Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Little Extra Support

I'm in the midst of turning a bunch of legs for 3 kid's comb backs. They are a bit longer than the legs on adult chairs and a bit thinner.

This means that vibration tends to creep in and slow down the process. I can turn them reasonably well by holding my hand at the back of the piece, but still, at some point, the piece will flex a bit and the chatter starts. I use the skew to shave away the chatter in most instances, which works great, but does take some care.

A couple of years back, I gave my shop made steady rest to Tim Manney for the use on the reamers that he produces. It's the one featured in my book. I wasn't doing a lot of turning that required it and up until recently, a little slow down in turning time didn't bother me compared to stopping to make another. But I happen to have some nice plywood on hand so the other day I made a new steady rest.

I covered this jig for the first time about 6 or 7 years ago, you can see the original post and plans here. I've learned a few things that I think make it worth revisiting, plus my own rediscovery of it's usefulness makes me think that you might feel the same. The plan dimensions in the original post are still good, but with this one, I made the notch in the support block 45 degrees on both sides.

It's a very simple affair, basically a weighted wedge (the c clamp is perfect for added weight) pushes a block with a notch against the back of the workpiece, effectively cutting the turning in half, vibration wise. Even on a 23 inch leg, you are never more than 6 inches from a support, which means I can turn more aggressively and not risk chatter. This is especially helpful if you are focusing on developing technique or design.
One of my favorite parts of this design is that you can cut right across the front of where the steady rest supports the work. The weighted wedge simply drops, pushing the block up against the smaller diameter.

I position the rest directly behind the largest part of the vase.

To set the steady for best results, turn the part to round, about 1/16" larger than the largest diameter, then place the steady block and wedge in position. Get the round spinning again and with the steady rest in place, take a very light pass across workpiece opposite of the steady block. This allows the block to seat on the piece and ensures that it's spinning true with the pressure of the block at the back.

Using the same concept as my Galbert Caliper, if you place a piece of tape at the right spot on the steady block, you will know that your dimension near the steady rest is perfect when it just about touches the tape. Of course, something more permanent could do the job, like a stick on a pivot, but I just did this on the fly, so you get the concept.


Then use some wax to lubricate the workpiece. I've found that there's no need for bearing guides if you just add some wax.

Turning is fun, or it should be. I know that there is a conversation around certain jigs or techniques being crutches. I get it, but I'm having more fun at the lathe and thinking more about the shapes that I am making rather than the ways of avoiding vibration, which is a way better way to spend my day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The other side of the Bench

I do have photos that I want to post, but my new Iphone is not playing well with my old computer!

As part of my birthday present, I took a Thai cooking class with the lovely Stephanie H. I love to cook, but with most things, I am untrained, which means that I am deeply committed to screwing things up. Such as the time that I spent three months learning to cook the (almost) perfect poached egg.
In the class, it was  fascinating to observe the instructor's efforts to turn knowledge into information and experience, in hopes that it would become knowledge to the students. It's a problem that I've faced often from the instructors side, but standing there with no experience cooking Thai food gave me an insight into the view that so many students probably have when they enter my class.

I have a huge amount of respect for students, especially adult students. These are generally people who are in some form of mastery in their lives and occupations, who give up the skill and control that they've spend countless hours acquiring while risking failure at something new. This takes great courage and elicits a lot of empathy from me.
I also got to see the instructor struggle to forget what he knows in order to present it to the students without assumptions. I've heard it referred to as "the curse of knowledge", where you can't remember what it's like not to know something. As a teacher, it's a tough thing to be mindful of and it lurks around every corner.
Teaching is the toughest and most rewarding thing that I do, however, my teaching schedule for the next year is rather sparse, and already mostly filled up. I've accepted a residency grant from the State University of New York in Purchase for 4 months at the end 2016 and that eats up just about all the time that I'm willing to stay away from home. It's basically a get paid to make what you want opportunity, and with the book behind me, I feel the call of the shop and new ideas beckoning.

 I will be at North Bennet Street School teaching continuing ed (open to all) in December, but the class is full (you can wait list it) and then again in January, but that's for the cabinet/ furniture program students. I'll then be at Highland in Atlanta in March, but again, I think that it's full, but you can check with them. The final option is a class in May at North Bennet street, you can contact their Continuing Ed program to inquire and maybe even get on a list before the class is officially offered (I shoulda checked with them first, but you never know). I have had a chat with Deneb about a weekend course up at Lie-Nielsen, perhaps a perch, next summer, but we haven't gotten any further. Thanks for your patience, I will be teaching more in 2017 at the some of the schools where you've seen me in the past.

And I must thank those of you who wrote in comments and emails about my loss of Lil, it meant a lot to me. I've loved sharing my time with her on Chairnotes and your support is much appreciated. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Back Home, sort of

Yes it's been quiet here, largely because I've been in Australia for the last 6 weeks teaching and traveling. I taught 3 courses at Rundell and Rundell in Kyneton just north of Melbourne about an hour. Everything went well and then I was joined by the lovely Stephanie H. for a couple of weeks of travel, including an amazing trip to the Great Barrier Reef.

Coming back from vacation is always a bit jarring but this time is even more so because of the passing of our sweet pup Lily. She died unexpectedly while we were away, and while we did our best to make the best of our time in Australia, I'm finding myself struggling now that I'm back home. Solitary shop life suits my temperament, but I've never truly been alone out there, she was my constant companion for the last 11 years and it seems that there is hardly a move that I make that doesn't instinctively include reaching for her, spotting her out of the corner of my eye or calling for her to join me. Many of you know this feeling and I know better days will come, but the transition from being someone with a great dog, to someone with great memories takes time.

I will be posting my teaching schedule for the next year soon, it's sparse, as I am focusing more on building chairs, but there are a few openings.

Below is a little information about the condition that resulted in Lily's death, I hope that posting it might be helpful to others whose animals are at similar risk.

Lily was staying with a local Vet that also boards dogs. She had a check up before the stay and even though she was 12, she was in excellent health. On her 8th day there, she vomited and collapsed while being walked, she died quickly. The vet said that she thought it was from a twisted bowel, which I'd never heard about. I new about bloat in goats and the dangers it poses, but not in dogs. Apparently it's a common killer in dogs and little can be done once it starts. Basically, for unknown reasons, the stomach flips, cutting off circulation to the intestine which also impairs blood flow to the heart, resulting in cardiac arrest. There are some factors that make dogs more susceptible. Dogs with large chests and narrow waists, like Lil, as well as dogs prone to anxiety, Lil too, are more likely to have the problem. Changes in routine, such as boarding or having a new dog in the house can also stress dogs as well, leaving them susceptible to the condition. There are early signs of the problem and steps that you can take to help prevent it if you think your animal is at risk. If you want to know more about this condition just google "Dog Twisted Intestine" and you will have reading for days.