Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ellsworth-style birch closed form

In April David Ellsworth, one of the best and best-known professional turners in the US spent a three-day week end with our group, talking, demonstrating, teaching and critiquing. On Friday night Brent English had a reception at his Robust Lathe shop, where David showed slides and discussed his work. On Saturday, at Dave Hiller's shop, about 50 of us watched David do all-day demos of his techniques, during which time he turned a standard bowl, a natural edged bowl, and a closed-form vessel. (In the photo he's working on the last of these.) Then on Sunday he held a hands-on class for 8 turners. I attended the Friday and Saturday sessions, but could not attend Sunday's. I did, however, attempt to emulate David's technique in turning a closed-end form, and the photos below reflect my result. The piece is turned from an old birch log, and is unfinished and mostly unsanded. It is about 4" in all dimensions and fully hollowed. I've generally described the process by which this is done following the photos. I've also added a link to his studio website in the Links I Like section in the left-hand column.

Here's more than you want to know about how this is done. David's approach to turning such a piece (and the technique which I used here), is to mount the log blank lengthwise between centers on the lathe, and turn it into a cylinder of roughly the diameter of the piece you want to turn. You then turn the piece as fully round (ball-shaped) as possible, leaving only tenons on each end where the piece is held on the lathe. Then you take the piece off the lathe, turn it 90 degrees, and mount it between centers again, this time on the surface of the round ball. Then you turn off the remains of the original tenons (achieving a nearly round shape) and turn a new tenon at one end, shaped be held in a chuck. Finally, you again remnove the piece from the lathe, and remount it with the new tenon held in your chuck. Then you hollow it out! (Why do all of this? You don't have to if you want an end-grain vessel - i.e., one where the grain runs vertically from the base to the opening in the top. But the technique shown and described is used if you want the grain to run across the piece instead of up and down. Also, it's the best way to get a really round shape.)