polelathe turners in US/PNW?

discussion of the niceties of turning on a bow, bungee or pole lathe.

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polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby kikodenzer » Tue Aug 21, 2012 11:17 pm

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Greetings from Oregon!

I've been teaching carving (spoons and bowls) at a couple of "primitive skills gatherings" over here, and was inspired by Robin Wood, Ben Orford, and youtube to build a pole lathe for bowls (we did it as a class at a gathering last month -- it was a huge success, even tho we didn't get any real bowls off it!) The (scrappy) lathe is now up and running, I've managed to make a couple of workable tools, and am getting a few decent bowls (they'll hold water, at least) for an upcoming renaissance fair. When I told the organizers about the lathe, they got very excited about carving and lathe demos. So I'm instantly in over my head! And hoping to find some more experienced turners somewhere nearish (in Oregon, they say that "home is anywhere in a 4 hour drive"). Any suggestions/names/direction would be most welcome. And next time I come to the UK (my wife is from Shropshire), I'll hope to look some of you up and/or take a class or three! Thanks...very much...
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby jrccaim » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:29 am

If you are the same Kiko Denzer who wrote the book on clay ovens, thank you very much for a very good book indeed!One of these days I'll build one. I am in Alaska, technically the Pacific Northwest but a bit far away from Oregon to be of much help. Still, there are always personal messages, pm for short. Feel free to pm me with any questions or problems you may have. I am a fanatic pole lathe turner. But life keeps getting in the way... or ask the question in public here on the forum. Novices are welcome. We were all all once novices, after all. Good luck to you on pole lathing. Or bungee lathing. Or even (as in my first lathe) door-spring lathe.
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby robgorrell » Wed Aug 22, 2012 2:54 pm

Hi. I am a beginner in West Virginia, so not so close I guess. I notice that you are using multipe loops of bungie between your upright poles. I am having trouble finding long bungie material here. What did you use? Is it just two or three long ones tied together?

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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby kikodenzer » Wed Aug 22, 2012 4:34 pm

My local hardware store sells bungie stuff by the foot (worth noting that it quickly shredded against a sharp edge of wood, so it's worth smoothing out surfaces where it contacts.

As for ovens, well, yes, I'm guilty of writing a book! (The nice comments are much appreciated.)

W. Virginia and Alaska -- well. I'm not heading that way anytime soon. But I will be in Boston in October, if there are any turners over that way...

Meanwhile, I'll keep on w/trial and error. Next project is to fire up my micro-forge and make some more tools (pix attached -- mine is made from a larger can, but it works great! just a bit of hi-temp ceramic wool blanket from the ceramic supplier, and just about any old torch). There was a post I apreciated, w/pix of tools. One of the comments suggested 5mm eyes instead of 1cm eyes -- I'm wondering/assuming that he meant 50mm, or 1/2 cm, but clarifications/tool suggestions would be welcome. (whoops, 10 mm = 1 cm; bad w/numbers, worse w/metric). I'm still interested in tool tips, tho, especially inside vs outside bevels.

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Last edited by kikodenzer on Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:04 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby Steve Martin » Thu Aug 23, 2012 4:54 am

If you get to North Carolina, let me know, I'm about 30 minutes N-E of Charlotte in Salisbury, NC
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby bulldawg_65 » Thu Aug 23, 2012 8:02 pm

I'm not one yet but I soon will be. I've been eyeing Roy Underhill's old German pole lathe!
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby jrccaim » Sat Aug 25, 2012 4:46 am

I did not make any comments on your lathe. It looks like it will work. I used a similiar arrangement on my current version. I prefer a dog-leash clip tied to the cord. (Thanks to Jennie Alexander for that tip). Clip to the bungee. Makes it easier to replace the cord when it wears out, and wear out it will.

The stuff you can turn out on a pole lathe depends to a great deal on its rigidity. A toolroom lathe will turn out work to much better than .01 mm accuracy but then, it literally weighs a ton and is bolted to a concrete floor. It will not budge under tool pressure. The force on the tool may not be much but the area is small, so you exert enormous pressure. Lathe bends. Or supports come off the ground. Frustrating. The rigidity is in direct conflict with portability. In the end it's live and learn. But if you want to turn bowls I think you will need a heavier lathe, unless small bowls are your thing (and far be it from me to criticize!) Look at Robin Wood's bowl lathe; uprights buried in the ground. For between-centers work i.e candlesticks, spurtles, baseball bats, and even baby rattles (see Mike Abbot's book) or cedar/pine bowls no bigger than 50% of your center height your lathe will do fine. If you want to turn madrone bowls, well, I think you are in for version 2.0, the massive version. If you can't lift it without a fork-lift truck you are about there.

I admire your forge. That is a very interesting idea -- use firebrick myself; maybe I am missing something. More study needed. Thing you need to forge for bowls is a hook tool or two. Not that I am an expert on bowls; but I read Robin Wood's blog too!
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby Butterfield » Wed Dec 26, 2012 4:02 pm

I am in Colorado, (a fair way from everyone else here it seems). I have a question about materials for making a heavy bowl lathe. I have access to larger diameter Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine and Quaking Aspen. I am leaning toward Pine for the lathe, but an unsure if I'll need to buy some oak or something for the poppets. Also, which should split straighter, the fir or pine?

Thanks!
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby jrccaim » Fri Dec 28, 2012 5:04 am

Butterfield wrote:I am in Colorado, (a fair way from everyone else here it seems). I have a question about materials for making a heavy bowl lathe. I have access to larger diameter Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine and Quaking Aspen. I am leaning toward Pine for the lathe, but an unsure if I'll need to buy some oak or something for the poppets. Also, which should split straighter, the fir or pine?

Thanks!


Once, in another lifetime it seems, I used to live in Colorado Springs. OK, no expert on bowl lathes. But mass is really essential (suggestion: repost this query in bowl lathes major section heading). So bury posts in ground, use sandbags, whatever you have to do so's the lathe doesen't walk. You see, you push down on the treadle. Action. What you want is for your proto-bowl to move. But the lathe will move too. Reaction. It will move to the extent that your bowl is heavier than the lathe ! So since us temperate-climate people cannot find lignum vitae lying around, or even oak (me for example) we have to resort to tricks and dodges to make the lathe really heavy. Like sandbags.

My instinctive feeling is that you can use whatever you want for poppets. That is not your problem, the bed is where the weakness lies. I would not use aspen under any circumstances. A highly underrated wood. I am surrounded by it; indeed if some of it does not fall on my head when I go skiing I consider myself lucky :). But it is much too light. You want the heaviest stuff you can find. I myself would prefer Douglas fir to pine. Just a tad heavier (denser) than pine. But I dunno, Ponderosa pine is good stuff too. After all, "ponder" is weight, in Latin. So we get "ponderous". Ponderosa might be best of all for beds -- but I have no direct experience. My current pole lathe has aspen poppets (in spite of my own advice) but it works fine. What does not work so well is the bed and it is fir of some sort. Salvaged 2x4s in fact. Just not massive enough.

Read every one of Robin Wood's posts on this forum. ditto his videos. Look at his setups. He's the real expert, not me.

As to your query on which should split straighter, fir or pine. Reminds me of something my father used to say about beer, and he got it straight from a German Brauereimeister. There is more difference between two batches of beer from the same brewery than there is between brands! So the real answer is it depends on the individual log, not on the species. Fully confirmed in my experience. If the log has a wind (corkscrew) in it you cannot split it right no matter whether it's oak, ash, or thorn. If there is no wind, no nasty branches (knots) in your way it will split like a charm.
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby gavin » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:39 am

kikodenzer wrote:One of the comments suggested 5mm eyes instead of 1cm eyes -- I'm wondering/assuming that he meant 50mm, or 1/2 cm, but clarifications/tool suggestions would be welcome.

If you make small tips - say 5 mm diameter - you will find they work quicker at roughing out as your energy is applied over a shorter cut to produce narrower swarf.

kikodenzer wrote: I'm still interested in tool tips, tho, especially inside vs outside bevels.

Try both. See which you prefer. On balance, I like outside bevels as they are easier to sharpen. They can allow you to rub the bevel on the spinning work so you can feel what the tool's angle of attack is. But because of the huge variability of handmade tools - esp those made by beginners that teach themselves - it is difficult to generalise from small sample sizes. So make lots and experiment. After all OCS is abundant! i.e. Old Car Springs. Get thicker coil springs if you can - 12 mm diameter is a bit too thin, 16 mm diameter is good.
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby jrccaim » Thu Jan 03, 2013 5:41 am

kikodenzer wrote:One of the comments suggested 5mm eyes instead of 1cm eyes -- I'm wondering/assuming that he meant 50mm, or 1/2 cm, but clarifications/tool suggestions would be welcome.

Somewhat confused here. Don't quite know what you mean by "eyes." If we are talking about turning tools, 5mm is small indeed. Not out of the question but very small. I'd use a 5mm tool for finicky detail work, if at all. 50mm much more reasonable. But what you try to do is match tool diameter to the detail you are trying to work. For really small stuff sometimes a form tool is the only way; you grind up a negative of the profile you want to cut. If you want a 5mm tool it will be either expensive or outright unobtainable. Suggest you learn to microforge. It is not hard, requires minimal equipment, and is very satisfying.

kikodenzer wrote: I'm still interested in tool tips, tho, especially inside vs outside bevels.


gavin wrote:Try both. See which you prefer. On balance, I like outside bevels as they are easier to sharpen. They can allow you to rub the bevel on the spinning work so you can feel what the tool's angle of attack is. But because of the huge variability of handmade tools - esp those made by beginners that teach themselves - it is difficult to generalise from small sample sizes. So make lots and experiment. After all OCS is abundant! i.e. Old Car Springs. Get thicker coil springs if you can - 12 mm diameter is a bit too thin, 16 mm diameter is good.


Agree with Gavin 100% and see further:
I have never used an inside-bevel tool. My instinctive thought is "horrors :) " but they might work in some situations. [Pause to reflect and light a pipe :) ]. In fact upon reflection, look at the hook tool. It is a classic in-cannel tool. Works fine on bowls. It is a [grizzly] bear to sharpen, true. So my initial horror is misplaced. Big question: what are you going to do with your lathe? Are you going to turn between centers? Turn bats, candlesticks, tool handles. finials, chair legs and so on? Stick with outside bevels. You will be much happier, especially when it comes to sharpening, and sharpen you must if you use any tool on wood. On the other hand if you are going to turn bowls it is a whole 'nother ball of wax as we say in the USA. And I lied when I said I never used an in-cannel tool because I made a hook tool and used it quite happily. Well, that's what reflection is for. You can turn small bowls on an "average" pole lathe, the kind that is all over this section of the forum. But if you want to turn really big bowls, 25 cm and up, you want a bowl lathe and we have (providentially) a special topic in this board for just such things. As my son says, "I'm outside my pay grade" on bowl turning and I refer you to the real experts on bowl turning.

And one of these days, Kiko, I will build one of your ovens :)

On another subject:
kikodenzer wrote:My local hardware store sells bungie stuff by the foot (worth noting that it quickly shredded against a sharp edge of wood, so it's worth smoothing out surfaces where it contacts.

You do not need a Kilometer of bungee. Nor yet even a meter. The stuff will stretch to something like 3-5 times its original length. I use ordinary two-hook stuff, 'bout 30cm/1 foot long, sold all over the USA for securing loads to roof racks. Wal-Mart sells them. So does any sporting goods store. The only requirement is that it will stretch the distance between the extreme end of the treadle pole and the ground. Anything else is overkill. In fact, I have yet to buy a bungee. I find them cast off everywhere on my walks. Ours is a very wasteful society. I take full advantage of that. The only caveat with bungee is not to rely on the hooks. Tie them down or wire them down so that they cannot work loose. A flying bungee is very dangerous to eyes, hands, or body.

Apologize for length of post, but there was an awful lot of content to address!
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Re: polelathe turners in US/PNW?

Postby Woodyrock » Sat Jan 12, 2013 9:24 am

I am near Seattle here in the Pacific Northwest. Admittedly, I have not done any pole lathe turning for a few years, but will be doing so again. Years back I demonstrated at Ren Fairs, still have my hook tools. My power lathe, which I purchased in New Zealand about 1968 was made in High Wycombe in 1853.

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