Tricorns #1: Trying to Remember

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Blog entry by Mark Wilson posted 01-13-2019 10:35 AM 641 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Tricorns series Part 2: Okay -OR - I Went Ahead and Finished the Thing »

I’ve made a few Tricorns- a turning that is in the shape of a bowl, or, a hollow form – and, in my quest to recapture my mojo, I’ve returned to the concept a couple times. In this iteration, I think I’ve made some progress. Whether it’s attributable to additions to my skill set, or to new tools, is anyone’s guess.

I began with a crappy piece of wood, not intending to carry this to fruition as a finished piece. The wood is, of all the gawdawful things to turn, treated Redwood, of the fence post type. I cut it into a cube, of about 3-1/4”. Accuracy, at this point in the process, is somewhat important, but, nothing to write home about – the three corners in the Tricorn will, ultimately, take care of themownbadselves. Then, I fichisleled a flat spot into which the spur center could get a firm purchase. The opposite corner would be captured by my ancient Shopsmith live center – the nipple having been removed.

Thusly mounted, I begin turning from the bottom up, using alternatively, a couple of fingernail gouges.

What one sees, in this concept, is six points, spinning around the central axis, three of whcih will go to the cornfield, and three of which (the three on the left) will become the three points of the Tricorn. (Forgive the pedantry – when I first saw one of these Things, I was totally baffled, and, I trow, there may be some here who will find this helpful.) These three remaining points, if executed properly, will be quite delicate, indeed. A sharp tool, and a correspondingly delicate touch, will be of paramount importance. I can’t over-emphasize this. It will be obvious as you peruse the following montages – one of the three points is particularly prone to breakage.

So far, so good. What I’m looking for, at this point, is something of an ice cream cone coming into view.

(There are ten montages, and, plenty of words, betwixt. If you desire some distraction while you read, here what’s coming through my headset, as I write.)

I’ve soaked that knot that runs across with CA, to keep it from popping out, and poking someone’s eye out. And, once I’ve created a tenon, I’ve treated it in likewise fashion, to prevent its breaking in the violence that will hereinafter ensue.

I begin to, carefully, address the corners, and, all is going fairly well. Note that the pattern of the grain in this cube is such, in two of the three points, directed towards the tailstock, and, the problematic one is traveling towards the headstock. This is the “hard thing” about turning a Tricorn. That third point really wants to break off, and, in this case, does, in due time.

(Master Mendelssohn was but twelve, and thirteen, years of age when he composed twelve masterful string symphonies, of which numbers 8 and 11 are my favorites. Number 11 started, in my headset, in case you wish to come along. I’m truly hoping to finish this blog entry by the time this beautiful piece is finished. I often reflect on what was important to me, at that age.)

That pesky corner has gone, in this montage. Not to worry: It can be dealt with, in any number of ways. Besides which, once I’ve developed the courage to try this concept with a truly worthy (and, expensive) piece of timber – something with tighter grain, for instance -, the tendency to break, I expect, will be less of an issue.

Given the grain direction in two-thirds of such a cube of wood, it becomes necessary to make the cuts starting at the points and working towards the center. Otherwise, the tear-out becomes insurmountable. As you may imagine, one’s face, and eyeballs, must be pretty close to the work, placing the bevel of the tool against the spinning piece (2000 RPM is appropriate), and rolling the tool’s edge into the wood, at a negative rake – pressure applied downward, into the tool rest, not into the wood. The corner that busted, busted, largely, because, at the moment of breakage, I was performing a draw cut, from the center out.

Now, I wish to start blending the bowl to the points, making a smooth and pleasing transition, rather than the “circle trapped amid three points” effect. To do this, I used two different round-nose scrapers, doing the exact opposite of what I was just saying. With this exception: I was making a shearing – negative rake – draw cut, from the center out – pressure on the rest.

And, you know what? It worked.

I did some sanding. Now, what I need is something like a tennis ball to trap the open side between the chuck and the live center in the tailstock, to finish up the bottom. That is yet to be seen, for, if you’ve paid attention to things I’ve written in the past, you know that I have no balls.

Again, this is not a piece that have any intention of finishing to any sort of presentability, as a project. It is an exercise, which may, or may not, come to something worthy of your admiration.

I hope you’ve, at least, enjoyed the music on this journey.

Thank you. And, I apologize. And, Happy My Birthday. I’ve now completed fifty-seven circumnavigations of the Golden Orb. (It’s the one and only New year’s Resolution I ever make – to survive to my next birth date. I’ve done so, thanks, to no small degree, to the fact that I have my Beloved Buddies to accompany me on the journey.

And, Master Mendelssohn has nearly completed number eleven. He will have, once I’ve proof-read this piffle and pressed the “post” button.

Seriously. I don’t know how you people put up with me.

-- Mark

10 comments so far

View Sasha's profile


1118 posts in 1951 days

#1 posted 01-13-2019 01:24 PM

1. blunt chisel …. (high sharpening angle)
2 Angle of attack straight …..
3 It is necessary to raise the handpiece higher and lower the handle of the cutter …...
4 It may be necessary to increase the rotational speed on the machine and reduce the chip thickness ….

-- Ganchik Sasha. Life is not a draft, tomorrow you will not redo......

View lew's profile


13088 posts in 4493 days

#2 posted 01-13-2019 03:57 PM

First off, Happy Birthday (belated). I remember being 57- it was a long time ago.

Nice turning. I’ve never been smart enough to try practicing on “junk” wood- and the shop is littered with expensive mistakes.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Mike_D_S's profile


605 posts in 2953 days

#3 posted 01-13-2019 04:52 PM


Thanks for the walkthrough. While I’ve heard of a tricorn (mostly due to the hat) I’ve never really seen one as a turning. So this was very interesting for me.

I like doing slightly more complex turnings and this seems a challenging piece to finish without taking off a corner.

Appreciate the pictures.


-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View robscastle's profile


7089 posts in 2942 days

#4 posted 01-13-2019 05:26 PM

Tricorns? ... sounds like something else thats in the tubafors catagory!

and…Happy Birthday !!

-- Regards Rob

View Grumpy's profile


26321 posts in 4589 days

#5 posted 01-13-2019 09:52 PM

Interesting concept Mark.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

24572 posts in 3844 days

#6 posted 01-13-2019 11:46 PM

Nice work, Mark!!

Cheers, Jim

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View NormG's profile


6506 posts in 3742 days

#7 posted 01-14-2019 12:10 AM

Wow, great piece

-- Norman - I never never make a mistake, I just change the design.

View luv2learn's profile


3051 posts in 3041 days

#8 posted 01-14-2019 12:49 AM

It is always fun and a challenge to try new techniques. Nicely done Mark.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2811 posts in 1801 days

#9 posted 01-14-2019 05:49 AM

Nice to have met you, Sasha. You do wonderful work.

-- Mark

View BobWemm's profile


2848 posts in 2664 days

#10 posted 01-14-2019 11:57 AM

Go for it mate, only thing you need now is a decent piece of timber, one that wont tear off on the corners.
That corner thing is my biggest problem with these “Tricorns”. Man, I like that name.
Happy birthday also. Sorry for being late.


-- Bob, Western Australia, The Sun came up this morning, what a great start to the day. Now it's up to me to make it even better. I've cut this piece of wood 4 times and it's still too damn short.

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