Our June demonstrator was John Boyne-Aitken, better known as the bowler hatted turner, although he told us that he can no longer wear the bowler hat while turning as it makes his hearing aids whistle!
John is also the chairman of the register of professional turners and the health and safety rep for the AWGB.
Apprenticed to his father from a young age, John has worked with wood most of his life, but turned to turning full time after cancer in 2007 took a kidney and required him to do less strenuous work.
Before he got started, John talked a little about sharpening, including how he sharpens his skews using a linisher. His skew had a mirror shine and sliced paper as easily as a razor blade.
These were passed around with a caution (and wisely we skipped Bill Bassant due to his history with sharp skews!)
John is mostly a production turner and when turning many pieces, he looks for the best ways to save time. To this end when doing flat work like platters, he uses a plywood disc mounted in the chuck that has been trued up and a router mat glued to it. The blank is then driven against this with the tailstock to create a friction drive to create the chuck mount and shape the underside of the bowl/platter.
For his demo he turned a simple curve to the base of the bowl with a bevel supported pull cut, finishing with a shear cut that created thin wispy shavings. Once he was happy with the shape and lack of tool marks, John sanded through the grits to 500. The new extraction pipes worked beautifully in keeping the dust down.
Alas at 11am, the hall was hit with a power cut (The second of the day although the morning one had been resolved at 9:25 before most people arrived.).
While Paul got on the phone to UK Power Networks, we took an early coffee break and John judged the competition and provided a lengthy critique for those that wanted it.
Following the break while we waited for the power to be restored (apparently 3000 properties were affected due to the heavy wind and rain taking out a sub-station down the road), John talked us through a selection of his tools, including some that he’s made himself for specialist tasks.
Luckily, the power came back on at 12 (well ahead of the estimate), leaving John half an hour to reverse the bowl into the chuck and true up the front face. This was then sanded once again to 500, sealed and then dyed using Liberon black wood dye. This was dried using a heat gun (carefully so as not too heat the wood too much), then dyed again before sealing with Halfords clear car lacquer.
The bowl was removed from the lathe and laid flat. Using a decorator’s sponge cut into pieces, John used 3 of the Chestnut iridescent pains to sponge a random pattern across the black surface. This was then dried and sealed once more. Using a length of spun twine, dipped into Jo Sonja’s iridescent paints, the twine was then laid on the surface of the work, a piece of paper pressed on top and then the twine pulled out from under the paper, leaving a pulled image that looked like an orchid flower.
Once dried and sealed, the piece was then put back on the lathe and defining cuts made on the rim, before removing the centre and creating another defining cut around the edge of the central hollow.
The second piece made by John was intended to be one of two needle boxes out of a nice piece of Yew branch wood. Placed between centres this was trued up and then parted off and mounted in the chuck. Shape was applied to the base and some beads rolled, but as John was working the wood, we could all hear the dreaded whistle of a crack. Sure enough the piece broke off, consigning the piece to the bin.
Not to be deterred, John switched to making the second needle box out of Caspian Boxwood. Trued up and trimmed down to a narrow tube, the lid removed, and the centre drilled out, then a thread chased into the hollow. With the tail stock then brought up for support, a Sorby texturing tool was used to apply a spiral pattern to half of the tube. A spindle gouge was then used to neaten the end of the spiral and to thin out the other half of the tube.
A polishing map was used to get wax into the spiral markings, being sure to hold it well and pay attention of the area of the wheel that you’re using. The lid was then mounted and a male thread cut to suit the base. Both ends were cleaned up and the piece completed.
Due to the power cut, John wasn’t able to get through everything that he wanted to do for us, but he finished with a midland bobbin to show us how he uses a cup drive when production turning.
This is a simple piece of wood with a 2 morse taper and a cup hollow.
The tail stock was a large cone live centre, but with the cone removed, leaving a large hole.
The bobbin blank was then prepared with a few turns in a pencil sharpener to make it ride well in the hole or cone.
As John explained, as a production turner, making things quicker is key.
The cone drive allows him to mount and turn the bobbins around without stopping the live, providing sufficient friction drive to turn the bobbin.
He demonstrated this, turning a small section for the lace thread and then a larger handle piece to create the drop spindle part.
This was then finished with a simple Carnuba/Beeswax stick that John makes himself by melting the two together carefully, paying attention to ensure that it doesn’t ignite as he had experienced previously.
Despite the power problems, the day was rather entertaining and educational with a little something for everyone.
Our next month demonstrator will be Gary Rance Saturday 13th July
Paul & Fred