Monday, February 25, 2013

Another milestone for the SWW Blog

Hi Everyone,

The Selkie Wood Works blog passed 11, 000 views last night! Thanks for watching!!



Thursday, February 21, 2013

Coffee cup lid

Hi Everyone,

If you're like me and you generate a lot of small scrap lumber, you're probably always wondering what to do with it all. One thing that you can make and that is useful are coffee cup lids. These are small, circles of wood that have a small knob on top that you can put on top of hot cups of coffee and they will help to get your coffee warm for a lot longer than just living the top of the cup uncovered. In this blog posting I'm going to describe how to make them.

I work with local hardwoods which means I often have a lot of oak, hickory, maple, and birch scrap in the shop and these pieces are perfect for small things like the coffee cup lid in the center of the photograph. This particular lid is made from hickory:

To begin with you'll need a piece of wood at least 3 1/2" wide. Mark off a square and then find the center by connecting the opposite corners with a straight line. Then mark off a circle with a compass. In the photo the wood is about 4" wide and the circle is approximately 3 1/2" in diameter:

This first blank is hickory:

This blank is maple. Maple is my favorite turning wood. It cuts cleanly and smoothly:

The next step is to drill a hold in the center of the circle on the drill press with a Forstner bit (see my discussion about this on my previous posting about the black walnut vase). Be sure and clamp the wood down with a clamp before drilling:

After you've drilled the hole, roughly cut out the circles. You don't have to cut these exactly into circles but you do have to cut off the corners:

 In this photo I've mounted the blank on the lathe and have begun truing up the edge. I've begun cutting from the face of the blank towards the center of the edge. This is a much easier way of truing up the blank without damaging the surface of the wood:

Next I've trued up the face and made it flat. Even though it looks flat in the photograph, it's not:

 Now I've roughed out the knob in the center. I like to cut a depression underneath and just off to the side of the knob so my fingers will fit around and under the knob:

This photo shows the blank from the side. Notice that the surface of the blank has been cut away and the knob now stands up and away from the surface. I've also cut into the sides of the knob so my fingers will fit under it:

Here is the top of the blank. I've added a little detail to it and I've also sculpted the knob a little:

Next, I'm going to cut a lip on the underside of the blank. This will help the top to stay on the coffee cup (see photo below):

This is the finished top on the lathe with a little bit of linseed oil on it:

And here it is on the cup. Notice that it fits into the cup:

Here is the underside of the lid showing the lip. This lip is 3 1/4" in diameter and should fit most American coffee mugs:

As it's getting cold and I'm beginning to freeze up again, I'm going to defer making the hickory lid until tomorrow. I'll follow the same set of steps that I've shown here. I'm going to make that lid a little smaller in case my cousin has smaller coffee mugs than I do.

You can make this lid any diameter you wish. Just be sure and measure and calculate the average inside diameter of your coffee cups before you begin. If you have cups that are larger than that, then you have a great excuse to go back out to your wood shop and make another one!

Have fun,

Black walnut vase-finishing and final photos

Hi Everyone,

I spent yesterday evening looking at the vase to see if there is anything else that needed to be done to it. I took one last look this morning and decided that it was finished and so down to the work shop I went to finish it off.

Here are the photos:

 I re-attached it to the lathe and buffed it for a couple of minutes to see how the finish held up and I must say it even prettier than it was. The Tried and True varnish oil worked really well for this project. Time to part it off the waste wood on the bottom:

There are a number of ways to cut a project off of the waste wood-this is called parting off. I used a parting tool that looks like a spear and is very sharp and has a diamond shape to. Here is a photo of it:

I've turned on the lathe pushed the tip of the parting tool into the wood right at the groove in the bottom of the vase (see the first photo). As the wood spins, the tip of the tool cuts into the bottom until the two pieces separate. Here is a photo of the bottom after it's been cut off. You can see that it's rough and it's very slightly rounded. The bottom needs to be smoothed and flattened next:

To smooth and flatten it I'm going to use my bench sander for this. This is one of the handiest tools a wood turner can own. It spins about 800 rpm and will smooth something in about a second or two!

 The bottom is now sanded smooth and flat and the vase sits firmly on my work bench. Time to take it inside and do a couple of photographs:

I'm very pleased with this piece of work. The finish could not be better and it's non-toxic too, which is good for the person who is going to receive it and for me too. I love the fact that the colors of the wood are visible and that the oil didn't darken it to a dark brown, which oils can sometimes do. I'm very happy with the shape of the vase. It doesn't look like a bottle. It is heavy and it won't tip over. And it's wonderful just to pick it up and hold on to it.

There is something wonderfully soothing about turned wood. I love to pick up a turned item and just hold it and turn it over and over in my hands. I find that it cements the image and the production process in my mind. And I think it lowers my blood pressure too!

Ok, time to stick a fork in it and call it done!

As I mentioned previously this is going to go to a family member of mine who is ill at the moment. I am going to make her a couple of coffee cup covers from some scrap wood as well and for those of you who turn wood and are always wondering what to do with small pieces, this is a good project. They make really great stocking stuffers and they do keep tea and coffee warm in your cup. I have several other things to do today and so I'll get to the coffee cup warmers in the next post.

As always, thanks for dropping by the wood shop. Amazingly this blog has had almost 11, 000 viewers and I'm always grateful that people take time to sit down and see what I'm up to.

We have more adventures ahead! See you soon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Black walnut vase, Pt.3-Sanding and Finishing

Hi Everyone,

Well, the Selkie Wood Works blog has hit another milestone-yesterday was my 300th posting! Congratulations to me and that big pile of wood in the shop.

Ok, back to work:

When last we met, I had finished cutting and shaping the flower vase. I went out to take a look at it and I'm satisfied with the shape and there is no cracking that I can see, so I'm going to finish it off. It needs to be sanded and then a finish applied to the surface.


I'll be the first person to admit that I hate sanding! It makes a big mess and it's boring to do. It is also probably the most important part of the project as the final appearance depends on a super smooth surface in which the grain and the wood color is visually at it's sharpest. The only way you can get there is to sand it.  I start at 100 and go up to 400 and I take my time doing it. I sand in one direction only, in this case I go from right to left in the photograph and I don't move the sand paper in circles, I just sand in a straight line. Over and over again.

In the photo above you can see a lot of scratching left over from yesterday's cutting and shaping. The scratching has to be removed and I'm going to begin with a brief power sanding before I go on the the finer grades of sand paper.

 I use an angle sander for lathe sanding as it's better balanced in my hand and not as heavy as a conventional drill is. This is a picture of the sander with a sanding disc attached to it. This is 100 grit paper and I'm just going to briefly sand the surface to get rid of the larger,  more visible scratches. After this I'm going to sand it down to 400 paper. I'm going to put the camera down and sand until I'm done:

Ok, I'm done. After I'm done with the sandpaper, I left the vase on the lathe and spun it at about 800 rpm and buffed it with 0000 steel wool to remove any residual wood whiskers. Then I polished the surface with a big handful of wood shavings. This last step gives the surface a lovely shine:

Next I need to finish the spout on the vase. I'm going to cut a 3/4" hole about 3" deep in it for flowers or dried branches. To do this, I'm going to put a drill chuck into the tailstock and insert a 3/4" spade bit into the chuck. Then I'll turn on the lathe and slowly advance the drill bit into the center of the vase as it spins. Here are photos of the set up:

 Done. I've also cleaned up the surface of the spout and sanded it smooth:

The Finish

If you've read my blog, you'll know that I love oiled finishes. They make the grain and color of the wood just pop and they give wood a wonderful warm sheen. They are also easy to apply and can easily be renewed should the piece become scratched or damaged.

The problem with oil is that it can obscure the grain and color of wood. In the case of walnut it can make it a uniform brown color. As walnut naturally has a lot colors in it, it's to one's advantage to try to preserve those colors as much as possible.

I've been researching this on the Internet and I found a finish by a company called Tried and True. Apparently they haven't been in business terribly long and they put out a line of wood finishing products. I've decided to use their varnish oil product on the vase. According to the company this is non toxic, and it's made primarily out of linseed oil.

The varnish oil is the color and consistency of honey and it has to be warmed to approximately 70 degrees. The company specifies that it be applied in thin coats and so that's what I've done here. I applied just enough to shine the surface and no more. This will cure in 24 hours and then I'll be able to apply another coat. After that cures I'll buff the surface. My last step will be to cut off the bottom  waste wood. Here's a photo of the vase with a single layer of varnish oil:

I've taken the whole thing-wood vice and vase off of the lathe and taken it inside so it can warm up. This will help the finish cure and I can also take a couple of photos so you can see the vase standing up:

It's hard to see in the photograph, but the finish has preserved the colors of the walnut very nicely. I'm happy with this. Time to leave it alone to dry.

And this is a picture of Rhubarb, one of my cats. These guys are breakfast cats-they love to hang around at breakfast and will snatch and eat anything that they can. Yesterday, as I was about to sit down and enjoy a pumpkin muffin, I got up to go and check on something and when I came back my muffin had been reduced to crumbs. A certain orange cat was sitting there, licking his chops. The other one had his head stuck in my glass of milk and was happily hosing the whole thing down.

Don't let those furry faces fool you-underneath that warm fuzzy face is a big muffin thief!!

Ok, as it's getting cold outside, I'm going to go and find a warms spot to sit down and drink something hot. See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Wow, no wonder I'm so cold-it's 8 degrees outside with a wind chill of -25!

Black walnut vase, continued

Hi Everyone,

Well, I had a good turning day today and in spite of the continuing cold here in Minnesota, I got a lot done.

Let's take a look at today's photos:

Now yesterday I began this turning with a chunk of black walnut and I turned it into a cylinder in preparation for making it into a vase. This is our walnut cylinder at present.  I've taken it off the lathe to look at it and to see how much wood I have to work with:

 Before I begin to shape this into something I have to think about how the blank will be attached to the lathe and I also need to true up the ends. This involves putting the blank back on the lathe, spinning it and cutting a groove in both ends. As the blank spins on it's long axis, this will allow me to cut a plane into the blank that is perpendicular to the long axis. Doing this will help me drill a hole into the blank that will be perpendicular to the ends and so the finished vase will sit straight on a flat surface:

Now I'm going take the blank over to the bandsaw and trim off the ends:

I'm going to re-attach the blank to the lathe via a lathe wood chuck, which is a round chuck, similar to a drill chuck, that has jaws that can be opened and closed. Doing this will allow me to take off the blank and remount it quickly and exactly.

I'll drill the hole in the blank with a Forstner bit which is the device I'm holding in my hand below. These types of drill bits drill very exact, flat-bottomed holes in wood and come in a variety of sizes:

Drilling into the end of the blank requires a drill press and here is a photo right after I've drilled it:

This is the hole in the end without the shavings so you can see this clearly:

Here is a photo of the lathe wood vice, the key that operates it, and the blank all grouped together. The vice will screw on to the lathe and the blank will fit over the jaws of the chuck. This is a Tecknatool chuck. This type of chuck has inter-changable jaws and I use it all the time. I don't know who invented this but they have earned a place in wood-turning heaven:

And here are photos of the chuck, the lathe, and the blank ready to turn:


I wanted to produce a vase that was unusual in it's shape and that emphasized the wood, and that was small enough to hold in both hands yet large enough to act as an attractive art piece.  I also wanted to avoid iconic shapes that look like bottles or flasks. I also wanted the piece to be "bottom heavy" so it wouldn't easily tip over. I think the tendency is to make the bottom of the vase the widest part of the turning and the top of the vase narrow.

In looking at the wood blank I decided to flip it over and do the exact opposite. As you'll see in a moment, the bottom of the vase is the narrow part and the widest portion is towards the top. So I had to drill another hole in the opposite end of the blank and remount it on the lathe:

I'm going to begin the turn by shaping the top of the vase:

I do a lot of my shaping with a roughing gouge. This is probably my favorite tool and I've named it Bob in honor of the father of a great friend of mine-her dad is a wonderful man. Anyway, this is used for rough shaping of blocks of wood or large tree branches. I also use it for very fine surface cutting and if sharpened correctly, a large amount of cutting and shaping can be done with this tool:

In this photo you can see that I'm shaping the bottom of it to be narrower than the top. Note that the vase is still be turned between centers. This allows me to do a lot of cutting without the vase suddenly coming off the lathe and possibly hitting me:

I'm thinking the vase may just be a bit too long so I'm going to shorten it a little. This groove in the bottom of the base marks the end of it:

 Here is the rough turning of the vase. The surface is rough, and the end is pitted somewhat. I'm going to smooth it down and take off the shoulder of the vase. I'm also going to trim down the spout a little bit:

In this photo you can see another tool that I use a lot-this is called a skew chisel. This is used primarily for smoothing the exterior surface of a turning and I use mine a lot. It can save a lot of time in sanding. It can be a difficult tool to master and it was the last tool in the standard lathe kit that I learned to use. I suspect this is true of most turners:

Here is the vase several minutes later-note that the surface is much smoother:

In this photo I've rounded the shoulder some and narrowed the base a little more:

Here is the vase after about 90 minutes of turning and general fussing on my part:

This photo shows the value of the wood chuck. I can turn this vase with only the base of it attached to the lathe. This allows me to work on the top without the tailstock getting it the way.

I'm going to trim back the spout a little bit here:

I've placed the vase between centers again in preparation for some more turning and shaping of the top of the vase:

This is the vase after it's been smoothed and turned a little more on the top. It's much smoother, I'm happy with the overall shape, and now it's ready to be sanded and a finish applied:

Well, we've come quite a long way since yesterday. I will be drilling a hole into the vase tomorrow so that flowers can be placed inside of it.  The top of the spout needs smoothing  as well.

Tomorrow is sanding and smoothing day. The more sanding a person does, the more the grain of the wood is visible and the more beautiful the final result will be. I am thinking of using oil on this piece, perhaps Danish oil. I'll give it some more thought this evening.

As I'm almost frozen through, I think it's time to go make some hot tea and see what the cats are up to.

Join me tomorrow for the next step.