Sylva Spoon

Nose to the Grinder

Thomas BartlettComment

Apprenticeship Day 35

I jumped straight on the lathe this morning to turn a few axed out lamhog blanks. I mounted one on the lathe and started turning before I noticed a split along the side. I was able to turn under it at the base of the lamhog, but that's where it's narrowest. I took it off the lathe to have a look at it and unfortunately it looks like a growth ring had delaminated. This happens sometimes, a growth ring separates away from it's neighbour. I think it tends to happen when the tree is felled and the shock of the impact is what does it. Sometimes a bark inclusion will have the same effect, but you can see the bark that's inside the tree. 

There's your problem

There's your problem

I mounted up another lamhog, but before I could get to turning it Jarrod came over to show me how to put an edge of the pole lathe hooks we forged last week. We grind an edge before we scroll the metal into a hook. He took the time to explain to me what makes a good hook, which involved wild gesticulation, some bent wire and Sharpie scribbles on the back of an old receipt.  

Jarrod demonstrating his LEDC style grinding 

Jarrod demonstrating his LEDC style grinding 

Jarrod kind of apologetically explained that grinding can be kind of mind-numbing work. I didn't find that to be the case, as I've never done any tool making before. Jarrod came over of a couple of time to check my work, putting aside hooks that needed more work, angles that needed to be changed and pointing out edges I made too thin. I think I got through about half of the pile of 30 rods we have hammered out. I managed to exhaust Jarrod's supply of 60 grit disks. Partly due to my inefficient technique. Partly due to the amount of material I had to remove. 

Once my apprenticeship is over I might feel the need to make some hooks for myself. After that it's likely that my hook making will be infrequent, replacing broken hooks or eventually finding the need for a specifically shaped tool. Without this opportunity for repetitive practice I think it would be extremely difficult to develop and build the skills needed for making these hooks well. Having a pile of 30 hooks to work on is a great opportunity. I don't think I'll ever have the need to make 30 hooks in a row. Being able to work on hook after hook after hook for two days will give me a better opportunity to learn than making 30 hooks over a couple of years. Which will probably be the pace outside of making tools for Jarrod's classes. 

This kind of production work, alongside Jarrod's instruction, has been a major force behind my improvements over the past three months. Being here I've carved about 100 spoon blanks, rough turned maybe 40 bowls, finished about 15 bowls and rough turned maybe 10 cups of varying styles. Now I'm helping make 30 pole lathe hooks. Repetition is extremely important for improvement. For impact, and comic effect: Repetition is extremely important for improvement. For improvement, it's extremely important to practice repetition. 

I finished the day by turning another cup for myself. I tried a simpler shape. Clearing away all the material at the bottom of the wide based cups is tricky, so I made a cup that was tapered from rim to bottom, an easier shape to hollow. 

Not sure about the slight angle in towards the rim

Not sure about the slight angle in towards the rim

I got the cup done, and cut the core down pretty thin. I took it off the lathe and tried snapping the core off. With end grain cups it doesn't want to snap as the wood fibres run the length of core. On bowls the fibres are running across the core and, when thin enough, it will snap cleanly off the bowl. So I was bending the mandrel all over the place, trying to get the core to snap. Alas, to no avail. So I started to twist the mandrel. I could feel fibres start to separate and, still twisting, I pulled the core free of the cup. 


I also pulled all the fibres connected to the core to the base of the cup free. I now have a cup with a nice neat hole in the base. With a leaky cup in one hand, a mandrel and core in the other and a slightly miffed look on my face Jarrod came over, took one look at the situation and announced "You've just learned a lesson!". Indeed I had. Don't twist the core out of end grain cups. You can bend them side to side, just don't twist. Jarrod also let me know that sometimes he'll sneak a chisel down the core to cut under it.


He headed upstairs and started to tell Jazmin what happened. I collected my things and trudged upstairs, holely cup in hand. Jazmin turned to me, with a smile on her face and brightly exclaimed "Now you can cut that one in half". A silver lining I guess.