Sylva Spoon

The Industrial Revolution

Thomas BartlettComment

Apprenticeship Day 30

It's a 300 mile, five hour journey from my home in Madison to the Sunshine House, headquarters of Woodspirit Handcraft. In the two and half months I've been coming up, I've gotten pretty familiar with the service stations along US-51, US-8 and State Highway 13. As much as I enjoy the gourmet selections at BP, Mobil and Kwik Trip, there is a much more pleasant pitstop that's kindly available to me: The Holliday House. Home of Cole and Ana Holliday, plus their two kids and dog. They're lovely people who made the terrible mistake of saying 'stop by anytime'. Like a vampire granted permission to cross the threshold, I've since turned up virtually unannounced on several occasions. This time, it was the sweet, sweet smell of freshly cut birch that made me take Exit 185 and wind my way through Wausau to the Hollidays' home. 

With two lovely lumps of birch to keep me company for the rest of the ride, I continued on to Woodspirit Handcraft HQ. When I got there, Jarrod was in the basement, playing with his Japanese style electric lathe. He'd worked on it a little more, it was now almost ready to get plugged in. It still needs drives belts and few other components, but it's dangerously close to completion. 

So it was, I had to move the apprentice lathe out of the lathe room. In the true tradition of the pole lathe turners of old, I was being replaced by a motorised lathe. I dismantled my lathe and reassembled it next door. Reassuringly, Jarrod told me that although we'd be turning in separate rooms now, he was confident that he'd be able to shout loud enough so I could hear when he wanted another cup of tea. 

In all seriousness, Jarrod's new lathe is intriguing. His current plan for it is to help speed up the hollowing of end grain cups. The outside of the cups will still be turned on the pole lathe, but not having to hollow around a core will make the work quicker and easier for him. He will also still use pole lathe turning hooks when using the electric lathe. Jarrod and Jazmin are off to Japan in March for Jarrod to teach some classes and do some learning himself. He seems eager to have this lathe up and running before then, to get some practice in before the trip. I, for one, am eager to see how end grain cup turning will work on this new lathe. 

Once I got myself settled into my new basement quarters, I started work cutting up some metal. I'm very excited about this. A big part of the bowl turning puzzle is the tools. The ability to make your own hooks is pretty much a necessity if you plan on doing more than just a moderate amount of turning. Not onlygdo the different sizes and shapes of hooks have different uses, but bends in the steel allow you to nest, turn hollow form bowls and end grain cups. So I spent a chunk of my day cutting tool steel rods into one foot sections. Tomorrow evening we'll be heading to a blacksmith friend of Jarrod's who is allowing us use of his workshop.


Jarrod gave me a little primer into the terminology used in blacksmithing. I'll try and retell it as best I remember, but if I get anything confused, leave a comment correcting me. In alphabetical order, here's what I remember:

  • Annealing - heating metal to remove hardening
  • Drawing - stretching out a piece of metal once it's malleable 
  • Hardening - a process of heating and cooling that makes the metal harder, but also more brittle
  • Quenching - rapidly cooling metal, usually in water. Part of the hardening process
  • Tempering - a process of heating and cooling that makes the metal tougher, but also softer

There was also talk of crystalline structures, demagnetising, oxidisation and carbon levels, but not all of that stuck. 

Jarrod also wanted me to make some more spoon blanks. He's having a spoon sale on the 15th of February. I roughed out about 30 spoons for him last week and he might not get round to all of them by the 15th. However he quite likes the blanks I was producing, and it doesn't take me that long to do. So he wants some to stick in the freezer that he can work on after the apprenticeship is over. So this afternoon I cut some birch rounds, split them into billets and drew the template designs onto them. 

For my final activity of the day Jarrod still wants me to turn a bowl to completion every day. I had a couple of chainsawed blanks from last week, so there was no need to tuck into the wood from Cole just yet. Here's today's effort: