I owe my skills in wood turning, and hence also metal turning, to a friend, a copy of Dave Register's book, practice and experimentation. My most recent work is at the bottom of this page.
In helping someone to clear their garden for firewood, one of the things that got cleared was an apple tree. Most of the tree went to a guy at the office who had been turning for ages. But I took the root-ball nominally as firewood. Years later and still unburned, I thought it was a suitable scrap to have a go at turning. Inside I found several things. Firstly I found the graft union between the root-stock and the variety; and in this I found small flints and sand to blunt tools. But the union contained wonderful burrs and colours not normally found in apple. There was also a small amount of spalting. The dead stump of the rootstock which became enveloped by the growing tree is wedged in the base of the bowl - visible from inside and out. On one side are the rings of the trunk, on the other, several rings as roots branch out in different directions.
Before I got my own lathe, I also had a go at making boxes, following some advice from Dave Register's excellent book. Here is one made from Laburnum that came from my eldest brother's front garden. I especially like the patterns in Laburnum when it is cut at an angle, but essentially turned on its own axis. I also wanted to practice making curves. The bottom of this box is very interesting because it is right on the crotch. I decided that having a knot and such tortured grain on the small bit that makes the lid would be unstable. And sure enough, the bottom of the box keeps moving. Unfortunately, the grain in this bit of laburnum is so wild it is not obvious that the lid follows on from the body of the box, but the colour of the wood follows on very well.
There are two other aspects of Laburnum that I really like: the contrast between sapwood, and the fine medullary rays. Here I had a large piece of Laburnum which I had cut into quarters to prevent cracking. On the quarter cut, laburnum has figuring much like oak but far smaller. How do you make a bowl that shows the quarter cut? Make it the shape of an Apollo capsule (the curve on the bottom follows the curve of the log). Hollowing it out so that the internal surface follows the shape of the external surface was quite hard with the limited tools I had at the time. I left the dovetail tenon on the base to lift the bowl off the table a little more, but dished it in to reflect the top of the bowl. With a narrow opening at the top it may not be the most practical bowl in the world, but I'm very pleased with it. It now rests not far from the location of the stump of the tree from which it was made.
Laburnum is hard and blunts tools. Purpleheart is very hard and blunts tools very quickly. So, here was a challenge. The other challenge was to make the the ribs evenly spaced and consistent in shape. Many people that first see the box do not see it as a box; the ribs are a great way of hiding the joint for the lid, and the lid is tight enough that you can pick the box up by the lid. In Purpleheart the grain is not very distinct, so again it is not clear that the grain follows through the body to the lid, but it does.
I started this boxwood box on a friend's lathe. But I was turning from green wood. As it started to dry out, it was moving and cracking. I stopped with it roughed out and coated it with several layers of PVA glue. Months later, when I had my own lathe, I was able to return to it and complete it. In this one, I was practicing making coves, partly because there were inclusions in the wood, but I didn't want to waste such a large bit of box. The photos are actually of the second box box I made to this design; it went down well with some people at the office so I had to make another.
Some time before I took up turning I was interested by a box made by Cecil Jordan involving engine turning. Here is one of my boxes with a similar pattern. I'm currently working on a number of other patterns and I have been quite successful cutting patterns like this in silver. Also here are a couple of items that I made for competitions at the local club: a zebrano cake stand; a lilac egg; a lilac urn.
I like to make jokes and puns in my work. Having made a silver nut and bolt, one of my brothers enquired about a nut cracker, and wondered if he could get one in the shape of a nut for an engineering friend. This got me to thinking about making a nut and bolt to crack nuts. After a while the design formed in my mind using a "dome headed" nut as the excuse for the nut not having a hole all the way through it. The shank is 2", 6tpi with a 90 degree thread form. The nut and bolt are 3" AF. The whole thing is made of rosewood. It crushes nuts beautifully; even almonds are easy.
In another series of jokes I was working on a box for a ring. The design evolved as I considered leaving the centre in the box so that the ring would not touch the sides and get scratched. The traditional Victorian washstand had tapered poles on the end for placing rings, and if I could do something similar inside the box... And after some playing around, it occurred to be to drill the centre out and the toroidal shape began to emerge. Of course, a plain ring is also a toroid.
Shortly afterwards I had another idea for a variation on a "ring" box consisting of concentric rings cut deeply to make the top and bottom of the box intersect to a very great extent. This box is a surprise in several ways. Firstly all the turning is on the inside. Secondly when you open it, you are not expecting to have to lift the top quite so high to clear the bottom.
A thought occurred to me that the above box would look very good in cross-section. And then via a short leap came the idea of "inside out turning" - this is where the wood is sectioned, each piece rotated 180 degrees then re-assembled for turning. After turning, it is again sectioned, each piece rotated 180 degrees back to where it was and glued up. I really like the pattern on thou outside of this box - again tricking the viewer because there are no externally visible curves.
This is a pair of salt and pepper mills made using the Crushgrind ceramic mechanisms. The wood is rosewood inlaid with box for salt and ebony for pepper (there is also a matching spot in the top - note that Crushgrind mechanisms does not need a little screw top, so this is purely decoration). The mills were turned on a total of 4 centres - one for the core and three others to make the grinder (both body and the reeded lid) very slightly triangular, which fits in the hand extremely well.
This box was made for a friend as a gift from boxwood. The decoration is the most extravigant I have done yet. There are a total of 599 cuts to make the 4 patterns (2 on the top of the lid, 2 on the side). I particularly wanted to make the patterns on the side similar but different, so changed the axis of the cut. Also I wanted a contrast of texture, so the lower part is not a dense pattern (leaving a relatively smooth texture); the lin on the other hand has a dense pattern resulting an a 'spiky' feel.
This robinia pseudoacacia (false acacia/black locust) bowl was made for a competition at my local club - the theme was a carved or decorated bowl. I decided to make the bottom curved - a wobbly bowl - which makes it that much more interesting when people pick it up.