Friday, April 21, 2017

Copper Elder Sign Box

I thought I had posted this item, but now I can't find it anywhere on this blog, so, I guess I will do a quick post about it now. I made this Elder Sign box several years ago. It started as a small cheap trinket box that I bought on clearance from a local wholesale club. It had a nice dark stained rustic wooden body, that was well made, and a ceramic tile set into the top. The tile had Christmas art on it- a snowman, I think. I liked everything about the box, except for the art.

I had purchased wooden boxes with tile tops from this place in the past, and the last ones I had, I sanded the surface of the tile, painted over it, and added a cast resin applique to the top, and sold it in my shop. No pictures of those ones I'm afraid. This time I thought I would try something different.

A couple of years ago, I found a roll of heavy copper foil on clearance at the hardware store. It had an adhesive backing on one side and I guess you are supposed to use it as flashing around the foundation of your house. I think it is supposed to repel termites. I don't know, I threw away the box a long time ago. I bought it because it was a big roll of copper foil, and fairly cheap.

My first few attempts at using this foil, I was tempted to make use of the adhesive that is already on the foil. It seemed pretty strong, as it was a bear to get the vinyl backer to peel off. Unfortunately, the adhesive does not stay strong. Over time (a few months), it will inevitably loosen up and the copper foil will pull away from whatever you stuck it to. So, I have since learned that I must scrub off the adhesive and use a different glue. Kind of a pain, but whatever.

This box has a cast resin Elder Sign appliqued to the top, underneath the copper foil. I carved the sigil by hand out of a block of wax (years ago). I think this was actually the first thing I tried to carve in wax. Then I made a latex rubber mold of the carving. I use the rubber mold to cast all kinds of stuff, plaster and cement disks, resin appliques, whatever I need an Elder Sign for.

I put the resin casting on a work surface covered in vinyl contact paper (a.k.a. shelf liner). Vinyl contact paper makes a good non-stick work surface. Then I cut a square of copper foil and covered the casting with room to spare around the edges. I used various sculpting tools, mostly ones with round metal tips, to work the foil around the casting and into all the contours and creases. Sort of like chasing. When it was done, I carefully peeled the copper loose from the table and the casting. I sprayed the reverse side of the copper with strong spray glue and put the casting back into the cavity. Then I masked off and sprayed the tile with glue too. I glued the foil, along with the casting, down to the tile and trimmed the edges of the foil. Then I smoothed everything out and worked the edges of the foil around the edges of the tile, making them disappear. I didn't do anything to weather or seal the copper. I just let it gain a natural patina.

I had this box on the Rogue Cthulhu prize table for a while. But lately I have been thinking of giving it as a gift to someone in the Mythos prop community. I'm just looking for the perfect thing to put inside of it first.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Copper and Oak Bowl

This is my fourth attempt at turning a bowl. I'm not quite sure why, but bowl turning has not come easily to me. I have had numerous problems with every aspect of the endeavor. The most serious of which are very bad catches. That's when the chisel or gouge gets caught in the wood and either tares a big chunk out of it, or the chisel, or the work piece (or both) go flying across the room. They are dangerous, and scary as hell. I don't know if it is the lathe speed, my tool choice, my tool technique, the tool sharpness, the grain orientation, the tool rest position; I don't know what the hell the problem is. I watch video after video on bowl turning, and it all looks simple enough, but when I put it into practice, it all goes to shit. My best bowl I've made to date is the one I rescued from the garbage. I've seen several other YouTube-ers turn their first bowl, and it looks gorgeous- and it's starting to piss me off.

So, this is my fourth attempt at turning a bowl. I'm doing my best to do everything right. I'm using hardwood, I'm trying to follow good technique. I'm being patient and taking my time.

I started with a big block of 3"x 8"x24" oak cribbing. The surface was really nasty and black, and it has some cupping, so I used a hand plane and my new drum sander to get the two main faces nice and smooth. Then I cut it into two 8"x8"x3" blocks and glued them together along the freshly smoothed face to make an 8"x8"x6" bowl blank. I was surprised at how nice this nasty chunk of wood looked after it was cleaned up and smoothed out.

After the glue was dry, I found the center , scribed a circle with a compass, and used the band saw to rough cut the block into a round blank.  Then I drilled a 5/8" hole in the marked center, about 2" deep. Into this hole, I screwed a screw chuck, which I will use to attach the blank to my lathe scroll chuck.

Once the block was chucked up on the screw, the first thing I did was true up the blank, making it nice and round (cylindrical), and squaring off the bottom (the end not attached to the chuck). Then I marked a circle with a pencil, on the bottom, that is the size of my scroll chuck jaws. I carefully cut a mortise in this circle, so that after I finish shaping the outside of the bowl, I can turn the blank around and reverse chuck the blank using this mortise. I take extra care to shape the mortise so that it has the best chance to be held tightly. I have had problems in the past with blanks getting pulled out of the chuck when I get a catch. I think this has been because I did not shape the mortise or tenon (I used a tenon in the past) correctly. I'm hoping my improved technique will help overcome that problem this time.

Then I start shaping the outside of the bowl. This does not go terribly well at first. I get a few bad catches, like before. I get a chunk tore out of the blank that I have to try to fix. So far it's looking like it always does. Then I decide to slow down the lathe, and switch to the carbide scraper, and take very light passes, and things start going a little better. I didn't get any pictures of the early parts of the build, because I expected this to be a test bowl, that would probably fail.

Before long, the bowl started to take shape. But the shape was very boring. Since I sort of expected this bowl to fail, I decide to experiment with a technique that I have seen done, and wanted to try- copper inlay. It's actually quite simple, in theory. I used a detail gouge to turn a small groove around the circumference of the piece. Then I used CA glue to glue a piece of solid copper wire into the groove. Once the glue was set I used a carbide tool to gently scrape the bulk of the excess copper away, then I switched to sand paper. Copper is soft, so it can be turned pretty much like wood. It also sands just like wood. You just sand the piece until the copper wire ends up flush with the surface of the piece. Unfortunately, just as I was about finished, the wire flew off at high speed and stuck me in the stomach. The heat from the sanding had softened the glue.

I decided to try again, this time, using epoxy instead of CA. The epoxy should be less susceptible to the heat buildup. I also put a second groove in, about a half inch from the first. I mixed up some quick set epoxy and spread it over the piece, pushing it into the grooves. Then I used masking tape to help hold the wire in the groove while the epoxy set. I also used electrical tape over top of the masking tape, so that the stretchy-ness of the vinyl tape would add some compression and keep the wire fitted snugly down in the groove.

Once the epoxy was cured, I removed the tape. I slowed the lathe down to lessen the heat, just in case. Then I started sanding down the excess epoxy and the top half of the copper wire. Success! It looked amazing! Now, if I could just finish the inside of the bowl without screwing it up. This is about the point where I started taking pictures. The success of the copper inlay gave me hope that this bowl might not turn out so bad after all.

I finished sanding the outside of the bowl and applied a couple of coats of Shine Juice before un-chucking the piece and turning it around. Then I put he jaws in the mortise and using reverse pressure, snugged them up tight.  I had never done a reverse mounting before, so I was hoping for the best.

The next step was to hog out as much material from the inside of the bowl as possible, using a forstner bit. I set the bit into my Jacobs chuck, in the tail stock, and very slowly and carefully, started drilling out the inside of the bowl.  The bowl is a little more than seven inches in diameter, but the biggest hole I can make with a forstner bit is two and a half inches. Drilling this out was tedious, and slow and made a lot of smoke, but I got it done.

Now, I just had to widen the hole with the gouges. I decided to just use the carbide tools, hoping they would lessen the chances of getting a bad catch. I started with the round carbide bit, but found out that the square one seemed to do a better job, and was less prone to catches and tear-out.

I was very careful and took my time, making very shallow passes with the tool. It took forever, but I managed to get the inside hollowed out. Then, I was just about done, and I decided to try to make the bowl wall a little bit thinner, and BAM! - I got a catch bad enough to make me shut the lathe down in a hurry. I could tell something broke by the way it caught. looking at the piece, the side wall had cracked and a big chunk was about to fall out. Fortunately. all the pieces were still there, so I gently massages them back into place as best as I could, and started sealing up the cracks and gaps with copious amounts of CA glue.

After about a half hour of repair effort, I was finally satisfied that the cracks were all filled. I was too afraid to try to smooth out the excess glue with the carbide tool, or to try to make the wall any thinner, so I decided to put away the tools and start sanding. I had a LOT of sanding to do. The inside of the bowl was still really rough, and the CA glue was mounded up thick over the cracks. It probably took me over an hour to sand it down to an acceptable level.

After a crap-ton of sanding, I put several more coats of Shine Juice on, inside and out. Then, just for goods measure, I rubbed the surface with a block of carnuba wax and buffed it with a paper towel.

Ta-Da! Finished. What was only going to be a practice bowl, and which had a near fatal blow out, turned out to be my best bowl yet. The mortise worked, the copper inlay worked, the repair job worked. And this one even looks less like a flower pot and more like a cereal bowl. I was just about to give up on bowl making, but now I am less discouraged.


Thursday, April 6, 2017

Pointy Two-Tone Pendulums

Here are some more turned hardwood pendulums. These ones are two-tone. They were made by first laminating two different colored pieces of wood together with wood glue and clamping firmly until dry. Then the laminated blank was turned round and then into pendulums. I started at the tail stock end, turned a pendulum, parted it off, then turned another, right up the length of the blank until I ran out of wood.

I intentionally made the two colored pieces of wood different thicknesses, so that the parting line did not end up in the center. I did't want the sharp tip to be on the glue line, in case there were any imperfections in the joint. And the asymmetry looks good to me.  These are half walnut, and half ...something else.

A while ago I made my first two tone blank, back when I was making the pendulums large and chunky. I made two of them like the one below. It is a large two tone, but I didn't turn a point on it. Instead, I drilled a 1/4" hole where the point would be. Then I made some small points out of a stick of black ebony, and made sure that the stem (where the eyelet and chain would attach) was turned to a diameter of 1/4" This way, the stem from the ebony point can be friction fit up into the hole in the large two tone pendulum. I also put an eyelet on the ebony point, and used a lobster claw latch instead of a jump ring to attach the chain. This way, you can use the large pendulum with the ebony point in it, or you can pull the ebony point out of it, and re-attach the chain and just use the ebony point by itself. Two pendulums for the price of one!

Most people probably don't want a pendulum this big for their personal use, but I think the large pendulums would work great of you were doing a demonstration, or teaching a class, or if you were doing pendulum divination for a larger group of people, and you wanted everyone to be able to see the pendulum easily.