Nick Agar 10 February 2011

This is the first time Nick has been to our club and, as he lives in Devon, very See Nick's Photosfew of us have had the opportunity to see him demonstrate before. He obviously has an excellent reputation as 76 people came along to see him, which is a record attendance at one of our evening demos. The main part of this evening’s demonstration wasn’t about turning a project from start to finish, but concentrated on decorating techniques which can turn an ordinary item into a work of art.

1. Charred and Coloured Bowl in Burr Elm

Nick started the evening by mounting a piece of burr elm that he had already turned to a cone shape; holding it on the lathe with a screw chuck and keeping it in place with the tailstock. First he trued it up with a long grind bowl gouge, using a pull cut, then he used a standard grind bowl gouge to refine the shape, working from the middle to the edge. He had rounded the heel of the gouge, to stop it from bruising the wood, he said this can be a particular problem when turning cherry. Once the shape was refined he attacked it with a gouge, digging in and getting catches, to make it look as if a beginner had been let loose on it; this was to create a random pattern to work with. (See photos NAg_01 & 02).

With the headstock locked he carved some lines in the bowl, using an angle grinder, then he unlocked it and carved some curves. He then deepened these grooves using a Proxxon mini grinder, mounted with a carving disk. To help reduce the amount of dust he was making he sprayed the work with water, taking care to keep the water away from any electrical areas. Finally he turned a foot and explained that he tends to make the foot slightly oversized as the charring process will burn some of it away. (See photo NAg_03).

The next stage of the project would be to burn the work with a blowtorch and Nick would normally do this out of doors. So, as the weather was horrible and we didn’t want to set the fire alarms off, he mounted a fresh piece on the lathe that he had burnt earlier. With the lathe switched off he sprayed the piece with water, taking care not to splash any electrical areas, and brushed it with a natural bristle brush, working in the direction of the pattern, to remove any loose carbon. He then turned the lathe on and continued brushing, to burnish the work. He removed more of the carbon using a webrax scratchpad disc mounted on a drill then he pushed the bristle brush hard against the timber, with the lathe running, to heat it up before spraying it with ebonising lacquer.

Now on to the colouring. First, wearing a vinyl glove to protect his skin, Nick used his finger tips to rub some metallic copper craft paint into the surface, slowly turning the lathe by hand as he worked round the bowl. He buffed it with a cloth to remove the high spots then applied some verdigris wax, again applying it with his finger tips and rubbing the high spots off with a cloth. He brushed this into the pattern with a toothbrush then applied a coat of ‘Goldfinger’ copper to the surface with his fingertips to bring out the effect of the burr. (See photos NAg_04 to 08).

2. Christmas Decoration

For his second project Nick made and coloured a Christmas decoration which looks equally effective whichever way up you hang it. He mounted a piece of sycamore measuring approx. 2” square by 6” long in the jaws and held it in place with a ring centre which had the point knocked out, mounted in the tailstock. Using a spindle gouge with a swept back grind he turned it to a cylinder then took some planing cuts with a skew chisel to get a smooth finish. He rounded over the end with the skew chisel, leaving a short piece right at the end which he turned very thin, to fit inside the ring centre, taking care not to turn it away by mistake. He turned a cove next to the rounded end then another bead the other side of that. (See photos NAg_09 to 11).

He continued making beads and coves as above, making each one slightly smaller than its predecessor. Once he had turned his fifth bead/cove he sanded the work, folding his piece of sandpaper into three so he could curve it into the coves without getting a sharp edge, then moved on to colouring. With the lathe slowed right down he applied spirit based colour from a bottle with a diffuser on the top which he blew through. He used red on the beads and green in the coves, then rubbed a little ‘Goldfinger’ into the edges. To finish he applied wax to the coloured surfaces, using a shard of stick wax, then buffed it with a piece of kitchen paper. Finally, with the lathe speeded up again, he turned a long point at the end which he painted red then turned it off with the skew chisel. (See photos NAg_12 to 17).

3. Bowl with Patchwork Quilt Decoration

Nick had already turned the outside of the bowl for this part of the demonstration and had carved some geometric lines in it, using a grinder with a cut off disk mounted on it. He mounted this on a screw chuck then started to decorate the individual areas defined by the geometric lines. (See photo NAg_18).

For the first section he used a reciprocating carver which he had attached to a Dremel drill which was hanging from the top of an old projector stand. This was to keep it out of the way and also to ensure the cable was kept reasonably straight and wasn’t curled up around the lathe (This setup can be seen in photo NAg_14). He had a nail in the carver and had wrapped the handle of it with some spongy covering to protect his hand from the vibration. He drew a random pattern which gave the appearance of bubble wrap. (See photos NAg_19 and 20).

In another section he made a pattern that had a ‘hammered’ appearance, then coloured this with a black spirit stain, which he applied with a brush. He applied some copper ‘Goldfinger’ on top of that which gave it an appearance of hammered copper. (See photo NAg_21).

He used a pyrography pen to draw ‘stitches’ on the geometric lines and to decorate another area with a cross-hatch pattern which looked a bit like a cobweb, going over the lines several times to ensure they were deep enough. Using a brush, he applied a blue iridescent stain to some of the blocks in this section. In another area he pyrographed dots then coloured the area with black ‘Gesso’ paint which he applied with a finger. (See photos NAg_22 and 23).

For the final section he used a couple of metal stamps which he hammered into the wood, these were the letters S and W (for Sheffield Woodturning). He applied a spirit stain to this section then he masked off the edges and applied liming wax to it with his finger tips. He then wiped off the excess with a cloth and brushed it into the indentations with a toothbrush. (See photos 24 and 25).

Nick is an excellent demonstrator with a quick and ready wit. The three projects he did today were very artistic but, at the same time, could be achieved by anyone who is artistic and who wants to have a go. A very enjoyable evening, thank you Nick.

Lorrie Flannery

SWC club member