Monday, July 24, 2006

Araucaria heterophylla turnings ...

Here are a couple of Araucaria heterophylla (Norfolk Island Pine) turnings that I have just completed. Araucaria trees have a pit below each branch. The branches of these trees grow in rings, about 6 to 7 branches per ring. I aligned the log on the lathe so that the bottom of each of the pits is equidistant (as far as possible) from the centre axis of the vessel. This way one can turn the vessel so that it has a series of windows associated with each branch/knot.

This vessel is 250mm high and 220mm diameter.
(9.8 x 8.6 inches)

The branches and pits in this log didn't align perfectly as far as depth and spacing are concerned so most of the knots in this vesssel don't have windows. On the other hand one or two of the branches had pits above the branch as well as below. This resulted in a lovely suspended knot. As the wall thickness of these two vessels is only 3 to 4mm some very careful turning was in order so as not to loose the knots. The knots are also much harder than the surrounding wood so one needs to cut very gently.

This vessel is 320mm high and 220mm diameter.
(12.5 x 8.6 inches)

It has big well defined knots with a window at all six knots.
This vessel also has darker spalting as the log had been allowed to weather for longer.

The technique I used with these vessels to get an even wall thickness right down to the bottom of the vessel was to work in a darkened workshop with a light shining through the vessel wall from the outside. Turn until the light intensity is even all the way down to the bottom and hopefully the wall thickness is even all the way down!

I have a similar vessel to the two above already on display down at Waterfront Woodturners.

I have another log from the same tree that is now extremely well spalted. Time to turn it soon and see what that looks like.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Winter walking on Table Mountain ...

Yesterday winter arrived in the Cape with a vengance. A big wet cold front swept in during the day. But damn it, Gigi and I ALWAYS (well almost) go walking in the forest above Kirstenbosch on a Friday evening. Our customary Friday walk friends decided to give it a miss due to the weather. But not to be put off Gigi and I decided to go and play like kids in the mud! What the hell is the use of having all theat beautiful rain gear for 'just in case'? And what a beautiful walk. Unbelievably the rain let up just long enough for us to make it back to the car without getting soaked.

Window stream was quite a torrent, too wide to jump across as we usually do. I managed to jump across some boulders upstream without getting my feet wet but Gigi wasn't having any of that crazy stuff so ....

Gigi drying off her feet and looking up at Window George - what a sight, water pouring off the mountain everywhere.

Window george. Window butttress on the left and Fernwood buttress on the right. It had already started getting dark and I struggled to hold the camera still enough to get a clear enough picture.

And here is the view all the way from the upper gorge to where we crossed the stream.

By the time we got to the Skeleton stream waterfall it was getting really too dark to take pics but I gave it a go anywhere. If you look carefully you can just discern the waterfall behind Gigi. Crossing the base of the fall was really quite fun as the spray was very thick and the waterfall was generating a strong wind rush at the bottom.

It was so dark after that that there was no point in taking further pics. We walked along the contour path, crossing Nursery 'stream' at the base of Nursery ravine by hopping from wet boulder to boulder in the spray and having to clamber the last section on all fours across an old rotten and slippery tree trunk that was conveniently bridging the last three meters of rushing water.

The view of the city lights from the contour path was stunningly clear after all the rain. Of course we didn't see another (mad) soul that evening. We walked down through 'our' special garden in the pitch darkness. Even the security personnel who know our routine well were amused when they met us at the end of Camphor alley in the dark. But damit, at 8pm in summer it is still before sunset and often above 20ºC - hard though that is to to believe now in mid-winter!

Last night was really cold. Snow fell on the inland mountains and there was rain and sleet in Cape Town. The weather cleared somewhat during today. But as I write this the family are all together in front of the gas heater in the lounge watching Michael Palin's 'Himalaya'.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ukhamba ...

Here are some pics of the piece, 'Ukhamba', that Carol Rix and I turned a couple of weeks ago. The colours, particularly the blue definitely come out more intensly in the photograph than on the piece itself.

The original post about the colab session is here.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Three meter diameter chuck! ...

This may not be woodturning but that valve is mounted on a three meter diameter chuck!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Carol Rix visits WCWA …

On Wednesday evening we gathered the members of the Association of Woodturners of the Western Cape (AWSA) down at the Pinelands Hobbies Club to attend a slide show at the presented by Carol Rix.

After ‘sop ‘n dop’ Carol showed the club members slides of her own works as well as of other Australian Turners. The members were fascinated by the works that Carol showed and discussed them at length. Carol told us all about her recent book that is currently being readied for publication by the ‘Guild of Master Craftsmen’ (GMC). She also told us about the $1000 grant that she has recently received from AAW to ‘travel the world’ to research a range of innovative turners in preparation for her second book. It’s great to meet someone who is able to indulge both her passions, writing and turning, in her quest.

She is a very animated, enthusiastic and innovative turner and being able to share the evening with her delighted the AWSA members who attended.

It was also great to have John Wessels of Sedgefield there. Carol was very impressed with photos of the work that John had recently displayed at the AWSA Conference, including best on show, and had expressed a special desire to meet him. John, a retired airline pilot was fortunately in Cape Town to pack up the last of his belongings from his old home. He and his wife Jane have recently relocated to Sedgfield on the south coast.

John joined us at home for coffee and a chat after the club meeting. We all had great fun logging in to Andi Wolfe’s blog and chatting about all the pieces that she had photographed at the previous weekend’s AAW Congress in Louisville. (Thanks Andi, there are many of us who really appreciate your efforts.) The fact that Carol’s son John had to phone us and check on the welfare of his mother (that’s one up for the parents) and that we only got to bed at 2am attests to the success of that evening.

Dinner with an international flavour …

On Monday evening Gigi and I invited a couple of Cape Town turners over to ‘dinner’ with Carol Rix. Gert Ferreira, Bert Parker, Izak Cronje and Peter and Ineke Nicolle were able to join us. All had a great time. We had a data projector available for Carol to show us many of her turnings as well as those of some leading and some not so well known, but nevertheless very accomplished, Australian turners. Some of the names that I recognised included Anderw Potocnik and Neil and Liz Scobie.

Carol Rix admiring some of Peter's pieces and she and Peter chatting to Izak Cronje (out of frame).

To top off the evening I noticed Stuart Mortimer come on line. Aware that he knew most of the people in the room from his recent visit to South Africa and also that he had just returned from a month long visit to the USA, culminating in the AAW Conference in Louisville, I Skyped him and asked him to join the party. I had a webcam attached so he could see everyone in the room.

Once I had adjusted the webcam to compensate for the low light conditions in the room we introduced Carol properly and he could confirm that his first impression of her having a beard was mistaken! Our group were tickled pink to chat to Stuart and I think he had equally as much fun. It was also fortunate to have had the chance to introduce Carol to Stuart. Carol is intending to arrange a trip to the UK (and elsewhere), on a recently awarded AAW grant, to meet some of their innovative turners. Stuart disagrees with the opinion of a well-known British turner (who shall remain nameless) that told Carol in a moment of pique that ‘innovative British turners’ was a contradiction in terms! To be truthful he did recant on that opinion when Carol contacted him later.

The conversation with Stuart topped off a delightful evening.

A woodturning collaboration with Carol Rix …

Carol Rix of Nambour, outside Brisbane in Queensland was in Cape Town recently to visit her son, John, and his Irish fiancée, Maria, who are both working here in the IT industry. John had recently come across Waterfront Woodturners, met Ken Turner and put him and Carol in e-mail contact with other. Ken passed on the correspondence to me and I arranged for Carol to get in touch as soon as she arrived in Cape Town. She is an active member of her local club and takes an active interest in the wider Australian woodturning scene.

True to her word, after arriving in Cape Town last Friday, she immediately contacted me early on Saturday morning. We met down at Hardware Center’s ‘open day’ and later went down to the Waterfront to show her around. We visited Izak at Waterfront Woodturners, had a quick lunch and wander around the shops and galleries, particularly those exhibiting African arts and crafts.

As it was a perfect, clear winter’s day we left John and Maria to take Carol up the mountain. The following day, again one of those rare Cape ‘champagne’ winter days, John and Maria took her on a trip around the peninsula and down to Cape Point.

As a history and geography teacher Carol was bubbling over with the excitement of visiting Sir Francis Drake's ‘Fairest Cape in all the World’. She has been teaching her students about voyagers, shipwrecks and geography all her life and here she had the chance to visit the Cape of Good Hope for herself.

As ‘Laidler’s’ luck would have it I had quite coincidentally arranged two day’s leave last Monday and Tuesday. John and Maria were working and Carol was free to join me for a two-day collaboration session in my workshop. What an absolute revelation. It was an absolute blast to have someone of Carol’s talents and bubbly character sharing the usually lonely workshop.

Somehow her enthusiasm and ‘slash and burn’ attitude gave me the push I needed to try out a couple of ideas that I have been brewing in my head for some time. With her ‘provocation’ I did things to a piece of perfectly good ‘Brazilian pepper’ that I would previously have been most reluctant to inflict even on the most recalcitrant bole.

Having explored some galleries of African ‘objets d'art’ and paged through a couple of books I have on the subject we decided to use a Zulu beer pot, 'ukhamba', as our inspiration. These large corpulent clay pots are often decorated with raised warts or bumps called ‘amasumpa’ – definitely ‘easier in clay’. Carol set about turning the ‘amasumpa’ from some maple. I attacked a ‘years old’ relatively dry blank of Brazilian pepper.

Because the piece had a very pronounced bark inclusion that was bound to be one of its primary decorative features we decided that, instead of attempting a traditional Zulu geometric pattern with the ‘amasumpa’ we would let the natural curve of the bark inclusion lead the pyrographic and ‘amasumpa’ elements. Once I had hollowed the vessel, burned the pyrographic elements, Carol had turned about ninety ‘amasumpa’ and the holes to fit them had been bored, all resemblance to my previous woodturning experience ended.

Carol was ‘bent’ on colouring this perfectly good vessel. I hauled out some alcohol soluble powder dyes that I had bought after a visit by Phil Irons some years before. I had only made one or two spectacularly miserable attempts at using them since.

Carol was very familiar with mixing different colours. Once we had dyed the piece BRIGHT red I started getting into the swing of things. Surely the artistic merit of the ‘thing’ couldn’t go downhill from there! Then we added a dash of blue – result purple. Bloody wonderful!

After trying Phil Iron’s drying technique, setting the alcohol soaked piece alight, with moderate success, we dried it off thoroughly with a heat gun.

That done we burnished the surface with an abrasive bristle brush.

We completed work on the piece over the following evenings, except Wednesday when arrangements had been made for Carol to chat to the local club, show them slides of her work and tell them about her latest book – in press. (See later post)

We attacked the piece with a pencil blowtorch. Great for the fine detail! The piece needed to be blackened from the bottom up to reflect it having been ‘fired on a bed of embers’, so out came the bigger blowtorch. Now we were ‘cooking on gas’!

We lightly scorched the piece all over to tone down the bright tones, died the ‘amasumpa’ with black alcohol dye and Indian ink and glued them to the piece.
The piece now had a wonderful leathery, burnished patina.

Applying the Danish oil yesterday evening subdued the colours even further leaving the piece just glowing warmly, with only hints of the former garish colours.

Just as Carol and I ‘completed’ the piece John and Maria arrived for dinner. In deference to them we did manage to end that evening at a reasonable hour and I hope that Carol managed to catch up on some sleep! Oh and by the way Carol even managed to squeeze in a day safari on Thursday to a local game farm about two and a half hours from Cape Town. She saw the big five as well as a range of other game. I’m sure that she’s going to catch up on her beauty sleep on that long flight back to Australia on Tuesday!

I took these pre-final pics just before I left home for Waterfront Woodturners this morning so I could write up this short report and publish it on my blog. I’ll take some decent pics of the piece once it has been properly finished.

This one is definitely a ‘keeper’. I’ll hang on to this as I believe that it represents a definite a step upwards in the punctuated evolution of my turning. In conclusion I can only say that I am thrilled with the wonderful influence that Carol’s visit has had on me, in what seems to have been a very long week.

As a postscript I must add that Carol and I had planned to have a lid on the piece, inspired by a Zulu headrest. However the piece is already rather ‘busy’. Together with the large bark inclusion that has slightly changed the shape of the top we decided to leave the proposed headrest lid for another piece. Watch this space for further developments in this regard.

Gigi is taking Carol for a walk to the top of Table Mountain on Monday but unfortunately I’ll be flying off to Pretoria (again) on Monday afternoon and won’t be back until Tuesday evening by which time Carol will have left for home.

I strongly recommend a visit to Carol’s website.

PS - You can see the pics of the finished piece here

Open Day – Hardware Centre …

Last Saturday Hardware Centre, in Bree Street, had one of their popular ‘Open Days’.
They invite many of their suppliers to exhibit and demonstrate equipment.
Brian Jolly introduced me to Felix Műller, the Sales Manager of Jet Tools in Germany. We had a good chat about why turners prefer ‘swivel head’ lathes rather than those, like most Jets, where one has to slide the headstock down to the opposite end and work large diameter pieces off the tailstock end of the bed. Puzzling over this truism all day I later sent him an e-mail explaining that, unlike the situation in most engineering workshops, most hobby turners have their lathe tight up against the workshop wall. That in mind it makes sense that the turner is going to prefer the accessibility that a swivel head lathe provides. To say nothing of the added expense of having to purchase a free standing tool post if one works ‘off the end of the bed’.

Hardware Centre use their back courtyard covered in BLUE shade netting!

An interested visitor inspects a platter just turned by Lynette Morris.