Teak Dinner Plate

Teak plate 001

Turning a plate on a lathe is a challenge because of the difficulty in holding the relatively thin piece of wood.  However, the task has been made much easier in recent years with a 4-jaw, self centering chuck that can grip either in expansion mode inside a turned, shallow void on the bottom, or contraction mode around a turned ring on the bottom.  (Click on any image to enlarge)

Teak plate 003

Teak is a naturally oily wood.  For a plate on which food will be served, and which is then going to go into soapy water, the natural oil helps preserve the wood and keep it from drying and cracking.

Weed Pots


These are the first three I turned on my lathe in, from l. to r., black walnut, American black cherry, and white oak.  They stand about 5.5″ tall.  In addition to being drilled out at the top to hold dried flowers, branches, ornamental grass, or interesting weeds, the bottoms also have a cavity drilled out which is filled with steel shot and then sealed with a wood plug.  The bottom-weighting provides stability.  (Click on any image to enlarge)

Since the first three were made, I have experimented with other shapes and heights, as well as with some exotic woods.  Below, l. to r., Claro walnut and Wenge, straight off the lathe.


I’ve also ordered various sizes of glass test tubes to be inserted into properly sized holes in the tops so that in addition to holding dried arrangements,  a single rose or small flower grouping can be kept fresh in water.


Daily Bread

Bread 3-30-11

Part of my weekly routine is to bake a loaf of whole wheat bread, and tonight was the night.  Thanks to my friend Ann who gave me the basic no-knead recipe, I’ve not purchased a loaf of bread in over three years.  My standard loaf now includes millet, sesame, flax, and sunflower seeds.  It makes great regular toast, and an especially hearty and tasty French toast with real butter and some maple syrup added.  (Click on the image to enlarge)

Black Walnut Bowl with Maple Lid

Bowl #12 003

I turned this 12″ wide, 3″ deep, black walnut bowl with the intention of also turning a lid to fit.  For the lid, I used a piece of northern sugar maple with a block of walnut glued to it for the knob, and turned the two simultaneously.  The lid has an indent under the lip to match the inner diameter of the bowl.  The fit is such that there is a slight suction effect when the lid is lifted. (Click on any image to enlarge)

Bowl #12 006

The bowl is large enough from which to serve food, such as fruit or green salads.  And if it is used to serve something like pasta, then the lid can serve as a cover.  This bowl, and all my bowls so far, have been finished solely with my own recipe for a “food safe” finish: 100% pure, organic, filtered beeswax combined with pharmaceutical grade mineral oil.

Here is the bowl on my new Jet 2HP lathe.  I intentionally left the dust collector temporarily turned off to give some idea of the volume of shavings produced by my bowl gouge during the hollowing process.

Bowl #12 001

And finally, I’ve included a photo showing the underside of the lid while still mounted on the lathe.  The indent under the lip was reduced incrementally to fit, using the completed bowl as a gauge.

Bowl #12 002

Claro Walnut Bowl

Bowl #1, Emily's Claro Walnut Bowl

This is bowl #1, the first bowl I ever turned.   It was made from a small block of Claro walnut, about 6″ square.  I would encourage anyone thinking of learning to turn bowls on a lathe to go for it.    It’s not easy at first, but as with anything, perseverance pays off.  If you don’t have the opportunity to learn in a class or from an experienced turner in person, as I didn’t, then I can highly recommend Richard Raffan’s video, “Turning Wood,” published by Taunton Press.  Raffan’s books on turning are an inferior substitute for seeing the techniques explained and demonstrated in the video.    (Click on any image to enlarge)

Here’s a partial picture of the lightweight 1/2 HP Delta wood lathe I  started with.

Walnut bowl 005

I sold this lathe because it was too light, under powered, and of dubious quality.  Buy the heaviest and best lathe you can afford.  If turning bowls is what you want to do, I also recommend that you buy heavier duty, high speed steel (HSS) turning tools.   A 3/8″ thick bowl scraper will be much easier to control and yield better results than one 1/4″ thick.  The same goes for  gouges, heavier duty is better for bowls.  Why?  Because the thicker, heavier tool will be better at dampening vibration.  This is especially true the further the cutting edge of the scraper or gouge is extended out over the tool rest, which happens when hollowing the interior.

Repairing Danger’s Chair

I once had a dog, a fine dog with a stout heart, named “Danger” . . . actually his full name was “Nick Danger, Third Eye.”   When Danger was a puppy, he liked to chew on things, as all puppies do.  When my back was turned, he went to work on the rungs of an old oak chair I found at a flea market.  He chewed all the way through  a side rung and mangled the two turned rungs in front as you can see below.  It was that way for 20 years.  (Click on any image to enlarge)

Danger's Chair 004

With Danger a distant but fond memory, I finally decided it was time to do something about the chair.  To begin, I cut the old front rungs off and drilled out the sockets.

Danger's Chair 005

Danger's Chair 006

I pulled some white oak from my stash and went to work on my lathe to turn one new side rung and two new front rungs, modeled as closely as possible after the originals.

Danger's Chair 019

Next, I turned to two tools from the 18th century to prepare the new parts to go in the leg sockets.  The first, a spoke pointer mounted on a hand brace at the bottom of the following picture, is used somewhat like a pencil sharpener to trim down the end of the rung so that the second tool, a tenon cutter also mounted on a brace in the middle of the picture, can be used to cut down the end of the rung to fit the leg socket.

Danger's Chair 022

The process, as the following sequence shows, is to “point” the rung and then cut it down to a pre-determined diameter.

Danger's Chair 023

Danger's Chair 024

Danger's Chair 027

Danger's Chair 025

Danger's Chair 028

All that remained after the ends were cut down to size was to temporarily remove one front leg so that the new rungs could be inserted and glued in place.  Then, with a new coat of Minwax, Danger’s chair was restored to something close to it’s original appearance.

Danger's Chair 036b

Danger's Chair 036

All is forgiven, Danger!

The “Recycled” Cabinet


I needed a job-specific cabinet that would fit in a defined, limited space in my shop.  It needed to hold my Ridgid oscillating sander on top, and house my Tormek sharpening machine and related sharpening equipment on shelves below.  It ended up being made entirely out of leftover and recycled parts:  four old cabinet doors with hinges, two off-cuts of plywood, ceramic door knobs from a house I owned 30 years ago, and one 10 foot 2″x4″ left over from another project.   I challenged myself to use only materials on hand, as efficiently as possible (i.e. zero waste), while still meeting my design criteria. (Click on any image to enlarge)


The basic frame for the cabinet came from the 2″ x 4″ which was ripped lengthwise and then sized into 1 3/8″ square stock.  The four cabinet doors and their 1970’s era hinges came from a client’s house where I installed replacements.  Two of the cabinet doors became panels for the back, and the other two were each divided in half for the doors in front.


The sides were made from one leftover piece of 3/8″ AC plywood divided in half, and the cabinet top and two interior shelves came one piece of 3/4″ CDX plywood.

Drafting Table and Storage Box


I needed a drafting table and also a place to store my drafting tools (T-squares, triangles, compass, rules, pencils, roll of vellum, etc.), so I designed this combination drafting table + portable storage box.   (Click on any image to enlarge)


The 34″ x 26″ table top is adjustable to three different angles;  20, 25, and 30 degrees, by using one of three pre-cut pairs of legs that can be quickly changed.


The legs fold into the box to close and the table/lid is held closed with twin latches.  A carry handle allows the relatively light weight box to be carried to another location and stored.


The drafting table/box is constructed with clear pine, joined at the corners with dovetail joints.  The drafting table surface  is birch plywood framed with pine.  It is dead flat and square and attached to the box frame with a piano hinge.  The entire box was sealed with several coats of Minwax and the table surface has several additional coats of satin finish polyurethane.