Sylva Spoon

Really F*cking Thin

Thomas Bartlett2 Comments

Apprenticeship Day 15

At the end of last week, Jarrod had me turn a bowl for myself. Today we had a chat about it. Here are the improvements / changes Jarrod suggested:

  • make it a lot thinner
  • make the foot smaller, and more vertical
  • use sharper tools with a slower cut to reduce the fuzziness that occurs where the grain changes direction. 
  • be aware of irregularities and consider where material needs to removed to correct them. Often it's wood either side of the irregularity that needs to be cut, not the irregularity itself. 
Nice shape

Nice shape

With all that in mind, he then had me turn another bowl for myself. A sweet little foot, even curves, open form, and 'really f*cking thin'. 

It took me a couple of hours to do. Undercutting the core, this time with a special curved hook tool, I was being super cautious. I'd gone a little too thin near the base and didn't want a blowout. So I was making five or six cuts, stopping to check the thickness, four or five more, stopping again. I did end up with a nice large core. It's good to have a large core, as it helps you work towards nesting bowls. The difficulty there is that the hook disappears from view. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to see what I'm carving when I'm carving it. Still, it worked out fine. Where the core snapped off from the bowl wasn't very close to the base. That just meant more material to clear away with the hook knife. I also need to make sure my hands are clean when touching final surfaces. I left a few grubby marks on the outside of the bowl.

Wooden bowl turned on a pole lathe
Almost too f*cking thin

Almost too f*cking thin

After last night's conversation about mandrels, ratios and lycra, Jarrod suggested I reduce the size of the larger mandrels to about 1 7/8" (about 48mm in real money).  

Turning a mandrel - you're doing it wrong

Turning a mandrel - you're doing it wrong

So I cracked on with that, reducing the size of three mandrels and finishing the one I started last night. Once those were done Jarrod had me turn another bowl. After roughing out a few ale bowls, this one was to be more open form. So I removed all the axe marks, flatten the top and did a little hollowing. Jarrod marked where he wanted a foot placing on it.

Roughed out wooden bowl on lathe

He then handed me a hook from his side of the room. The forbidden hooks I'm not allowed to use. As he handed me the tool he said "You're going to hate me when I start handing you the special hooks". The hook he handed me made cutting in the foot a lot easier. 

Adding foot to a wooden bowl

Bowl turning hooks are fascinating. I asked Jarrod what the minimum number of hooks he'd be comfortable with and he said six. He'd be able to turn a bowl with just the one hook, but the variety of shapes and sizes makes it a lot easier. Jarrod has held off giving me access to the more specialised tools. His reason for this is that it's possible to learn proper technique with the basic hooks.

Mind you, on my side of the room I've got about a dozen hooks to choose from. They're just not as varied as those Jarrod uses. From that dozen Jarrod eventually wants me to pick out four to six that I really like. Now that my abilities are improving I'm better able to tell if a tool works well. Until now, the thing not working well was my technique. it's nice to be able to more critically reflect on what tool works best for different areas of the bowl. I still don't have a super firm grasp on which are best, but there are definitely two or three I find myself reaching for most often. I just need to spend some time switching between them and similar hooks to find what small differences make the process easier or more challenging.

Lots and lots to learn.

Tomorrow I'm heading back to Madison. This weekend I'm selling my spoons at the Good Day Market. If you're in Madison check it out. I'll also be demonstrating spoon carving, so that'll be fun.