Last Monday I went to this month's wood turning group. For the first time in ages I didn't have anything to show for my own activities. In my defense it was only 2 weeks since the May meeting which had to be moved due to the bank holidays.And in that two weeks I got my eyes lasered, so I was not allowed in my workshop.
But there was still plenty to learn, and I got a lot out of the evening. This months demonstration was by professional turner David Springett. He is author of a bunch of books about wood turning. And he also brought a long a lot of examples of his work.
What is great about David's work is that it all looks insanely complicated. And it is far from standard fare of bowls and vases. He claimed that most of what he makes is actually fairly easy, but is make to *look* complicated. Well he succeeded there because most of the stuff on display was daunting to contemplate.
It was truely inspiring to see a whole world of new opportunities in turning. If you ever thought you were running out of ideas for what you can turn then check out his work. He confessed that he has more ideas than time to attempt them.
Another great thing about his work is that there is a lot of logic, maths and science behind it. The scientist in me appreciates the logical progression he took us through with streptohedrons. These are shapes that he turns to have a cross section which is a regular geometric shape with rotation symmetry. In it's simplest form a cone turned to have a cross section of an equilateral triangle. Once turned the shape is split in half and one side is rotated in relation to the other and stuck back together. This makes some fascinating shapes, and in theory, the turning involves is relatively simply 'joint the dots' If you do the maths correctly you just mark out your shape, turn to the right diameter, then turn straight lines between points. And your done. Of course I suspect this is easier to say than to do. But I can't wait to have a go. The simple progression is simply that if you can figure out how to turn a shape that will have a cross section with rotational symmetry then you will get another interesting shape. Cones have triangle cross sections. Making something with a pentagon cross section, or even a hexagon cross section isn't that hard. He went on to show items with 'star' cross sections, 3 pointed, 5 pointed, 6 pointed etc. Harder to turn, but these create spirals when one half is twisted. Suddenly relatively simple shapes are really producing complex looking objects. Really cool stuff.
Another incredible thing he showed us was a wooden arrow through a hollow glass apple. He had another example through a wine bottle. Why so incredible? Well the arrow is a single solid piece of wood. With flights at one side, and an arrow head at the other. Each too large to fit through the holes the arrow passes through. If it had not been explained to us, I would of convinced myself that somewhere there was a break and glue that I just couldn't see.
But the truth is more incredible, and again inspiring as to what can be done with the application of science. I am no less impressed for knowing how it is done. This item only works with certain kinds of wood. You need wood that has thick summer growth and thin winter growth, which amounts to widely spaced rings. You also have to allow the arrow such that the arrow head has parallel nearly straight lines of grain running through it. Such that head on looking down the shaft the lines right horizontal. That's a pretty specific setup, but I was still not ready for the next bit... You take the arrow head and boil it for 15 minutes. *Then* you put the arrow head in a vice and slowly but firmly squeeze it until it is flat with the shaft of the arrow. And leave it for 3 days...
Who figured this out?!
After 3 days, remove the arrow from the clamp, and pass it through the holes of your glass form. And now the amazing part...you stick the arrow head back in hot water and magically it expands back to shape.
I kid you not. I saw it, with my own eyes. Yes the wood looks a little different after this process, but over time it dries again and I would never have guessed that this would work.
This really blew me away, again opening a whole world of possibilities that simply would never have occurred to me.
This is why I go to a woodturning club. To have my eyes opened to amazing ideas that I would stand no chance of coming up with on my own. This one meeting was easily worth my 20 quid subscription fee (which covers me for a year) Add to that I am apparently the luckiest person ever and appear to win something in the raffle every month. I promise I only buy into the raffle to support the club. I always buy 5 lines. I am more than happy to 'pay' 5 pounds per meeting. However I can't remember the last meeting where I did not win something at least equal to my 5 pound cost. This month I won a bead forming tool. Last month it was a block of sycamore. At the rate I'm going I feel slightly bad that I'm practically making a profit from going :-)
In the background I've been attempting to help the club with it's website. Or rather I've been pushing them towards using a wordpress blog to run it instead of the existing hosting. The existing site is a bit of a pain to manage, and I think life will be easier with a wordpress based on. To that end I've created http://hantswoodturners.wordpress.com and I've started putting content on there, including a bunch of pictures I took this month of David Springett's talk this month.
We're not quite switched yet, though I think we are going that way. I hope that in future I will be able to give a little back to my club through helping out with content for the site, and maybe even attracting some new members. If your a woodturner in hampshire, you should deffinately be in a club. If you're even slightly interested in woodwork but have never tried turning, you should come along and see what all the fuss is about.