My Tripot: Shaping the Exterior

Fascinated with the form of the tripot, and interested to see what was involved in making one, I have started my own. I couldn’t think of a better way to understand and appreciate it than to make one myself.

Loosely following an article in Woodwork by Hugh McKay on his process of making a pentapot (five vessels in one), I began work on my own.

First, I played around with a sheet of paper and a compass to lay out the overall sizes of the three vessels for my tripot. I wanted their diameters to be significantly different for interest. Since most of the shaping is done on the lathe, I knew that I needed the other two pots to clear the lathe bed when any one was mounted on centres. That limited the overall size of the piece I could make. I figured that it was also important that the three pots meet in the middle, and for the walls to not overlap so much that, when hollowing them out, the cavities would meet.

Once I had a layout that met my criteria, I transferred it to a piece of 1/4” MDF which became my template. I’m not sure this was really necessary, but it was one of the steps McKay used in the creation of his pots (the template did help me when I needed to start again… more on that later).

I chose a chunk of black locust about 8” thick. At the bandsaw, I squared up the blank, ensuring both ends were parallel to each other. I carefully positioned my template on the end grain, avoiding any checks, bark, or knots that could have compromised the strength of the tripot.  With a short screw in the centre of each circle representing a pot, I fastened the template to the black locust. Carefully, I cut to the lines using my bandsaw.

Next, I determined how tall to make each pot. I had to remember to accommodate for some chucking wastage at one end, where the screws would go in to hold the face plate. Again, following the recommendation of McKay, I used a drill press and forstner bit to remove the bulk of the waste. Boring into the end grain of a hard wood was not quick, and the results were not especially clean, with stalagmites and brad point divots abounding. I quickly cleaned up the resulting surface with a hand saw and chisels.

To profile the exterior, the pot could not be simply spun on the lathe and a gouge be presented to the work unless you were impossibly good at quickly applying and removing the tool as the other two vessels off-axis came around at you. Instead, shaping is done with a router with the work mounted on an unplugged lathe. This required some jigging.

I created a plywood platform that got mounted to the lathe bed. For my smallest router, which I had chosen to use for the shaping, I built a cradle to hold it securely in line with the lathe’s axis when resting on the platform. Lastly, I cut a template for the router to follow.

For a clean cut, ease of control, and long reach, I chose to mount a 1/4” up-spiral solid carbide router bit in the trim router. With a pot screwed to a faceplate and mounted on the lathe, I used the router to estimate where to position the template to remove the minimum amount of material, while creating a fully shaped vessel without flat spots. I clamped the template with a pair of clamps and got ready to start routing.

My left hand was on the wheel controlling the rotation of the lathe, and my right hand moved the router on the platform. Taking shallow bites, I slowly worked my way around the pot as far as I could. It took patience and focus to take only small bites, and to keep the router firmly on the platform. Several times, the router caught, tipped forward, and ended up carving deep holes in the side of the pot, requiring me to re-adjust the template to remove the divots. In the end, I ended up deciding that there was not going to be enough material left to make it worth continuing.

I started again. This is where that template came in handy. I simply screwed it to a new piece of locust and cut it out again at the bandsaw. After determining the height of the pots, I cut across the tops of the pots with a coarse handsaw, then split away the waste with a chisel and mallet. This was much quicker and cleaner than using a forstner bit.

At the lathe, I took the shaping process much more cautiously. Analyzing my previous failure, I realized that I would have a better chance of success if I: clamped the router to the platform to avoid tipping; didn’t use a spiral bit to prevent the bit from wanting to pull itself into the work; used a router bit with a short cutting length and a bearing to keep the cutting part from engaging with the other two vessels; and screwed the template securely to the platform. I took all these precautions for the second attempt.

In this video, I describe my setup, and demonstrate the shaping method.

My process worked well, and the extra precautions I took were worth the effort.

After routing all three pots as much as I could, there were a few spots that the router couldn’t access. I cleaned those up with skew chisels and carving gouges.

Next up: hollowing!

Hugh McKay – Tripot #5

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Artist Name:  Hugh McKay
Title:  Tripot #5
Details:  Maple burl

Why It’s Notable:

When I first saw this photo, I thought, “Those are three nicely-proportioned vessels made of nicely-figured wood.” And then I looked again. What I failed to realize at first was that the three hollow vessels were actually made from a single piece of burl, and still connected!

This is a level of multi-axis lathe work that I have never encountered or imagined before, and it has reignited my interest in turning.

Making a Long-Blade Marking Knife

A couple of years ago while working on a chair, I found myself needing to lay out the position of the seat slats on the centre rail, which was basically a cross-lap joint. Normally, I’d use my marking knife for this operation, but due to the thickness of the components, my marking knife wasn’t able to reach.

So I grabbed an old chisel and quickly ground a spear point on the end to make my marks, then proceeded to complete the project.

Recently, Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement hosted a hand tool build-off on their forum called Building Together: Hand Tools. I decided to make a long-bladed marking knife to complement my two short marking knives (shown on left of photo).

Marking Knives

I think that at some point, somebody used the chisel with a steel hammer without a handle in the socket, so the inside taper had a lip. Since I wanted a handle for the marking knife, I started by filing the taper smooth.

Filing Taper

I lapped the back on my 120-grit diamond stone, which was my coarsest.

Lapping Back

I applied blue layout fluid to the back of the knife and used my regular woodworking tools to lay out the shape of the knife point.

Layout

With my bench grinder’s tool rest at 90 degrees, I ground the profile of the knife. Then, I tilted the tool rest and ground the bevels.

Grinding Profile

I selected a piece of dogwood with interesting grain and mounted it on the lathe.

Blank Ready to Turn

I turned a taper on the end, and test-fit it frequently with the knife socket.  By rotating the handle in the socket, I was able to see where it was rubbing.  I removed those parts and kept checking the fit until the parts mated well.

I used an existing handle for shaping inspiration.

Shaping HandleI shaped the handle and sanded it up to 180-grit on the lathe. At this point, I used a hand saw to cut off the handle and hand-sanded the end.

Parting-Off Handle

I applied a coat of oil to bring out the grain.

Finished Handle

To complete the knife, I removed tarnish from the blade with a Rust Eraser, lapped the back of the blade to 600-grit, and ground the bevels flat (mostly for aesthetic reasons).  I finished sharpening the knife with a leather strop charged with honing compound.

Long Marking Knife

Links:

Roots of Flair: Pushing the Limits

In 2007, I was into turning in a big way. I got into turning pens using exotic woods carefully paired with a package of pen hardware. My preference was chrome-plated hardware for its durability and affordable price. The result, when paired with African Blackwood, was an undeniably classy pen.

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Black & Chrome pen

One special piece of wood was often inspiration enough to turn a pen. For this lead holder, I used a piece of bocote which was half heartwood and half sapwood.

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Bocote Lead Holder

Eventually, I began playing with different shapes and materials. I particularly liked the shape of the lower barrel of this European pen, and liked the bold colour and pattern of this acetate.

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Black & Blue pen

However, I eventually grew tired of working with stock pen kits, I opened all of my pen kit hardware and threw the parts into a big jar and I was free to mix and match parts.

In an attempt to see how short of a pen I could create that was still comfortable to use, I created this Micro-Ebony pen. It was exhilarating cutting the Cross refill shorter and shorter, hoping that I wouldn’t hit ink. I never did. The streaky African ebony offered a sophisticated look and a strong contrast to the chrome hardware.

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Micro Ebony pen

I’ve made all sorts of pens, but eventually grew tired of turning pens, which are fairly limiting in form. I have always done my best work when pushing the limits, and turning pens had too many constraints. The other reason I stopped making pens was that I had way more pens than I needed.

In that spirit, I am listing the four writing instruments shown above for sale.

Links:

Roots of Flair: Accepting Wood Movement

At some point in time, every woodworker has cursed the fact that wood expands in humid weather and contracts in dry weather. Because of it, lumber that was once straight became curved, twisted, or both. Parts that once fit snugly became loose, or impossibly tight.

Turning green (freshly cut) wood was how I learned firsthand how much wood can move, and how quickly it can move. I got hooked on turning goblets, which were fun to turn, and could be turned in an afternoon. I learned a lot about grain direction, wood’s strengths and weaknesses, and, after about a week’s time drying, how much wood could change shape as it dried.

I have added three goblets to my website that are for sale, at a price of $30 each.

DSC_9196 As long as we are dealing with solid lumber, wood movement is inevitable. Don’t ignore it and don’t fight it. Accept it.

When designing, I take wood movement into consideration. Sometimes that means using wood cut a certain way (e.g. quartersawn) to focus the expansion and contraction in one direction. Other times, it means using reinforcement (e.g. battens) to keep things aligned. And sometimes, it means just letting the wood do whatever it wants.

If you are interested in learning more about turning goblets from green wood, I recommend Turning Green Wood by Michael O’Donnell, one of the books on my page, Recommended Readings.

Links:

Interesting Turnings

I found these three things to be rather interesting and wanted to share them with you.

Linsey Pollak made a clarinet from a carrot in under five minutes on stage during a TEDx Talk.


My buddy, Mike Flaim, posted a video on his blog of Izzy Swan making a bowl using a table saw.


Lisa Chemerika described how to make a decorative Saueracker shell in a Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement Magazine article.

Saueracker Shell - Photo by Don Kondra

Saueracker Shell – Photo by Don Kondra

Links:

The Lights are Still On at Flair Woodworks

Not often does an entire week pass (let alone two!) without a new article here on my blog, but this month that happened. Let me assure that I am still here, and the lights are still on in my shop. In fact, I’m as busy as ever with a wide variety of projects.

Cribbage Boards!

There is an ever-increasing amount of demand for my live-edge cribbage boards and I am working hard to build inventory. I am waiting for the finish to cure on the latest boards so that I can rub them out for an ultra-smooth finish. (Cribbage Board #9 is currently still available at the time of publishing!)

Cribbage Boards

Kaboom!

I am part of the organizing committee for Kaboom! The Port Moody Art Explosion. It’s going to be:

“a true artists happening, an explosion of self-made fun and entertainment, a historical moment in our fair city where we bring together in one room, a Who’s Who of artists in a surprise-filled, creatively-combustible evening of art and entertainment”.

The event takes place in eight days and we’re working furiously to ensure everything is just right. (Register to attend the event here.)

KaboomSign

As part of the Kaboom Decor subcommittee, I fabricated a pair of lighted columns for the entryway and helped create two giant mobiles which will hang from the ceiling.

Lighted Column

Moulding Planes!

At Time Warp Tool Works, we are adding two new sizes of moulding planes to our lineup. Currently, we offer #6 (3/8″) and #8 (1/2″) hollow and round moulding planes. I’m working on the bodies for the new #4 (1/4″) and #10 (5/8″) hollow and round moulding planes.

Making Moulding Planes

De-Stressing!

It’s pretty insane having weeks full of days that are packed from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. Sometimes, I find myself literally running from one meeting or task to the next. As someone who finds it very difficult to take breaks – especially with an immense workload – I find it helpful to at least switch gears and do some kind of work just for fun – like taking half an hour to turn a bowl.

Black Locust Bowl Blank

Links:

Overflow, Part VII

Wine Glass Kit

I bought ten of these wine glass kits from Craft Supplies USA.  The stems were cut off so that all the maker had to do was turn the bottom half.  It seemed like a neat idea at the time, but I’ve somewhat lost interest in turning.

If you would like these ten glasses, please leave a comment below indicating your interest before noon on Monday, March 26.  I will then draw a winner at random.  Even if you don’t get these glasses, remember that these are only some of the MANY things I want to give away (yes, there is still much more).

And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to my blog using the widget in the right-hand column so you can be notified as soon as I post something new!  And please tell your friends about my Overflow program.

Review the details of the Overflow program.

100 Bowls

Although 100 Bowls has no affiliation with the fabulous and inspiring Lark Books’ 500 Series, I think that the idea of making one bowl each day for one hundred days is very interesting and I’m looking forwards to seeing a new bowl in my inbox every day.

What, you ask, is “100 Bowls?”  In a nutshell, 100 Bowls is a challenge concocted by Houston artists Renee LeBlanc and Clark Kellogg.  The idea is for each artist to produce one hundred bowls over the course of one hundred days.  The completed bowls will then be donated to Empty Bowls Houston, an annual event supporting the Houston Food Bank.

This year Empty Bowls will be held on May 26, 2012, at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.  Artists participating in the Challenge include Steve Campbell, Clark Kellogg, Renee LeBlanc, and Mak Taing.  Stay tuned for entries from these four brave gluttons for punishment as we count down towards May…

– Clark Kellogg

So far, the first three are of wood and of a very similar shape.  Will the shapes evolve or morph?  Will other mediums be used?  What kind of experimentation will we see?  We will only find out as each new day arrives.

Click HERE to see the bowls by Clark Kellogg and company.

Christmas Gift Ideas

I love making gifts.  I really do.  I was raised to believe that anything hand-made will always have more meaning than something store-bought.  While there may or may not be a capital investment for materials, the real investment is the time and thought to develop and produce the item.  For me, making gifts is a fantastic opportunity to explore processes, designs and materials.

Balancing wine bottle holders are a simple gift for the wine-lover.  Give one with a bottle of wine but without any documentation and see how long it takes the recipient to figure out what it’s for.

Balancing Wine Bottle Holders by Tim Charles

Turned items can be quick and are also often practical.  Pens and pencils are always popular.  For that extra-special someone, consider making a box for a pen-and-pencil set.

Pens and Pen Box by Mike Bardell

Paperweights are probably the most unrestrictive things you can make.  Use your imagination.  A small paperweight can double as a playing piece for a board game.

Paperweight/Playing Piece by Chris Wong

Cutting boards can be as simple as a single board planed smooth, or as complex as you can dream.  Every household needs at least one good, wooden cutting board.

Cutting Boards by Larry Maykin

Looking for something a little more obscure but still fairly quick?  Last year, I scrolled Diamond Challenge, a 65-piece puzzle.  This one will keep anyone occupied for hours.

Diamond Challenge by Chris Wong

If you have a little more time, a cribbage board is a fun, practical gift.  (Okay, it’s more fun to use than to make and you’ll want to have a drill press for one of these!)  If you choose a simpler design, you can easily make one in a day.  There isn’t much better than a gift that forces people to sit down for a while and just have some fun and enjoy each other’s company.

Live-Edge Cribbage Board by Chris Wong

Regardless of what you make, take an extra few minutes and add value by embellishing the item with a little carving, paint, or pyrography.  The idea is to make it unique and personalized.  I like to use an engraver to dedicate the project to the recipient.  And of course, I sign my name too.

In the age where so much of our surrounding environment is mass-produced, who wouldn’t like something unique, made just for them?

(Last year, I wrote a similar post HERE.)