Sylva Spoon

Pride Before the Fall

Thomas BartlettComment

Apprenticeship Day 29

Today was a mixed bag of activities. I spent the morning working on roughing out some lamhogs. On February 1st Jarrod will be opening orders for them, so we're trying to get ahead on the orders before they come flooding in. 

Jarrod has shown me how to hollow the end grain cups. As I'm leaving the outside pretty rough I'm also not doing much on the hollowing, only going about an inch into the six inch cup. These lamhogs are a lot of work. They've got an awkward handle sticking out the side, which makes turning about a third of the outside a lot trickier than handleless cups. 

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You need really good control of not just the tool, but of the foot pedal to turn the area either side of the handle. You also have to flip the cup around to make sure you've turned right up to both sides of the handle. Once you've managed that, there's the hollowing.

Cutting into end grain isn't much fun. There's a fair amount of scraping, rather than actual cutting, that goes on. You also have to be really careful that the tool doesn't catch. If it catches it can kink the mandrel connect and ruin everything. 

I managed to rough out the first two without incident. I then had issues with the third. I don't think it was entirely down to my ineptitude, but it's wise to never rule that out as an option. While happily turning the outside I noticed that the mandrel was loose. We've got mandrels of ever-so-slightly different size and this one was a fairly old mandrel. It might have fit snuggly back in the day, but over time the wood fibres can get compressed. The solution, which should have been applied before starting to turn, is to lay a strip or two of birch bark over the mortice hole and gently tap the mandrel in. I did this, but the mandrel went in at a slight angle, which made it spin off centre. That's an almost fatal flaw for a cup like this. The mandrel connection gets thrown all over the place. As you're hollowing, cutting down the core, the wobble will get worse and worse. I didn't even try hollowing. I couldn't figure out a way to correct it so set it aside for Jarrod. He managed to wrench out the mandrel and set it aside himself. 

After lunch I helped Jarrod with spoons for about an hour or so. I then went off to turn my bowl for the day. This bowl went kind of slowly. Due to some overly aggressive chainsawing, a quarter of the bowl was well below the surface of the rest of it. It took a whole bunch of passes to get down to the level of the chainsaw cut. It was slightly demoralising, having a nice shape and smooth surface, only to rotate the bowl slightly and realise there's still a large section that hasn't been turned yet. I'd then go a little too aggressive with the cuts in an attempt to speed things up and lose the sweet curve I had. I then slowed down to reestablish the shape of the bowl, notice that I STILL hadn't turned away the chainsaw cut, so I went aggressive with the cuts again...

Eventually I have the outside of the bowl turned. I ended up with both a nice shape and a nice surface. The hollowing went nicely. I was concentrating on getting a smooth finish inside the bowl and making sure the walls were of even thickness. I even managed to leave a core big enough for a second bowl. I cut away the core to the point I was sure it was ready to snap. Before snapping it off, I set up my phone to record the momentous occasion. Already I was drafting a pretentious Instagram post about the satisfaction of a job well done, the loveliness of the noise of the core snapping cleaning away from the bowl. The special gift I have to release beautiful bowls from their arboreal confines. The skill and ability and I've developed to make bowls that a beautiful and function. Then this happened: 

Lampshade? Diet bowl?

Lampshade? Diet bowl?

I might still post a picture of the bowl on my Instagram tomorrow. I'm tempted to photograph it without showing the hole. And still add a pretentious caption. If I do, please leave a pretentious comment on the post. Bonus points if you manage to work in the words 'quixotic', 'lucubration' or 'stercoraceous'.