Friday, December 25, 2015

Birdhouse Ornaments: How To

Sam Angelo, AKA Wyoming Woodturner, is a go-to source for instruction and  inspiration. His videos have given me much over time. This little video is what got me going with birdhouse ornaments.

Sam Angelo Birdhouse Ornaments

Watch his video, and then look at what I did:
There seems to be some resemblance here!

The first thing I learned is to coordinate my tools. The top and bottom halves of my birdhouses didn't match up and needed to be sanded into shape. Plus, I didn't have a chuck that would hold the size pieces I was making!

This problem was solved pretty neatly by bringing Rudy's set of Forstner bits to the lathe, and trying various bits with various chuck jaws. Turns out my smallest set of jaws (I use Nova chucks) would both grab a one inch spigot, and expand into a one inch recess. Having the toolage worked out this way saved a lot of time in the changing jaws department.

Here's MY protocol:

I've been using 2" X 2" X whatever" spindle blanks, which makes a pretty good sized ornament; in fact, some people have remarked that they were surprised at how large they are. The problem with using the same size blank for both top and bottom halves of the birdhouse is that so much of the wood for the bottom half needs to be wasted in order to make it smaller in diameter than the top half. The roof of the house needs to overhang the bottom half, otherwise your little imaginary birdies get all wet! So if wasting wood is an issue (if only because of cleaning up extra shavings, not to mention the expense of the wood) try using a smaller diameter blank for the bottom half of the house. Just be sure to coordinate with your Forstner bits.

Cut the blanks into 2"ish long chunks. This does not need to be an exact measurement. You can eyeball them, work around any flaws in the wood, and have them all come out different. Or you can measure the length of your blank, divide by two inches, allow for the kerf (the amount of wood lost to the blade doing the cutting) and make them exact.Suit yourself. But whatever you do, make these cuts as perpendicular to the length of the wood as possible. I have had no luck with my band saw, and with the miter saw the bits of wood are too small for me to safely hold. I've been using the table saw, Very Carefully.

Take the chunks for the house half to the drill press and decide what size hole you want for the entrance of your birdhouse. It is way easier to drill this hole into a square blank than it is to try to hold a rounded one. Find the center, vertical-wise, of your blank. Drill the hole deep enough so that it goes about halfway through the blank.

This brings us to the third bit of wood involved in this endeavor. The perch. Real birdhouses should not have perches. Birdies don't need them, and perches give aid to potential predators. But they are so dang cute! And nothing says "birdhouse" quite like that little stick. So figure out what you want to poke out. I use a 1/8" dowel, and played around until I found a drill bit to make a hole that would hold that dowel securely. 

Change bits and drill the perch hole below the house hole. Get them on center; it looks better. Mass produce them. Do all the house holes, then change bits and come back to do the perch holes. Don't have a drill press? Use whatever you have for hole-drilling, you poor sod. One note: place the house hole not too close to the end of your blank. There must be room for the roof blank tenon to nest into the house blank mortise. And now your house blank has a top and a bottom.

Find and mark the center of each end of your little blanks. Yes, both ends. Do this with the house blanks with their house- and perch- holes, as well as with the roof blanks. You'll thank me later.

To the lathe!

Mount some jaws into a chuck that will hold whatever size blank you are using. With my Nova chuck, this means the step jaws. Into the tail stock, mount your Jacob's chuck. This is a deal breaker - you need that Jacob's chuck. Here's where you use the size Forstner bit you determined would work with what jaws you have. When mounting the house blank into the jaws, make sure the top end of the house is facing the tailstock-Jacob's chuck-Forstner bit assembly. Use the tip of the Forstner bit to help you in centering the blank in the chuck. 

(If you have two chucks, here's where you put your step jaws on one chuck for hollowing, mortising and rounding; and the tiny jaws onto the other chuck for the rest of the carving and finishing.)

With the house blank mounted and centered between the step jaws and the Forstner bit, advance the Forstner bit  to hollow out the house. Hollow down past the house hole. Hollowing past the perch hole is optional. But leave yourself enough blank at the head stock end so that you can carve whatever shapes you are planning for the bottom of your house. 

Then with the Forstner bit INSIDE the mortise, near the top to steady the blank, round off the blank. Keep in mind that the roof needs to overhang the house, so round this blank thinner if needed. Before taking the blank off the lathe, true up the top of the house, or the end of the mortise. This is easier after the blank is rounded and drilled. Remove the blank/house from the lathe and set aside. It will be only halfway rounded. You'll come back to that with a different set of jaws.

Now mount the roof blank the same way as you did the house blank, except that the end facing the head stock is now the top of the house. Once again, bring up the tail stock with that same Forstner bit, use it to center the blank in the chuck, and advance it enough that the tip is seated into the blank, and the drilling portion of the bit is just beginning to touch the end of the blank. With this in place, round as much of the roof blank as you can easily get to. Give a thought to how you want the eaves to look like. 

Make the tenon, using the Forstner bit as a guide. You just drilled a mortise using this exact bit, so carve the tenon to match. I like to get close, then use a scraper for the final touch. Advance the scraper until it touches the (non spinning!) Forstner bit. Stop the lathe, move the tool rest and try on the mortise until the fit is where you want it. Take note of whether the tenon shows through the house hole, and shorten the tenon, if possible. There still needs to be enough meat and potatoes to the tenon that it can be held in your tiny jaws.

Set aside this half rounded piece of wood. Change to your tiny jaws that will both expand into the mortise and hold the tenon.

Let's go back to the house blank. If you trued up the mortise end, it will be pretty easy to seat it onto the tiny jaws. For clarity's sake: the jaws go inside the mortise, in expansion mode. Once again, use the Forstner bit tip to help in centering and steadying. This is why I had you mark the center of both ends of the blank. You may thank me now.

Any time you reverse a piece of wood on the lathe, you find out how well you did at finding the center. Chances are, the blank will need some truing up. True up and move on. Round the rest of the blank and shape it however you like. Some folks like spindles; just take note of how far down the hollowing goes. Others like a flat bottomed approach, so the ornament can stand on a table. Burn lines or whatever embellishment you like, such as color.

Sand it and finish it! Or set it aside for buffing, like I do.

So much for the house end. Now mount the roof end into the jaws, with the jaws in compression mode this time. Use the Forstner bit to guide the centering process. Making a little hole in the center of the roof gives you a starter hole for mounting and hanging hardware later on. Carve your roof into shape, sand, finish, embellish. 

Glue the two halves together. Clamp them if you have clamps that will fit. I like those quick release kind. Buff now if you are buffing. Cut the dowel for the perch. Sturdy scissors will work. Sand both ends of the dowel, jam one end into the perch hole. Mount the hanging hardware (eye screws work nicely) and you are done! Prepare yourself for applause!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Learning Spindle Gouges

Birdhouse Ornaments
Some days my brain works pretty good, and on others, it has no idea. Yesterday was one of THOSE days. An idea for a birdhouse ornament had come along, and all sorts of way to try and make this idea come to fruition were whirling around. How to make the crenelations of the castle? Band saw would be too wobbly since the blade wanders this way and that, fence notwithstanding. Scroll saw? I have little to no experience with that particular machine, but am always willing to give it a try. Before I had a chance to get all bogged down in learning a new machine, along comes Rudy, just in time.

He reminded me of what I already knew but was too brain dead to remember. Table saw! You know, that nasty machine that once bit my finger. So I was content to stand back and watch as Rudy cut the crenelations for me. Then it was back to the lathe to make it all round and pretty.

Making these things is giving me the opportunity to learn some of the turning tools I hardly ever touch. Like spindle gouges. They are tricksy little things, and like to go skating off in the wood blank, leaving a lovely gash behind. But I am keeping at it, and, I think, making progress.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

It's The Little Things

When I started woodturning, I wanted to make big humongous bowls. Heroic sized bowls. Bowls you could sleep in. I want to make a Caesar salad bowl worthy of the talents of my chef friend, Ed.  And I still do, but in the meantime I have discovered the joys to be found in the little things.
Black Walnut Bottle Stoppers
Seems to me that bottle stoppers should come in sets of at least two. I mean, what party has only one kind of wine open at a time? Don't you need at least one for white and another for red?

More Ornaments. All roofs elm, houses 3 bubinga, 2 black walnut.
 I whipped out the first batch of ornaments, sold them the next day, then said, Huh! How did I do that? It seems that when I come back to a project after not having done it for a while, much of it has to be reinvented. In this case a couple things needed to be adjusted since parts weren't fitting together as well as I would have liked. And I don't consider myself able to do something well until I can teach it to someone else. And so a protocol has been documented. I can teach this!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Annie's Hands conduct the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra!

Annie's Hands have done a lot of things, but this may be one of the funnest evar!

Labor Day weekend 2014 saw the Hands waving, flailing, and beating furious time for the exceedingly gracious members of the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. I still get a thrill watching this, but nothing like actually conducting this orchestra.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Knit One

Knit One 

 I want to go to there.
YOU want to go to there.
Trust me. 
2721 Murray Avenue Pittsburgh, PA, 15217 | (412) 421-6666 
Christina and I were walking with friends along Murray. We were on our way to the game store. Fun! Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted yarn. Lots and lots of yarn! Chris and the rest of the gang got ditched and I scurried inside to check this out. I had stumbled upon Knit One. 

No sooner had I crossed the threshold than I was greeted and welcomed by someone over on the couch. Yep, I did say couch. There are a couple of comfy couch-ey areas where folks come to hang out and do yarn-ey things. You might find the owner, Laura Knoop Very, or others of the staff among them. There might even be cookies. This place is COZY, people!

One thing led to another and now I am their very first artist! They are selling my swifts and Spin-Rs, and I am looking forward to turning more sorts of wooden doodads and thingies for them. Go see!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Christmas Ornaments

 Aren't they just the cutest things? Like just about everything else I make, I saw a picture somewhere of something like these, and set out to make it myself. Which means I have to figure out the chucking and the steps and design and all that. And these came out! 

I think they are about three inches high. Having left town as soon as they were completed, the task was left to Rudy (the shop owner) to photograph them for me, and I forgot to ask him for measurements. Suffice it to say, they are itty bitty.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Branching Out

 Bowl making is still da bomb, but there are many other things that can be turned on the lathe, and I am beginning to explore them.
Here, for example, is a bird feeder that was more an exploration in techniques than an out-and-out project. How to chuck up the various pieces, making them fit together, assembling the parts in such a way that it will contain the bird seed, dispense it, and also be easy to fill. And it worked!

Since this was a discovery of protocols, one slight detail was overlooked. The roof does not overhang the seed tray. Oops. Ok, so it gets hung out of the weather. 

 Next comes wine bottle stoppers. I do not imbibe myself, but have many many friends who enjoy raising a glass or two. Chief among them is Judy Fazzini, who received this set, made from a burl I had around.

Shopping for the stoppers was a task. They come in lots of configurations, from chrome to cork to silicone to stainless steel. Each has its strengths and drawbacks, mostly relating to cost vs. durability. Stainless steel costs the most, and is the most durable. I'll take quality over cheap every time.

Last but by no means least is a stopper made from spalted maple. This is from a tree that our neighbor at the shop had cut down to make room for a garage. It was a huge tree, and he gave it to me, and I have been determined that none of it go to waste. So began an experiment in spalting.

Spalting is what makes the pretty black lines in the wood. It's the process of a fungus that invades the wood and creates the distinctive zone lines. It is also a first step in the decay and decomposition of wood. The next step after spalting is that the wood breaks down and becomes punky, or too soft to work with. The trick is to get the wood to spalt, but to catch it before it begins to rot. There is much guesswork involved, and I have to admit, I've been pretty lucky.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

From Logs to Bowls



and After





These two are from the tree I think of as THAT Cherry Tree. The grain patterns and colors are simply stunning. It is quite humbling to have the task of bringing them to light in a pleasing form.  

See Charlotte at Etc. to purchase these beauties.

That Walnut Bowl

Charlotte Karges shows off the bowl she sold to someone. It's lucky I don't know who bought it, or I would be bugging them to borrow it. 

Charlotte owns Etc. Art Gallery, Jewelry Store, Antique Store. She displays my work, among many other treasures. Stop in and visit. Charlotte is a delight!