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Geri 2014
Sunday brought another wonderful day at Snow Farm. The wood turning class sped up as we all worked as quickly as we could to finish our projects. There were also fewer "everyone gather around the instructor's lathe" sessions, though there was one highly instructive "everyone gather around this student's lathe" moment while Rick demonstrated why that lathe had been quickly turned off and wasn't going to be turned back on before removing the incomplete cherry bowl being worked on. More on that after the pictures and under the cut.

I am thrilled beyond thrilled with my finished cherry bowl. Yes, I see all the things I'd try to do differently turning a third bowl -- foremost on that list is not using a 10" blank to create a 7.25" bowl. Yes, I see the learning, and what I would have done with this bowl if I hadn't run out of time to work on it. But it's entirely possible that if I'd had that time, I would have ended up without a beautiful bowl at all -- two of the five students ran into problems that damaged their cherry bowls. Two of the students accidentally destroyed their ash bowls. And only two of us went home with two finished, undamaged bowls. Curiously enough, we were the two whose cherry bowls didn't at all match the profile of what we set out to make...and both of those bowls came out completely different flavors of remarkably beautiful, especially in light of our inexperience.

So. The pictures. My cherry bowl almost done, and both bowls finished showing the tops and the bottoms. The first two photos are taking under flourescent lights, the third under 5000K daylight CFLs and whatever daylight came in from outside.

AlmostDone_UnderFlourescentWorkshopLights_2014-04-06 10.34.42
FinishedBowls_atSnowFarm_2014-04-06 15.34.28
BowlsAtHome_Bottoms_2014-04-07 16.13.34

Yes, I made those stripes with the smaller of the ancient tools that came out of the workshop at 22 Grand Blvd. My sister Sue pointed out that Great-Grandpa Charles A. Squier was also quite a woodworker and did lots of carving on the tables and other items he made. It's possible those two little tools came from his workshop rather than Grandpa Waldo Fitzgerald's. It's unlikely I'll ever know, but I know enough and that's good.

Sunday was sunny and beautiful. We all knew our way around by this point and were quickly settled in at our lathes. The other students mounted the bottom of their bowls in chucks so they could turn the inside. I was a bit behind everyone else because the decorative lines on the bottom needed to go on before I flipped the bowl over and put it in the chuck.

Rick asked what I was thinking in terms of the design, then suggested the 2-3 pattern I used. He coached me through the lines. This was the lathe work I remembered from my childhood. The barest of touches is all that's needed, especially for delicate lines to match and enhance the delicacy of the bowl itself. I didn't measure anything, just drew pencil lines in a pattern my eye liked. Soon enough, I had the bowl turned 'round to flatten off the rough surface and start gouging out the inside.

Rick showed us how we had to finish the edges before hollowing out the entire middle. The closer you get to done, the more flex and wobble you get in the spinning bowl, with the most flex out at the rim. Trying to work out there when it's flexing a lot is a recipe for a ruined bowl. So the three detail lines went on the top after I'd hollowed out a bit under 2 inches from the interior. This time I measured, roughly at least, trying to match the distances and position of the lines on the bottom side. I also drew several pencil lines, rubbing at the ones that weren't in the right place or ended in a different place than they'd begun. (When it comes to hand-work, I'm not very good at drawing circles. Circles or any kind of line, actually. I still need a clear ruler marked with horizontal as well as vertical markings to draw two parallel lines.)

I darn near jumped around the room with glee when I ran the edge of the bowl between my thumb and forefinger, feeling the bit of texture those lines on both sides provide. Tactile bliss as well as visual bliss for the win.

At some point in here, Rick heard a sound coming from the lathe next to me. He was there in a flash, telling the student to stop the lathe now, or something similar. He then called the rest of us from our lathes, telling us to gather 'round.

In following the line of the bevel on his bowl gouge, the student had continued going deeper in the center instead of flattening out the bottom of the bowl as he intended. The sound Rick heard was the wobble and flex of a bowl that was about to break. If it had done so with the lathe turning, we would have had a flying saucer launch at lathe speed with everyone at danger from the wood flying across the room. (And the student working on that bowl in the riskiest position of all.)

As Rick very gently flexed the bowl to show us the problem, it went *crack*. It had been oh, so close to doing that at speed. The bottom of the bowl was rough, rough, rough. It had the same sort of ridged lines I was getting when trying to follow into the center in one smooth motion, but only getting that move right a time or two for every 10-20 tries.

Alas, it was the same student whose ash bowl broke into pieces the day before. He might be able to rescue his cherry bowl with a sanding attachment on a drill, or a LOT of hand-sanding. I didn't look closely enough when he took it off to see if the crack we heard showed on the bottom surface. The only thing clear was that the bowl couldn't turn any more on the lathe. Not even for sanding or other light work. It was too dangerous.

The save for the day was that there were some spare ash blanks from the day before. The student turned his attention and remaining time to one of those and ended up with a nice ash bowl to take home as well as the pieces of his first one.

Digression: This pdf titled 20 Ways Not to Turn a Bowl covers a lot of the territory Rick helped us steer clear of as he was teaching us how to turn wood. And he did so with the rarest usage of Nick Cook's most frequently used direction: "Stop, don't do that!"

Rick is a fabulous instructor. He clearly enjoys teaching, and he does so in a wonderfully respectful way. He told us up front he would always ask if it was okay to guide us through a move when seeing what we were doing told him we needed the help. On Sunday, we were in something of a rush. He'd shown us how to cut a form and mount the top edge of our bowls securely into it so we could finish the tenon that had held the bottom of the bowl in the chuck while we cut the inside. I needed the same form as another student was using (cutting mine to fit the much smaller edge of my bowl), and I'd also made it clear I really wanted to finish the bottom of my ash bowl, too. I mounted a loose form for the ash bowl onto a mounting plate and was waiting for Rick's help on that while Dick, the 92-year-old student used the form I'd use for my cherry bowl. The student who made a second small bowl saw the form I'd put together on the work bench and asked if he could use it. Of course he could!

By the time Rick was available, the larger form for my cherry bowl was, too. Ever so respectfully, Rick asked if it was okay if he went ahead and cut the form. Gladly! I don't remember for sure, but I think I'd already seen at least one bowl have its edge break when taking it out of the form. Two eventually met that fate that day: Dick's thin-edged cherry bowl and Aram's thick-edged ash bowl. The last thing I wanted was to cut a clumsy edge in the form, or to take so much time I couldn't finish the ash bowl, too.

Soon enough, the cherry bowl was done and I was thrilled, thrilled, thrilled. Yes, I can point to all sorts of "imperfections." With more time, I would have cut it just a bit deeper. The decorative lines on time ended up thicker than the ones on the bottom when I sanded them more while removing the last remains of the pencil lines. Etc, etc, etc. The bottom line is that both bowls are beautiful, and the cherry bowl is AMAZING. I would gladly hold it up against everything Daddy and Grandpa Waldo did in terms of its artistry and the weekend's improvement in my sanding skills is apparent, too. It's totally a WOW piece, even more so knowing it's the second bowl I ever made and that I did so within hours of working on a lathe for the first time in 47-48 years.

We ended up with enough time to cut the form for my ash bowl. Rick found an unmounted form that would work and made me mount it as I teased him about making me mount yet another form. Built up my skills with a power drill and screwdriver tip, too. :-) Rick then made me cut that form while coaching me through the process. "Just once more to make it wide enough. Now just a little deeper." Even though I was still rushing to finish, the tenon came out credibly well. (I accidentally gouged the cherry tenon in a bad way and ended up having to cut it off. The recovery fix for that involved cutting a mild curve directly in the bowl bottom. Still looks great.)

Yep, count me still on an emotional high from both the experience and the beauty of the two bowls I made in the process.

I left the class with more information about the woodworking clubs in Worcester and Springfield. At this point, what I'd most like to do is make a lot of wood shavings in the process of developing true comfort and competence with lathe tools. I don't know enough to do it safely on my own, but in the company of others who know considerably more than I do? I think I know enough to give it a try.

I also came home with a couple of Snow Farm course catalogs to share with friends and the intention to take a winter workshop class every year or two. And maybe some longer classes if any ever fit with both my budget and available time. Most of those fall during my super-busy season with work.

"Acts of Creation" post coming separately. I think that will wrap up my Snow Farm woodturning adventure. For now, at least.

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
akirlu
Apr. 8th, 2014 06:46 pm (UTC)
I can't tell you how envious I am of your wood turning class. Machining runs in my family too -- my grandfather was a machinist by trade, though he worked mostly metal and plastics. I still have a pair of brass-and-steel candle sticks that he made. (Indeed, now that I have a framed drawing from my dad, I have at least one piece of handmade work from everyone in the immediate family...) Learning machining is definitely on my lifetime bucket list.

And you're right, that cherry bowl is a wow piece -- I can just about feel the texture of it through the photograph. Congratulations, that seems to have been a very successful class indeed.
gerisullivan
Apr. 8th, 2014 07:33 pm (UTC)
Many thanks.

I have some turned aluminum pieces Daddy made, and a few copper pieces with turned parts used in the construction, such as the little hammered copper reading light next to my bed. But it's mostly wood, wood, wood.

Hmmm. Let me think. I have a clay piece my brother made in art class, photos my sister took, a beaded necklace, and other things she's made that aren't coming to mind at the moment.
Mom made my Christmas sock and embroidered my childhood name on it in her script. My sister added "Geri" on the other side a few years after I adopted that name. and many ornaments Mom customized with glitter and glue.

Several eggs Nonny (my maternal grandmother) made as well as an appliqued cut felt Christmas tree shirt and other cut-felt items. A hammered copper jelly jar exterior light fixture that Uncle John (my great-uncle and step-maternal grandfather) made. Rugs, woven cloth hand-towels, placemats, an apron, a skirt and many more things that Grandma Dorothy made. Lots of turned wood from Grandpa Waldo, and a small wood cabinet that I use for jewelry. He made a few of those; the one I grew up with was used as a a spice cabinet. Sue has that one since Grandpa Waldo made mine while he was still alive.

Christmas tree topper angel that Auntie Bun made (great-aunt), and the Twinzy Toy tradeshow banner she and her sister Blanche made for use at the New York Toy Fair, where they exhibited for years. That's a commercial item, but still hand-made.

Oh, and the dolls! Not the Twinzy Toy dolls, the elaborate dolls Grandma Dorothy made, and the felt dolls Nonny made.

I don't think I have anything that Grandpa Bert made, though I believe that what I think of as "the smoking cabinet" that's now in my living room came through him. It might be handmade; it might have been a commercial product. All I know is that it's old.

Nothing made by my Uncle Jim (on Daddy's side), though I do have some glass float balls he brought back from the South Pacific at the end of WWII as well as a small applique table cloth. And nothing from my Auntie Janice (on Mom's side). I met her the summer I turned 5 and talked with her once on the phone after Mom died, but that's it there and I'm well beyond immediate family anyway.

Then there are the pieces Gavi has made and given me over the years plus the fact that I am surrounded by window coverings, the circus decor, and the flamingo loft curtains Susan Levy Haskell made for me while visiting Toad Woods these last 10 years. The necklace you made, necklace and earrings from Marilee Layman, photos from batwrangler, the sweater Edie knit, the shawl and scarves Priscilla made and gave me.

Yep, I come from makers all right, just as you do. Come from and surround myself with them, too. Thanks for setting me off on thinking of them!
akirlu
Apr. 8th, 2014 07:49 pm (UTC)
Yes, we come from makers and artisans, and are drawn to accumulate more along the way. I think there's at least one fanzine article in that whole phenomenon, especially since fanzines, at least as they once were, are themselves a maker artifact, and in my case, I can even trace my entry into organized fandom directly to a handmade thing -- a stoneware dragon I made and gave away while still in high school.

In fact the maker ethos is probably the single strongest attraction I feel for steampunk fandom -- there are some really amazing pieces coming out of that aesthetic.

Which is probably part of why I have this fantasy of arranging a fusion of steampunk costuming and fanzine fandom and forming the League of Extraordinary Faneds for some Worldcon or other. I continue to think the Chunga Boys would look utterly amazing done out in Victoria-Edwardian steampunk finery. Not likely to happen, I reckon, but it makes a nice image. I Lead a Rich Inner Life.
gerisullivan
Apr. 8th, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC)
OMG, what a Fabulous Idea!

Now all we need is...well, a lot. The Copious Free Time and interested folks to do all the costuming for themselves as well as those of us who lack those skills, for Stu Shiffman's recovery therapy to include drawing the vision for the promotional materials as well as the fanzines produced by the League, etc., etc., etc. You're probably right about the likeliness of it actually coming together, but wow, do I ever like that Rich Inner Life you're leading.
randy_byers
Apr. 9th, 2014 04:01 pm (UTC)
Evil thought: Fanzine Lounge! The League of Extraordinary Faneds might make a good theme. (But no, you wont' get me into the masquerade, if that's *your* evil thought.)

(Great looking bowls, Geri!)
akirlu
Apr. 9th, 2014 04:17 pm (UTC)
I think that if we end up doing a split fanzine lounge again then doing a League of Extraordinary Faneds theme in the convention center could potentially be an excellent way of drawing people in from the general population of the convention. Perhaps especially if there were a way to set up an environmental, Old Skool working zine production area with a manual typewriter, hand-crank duplicator, stencil cutting styli, corflu, collating racks, and the whole schmear. But also finding ways to create a League "look" in the area might be a good vehicle for reaching out to various local steampunk groups for ideas, assistance, and participation.

But no, in my wildest dreams I did not expect to get you into the masquerade, Randy. I was thinking more along the lines of a group hall costume. :->
randy_byers
Apr. 9th, 2014 04:21 pm (UTC)
We have sixteen months to invent the steam-driven mimeograph. Quick, to the Batcave!
judith_dascoyne
Apr. 8th, 2014 07:35 pm (UTC)
Extraordinary
they are wonderful
gerisullivan
Apr. 9th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
Re: Extraordinary
Thank you!
don_fitch
Apr. 8th, 2014 08:24 pm (UTC)
Both look to be fine pieces, and I suspect they'd feel even better.

I'm undecided about the decorative lines on the cherry bowl -- they improve the appearance, I think, but I'm not sure about the feel (I happen to like long expanses of smooth wood surface) and the dust-catching. And... I might not say this if I'd handled it, but the base looks a bit small for optimum stability, depending on what it is used to hold. The ash one, with a somewhat larger base and a smaller upper circumference, looks to me as though it's more ... functional, and (to me) satisfying. [Errr... not to say that I disapprove of purely-or-largely Decorative wood-turnings, mind you, but for some strange reason I happen to be thinking, at the moment, of a very large turned-wood (don't know what kind) bowl that must have belonged to my maternal grandmother (who died when my mother was about 16 years old) and had been used as a Mixing Bowl and for Proofing bread. I think I was five years old when I saw it, on a visit to †he old family home in Louisville, which would be c. 1933. Maybe one of aunt Lotty's heirs now has it, or maybe it was trashed, but things like that _can_ last for hundreds of years.]

It might be a good idea to check the offerings of the local school district Adult Education programs under "Woodworking" or "WoodShop", &cet. Decades ago, the Covina one had a course in Offset Printing (back when almost all fanzines were at the mimeograph level !!!) and they seemed quite comfortable with the idea that most of the "students" were actually professionals who took the course in order to use the (pretty) expensive equipment (presses, room-size cameras, plate-burners) for their own purposes & Projects. And I found that all the teachers and most of the (Professional-printer) students were delighted to teach/help neos such as me. The Systems under which some of these courses operate are tolerant of erratic attendance, and some aren't.






gerisullivan
Apr. 9th, 2014 12:35 am (UTC)
I expect you are correct about the functionality vs. decorative aspects of the cherry bowl. The small base and overall shape suggests filling only the bowl area, not the wide, decorated rim, making it take up too much space for its storage capacity. But as something beautiful to look at, it is superb and I expect it will end up holding some small objects that need holding, just because that's how bowls work in my life.

Only 3 of the 8 lines are dust accumulators. The are small enough that I don't anticipate dusting to be an issue, well apart from the fact that it can too often take me years to get around to doing it. That's odd, as I enjoy dusting. Hmmmm.

Your suggestion about checking adult ed offerings is a good one. It did send me in search of local opportunities. I found an interesting genealogy course for only $40 (for four 2-hour sessions), and a free tree talk this week, focusing on the continued recovery from the tornado that came through in 2011. And some other very reasonably priced classes just 5 miles away from Toad Woods, though none in woodworking or turning.

Aside from checking out the clubs, I've found three places offering woodturning classes, with the closest about 40 minutes drive south. Prices range from $11.50-$19/hour, plus materials and more clean-up time in the lower-priced offerings. I'll take five consecutive 7-hour days (count it as 6 hours/day once you allow for a lunch break) at $14/hour over 10 weekly sessions of 3 hours each at $11.50 'cause 3 hours isn't enough, especially once you calculate the need to clean up at the end of each of those once-a-week sessions. Much less cleaning time in the 5 consecutive, full days. Then again, for $14.30/hour, there's a 6-day program that includes lunch and materials...or for $18.75/hour, overnight accommodations and 3 delicious meals a day. Except the time on that one is all wrong for my business. Anyway, it's good to have options.

Your comment also prompted me to look up the information about the nearby woodturning clubs. The Western Massachusetts Woodturners Club meets tomorrow! Visitors are welcome to come on by, and membership is just $25/year. I think that's a good place to start!

(I knew I'd look up the info eventually, but didn't have it on today's list of things wanting my attention, so I'm extra grateful for your timely comment!)
akirlu
Apr. 9th, 2014 04:43 pm (UTC)
The cherry bowl might surprise you.

My mother discovered wheel-throwing pottery through an adult ed class some time in her late 30s or so, and became a dedicated ceramicist for a couple of decades. Once she became adept, she developed a distinctive signature shape for many of her bowls -- in silhouette very reminiscent of Greek amphorae, only much wider and shorter, but tapering down to a quite narrow base. Her instructors all agreed this was completely unworkable, that the bowls would not be stable, but they were wrong. The bowls are not unstable at all and work beautifully. I have several of them and there's not a wobble in the bunch.
pameladean
Apr. 8th, 2014 08:46 pm (UTC)
That cherry bowl is sheer gorgeousness.

P.
gerisullivan
Apr. 9th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm still delightfully stunned that I made it each and every time I look at it...and I have it in sight of my desk. Not on it, as the bowl would quickly be buried in papers and related desk kipple. But on a nearby flat surface that I cleared and cleaned just last week and hope to keep paper-free from now on.
janeehawkins
Apr. 8th, 2014 11:25 pm (UTC)
LOVELY!!!!
gerisullivan
Apr. 9th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)
Thank you!
smofbabe
Apr. 8th, 2014 11:42 pm (UTC)
I'm hugely impressed - they are bee-YOO-tiful!
gerisullivan
Apr. 9th, 2014 12:38 am (UTC)
Many thanks!
batwrangler
Apr. 9th, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
Wow -- looks like you had a wildly successful workshop! I am especially enamored of the cherry bowl.
gerisullivan
Apr. 9th, 2014 01:02 am (UTC)
Thank you. I'm still giddy.

There was a great deal of "luck of the artist" going on. I wasn't trying to make a bowl with that shape; I was far more focused on learning how to use the bowl gouge lathe tool to make a smooth cut. But once I had that shape, my eye knew what I wanted to do with it and I'd picked up enough skill that my hands could follow.
netmouse
Apr. 9th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC)
Lovely!
gerisullivan
Apr. 17th, 2014 01:25 am (UTC)
A belated thank you!
carbonel
Apr. 9th, 2014 03:48 am (UTC)
Those are lovely! I had a chance at woodturning in college -- I made one bowl. In another universe, I can see myself having been bit hard by the bug, and done a lot of it, but I was mostly concentrating on ceramics at that point. (And I have to say that I'm very thankful for the art studio at Carleton, where a non-art major was able to dabble at woodturning and glassblowing under reasonable supervision, as well as the ceramics I took an independent study in.)
gerisullivan
Apr. 17th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC)
Do you still have the bowl you made? I'd love to see it if it's still around rather than gifted to someone or gone walkabout along the way.

One more thing to admire about Carleton. The art studio set-up sounds ideal.

I had to get the Assistant Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences to help me get into the photography class I wanted in the Studio Art Department at Michigan State. I tried to get into the class for several terms -- it was supposed to be open to non-majors, but there was never space in the class for me. As we were nearing the time to sign up for classes for the spring term of my senior year, the Assistant Dean wanted me back as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a course in rhetorical criticism. I'd done it so many times that I'd maxed out on the credits available for that. My deal was that if I got into the photography class, I'd be a UTA again. If I ended up in another, harder course to fill the necessary credit hours to remain a full-time student, being a UTA was probably out. I got into the photography course. :-)
vgqn
Apr. 9th, 2014 05:46 am (UTC)
Gorgeous! And what a fascinating experience. I look forward to more adventures in woodworking.
gerisullivan
Apr. 17th, 2014 01:35 am (UTC)
Thanks! I look forward to posting more about woodturning as I discover what comes next.
thinkum
Apr. 10th, 2014 08:56 pm (UTC)
Beautiful work. :-)
gerisullivan
Apr. 17th, 2014 01:35 am (UTC)
Thank you. I have the bowls in sight of my desk and thoroughly enjoy glancing over at them.
cogitationitis
Apr. 17th, 2014 12:37 am (UTC)

If you ever want to learn the pottery wheel, let me know.

gerisullivan
Apr. 17th, 2014 01:25 am (UTC)
Thank you! The tactile aspects of throwing a pot seem like they'd be right up my alley.
( 30 comments — Leave a comment )

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