Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Different Drill

Below is a photo of a piece of maple that I used for a bead turning drill. I took this tree down a couple of months ago (I love that maple doesn't rot in winter!) and wanted to see how it turned. I have always relied on hard maple for my turnings, but with the increasing difficulty of getting a decent sized log of that slow growing species, I've decided to work with soft maple, which I have acres of, for parts where strength isn't such an issue and the diameters are larger.

This repetitive drilling has its advantages over turning an entire leg. I always learn more about making a specific shape by making even poor attempts over and over than making one perfect one. The quest for the perfect shape in a spot on an actual leg can obscure the simple lessons and mistakes that become obvious during repetition.

It reminds me of my two very different experiences taking language courses. In 7th grade I had a teacher who drilled us in Latin. We would chant out verb conjugations over and over (granted, Latin is hardly conversational these days). When I went to college and took Portugeuese, the times had changed in favor of semi immersion techniques. The grad student teaching the class was dead set against repetition. I know that years of development have advanced language instruction, but I must say, I can still conjugate a verb in Latin yet can barely say "hello" in Portuguese!

It's important when doing a drill to pick a process and stick to it. Don't get hung up on one shape. Try it, fail or succeed, and then move on to the next one. You'll see your problems more clearly as you repeat them and try different solutions. The other benefit is that once you get the hang of it, your confidence will grow and the movement will become more natural.

Another way to improve is to always keep a piece chucked in your lathe for practice work, and periodically return to it in between other tasks and turn a few shapes. This prevents what I call "lathe blindness" which is that hypnotized "I've been staring at something spinning for too long" look. Plus, often upon a fresh approach, you might just find something that works!


R Francis said...

Is drill the same as exercise? Different language American!
And don't you find Latin still useful in understanding new words?

Anonymous said...

With respect to soft maple: do you use red maple only or are you comfortable using silver maple?

Mike Hamilton
in Indiana

Peter Galbert said...

Yep, drilling is the same as exercize. And you bet Latin comes in handy.

Mike, I'm still looking into the differences in the species to make an educated choice. I'll let you know what I find.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pete,

I thought I was the only one that did that kind of thing. I have about ten of those pieces waiting for the fireplace now.

Peter Galbert said...

They make great massagers too!