Sep 20

Milliput and burl

Work’s been fun and we’re both under a new lockdown and back at school here so non-work’s been even more fun. Hence little posting. But I did finish off two bowls this week, and one was my first burl piece.

It was included in an order of olive ash from homeofwood.co.uk that had been delayed because, well, covid is crazy. That olive ash is also seriously pretty, but it’s much harder to turn so it’s highlighting every mistake I make. I might leave the other blanks for a while (I turned a small rough nightlight holder from one but I’m not happy with it) while I get more practice in. This burl though, was the opposite – very easy to cut, too easy in some places (that’s burl, everyone says). I cleaned and trued up the blank from a faceplate to get to that photo above, and I didn’t have much of a plan from here except to have the largest amount of visible grain possible and I didn’t want to do a straightforward conic section. So ironically, it became a cone…

Opted for a tenon because burl’s not as strong as solid wood so expanding jaws in a recess seemed wrong. Should have made the tenon larger by a few mm really but I was trying to maximise yield (which seems more and more to be a mistake these days). Also, you can see some punkiness on the rim there; some patches were just too soft like that, and rather than resin them like I’ve done before, I wanted to try something new because the next bowl will have a slanted rim that I wanted to do an inlay into with resin and liquid resin would be really hard to do right without cutting a lot away afterwards. Enter epoxy putty.

Specifically milliput, because I’d seen some youtubers using it for inlays to great effect:

(Oh, if you’ve not seen Peter Brown’s youtube channel before, welcome to the internet, you’ll like it here if you don’t read the comments)

And milliput now has a nice light blue colour so I thought I’d try that because blue just works well with light maple and sycamore and ash colours. So I mixed the two parts it comes in until the colour was even (it’s very, very, very similar to mála if you’re Irish), and just mashed it into any spot that was punky (I dremmelled out the punky bits until I got back to more solid material first). Wetting a finger and smearing the milliput seems to work well to get it as even as possible.

Scraped and sanded it back to get to that stage. Then I reversed it in the chuck and hollowed out the center. And now I have “hollower” at the top of my “next lathe tool to make or buy” list. Probably buy because I don’t really have the kit here to heat, bend, quench and temper steel to get the bend in the tool shaft that hollowers have.

Incidentally, that colour that almost looks like the camera didn’t record it correctly, is what it actually looks like. It’s such a jarring colour, it’s very glitch-in-the-matrix when looking at it, especially with the massive contrast between the featureless surface of the milliput and the utterly baroque feature-packed surface of the burl.

I had another punky part in the wall of the bowl which I didn’t see until I was sanding and the inside wall of the bowl collapsed into the wall (and almost popped off one of my fingernails in the ensuing catch).

I cleaned it out (this is a process disturbingly like filling a rotten tooth) and packed it full of milliput (overfull to be sure I could cut it back to a flush surface, and I think I overdid it)

It looks mucky at this point, but it really does clean up well.

I usually prefer a more minimalist sort of aesthetic over the baroque, but burl really is an exception to that. You could stare at those grain patterns for hours. I must try this again once I can look at the price of burl blanks without wincing, but with embellishment (stains, gold waxes and the like) to bring the grain up even more.

Postscript: a workmate in the US does crochet and she put up some of her stuff on Etsy a while back and I bought a piece and it fits perfectly 😀

Fox-in-a-bowl 😀

May 20

Fire Pretty!

Yes, okay, I admit it, having a propane torch is a constant temptation after you’ve seen a shou sugi ban video on youtube 😀

You really do need the safey kit for this one though, and to stop before you light up and vacuum up the cubic foot of shavings that are all over the lathe and everywhere else. Small fires in an 8×6 shed that has several litres of various different solvents don’t happen. Large infernos, on the other hand, are something worth avoiding 😀

The nice people at The Carpentry Store gave me a few blanks when I bought my lathe from them “to get going on with” (thanks Patrick if you read this, that lathe’s been a load of fun) and one of those was an ash bowl blank about 6″x2″.

Ash is a hateful chippy wood when dry I’ve found, I don’t know where all these stories come from about it being pleasant to work. I suppose it’s a different animal when air-dried or when green, but when kiln-dried it’s like a Jacobs cream cracker. But it does have a lovely white colour combined with a nice open grain, so…

I finally found dovetail faceplate rings for my chuck (the viper 2 stuff from charnwood fits the xact 2 chuck) and mounted the blank that way. There’s a nice bowl shape I’ve had in my head for a while where the rim is basically a 45 degree bevel down from the flat top to the curved bottom, and I tried to get that shape here but missed. But I got it to a nice enough shape, turned a recess, ran up through the grits from 80 to 320, sealed it from the foot to the lip, and then used some yorkshire grit to polish and carnuba wax to finish.

Then I reversed the bowl, trued up the surface a bit, then cut a shallow chunk out of where the dish would be, and then I got out the propane torch (not the MAP torch, apparently that burns too hot).

And of course, vacuumed up and cleaned up the wood dust and shavings at this point, before lighting the torch and then burning the beveled part of the rim. Took my time here, burning lightly in a lot of quick passes until I had a fully charred look, then I took a steel brush to the wood in the direction of the grain (happy accident this, I wanted to use a brass brush but couldn’t find mine). The steel gave a sort-of-sandblasted look to everything which is nice, if subtle. Wiped everything up with kitchen paper (this bowl used a lot of kitchen paper), then burned it all again, and then cleaned it with kitchen paper and 320 grit sandpaper. Got it smooth and clean, then sealed it with two coats of cellulose sealer, and then put on a glove and rubbed gold buff-it as embellishing wax directly into the grain on the rim, and then removed the excess with kitchen paper and 320 grit paper, then put a final coat of sealer over the top of all of that.

Then I got out the bowl gouge again, and cut out the inside dish of the bowl, though by the bottom I was having to switch over to the half-round scraper because the bowl gouge’s bevel wasn’t steep enough for the turn I was trying to make. Then sanded up through the grits and then sealed the inner dish, then yorkshire grit over the whole top half (inner dish first, then the rim because I thought I could pull soot into the pores otherwise). And then carnuba wax all over, and then two coats of spray lacquer from a can. Which of course, I got a drip on with the last coat, so I may need to finish that properly later.

But overall, I’m not too unhappy with this, even if the shape isn’t exactly what I wanted:

I have no idea what you’d use it for mind 😀
I just had this idea in my head to try a few ebonising methods after that bowl I stained a week or two back, and this was next on the list (and I like the gold-in-black look from the embellishing wax, though I think silver would work even better. I must get some later and try it).

The next method though, should be even more interesting, but that’s a few days or so away yet…

May 19


Adding the hinges actually worked this time. I have no idea why. I morticed them the same way I usually do, though I did take more time with the fitting to the lid and setting up for workholding with shims and such. I still think I have particularly cheap hardware to work with though – one set of Brusso hinges probably costs more than my entire little stock of hinges and hardware. And I think they’re all too shiny as well; a 17thC style oak box should have black or at most bronze hardware; and really a forged or cast iron set would be ideal. But this is faux-17thC so I can get away with blue murder 😀

Honestly, they’re garish. But they’re all I have and the deadline for delivery was over a week ago – the baby this is intended to hold blankets for was born ten days ago now. One of these days I’ll get these projects done on time or convince someone to delay a deadline for once 😀

They’re not as jarring from the front, happily. But they still clash with the other ironware.

I really need to use a stay on these I think, but I don’t have one to hand. I foresee a small spending spree in the near future…

But for now, this project is done. Faux-17thC carved oak box with oak lid and ash base, finished with a simple coat of boiled linseed oil. Sized to hold mothercare cellular blankets that have been folded while you’re half-dead from exhaustion dealing with a newborn and two older siblings.

Even herself was impressed, so it must look okay 😀

Next up, cleaning down the last few bits remaining from this build, and then back to the inlay and decoration work for Calum’s desk/shelf unit. Primary school starts this autumn, so I only have a few months and at the rate I’m getting to the shed these days, that’s a tight deadline 😀

original plans