I don’t like to fail; sure, I have made my fair share of c’s throughout my life, but borderline failures in woodworking really bother me. Here’s the case; an experiment in production bowl turning.
I had trunk section of a cherry tree that was about four to five feet long, and except for the lower part of it, it was a pretty uniform thickness with no branches. This would be perfect for making a set of small salad bowls to go along with a large salad bowl I made all from the same tree. Objective: Make about six small bowls the same size.
How to do it? Use a story stick. Andy Coates, a fellow blogger and a very talented turner in England blogged about using one, so I thought I would give it a try. Here’s the idea: I made the first bowl the size I wanted, so I used that bowl to set the dimensions of my story stick. I took an old piece of maple about 3/8” thick and cut it taller than my bowl and wider than my bowl. Next, I cut out a long notch which was to be the width of the bowl, and on the side I used a coping saw to cut the curve to match the bowl.
Easy! Here is where I have not passed muster. You’d think with the story stick, I’d get it right every time, but no! I have made five bowls based off the story stick and each one is a bit different.
Each bowl has the pretty much the same profile shape, but the first production bowl I made was too tall because I was looking at the wrong line on the story stick and did not notice the mistake until after I had jam chucked it and removed the tenon. None of the five bowls match the width of the original bowl because my stock was getting gradually smaller. I made the first bowl out of the larger end of the trunk, so only three of the bowls are really close in width, and each bowl has a slightly different wall thickness. And yes, the “greenwood” bowls have warped a bit, but that was anticipated and desired to some degree.
I know this is my first attempt at doing this, and I did learn some things along the way. From the techniques I learned with David Ellsworth, I can shape the bowl pretty quickly, especially removing the bulk of the inside of the bowl. But to be honest, a good production bowl turner could most likely turn the bowl in about 20 minutes or so, and it still takes me 40+ minutes. (starting with a log style blank) Achieving the desired wall thickness when the sides start to flare out is the real challenge I failed to overcome without loads of sanding. My Ellsworth shear scraping technique for the outside of the bowl is getting much better, but I still need to start with 120 grit sand paper and not the 180 to 220 grit that a pro would use.
What have I learned?
- Starting with bowl blanks that were cut to the same size on a bandsaw might help with the size issues.
- Roughing out the basic shape then letting them dry should help with the flaring sides issues.
- The story stick does work if you use the same sized stock.
- I still need to work on my shear scraping.
- I would most likely get fired my first day if I started working for a production turner or I would starve to death if I were getting paid via piece work!
If I get another log like that, I think I will try it again. I don’t like to fail, so time for more practice!