turnings #2: turnings - some failures as prelude to some successes

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Blog entry by Gary Fixler posted 07-28-2009 12:26 PM 3403 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: from ficus log to turned bowl preform Part 2 of turnings series Part 3: European Olive champagne glass »

Earlier this week I ended up with some scrap baltic birch ply, and cut it into squares with the band saw. I sanded the faces a bit and glued them all together overnight with Titebond III and a Bessey K-Body clamp:

baltic birch ply stack glued together

A little turning later:

turning baltic birch to cylindrical

And I was starting to get a wine glass shape:

wine glass shape emerging on lathe

That’s probably where I should have stopped. I knew that going thin-stem with the plywood in this orientation was asking for trouble, but I just kept going anyway, mad with power:

thinner stem on wine glass turning

I knew, as well, that I should have turned the inside of the cup before doing the stem, but I got myself confused. I was still turning between centers, and felt that switching to a chuck would make turning the stem too difficult, and also that once the inside of the cup was gone, turning between centers wouldn’t be possible. I think both of these conjectures was wrong, but it took some learning the hard way to get here.

I switched to a chuck, and then threw together this makeshift support structure, which actually did work. The brackets were slippery enough that the piece rattled around between them without really getting any marks on it.

goofy support rig hacked together on lathe

using weird support rig on lathe

Here it is in action:

It was actually wrapping blue tape around the stem to help support it that caused it to break at its weakest ply:

broken ply wine glass

It was a clean break, and fits back together perfectly:

reassembled halves of broken wine glass

I’m going to glue it back together, then drill a hole straight through the cup and into the base, through the center of the stem (carefully!), then insert a thin dowel through the stem and glue it in tightly. That’ll shore it up against finishing up the turning, which I still want to do.

Just for fun, I failed a bit more on turning this small slice of ficus into a plate. I had made a groove in the back for the chuck jaws, then accidentally turned into it once it was chucked. I knew it was going to be risky, because it was very thin, and I’m very inexperienced still, but I’d hoped for the best. It’s times like these I wish I had x-ray vision.

failed ficus plate

In retrospect, it was a pretty deep groove. I had to turn a bit deeper than I wanted there, as that side of the wood was angled significantly. Until I got that deep, the groove stuck out one side of the bark, and the jaws wouldn’t be able to hang on. An alternative would have been to flatten that face with a sander, plane, or with another careful resawing, then to glue on a block the chuck could hold, but I’m unsure about gluing onto wet wood yet, and this was just a small scrap of a junky wood, and not worth it to me to go through all of that. At least I was getting some pretty good control on making the face of the plate. It gave me hope for future, successful turnings.

In other news, I gave sharpening my tools on my WorkSharp 3000 a try finally. I haven’t had a good home for it, so setting it up always requires dragging it out and clearing a space for it. Being lazy, this means it’s been sitting under a table, collecting dust. I definitely need to find a permanent place for it now. With the slotted wheel, which lets you see the edge straight on as you’re sharpening it – it was very easy and fast to bring my bowl and spindle gouges back from just rubbing against the surfaces to smoothly creating shavings again.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

4 comments so far

View lew's profile


13488 posts in 5096 days

#1 posted 07-28-2009 03:24 PM

Interesting lessons, Gary.

In retrospect, it may be easier to turn the goblet’s inside first. That would provide more support for the end type turning. Then use the tail stock to support the work while turning the outside shape.


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

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4722 days

#2 posted 07-29-2009 06:36 AM

Agreed, Lew. I have some things to post soon, maybe tonight, where I did that, and it worked out great!

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 4611 days

#3 posted 07-29-2009 07:20 AM

Interesting post and concept….I don’t think I have ever tried a softwood or any engineered woods on my lathe….Part of the reasoning is just what happened to you….It could also be very dangerous if that piece had launched at you….(do you have your speed down – maybe around 300-500 I’d say?) ..

Thanks for sharing some of the things that go wrong too…nice to discuss them so that we can learn from someone elses experience and thus save us from repeating the same errors.

Also, by the way, what kind of glue did you use? and how did you chuck the piece?

And thanks for sharing about the worksharp…I have looked at them…but still continue to hand sharpen my tools….takes a long time if I use em hard…

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4722 days

#4 posted 07-29-2009 11:19 AM

Reggie – I’m curious to try all things. Plywood turnings can be really pretty, and I’ve seen some that use multicolor laminates to make colorful stripes through the pieces. You can buy plywood pre-colored like this from some places. The glue was Titebond III. The piece was first put between centers while I turned it to a cylinder. Then I chucked one end of the piece in my one-way chuck with the other end supported by the tailstock. You can see these setups in some of the pics.

Hope I end up helping out some! I’m still quite an amateur, however.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

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