Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Getting Straight

It's official, the holidays are over. Like most folks, by the end of the season, I am ready to return to normal life, normal eating and yes, normal work. The reentry into full production can feel awkward, with many fits and starts. I felt lucky today to be able to sit down for a while and just shave some spindles. It was just the kind of quiet time that I needed to feel back in the swing.
The set of spindles, for a comb back rocker, turned out to have quite a life of their own once they went in the kiln. As you can see, they dried in a variety of bends and curls. I thought it would be fun to show what a little time with the heat gun can do.



Here is the result of carefully and slowly heating the spindles while applying pressure to straighten them.



The best way to learn this technique is through trial and error (scorching or breaking!). The idea is to heat the area slowly, imagine trying to heat the piece all the way through, not just getting the surface hot. Then hold with the proper amount of pressure until the piece cools a bit. I always try to err on the side of too little heat and make up the difference with pressure. Remember that the heat can weaken the wood if applied radically.

Often I will put pressure on the piece first and then apply the heat. I can actually feel the resistance to the bend relax as the heat penetrates. Luckily, most spindles don't distort so much in the drying process, but when they do, I must admit taking more than a little pleasure seeing them fall in line.

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