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Pro Demo

May 2024    Demo 1
Gavel with Paul Reeves
Thu 16th May at MWCC Club Night 

 

As there were several newcomers to the Club, Paul started off with some Revision of Spindle Work. 
An account of this subject can be found <HERE>

 

Honorary Member, Greta Reeves worked many years at Lymington Auctions and it became practice that her boss would arrange for a replica of his own Auctioneer's Hammer be turned as a retirement gift for long standing employees.  His original was of Cocobolo but the replicas were turned from more readily available Laburnum. This original was tactile & small enough to grip the head comfortably in his hand.  Consequently, the handle didn't have to cope with much blunt force and didn't need a strong thick connection to the head. The 3 examples below are Box, Laburnum and Mohonia.

The head and the handle are both spindle components turned separately and subsequently glued together.
Despite recent demonstrations venerating the 'Golden Ratio' of 1.618, the dimensions of these gavels are such that the handle is twice the length of the head. The length of the head was twice its own diameter.  Additionally, dividing the head into four gives a far better proportion for the two hammer faces taking a quarter of the length each, leaving the neck between them for the remaining half.

  Head
A prepared cylinder of Laburnum was mounted between centres. Paul advised against using sprung steb centres at either end as he found the sprung central point applied to end grain tended to split the piece when under tension.
He had planned this project to have a 1" face diameter, 3" head length and a 6" handle.
He used a narrow Parting Tool to mark out the ends of the head and pencilled in the quarters between them.
Using a wide Parting Tool making half-width overlaps, Paul quickly removed waste from the neck.
Having prepared callipers to " for the diameter of the neck, he used the Parting Tool to finish blocking out accurately.
As both hammer faces were to be near spherical, he pencilled in marks around the piece about " from each end which is where the face would be at its maximum diameter.
He then started making bead-like cuts off the ends gradually working back towards the pencil line but leaving it visible. It was important to avoid getting the end pointy; it should look more like a puffed-up cushion. The final cuts were made while maintaining a slow, smooth and light-touch pass with good bevel contact throughout. If your hands end up moving quicker than needed, the bevel will lose contact/support and the tip will catch the wood and dig in.
The trick now was to turn the other end to match!  If you have changed hands when holding tools to work in the opposite direction from your early days of turning, you will find that very helpful in this case.

The next details were to put in a small cove centrally where the handle will go and to finish off the hammer heads from the pencilled line back towards the neck. Paul favours a small decorative feature in these beads called a quirk, which was achieved with a 2mm ridge left about 20 down from the pencil lines so that a Skew could create a shallow crisp-edged V-cut and the bead continues down to the neck. This was only a tiny detail but it certainly helped to focus attention on the heads.

One might think it more sensible to drill the hole for the handle earlier - perhaps even while the Laburnum blank was a square. However, now that the current dumbbell shaping is nearly finished, the patterns of the grain lend themselves for you to decide where to drill the hole in order to show them off to their best when the gavel is at rest on a desk. Once marked with an awl or similar, one could finish the sanding and drill the hole once removed from the lathe. For the demonstration, Paul drilled the hole on the lathe by eye using smaller drill bits as pilots and gradually building up to the final size.

Using a Skew, he decreased the supporting end nibs to about 4mm diameter which would be strong enough to hold the piece while sanding. With the lathe speed reduced to alleviate the piece overheating while sanding, Paul prefers to follow the curves by supporting abrasives underneath the piece and taking care to avoid sanding away detail and decoration by sanding the shape and not sanding to shape. Laburnum will abrade down to 1200 grit or finer with considerable success but Paul was going to finish this piece with buffing so down to 400 grit was going to be sufficient.

  Handle
Another prepared cylinder of Laburnum was mounted between centres. Once again, Paul avoided using steb centres following a previous attempt turning a Mahonia cylinder down to an 8mm tenon for inserting into the head, because it split as soon as he tightened the tail stock.
He aimed to carry out all the shaping and decoration prior to weakening one end as a result of the small tenon being turned. Paul also advised that if the intended gavel was to be used while holding a longer handle rather than a grip around the head, you might want to consider reinforcing the tenon with a steel brad/nail.
He also planned to turn the piece with the tenon at the tail stock end so that when checking fit into the head, it could be easily remounted in the lathe for further turning.
The decoration was a homemade creation from an old square-ended scraper with 3 grooves made with the corner edge of a grinder wheel. This results in 3 evenly spaced and shaped tiny beads. Because he had carefully spaced the grooves relative to the width, he could easily increase those matched beads to 4 (or 40 of them if you wanted) by using a previously cut bead to fill an outer groove of the tool and guide further matching cuts.

An elegant handle is all about shape and curves. Paul used a thin Parting Tool to mark out the ends, the tenon and the diameter of a spherical shape at the bottom end. He quickly turned away the bulk to leave a rough shape before changing to a short Spindle Gouge to refine to the shape below.  Be aware that keeping the tips of narrow spindles cutting at the optimum height on an up and down surface isn't easy and needs a gentle contact pressure throughout to avoid digging in. With close grain woods like Laburnum, there will be minimal compression of the spigot so that requires starting from slightly oversized and gently approaching the necessary diameter with regular retracting of the tailstock to check the fit into the head.
When satisfied with the cut shape, start sanding up to the edge of any decoration but be careful not to wipe away small beads and sharp corners, particularly with your initial grits; they can be polished up with the edge of the finer grits when you progress to them.  Whenever sanding spindles with the lathe turning, keep the abrasive moving and keep in mind that it is sanding across the grain fibres so they will inevitably stick up. A technique to overcome this tendency is to stop the lathe and finish that grit along the grain before changing to the next. Don't sand the spigot because if it fits, you won't want it made smaller and besides, a very smooth finish doesn't help the glue to adhere to the wood.
A Skew reduced the ends with a series of enlarged V-cuts to a very small diameter (still stable because the wood is so dense) and finally parted off with a fine toothed saw aimed away from the piece so that the tiny pimple left was abraded away with the last grit used.

The head and the handle were buffed with a light touch using a buffing compound so remember to put on personal protection in order to avoid getting grit flying into your eyes. Remember to buff off a surface, not into it, or else the piece is liable to be ripped out of your hands. The final finish was some micro-crystalline wax.
When sticking the handle and head together, thought was taken to line up their grains sympathetically.


(click for closer view)

 

The June 2024 Competition was set to produce a Gavel

 

(photos by Rick Patrick & Paul Reeves)
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