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Techniques #3: Turning with the bedan

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Blog entry by Dave Polaschek posted 10-27-2021 04:27 PM 1034 reads 0 times favorited 49 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Making a herringbone board Part 3 of Techniques series no next part

A while ago I picked up a bedan to add to my set of turning tools, and it’s rapidly become one of my favorites, due to its versatility and ease of sharpening (I touch it up on the same stones I use for my smaller chisels, which aren’t as flat as the ones for the big chisels and plane-blades – that’s probably another blog at some point).

Anyway, back to the bedan. I’ve mostly been using it as a heavy scraper, which it does pretty well. But that sharp edge doesn’t have to be presented as a scraper. It can also be used in a peeling cut to rough a spindle in a big hurry, or, as I practiced today, to do planing cuts like a skew on steroids. (If you don’t know what the various cuts are, go read Simplifying the Skew now. It’ll clear things up.

So, I started practicing planing cuts. The huge bevel of a bedan means that riding the bevel is pretty idiot-proof. Even I can see and feel that big bevel rubbing on the piece I’m turning. The only trick is not catching the side and inadvertently using it as a scraper, which will push the bedan into the piece, causing a bigger catch with the edge… bad juju. But the tool is so heavy, it’ll just plow through the wood and remove a giant divot. No real worry about breaking a 3/8” square piece of tool steel with mere wood.

I ripped a chunk of SPF (spruce pine fir) construction tubafor into two squarish two-by-twos, and chucked it up. Put a live center in the tailstock to hold it straight. I’ve found when I’m trying a new technique, using a chuck on the headstock and a live center on the tailstock makes it almost impossible to have a catch that heaves the piece of wood around the room. Not totally impossible, but almost. Safety first, kids!

My first ball went really well. Wow! This was using the same tool I had just used to rough the piece to round, and there was wood everywhere. And then to get a finish like this with the same tool… Wow!

The second one… well… I started having problems.

See that spiral on the left of the frame? That’s a catch anyone learning the skew will recognize immediately. But it wasn’t that bad or scary. It just bugged me. Wait! What’s with my tool-rest? Or, it’s full of notches from my six months of learning to turn, and sometimes having… boo boos.

After addressing that with a flat bastard, the rest felt a lot better and my bedan didn’t catch in the divots causing problems with my practice.

That second one is a bit of wood planed off near the end of the ball. That’s one heavy “curly”.

Things weren’t all sunshine and puppies, but I feel like I made some progress this morning.

Here’s the one-shot explanation if you want to try it yourself. For a planing cut, similar to rolling a bead with a skew, you want the edge of the bedan somewhere around 70 degrees away from parallel to the piece. Keep the top edge of the bevel just clear of the piece, so it doesn’t act like a scraper, and rotate the bedan to keep the bevel tracking down into the v-groove you cut before starting the ball.

That’s about what I learned this morning. I’ve got five more chunks of tubafor to practice on over the next five days. I’ll try to post again as I figure out more.

Edited to add: my afternoon practice piece went very well. I practiced planing cuts, as well as paring cuts and turned the following piece:

I was proud enough of it that I finished it by sanding it, then applying my homemade friction finish (linseed oil and shellac).

Here’s a closeup of where a knot made for some very tricky grain. The bedan cut through it pretty cleanly. Note that this is after less than 3 hours of practicing with the tool.

-- Dave - Santa Fe



49 comments so far

View recycle1943's profile

recycle1943

5961 posts in 2907 days


#1 posted 10-27-2021 05:44 PM

I had to google bedan to see what it was – I can’t believe I don’t have one of them – or 2

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View pottz's profile

pottz

21307 posts in 2269 days


#2 posted 10-27-2021 05:56 PM

bought one myself,i use it to hollow out bowls with when they get deep.i think jim jakosh recommended them.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8801 posts in 1867 days


#3 posted 10-27-2021 06:02 PM

Dick, they’re not super popular, and if you go searching on YouTube, there are only about a half-dozen decent videos showing how to use one. Which is a shame, because it’s versatile enough that I don’t know how much I’ll use other tools if I improve my bedan skills a bit more.

Pottz, yeah, I used mine to do a little more hollowing work on a hollow form / bowl I’ve been working on since August. It’s a piece you sent me that’s been giving me fits, but will look pretty if I can get it done without exploding it. Anyway, the bedan works as a scraper for that sort of hollowing, and does a great job there, too. Jim is one of the people who mentioned it, which led to me checking it out.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

19861 posts in 2423 days


#4 posted 10-27-2021 07:05 PM

Tried one long ago and didn’t much care for it. Might oughtta give it another go. I focused in on learning to use skews and kinda abandoned everything else besides skews, gouges, and parting tools. I really should diversify I suppose.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Oldtool's profile

Oldtool

3354 posts in 3475 days


#5 posted 10-27-2021 07:23 PM

Just like recycle1943, Googled bedan, kinda looks like a wide parting tool, or maybe a fat skew – depending on how you present the tool to the wood. It’s got the flexibility to scrape, part, skew cut, cool.

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View pottz's profile

pottz

21307 posts in 2269 days


#6 posted 10-27-2021 07:44 PM



Dick, they’re not super popular, and if you go searching on YouTube, there are only about a half-dozen decent videos showing how to use one. Which is a shame, because it’s versatile enough that I don’t know how much I’ll use other tools if I improve my bedan skills a bit more.

Pottz, yeah, I used mine to do a little more hollowing work on a hollow form / bowl I’ve been working on since August. It’s a piece you sent me that’s been giving me fits, but will look pretty if I can get it done without exploding it. Anyway, the bedan works as a scraper for that sort of hollowing, and does a great job there, too. Jim is one of the people who mentioned it, which led to me checking it out.

- Dave Polaschek


is that the silk tree, or mimosa wood ?

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8801 posts in 1867 days


#7 posted 10-27-2021 08:24 PM

Kenny, I recommend it. I’m finding it almost miraculous.

Here’s my afternoon practice piece of tubafor, straight off the bedan:

After 15 minutes of sanding, oiling, and shellacking:

And an extreme closeup on the tricky grain piece:

I’m wondering why I bought all those other turning tools now.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8801 posts in 1867 days


#8 posted 10-27-2021 08:26 PM

Tom, yeah. I bought it as as parting tool. But then I started doing peeling cuts and planing cuts and got the results above on my first day of really using it. I’m sold!

Pottz, yeah, that’s the one. Said “mimosa” on it. I CA-glued a bunch of cracks in it, and will try finishing it off tomorrow. Or mañana.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Eric's profile

Eric

2269 posts in 1158 days


#9 posted 10-28-2021 01:08 AM

Looks like your getting a handle on the bedan, I also had to look at your link to see what it is. Your turnings have been great, like everything the more you practice the better you get. Great write up and thanks for sharing.

I still have some things to learn in the shop, and with my turnings. The tools I use are gouges, skews and a parting tool. I might have to look into one of these further. And also get a set of bowl gouges, along with a good chuck.

Any suggestions on a good chuck for turning bowls and platters? I have a couple of face plates and they do work, just have to fill the holes after and then there is the fear if hitting one of the screws holding the piece.

-- Eric, building the dream

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8801 posts in 1867 days


#10 posted 10-28-2021 01:22 AM

Thanks, Eric. A bedan can also be used hollowing bowls, which is nice (though I prefer to use a spade bit and then smooth with scrapers – I also made a side scraper for that).

I use a Nova G3 chuck. I’ve bought the 1”, stock 2”, spigot 1.8”, and 4” jaws to go with, and also have a Nova Midi Select chuck. The G3, SuperNova or Titan would be my recommendation if you’re only going to get one chuck. The Midi Select doesn’t hold as well as the others.

If you use a faceplate, you can use brass screws to hold the piece (I use #6×3/4 or #8×1 brass wood screws), and if you hit it with a tool, you won’t damage the tool much, since brass is so much softer than tool steel. I do use steel screws too, but only when I’m sure I won’t be getting anywhere near them, and I’ll be turning away the holes afterwards. Usually that means a bigger piece so I want #8×1-1/4 screws. Just don’t use Sheetrock screws. They’re brittle and can snap on you.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Eric's profile

Eric

2269 posts in 1158 days


#11 posted 10-28-2021 01:35 AM

I use a Shopsmith as my lathe. I have purchased a few adapters for the head stock, one of which is a 1” x 8tpi. And have a few other tail centers, one being the live center (I really like that).

I will have to look at a few of the chucks you mentioned. And read up on them and how to use them safely. Not sure if one would work both ways. (Grip from the outside, and grip from the inside).

Thanks for the info.

-- Eric, building the dream

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

19861 posts in 2423 days


#12 posted 10-28-2021 01:47 AM

I have the G3 and Supernova chucks. Both are fantastic chucks and will grip inside and outside.

-- I collect hobbies. There is no sense in limiting yourself (Don W) - - - - - - - - Kenny in SW VA

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8801 posts in 1867 days


#13 posted 10-28-2021 02:11 AM

The Nova chucks will all grip from the inside or outside. They even have a PDF and poster listing the minimum and maximum size each chuck can hold with each set of jaws. So I routinely turn a tenon or a mortise that falls in between the ranges of the jaws I have, even though I have the sizes printed out and hanging next to my lathe.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Eric's profile

Eric

2269 posts in 1158 days


#14 posted 10-28-2021 11:16 AM

Here is a question. With the Nova Chucks, is there a particular starter set that would be a good purchase? And how easy is it to add to the main chuck with different accessories, if needed down the road?

-- Eric, building the dream

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

8801 posts in 1867 days


#15 posted 10-28-2021 11:53 AM

Almost all the chucks come with the 2” standard jaws. The G3 Woodturners Bundle looks like a decent starter kit, unless you decide you never want to do pens and do want to do bowls, and then they’ve got a G3 Bowl Bundle that looks pretty good.

Adding new jaws is easy. All the chucks take all the jaws, up to a certain size, and the only accessory that I’ve had trouble finding are additional screws to hold the jaws to the chuck.

At some point, you’ll probably tire of switching jaws, and might pick up an additional chuck. It’s a lot easier to swap chucks than to take off the chuck, find the Allen wrench, and swap the jaws.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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