on the lathe without losing thickness. A second sacrificial chucking spigot can then be glued to the other face. The timber is then parted in half using a 3mm (1/8in) parting tool and the box can be made in the usual way using jam chucks to remount the turned sections to remove the chucking spigots and then refine the overall shape. I did not add a foot to this box, so it can be sat either way up. The high gloss finish can be achieved with friction polish.

Tools used: 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge, 3mm (1/8in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 1 1/2-2 hours

Cost: £2.50

Acacia bud vase

For this turning you will need a piece of acacia (Umbelluaria californica) that measures approximately 57 x 57 x 125mm long (2 1/4 x 2 1/4 x 5in). These bud vases can be made in various sizes; this one is proportioned to suit the size of timber being used. When drilling the hole for the clear plastic insert be careful not to drill too deep and break through the bottom - the insert you use may have to be reduced in length to fit. Check the tapered section is flat - a ruler is a good guide for this.

If you are not very confident at turning beads there are several bead-forming tools available which create uniform, crisply cut beads, if used correctly. The secret is to cut the bead leaving the crown of the bead uncut, as it has a tendency to splinter. The shape can be easily perfected using a range of abrasives. A high gloss can then be achieved on this piece using friction polish.

Tools used: 25mm (1in) spindle roughing gouge, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 2mm (1/8in) fluted parting tool, 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 30-40 minutes

Cost: £1.50

Yew pear

Yew (Taxus baccata) branch wood produces a striking contrast between its creamy sapwood and golden brown heartwood. It's easy to turn, but if you produce too much heat when sanding you will create heat shakes which are very unsightly and can compromise a project. Keeping the abrasive moving can remedy this and remembering that any heat felt through the abrasive is an indicator that the timber is getting hot.

For this project I made a pear, for which you will need a piece of yew measuring 64 x 64 x 90mm (2 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 3 1/2in), I then decided to top it with an ebony (Diospyros spp.) stalk. The shape is similar to that of a light bulb, which I think is visually pleasing. Two coats of cellulose-based sanding sealer are applied before buffing with a three mop buffing system. The first mop, loaded with Tripoli compound, leaves a very smooth finish; the second mop, loaded with white diamond, increases the lustre; the third wheel, loaded with Carnauba wax, gives the pear its beautiful depth of shine.

Tools used: 25mm (1in) spindle roughing gouge, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 12mm (1/2in) skew chisel

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 20-25 minutes

Cost: £1

Spalted beech candleholders

Highly spalted timber can be very attractive. This matching pair of candleholders were turned from one piece of timber that measured 70 x 70 x 330mm (2 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 13in) which was cut into two pieces 165mm (7 1/2in) long. Both freshly cut ends become the tops of the candleholders - this is to ensure the grain pattern and colour match as near as possible.

Chucking spigots are used to hold the timber and a Forstner bit held in a Jacobs chuck is used to drill the holes to receive brass inserts. The shape is very simple but works well with this highly decorative timber. Spalted beech (Fagus sylvatica) can be a little difficult to finish, especially if the timber is soft in places, however, with sharp tools and good turning techniques a clean finish can be achieved. If, however, there is an area of softer timber, which, no matter how clean the cut, still tears out, then coat the area with sanding sealer and allow to dry. This will harden and lift the grain enabling a crisper cut to be taken. When sanded, torn out grain fills with blackened dust, which looks awful, so achieving a clean finish from the tool is essential for this project.

Tools used: 25mm (1in) spindle roughing gouge, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 12mm (1/2in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 2mm (1/8in) fluted parting tool

Time taken & cost: Cost: £5 (plus brass inserts) Time taken: 1 1/2-1 3/4 hour

Olive ash tree

The piece of timber used for this project was a piece of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) measuring 50 x 50 x 153mm (2 x 2 x 6in) with approximately three-quarters of olive (Olea bochstetteri) figuring down one side. The contrast between highly figured timber and 'plain' timber works well for this item. The olive ash is dense and cuts very crisply when using sharp tools.

Also, due to the repetition of cuts this project is good practice for mastering the control of your fingernail-profile spindle gouge.

The bulk of the turning is done with the tailstock brought up for support and the project is then sanded through grits 120, 180, 240, 320, and 400. Two coats of cellulose based sanding sealer are applied and once dry, a very high gloss finish can be achieved with the application of a friction polish.

Parting off with a fluted parting tool minimises grain tear out leaving a tidy base, which will only require light hand sanding.

Tools used: 25mm (1in) spindle roughing gouge, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 2mm (1/8in) fluted parting tool

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 30-40 minutes Cost: £1.50

Silver birch footed bowl

Silver birch [i[(Betula pedula) can be a dusty timber to turn and is very prone to tear out, but with sharp tools and good turning techniques the finish achieved can be very good. The piece I used had some spalting and ripple.

When you look at the bowl, one half looks light and the other quite dark, however, when you tilt it slightly the light area becomes dark and the dark area becomes light. The size of bowl blank needs to measure 70 x 280mm (2 3/4 x 11in). A gentle flaring curve flowing into the tall foot lifts this piece nicely off the table to give you a better view of the shape. The bowl is held on the lathe's using an internal recess which is removed to create a hollowed foot

before several coats of finishing oil are applied.

Tools used: 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 2-2 1/2 hours Cost: £12

Olive ash mantle clock

The skeleton clocks available to the woodturner are very easy to fit and they make a very stylish mantle clock. For this project you will need a piece of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) that measures 228 x 50mm (9 x 2in) with a stripe of olive across approximately one-third. The piece is mounted on the lathe using a hole drilled with a Forstner bit, which needs to be the correct size for your chuck jaws to fit into. Face the blank up and finish before parting from the centre. When parting through take care not to damage or waste too much timber. The bead detail around the clock face is replicated on the base and a hole large enough to receive a chrome bar needs to be drilled at approximately 3-4 degrees. This tilts the clock face and makes it easier to see when sat on your mantle. The finish used for this project is paste wax.

Tools used: 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge

Time taken & cost: [B>Time taken:[/B> 1 1/2 - 2 hours

Cost: £8.50 (plus clock insert)

Quilted sycamore platter

The piece of timber I used for this project didn't look very appealing on first glance, but as soon as I started to turn it the beautiful quilting became evident.

The blank needs to measure 383 x 50mm (15 x 2in) and will be turned into a beautiful platter. The shape is a shallow ogee incorporating a groove detail to define the rim. The tapered rim gives the platter the illusion of being very fine when, in fact, it is quite sturdy. The quilted area is inclined to tear out when cut so slow controlled cuts are needed with a sharp tool. Stiffening the fibres with diluted cellulose sanding sealer before taking your final cut can also be helpful. Finally, you need to mount the platter on a vacuum chuck to remove the chucking point before applying several coats of finishing oil.

Tools used: 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 2 1/2-3 hours

Cost: £20

Burr elm bowl

Burr elm (Ulmus procera) is a beautiful timber which is becoming quite hard to source. The piece you will need for this bowl measures 228 x 95mm (9 x 3 3/4in) with great figuring. I chose to make a bowl that showed the timber off to its fullest potential. The outside shape is visually appealing and inside the timber is beautifully figured.

Burr elm is a hard timber with an irregular grain structure and takes more time to turn than heartwood elm, but the finish you can achieve is amazing. Care needs to be taken on softer areas of timber as vigorous sanding can remove too much wood from these areas. Jumbo jaws expanding into the bowl are used to remove the chucking spigot; the bowl is then finished with several thin coats of finishing oil.

Tools used: 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) long-grind bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 12mm (1/2in) BCT Supercut

Time taken & cost: Time taken: 2-2 1/2 hours

Cost: £25


Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

Sue Harker , burrs , home , hardwoods , British

Glossary Rollover a term to view its definition

Bowl Gouge , Parting Tool , Skew Chisel , Spindle Gouge , Spindle Roughing Gouge , Tailstock , Forstner Bit

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