Clive Brooks 12 November 2009

Clive Brooks, who is the product manager at Robert Sorby came along thisSee Clive's Photos evening with Dave Green, the Business Manager at Turners’ Retreat, to give a demonstration of Robert Sorby’s specialist tools. Everything he displayed was available to buy on the night, at Harrogate Show prices, along with many more of their products.

He started the evening by talking about the problems associated with using a four prong drive for spindle turning, explaining that they don’t give a lot of grip on the timber and once a piece of work is removed from the lathe it is difficult to remount it in the same position. He suggested that a steb centre is much better and is easier to use. In addition to the usual steb centres that push into the headstock and the revolving one that fits in the tailstock he showed us one called a ‘steb chuck’ which, as the name suggests, fits into a chuck. Using a steb chuck and a revolving centre, Clive mounted a short length of timber between centres and demonstrated how, by tightening the steb centre into the timber, you can keep the wood turning if you get a dig in.

The first tool Clive demonstrated was the Spindle Master, this is a cross between a spindle gouge and a skew chisel; you use it like a gouge but it works like a skew. It has a highly polished bevel which burnishes the wood as it is cutting and, because it uses a slicing action, you cannot take big cuts with it; instead you need to take more cuts which are smaller than those you would take with a gouge. You should sharpen it on the flat side only, not the bevel, using a fine stone or diamond file and you should do this little and often so you don’t create a step. (See photo CB01).

Next Clive talked us through the new Sovereign Interchangeable handle system which uses multiple blades in a single handle and has two handle options which are either 16” or 22” long and can be joined together to give a massive 38” handle! To demonstrate it he mounted a bowl blank measuring approximately 6” by 2½” and quickly turned the outside of the bowl with a foot to mount it in the jaws. He then showed us how to get rid of any torn grain a bowl gouge won’t remove, using the Robert Sorby hollowing tool which incorporates the abilities of several cutters in a single tool. He used it as a scraper on the base of the bowl, holding it flat on the tool rest, to remove the torn grain then he held it at a 45˚ angle to get an even finer cut. (See photos CB02 and 3).

He then turned his attention to the Sandmaster which he used to sand the outside of the bowl, pressing the tool lightly on the wood so it just brushed against the surface; this meant he wasn’t creating too much friction, heat or dust. With the lathe speed set to approximately 1400rpm he used one side of the pad to go up the bowl and the other side to come back down. Having sanded the bowl he trued the other side of it with a parting tool then showed us the Spiralling System, which he used to decorate the edge of the bowl. First he used it with the lathe running at approximately 400rpm, holding the tool horizontally and gradually lifting it just above horizontal, whilst slowly moving it from side to side. (See photo CB04). Next he demonstrated the same tool with the texturing wheel fitted, explaining that the angle you hold the tool at will determine the pattern you get. He put the speed back up to 1700rpm and held the tool horizontally on the rest with the wheel vertical against the timber. When he had finished texturing he used a parting tool to put a detail line either side of the pattern which made it stand out. He then applied a second pattern with the wheel a few degrees off vertical to give a different effect. He also put a pattern on the foot to make a feature of it. He finished it with Danish Oil, which highlighted the pattern and emphasised the difference between the smooth and textured areas then, finally, he burnished it with shavings. (See photos CB05 and 6).

The next subject Clive covered was sharpening. He demonstrated Robert Sorby’s new sharpening system which uses belts rather than wheels as he says they give a more accurate angle to the grind. He demonstrated the use of the sharpener on a variety of tools, including a roughing gouge, scraper, skew chisel and a bowl gouge with a fingernail profile.

Clive turned the bowl round on the lathe, trued the surface and used the texturing tool to make a pattern towards the edge then, with a parting tool, he turned a line each side of it which gave it the appearance of being slightly raised. He changed the blade on the hollowing tool he had used as a scraper earlier, to the hollowing blade and, with the flat edge of the tool on the tool rest he held it horizontally and turned a hole, approximately 2” wide by ½” deep in the centre of the bowl. (See photo CB07). He then hollowed out under the rim, leaving as much timber as possible in the centre to give it stability until it got in his way then he turned a little of it away to give himself more space to continue hollowing. The finished surface under the rim was surprisingly smooth and the bowl was very attractive.

Finally Clive showed us Sorby’s red handled mini tool system which is like a miniature version of the Sovereign system with a selection of interchangeable blades and is suitable for turners who make small items such as pens and boxes.

To be quite honest, I came along to this demonstration expecting it to be a sales pitch with very little to interest me but, in fact, it was quite the opposite. I found it a very interesting and informative evening and Clive is a very good demonstrator who kept the attention of his audience all evening. I believe his and Dave’s hard work was rewarded by quite a few of our members buying tools from them, including Phil and Me – we bought a Sandmaster and a Spiralling tool; can’t wait to try them out.

All of the tools Clive demonstrated this evening are made by Robert Sorby and can be bought from Turners’ Retreat either by visiting their shop in Harworth or, online, from their website at Top of Page

Lorrie Flannery

SWC club member