2002 AAW Symposium

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Instant Gallery

My trip to the 2002 AAW Symposium in Providence didn't start out very well, mostly because of poor planning on my part.  I took my new sharpening system to display at the instant gallery since I just posted the free plans on my web site (www.DavidReedSmith.com) but neglected to pack it up until Thursday.  I had also just gotten some brass business card cases from Metalliferous and wanted to turn a decorative face.  This I started on Wednesday, the day before, but blew up the first one and decided to turn another before I left.  That, coupled with underestimating the length of the drive, got me to Providence far too late to drop off my Instant Gallery offering on Thursday evening.


Nonetheless, I got my offering set up Friday morning without missing any of the first rotation.  After all that I would like to tell you that my Sharpening System was the hit of the Instant Gallery.  Too bad that would be a lie.  Didn't have much call to whip out my business card case either.  The real hit of the Instant Gallery, at least as evidenced by the vote of the members was The Cookie Tree, a collaborative effort by the Dallas Area Woodturners.  Figure 1 is a picture of it.  If you have Internet access, you might want to have a look at my web site to see color pictures.

Figure 1:  The winner of the collaborative challenge:  The Cookie Tree by the Dallas Area Woodturners.


There was as usual far too much good work on display in the Instant Gallery to take in even after multiple viewings.  Since most of us have already seen the work of John Jordan, Frank Sudol, and the like, and Fred can't publish my whole hard drive, I picked out a few works that interested me by names I didn't recognize.  Figure 2 is Elliptori, a coffee table by Jon Siegel.  Michael Werner used multiple centers to turn all but the carved fingers on the hands you see in Figure 3.  Renaud Brunu made Figure 4, Big Fish Eats the Little One.  And Frank White displayed the Woodland Turtle show in Figure 5.

Figure 2:  Elliptori, a coffee table by Jon Siegel.  The top is glass.


Figure 3:  Hands turned on multiple centers by Michael Werner.


Figure 4:  Renaud Brunu made Big Fish Eats the Little One.


Figure 5:  Woodland Turtle by Frank White.



Almost 1000 turners attended this Symposium.  On Friday evening maybe 50 of us attended the Annual Meeting.  I started the open discussion by suggesting they bring reviews back into The AAW Journal.  This turned into a lively 40-minute discussion.  While the Board defended the policy, most of the speakers in the audience were in favor of returning reviews.  A show of hands indicated about one third were in favor.  This doesn't mean two-thirds were opposed; as they didn't poll for don't care.  The Board indicated they would review the policy.  While I don't have great hopes of seeing reviews return to the Journal, it couldn't hurt if lots of people send letters or emails to the board.


The Banquet and Auction were Saturday evening.  And much better attended than the meeting.  The food was good, and lots of money was raised for the Education Fund.  But not by me, as I was saving my money for the Trade Show.

The Rotations

For first rotation I watched Masaaki Hirio turn the banjo playing Geisha Girl shown in Figure 6.  When the top on top of the Geisha is spun her hand strums the banjo and her mouth (well actually the whole top half of her head) opens and shuts.  Hirio makes his living turning tops, the fourth generation of his family to make a living turning.  Although none of his sons will continue the business, he does have some apprentices.  Watching him turn was quite an adjustment, as almost nothing is the same as the western tradition.  His lathe is just a motor (with no starter capacitor, so he can make it run either way) with a sharp edged cup chuck.  He controlled the speed by cycling a foot switch on and off.  His tool rest, or "cow" is just a few pieces of wood, and he relies mostly on hook tools he forges himself.

Figure 6:  Masaaki Hirio's banjo playing Geisha Girl.


Hirio does almost everything with the lathe, including some of the painting.  The height of seeming disconcertedness for this confessed tool junky came when Hirio turned a jam chuck of wood to mount a Jacobs chuck to hold an instant mount bit to drill some holes in the Geisha's body.


I found the mechanism he used to animate the Geisha simple, ingenious, and effective.  I forgot to mention adjustable.  The top spins on a rod, upon which are mounted two eccentrically drilled disks.  The wobbling disk rims move followers to move the hand and head up and down. 


The second rotation I watched a slide presentation by Hank Albro on making tools.  He showed how he makes a spear and a hook tool with a crow bar.  It would have been a lot easier to understand if he'd had the actual tools available.


For the third rotation I saw Gary Sanders turn a suspended box.  He starts with a rectangular block of wood to turn a bridge, then adds a contrasting wood for the box part.


For the last rotation on Friday I attended Steve Worchester's demonstration of Square Turning Fundamentals.  Steve was very entertaining and had terrific hand-outs as well.  He started with a rectangular block and added waste blocks of poplar to make a full circle.  Once the object is turned the waste wood is bandsawed off.  Since he didn't have a band saw at the demo and wanted to show how he sends the edges using sandpaper glued to a scrap board, Steve snapped the waste off over his knee.  He said it hurt more than he expected.


Saturday morning first rotation was back to tops-this time Christoff Gutterman turning his "drummer" top.  The top has separately turned parts of a spherical body, a point, and a handle.  Because the point is rounded and the body is turned of non-homogenous burl, the top makes a drumming sound when it spins.  After roughing the sphere to round between centers Christoff used a jam chuck with chalk to finish turn and sand the sphere.  My first thought was if I was going to do that would be to make some wooden jaws for my Stronghold chuck, but I saw why he did it that way after watching him pop the sphere out, re-orient it, and pop it back in the umpteenth time.  He was darned picky for a guy who has to produce enough tops to make a living.


The second show I watched on Saturday was Johannes Michelsen turning a Baseball Cap.  He gave out an amazing amount of information, starting with the necessary orientation of the cap to the tree (the bill has to be bark edge), to how he finish sands the hat (enough PSI in a blow gun to dry the wood to give an OSHA inspector apoplexy). 


For starting the hollowing of the cap he uses a gouge with a special grind.  The bevel is convex to give it a short fulcrum when changing direction.  The sides of the gouge are also ground convex.  This limits the depth of cut when plunging to about 1/8" and increases control.  He passed the gouge around, so I took a picture (Figure 7).


Figure 7:  Johannes Michelsen's gouge with convex bevel and rounded sides.

Another technique that would send the OSHA guys looking for their surely non-expired nitroglycerin tablets was Johannes' light box for turning the top of the cap.  He uses light shining through the wood to gauge thickness.  He uses a hollow drum with a neoprene gasket as a jam chuck.  To light the inside He uses a bulb fixture, a length of tube mounted on a bearing, stabilized with a pair of vise-grips.  A standard plug won't fit through the headstock so he plugs it in with a pair of pig tails.  Figure 8 shows Johannes turning the cap top.  Hopefully even with newspaper reproduction you'll be able to see the light area he's turned thin and the darker area in the center that still needs work.


Figure 8:  Johannes Michelsen turning the top of a ball cap using a light box to judge thickness.

After gingerly touring the Trade show at lunchtime I saw how Larry Hasiak makes production Christmas Ornaments.  His rotation was titled "From Vessel to Ornament" because he developed the hollowing technique turning vessels.  Since these are production items (and quite a contrast from Christoff Gutterman, but a symposium is full of such contrasts) he cut the roughed out ornament in two and hollowed both halves.  To make it easier to glue back together he first plunged in about 1/2" at a slight angle with a standard parting tool.  This gives two parallel edges for gluing.  Then he used a thin parting tool to cut the rest of the way, carefully not disturbing the first cut.


The last rotation I watched on Saturday was Michael Hosaluk-Box Making with a Twist.  Michael started with a long square of wood between centers and turned a tenon for his chuck at each end.  He had modified the corners of his P&N roughing gouge (although Michael didn't mention it at the demo, he imports P&N tools.  I have some and they are excellent.  You wouldn't believe how solid the roughing gouge is) to let him turn square shoulders for the tenons.  Figure 9 shows the modification.


Figure 9:  A P&N Roughing Gouge modified to allow it to cut clean shouldered tenons.

After cutting in half, he mounted each end in the chuck for shaping and hollowing.  Then he sliced the halves up on an angle on the band saw and glued them back together in a twisted fashion.  Michael advocates using wood glue rather than CA glue.  He used thinned glue for sizing, then full strength glue rubbed together until it grabs.  Michael ordinarily textures the inside of the box after gluing each segment starting at the end.  He fairs the curves on the outside and textures after completing the glue up.  The end product is shown in Figure 10.  You really have to stare to figure out it started as a turning.


Figure 10:  A twisted textured box by Michael Hosaluk.

Michael recently wrote a book on using wood as a platform for artistic expression-Scratching the Surface.  I took advantage of the opportunity to buy a signed copy.  I've only browsed through it so far, but the cover alone is worth the cost.


I started out Sunday, the last day of the Symposium, watching Beth Ireland turn unusual materials.  She demonstrated turning tagua nut, and talked about turning brass, aluminum, delrin, acetate, Corian and more.  She also showed her technique for casting epoxy over wood containing various articles and then turning.


I seriously overheated my pencil trying to keep up with all the tips Bruce Hoover presented at the second rotation on Sunday.  I wish I had space enough to list them all (also wish that I could read all I wrote).  Oh, but here are a couple.  When gluing a small crack with Super Glue, if you apply mineral oil first it won't penetrate the crack, but will protect the outer surface of the wood from the glue.  A turned knob mounted on a can of wax or finish means you don't have to find a screwdriver to open it.


The last demo I went to on Sunday was Christopher Weiland-Tops the Design Process.  He showed slides of both his furniture and tops.  Chris talked about the design process for top components.  Then he demonstrated how he cuts flutes on a rim for one part of the top.


Going Home

Then it was time to collect my Instant Gallery item (somebody at least thought enough of the Sharpening System to swipe the first two pages of the plans), load my Trade Show trophies in the truck and start the long drive home.  The Symposium was great fun.  Given a couple of years to forget the hotel bill I'm sure I'll go again.


By David Reed Smith.  The author lives in Maryland, where he is currently frantically trying to rearrange his schedule to find blocks of time to try out his new Exocet hollowing tool.