Sylva Spoon

Jarrod's Words of Wisdom

Thomas BartlettComment

Apprenticeship Day 7

"Your axe should be blunter"

"Bark is an illusion"

"How 'bout we get naked and take some photos?"

Find out all the crazy things Jarrod has been saying in tonight's instalment of Apprentice Diaries.


Today was a mixed bag of activities. I started with roughing out another bowl. Fresh from the freezer. I did some axe work on it, drilled the hole for the mandrel and stuck it on the lathe. 

I've had a few issues mounting bowls properly on the lathe. The mandrel already has a cavity for the poppet centre to go into. You need to create one on the bottom of the bowl. It needs to be set so that the mandrel spins without a wobble. The unevenness of the bowl blank can make this a bit tricky, and Jarrod has shown me some tricks on how to set it all up properly. I was quite chuffed that I was able to mount the bowl with minimal mandrel wobble after only a few tries. Previously I'd end up with the bottom of the bowl looking like it had taken a blast from a shotgun. I'd have to take it off the lathe, axe away the divots and try mounting it again. 

The turning went remarkably smoothly. I made sure to go slower than I thought necessary. Whenever I started to move the tool too quickly it inevitably snagged or cut too deep. I can already see that the surface I'm leaving is more even. I'm not focusing on bowl shape yet. Right now Jarrod wants the bowls rough turned as big as possible, so he's got the most design options open to him. 

 So smooth...

So smooth...

This particular blank still had the pith in it, so there was a lot of material to remove. I had to get the rim below the pith before I could hollow. Leave the pith in the bowl and it will crack.

Once I'd smoothed the top surface of the bowl, it was easy to go back and forth, slowly bringing the level of the rim down. I was getting nice long shavings. I was even able to hold some (limited) conversation with Jarrod while we both turned. It was during one of our conversations  that Jazmin came downstairs. She saw us turning, announced that we "looked so cute" and ran off to get her camera. I think that 'looking cute' comment what led to the conversation she captured:

So that was Jarrod suggesting we get naked and take some photos. 

Once I finished with the bowl and set it aside for Jarrod, he got me to work axing out blanks for end grain cups. The tumblers are very simple to rough out. They're just a cylinder. From one round of wood I got 4-5 tumbler blanks. While showing me how he wanted them axed Jarrod exclaimed that "bark is an illusion". That is a direct quote by the way. He did contextualise it. Bark gives an illusion of thickness. It needs to be removed so you can properly see how much wood you actually have to work with. Leave the bark on and it gives the 'illusion' of there being more material.

The handled cups were a little trickier. For the most part they're the same process as the tumblers. This is where Jarrod talked about using blunter axes. To create the handle blank, you axe along the grain, coming at it from two different angles to eventually remove a long 'V' of material. Jarrod borrowed my axe to demonstrate. A sharper axe runs the risk of making too deep a cut in this situation. It's also more likely to stick in the wood. Jarrod has been experimenting with slightly duller axes that are more likely to bounce out of these cuts than get stuck in. You just need to swing them a little harder. He was quick to clarify that he's using a blunter, not a blunt axe. It's still pretty sharp.

Around 3pm, with just a couple of hours daylight left, we jumped in his car to pick up the remains of a birch tree he felled a while ago. The countryside up here is quite striking, and the sheer size of the United States still amazes me. 

Tomorrow I'm just doing a morning's apprenticing before heading back down to Madison. This weekend I'm at the MMoCA Art & Gift Fair in downtown Madison. With me doing the show all weekend and Thanksgiving next Thursday, Jarrod gave me next week off, so there will be a brief hiatus from the apprenticing posts. I'll still be making things, so I'll probably write about some of that. Just without the crazy comments from Jarrod unfortunately.