• Measuring thickness

  • Sacraficial vacuum chuck

Hollow Form Tips

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My Goals

I love turning hollow forms because I really enjoy a good challenge. First and foremost, my goal is to showcase the natural beauty of the burl or hardwood in an aesthetically pleasing form, a task easier said than done if one pays close attention to detail. I believe contrasting heartwood and sapwood, and occasional incorporation of the natural burl exterior, best showcase the simply beauty of burl that so fascinates me. My goals in producing a well executed form include smooth flowing curves absent any flat spots, singular points of inflection, and having the finished form appear as though it is sitting on a single point. The finials I turn, if successful, should complement and finish the piece as a hand carved gilded frame finishes a fine oil painting.

Process

I turn the majority of my hollow forms using a faceplate and waste block of wood. Having selected a burl or cutoff, I trim it or orient it so as to achieve maximum contrast in the envisioned final form. After roughing both the surface of the waste block and the surface of the piece of burl I'll be turning, I mix Loctite Epoxy Gel, wait until it begins to thicken, then apply to both the waste block and burl. I find the Epoxy Gel to be superior to other epoxies I've used because it does not run. A note of caution though. The shelf-life is 2 years. Unfortunately, Loctite does not list a born on or expiration date (except in code form that only they know). After that time, you'll have great difficulty getting the product out of the tubes. On multiple occasions, Loctite Epoxy Gel I purchased from Home Depot was unusable. Being the company they are, Home Depot always refunded my money, but it was more than a little annoying. After much effort and complaining to the manufacturer, the product manager was kind enough to call me and we spoke at length. Hopefully in the future, there will be an easily identifiable expiration date. It is a GREAT product.

If a particular burl or cutoff has caught my attention, I usually know immediately what I would like to do. But I will rarely spend more than 20-30 minutes rough turning and rough hollowing pieces up to 6-8" in diameter as I usually like to rough 6-8 pieces per session before putting them in my homemade kiln for drying/stress relieving. Because movement is inevitable, I find spending much more time rather pointless. If I can produce a nice form with roughly even thickness form which I can re-turn what I originally envisioned, I'm satisfied. One of the ways I like to be efficient in my turning is by using a fingernail gouge with long grind (as seen in the slideshow above) to do much of the hollowing. It precludes me from having to stop my lathe to remove wood chips/dust.