Creating an emerging form is both a very creative and a very technical endeavour. But as you can see, it is well worth the time and effort. A piece like this combines so many different aspects of woodturning, such as a natural edge, a goblet, a lidded vessel, a finial (as part of the lid), and the curved wings, which, of course, won't make it easy to sand this piece down, but with some elbow grease, and some time on your hands, a piece like this is rendered 320 grit smooth.
Step 1: Sizing Your Wood, Finding Your Form
Setting your piece of wood on the lathe wrong will cause you to lose precious wood. Now, if you have wood a plenty, then it's not that important, but a good spalted piece of Olive does not come every day, so you better make sure you use it as best as possible.
Looking at the angle and shape of the wood, you choose a spot that looks right, in the center, and you hammer the drive center in. You need to make sure the teeth of the drive are grabbing wood, and not just bark. After the drive is set, you gauge its angle by aligning the hammer handle to the drive and see how it crosses the wood. This would be a good time to adjust it for the angle you choose is best for you.
Once you are happy with the location of the drive, mounting the drive center into the morse cone in the lathe spindle is helped by the support of the tailstock.
Since we are looking to make a natural edge form type of vessel, we need to remember that once we start cutting on wood, that part won't have a natural edge any more, so the room for error grows here. Think before you make your cut. Where will the top and bottom be? What parts will have a natural edge (top, bottom, middle or all of them)? All these things you need to consider before you start cutting on the wood. Reducing the wood is easy, getting the wood back on is a little problematic, so we try to avoid it.
Step 2: Preparing the Tenon
I've decided which side would be the bottom of my vessel, and set that side in the tailstock side, so I'll be able to flatten it and create the tenon I need for mounting this piece of wood into the chuck jaws.
Spinning the lathe the fastest you can (to create a smooth a cut as possible) while keeping vibrations down, you use a parting tool (but you can do the same with a spindle, or bowl gouge, or even with a scraper) to flatten the bottom of the wood until you get a layer which spans the whole width of the wood.
Using the same tool (or another), cut a channel into the bottom of the branch, cutting it flat across the bottom, and when your done and only a small piece is left connecting your branch an the spot where the tailstock was touching, you can simply turn the lath off and spin rip that leftover piece. You can then sand or chisel smooth the bottom of the remaining nib of fibers.
Mounting the chuck on the spindle means you've taken out the drive center first, and now you can set the wood into the jews. I use my tailstock, put into the hole that was left by the drive center, to help me support the wood, and give it the right directional pressure needed to clamp the tenon well.
Step 3: Starting on Your Form
Now the piece is chucked up, we can take a look and decide where do we want to start from. I say it's best to start from the top, might be you think it's best to make the base first.
You need to set up the tool rest as close as comfortably possible to the point where you are intending to cut, so notice how I rotated my tool rest to match the space left by the cut off branches on this piece of wood. I started by turning the top into a dome. That way I can still decide what I'm going to do without loosing too much wood. this will also show me the spalting and colors of the wood.
As you can see, I liked that two side branches have created a couple of wings, one smaller then the other, but still, and it is at this point that I decide that I will make this piece into a winged type vessel, leaving the natural edge on the wings and rim of the vessel as much as possible.
After curving the wings to be to the way I like them, I start cutting from the center of the form, but I won't go too deep, as I need space for the vessel itself, and for the stock which will need to support the hollowing later, so it will have to wait to become nice a thin. I also start to under cut the wings, first with my bowl gouge, and later, with my round nose large scraper.
Step 4: Advancing the Form, Defining the Wings
This piece is kind of a forward backward dance. You want your shape defined so you could hollow it out, while you need to leave enough wood in the base of the form to withstand the forces of the hollowing.
Undercutting the rim using my round nose scraper, I can bring them to the final width and shape I'm content with. As you can see, I try to keep my fingers well away from the spinning uneven pieces, like the wings and the base, both with my scraper and with the bowl gouge later on. This cut is quite hard to achieve as you don't have the support of your fingers on your tool rest, but once mastered it's actually quite comfortable turning like this, you just need start your cut right and follow it through. I'm using my bowl gouge to gently carve the same of the "cup", while leaving a very wide base, so I could go on to hollowing it.
Step 5: Hollowing the Vessel
After I have the external part of my vessel to shape, more of less, I can start hollowing out the vessel. First I take off the knob that remains from where we had the tailstock connect. Next, once my surface is flat, I use my bowl gouge to hollow out the vessel in stages, starting from the center out (some people prefect the other way around, but I like to define my center and then eat away to the rim. I hollow out a centimeter at a time, to not leave a thick rim supported by a thin body.
Ones I'm at my desired depth and shape, I round off the rim to transition it smoothly to the curve of the wings using my skew as a flat nose scraper, and I clean the transition up with the round nose scraper. I check to see that my walls width is constant through the whole form using a caliper.
Step 6: Finishing the Top of the Vessel
Now that the top of our vessel is done, we can give it a light sanding with 80 grit just to smooth it over, and then we will use thin viscosity CA glue to "plastify" delicate parts that we feel might break while finishing and sanding the piece, for example, that small knot in the bowl of my vessel, and some part where the bark seems to be wanting to come off. Once that is done and the glue is dry we can go on to finish the base and stem of our work.
Step 7: Finishing the Body and Base of the Vessel
Once the top is sanding ready, we can safely finish the base and body of the vessel.
As you can see I've started at the base, cutting it mostly flat, with a little high rise that will mark the base of my vessel, the place where the foot will meet the base. Once I'm happy with that part I'm starting to work on the body of the vessel. During the shaping I decide to add a decorative feature at the center of the stem, just to show off the beautiful Olive grain, it's a lot of wood we are taking off to leave the stem, we can show some of it off using this little addition. Once the shape of the base and stem are roughly done, we can move on to sanding the piece.
Step 8: Applying the Finish
It took me over 4 hours to sand this whole vessel by hand. The only part I was able to sand under lathe power was the inside of the "cup", and the rest has to be hand sanded. If I had a small power sander, I would have used it, which only means that I need to make a small power sander, soon!!
So after the whole vessel is sanded down to 320 (I rarely sand Olive to a higher grit) I can start apply the finish. As always with my Olive creations, I'm using boiled linseed oil. First doing the front, then the body, and last the base of the vessel. I try not to get any oil on the bark of the base, to keep the colors as natural as possible, but I do cover the whole of the rest of the bark (on the top rim and wings) with oil, this will keep the drying content all over the vessel and might prevent future pieces falling off because of shrinkage.
Step 9: Making of the Lid (rough Shape)
Now our vessel is ready, we can start making the lid. To start with, since our vessel opening is curved, you should measure the width of the point you want your lid to sit on, and that will be the exact width we will give our lid, that is how we will know that no matter what, our lid will fit out vessel perfectly (since they are both round, or as close as can be to).
Starting with a leftover piece of Olive, mounted between the drive and live centers, I round the piece off and turn away all of the surface cracks. Once my stock is round (even if oddly shaped), I can create the tenon at its back for mounting it in the chuck jews.
All set up in the chuck I can remove the tailstock if I choose to, and take out as much material as I can from where the lid's finial is going to be, and leave a base a little wider than the measurement we took before (to account for ascending).
Step 10: Making of the Lid (fine Details)
There is a whole art around making finials, some use special rulers with different sizes and relations to the parts that helps create the perfect finial. I simply do this by eye, the way it feels to me at the moment. Maybe someday I'll specialize in finial turning, and until than I'll just try to not make a fool of myself.
We turn our stock into a finial, it's kind of hard to explain how, since this is a purely technical methodology, which can be learned with time and by watching others do it, there are a fair share of finial turning videos on Youtube to be seen.
We cut the dome of our lid, while we undercut the back of it, I also give the lip a low angle, that way I know the lid will rest flush against the form. Make sure this angle is higher than the slope of the part of the vessel that the lip of the lid will meet, or it might not fit your vessel, or show a large gap all around it.
Once we are done shaping the lid, we can sand all the parts down to 320, same as the vessel. Remember to leave enough stock at the base of the lid so it won't bend, flex or break while you're applying pressure sanding.
Step 11: Making of the Lid (finishing and Parting)
There is nothing in this step but to enjoy the grain of this lovely wood.
Points of interest are:
1. Don't apply too much pressure, it's not needed and might break the stem of your finial.
2. Let the oil soak in, use a lot of it, and wipe the excess off once the wood absorbs no more oil.
3. Part the lid using the parting tool up until the stock is very thin but don't turn it off!
4. Switch the lathe off, grab the lid lightly and using a saw, part it completely off the lathe.
5. You can use a woodworking chisel or even your well sharpened spindle gouge to clean the little knob that is left off, sand the stub clear, and apply some oil to cover it up.
Step 12: Putting It All Together
And you're done!
Enjoy your well earned, well made, beautiful looking, Olive emerging lidded vessel.
Hope to see you with another instructable soon!
Participated in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016