Mark Baker 12 January 2012

Mark’s theme for this evening was ‘exploring supported forms’. He explained that a See Mark's photossupported form is one where the base is not integral to the function of the piece. He showed us a round bottomed bowl and said that in its simplest form the support for it could be a ring – perhaps something as simple as a wooden curtain ring - and a more complex support might be a turned chalice. He then went on to turn three projects, all of which have no obvious means of support.

1. Round bottomed ‘bronze’ bowl

Mark mounted a sycamore bowl blank measuring approx. 6” by 3” between centres, using an Elio drive in the headstock and a revolving centre in the tailstock. He turned a chucking point then trued up the underneath and turned the outside to an even curve, curving it back in at the top. He deliberately left ripples in it to show how he uses a scraper to get a good, smooth finish. He used a scraper with a negative rake, presenting the tool horizontally to the work, to refine the curve. To sharpen the scraper Mark used a diamond file on the underneath edge and explained that you only need to re-grind the top when the negative rake has worn away. Next he used an Ashley Isles beading tool, which had the tips ground off at 45 degrees, to turn a series of beads on the outside of the bowl. He held the tool at 45 degrees to the work, with the handle held down, and pushed it into the work, only raising the handle to finish each bead and remove any slight flats. To clean off any raised grain Mark normally uses a narrow circular brush that fits on a drill but tonight he quickly went into each groove with a narrow piece of sandpaper. (See photos MB12_01 to 05).

Mark used the spigot to mount the bowl in the chuck and started turning the inside, first turning a sloping rim then turning away the bulk of the timber, working from the centre to the edge. To avoid tear out in the base he started with the chisel high then turned it down to the middle. When working near the edge he used his thumb as a back stop to avoid the chisel skidding. In the base of the bowl he used a conventional flat ground bowl gouge then finished the inside with a scraper. (See photos MB12_06 to 09).

Next, in true Blue Peter fashion, he continued working on another bowl he had turned earlier and had coloured on the inside with Josonja’s ‘burnished copper’ acrylic paint. He applied a good coat of the paint to the outside of this bowl to show how he applies it, then used another bowl he had turned earlier to show the next stage. This had been lightly sprayed with black lacquer to dust the inside and mute the copper. On this bowl he applied a verdigris wax to the outside, applying it with a toothbrush and working it into the grooves between the rings. This needs to set for around 6 hours.

To finish the project Mark mounted a Chestnut dome drill brush in a Jacob’s chuck which was held in the jaws. This was held in place with the tailstock. He brought the outside of another bowl, that had verdigris wax applied to it earlier, up to the brush and brushed it unevenly to create high and low spots. When it was finished he stood it on a 1½” thick plank of lime that he had carved with a pattern of grooves and had painted black. He also put a set of chopsticks, resting on a support, onto the base thus making it into a Japanese food bowl. (See photos MB12_10 to 12).

2. Cone shaped box with pointed base

For this project Mark mounted an out of shape block of brown oak measuring approx 5” square by 10” long between centres and turned a chucking point. He mounted this in the chuck, held it in place with the tailstock and turned it to a cylinder. After turning another chucking point he turned a wide groove about 5” from the headstock, turned away some of the bulk at the headstock end and started tapering it towards the chuck. When he had reached his desired diameter at the point 5” from the headstock he turned his attention to the other end. He quickly discovered there was a split going right into this end of the timber so what was planned as a box with a lid may later turn out to be a pointed vase! (See photos MB12_13 to 15).

Mark parted the ‘lid’ off at the groove then started turning the inside of the vase. He demonstrated a variety of methods to hollow it:

  • With a spindle gouge he started at the edge cutting down into the grain. The problem doing it this way is that you are turning into end grain.
  • Again with a spindle gouge he drilled down the middle and turned from the middle back towards the edge. The problem doing it this way is that you don’t have any bevel rub.
  • He turned from the middle outwards, to the edge, using a hook gouge. This seemed to be quite effective but looked difficult to use.

He chose to turn the inside of the rim with a spindle gouge, turning from the edge inwards - into the end grain. He turned it to an ogee shape then tidied it with a scraper. He turned a small lip on the inside to use as a chucking point then the rest of the inside was turned to a gentle curve about 1½” deep at the centre point. (See photo MB12_16).

On the outside he turned a gentle curve down to the chuck then took it off the lathe, mounted it in a jam chuck and held it in place with the tailstock. He turned the outside to a straight sided cone which tapered to a ½” thick point. When he was happy with the shape he took some finishing cuts with a scraper then turned three beads near the top and another three near the bottom. The finished length needed to be 5” to fit in the support he had for it so he turned a little more off the bottom then curved the point and, after taking it off the lathe, he removed the pip at the bottom. (See photo MB12_17 and 18).

Although the piece he had reserved for the lid had a big split in it Mark decided to give it a try anyway and see if he could get a lid out of it. He mounted it in the chuck and hollowed the end, turning it to a curve, then turned a bead to fit inside the ‘vase’. Using a parting tool he turned the first ½” down to the bead then turned a curve behind it. However, because of the splits in the timber he decided not to attempt to get an even wall thickness. He tidied the curve up with a beading parting tool then removed it from the lathe. (See photos MB12_19 and 20).

To finish the lid he wrapped elephant tape around the edge he had just turned then mounted it in the chuck and held it in place with the tailstock. He turned a finial which he undercut slightly at the bottom then removed the tailstock and turned a minaret shape on the end. Finally he refined the shape of the finial and, fortunately, the splits didn’t open any further. (See photos MB12_21 to 23).

The finished box stands in a curved base which he had made from laminated sheets of plywood and spray painted with black stone paint from B&Q. Photo MB12_24 shows an example of one of these boxes on a curved stand.

3. Square edged shallow platter

Mark showed us a four sided, solid piece of timber that tapered to a fine point at the top and suggested that this is another, seemingly impossible, means of supporting a structure. He demonstrated this by standing a shallow, square edged platter on it. In order to support it he had left a foot on the platter and drilled a small hole in the middle of the foot to fit onto the point. Mark then went on to show us how he turns the square edged platter. (See photos MB12_25 and 26).

He mounted a piece of beech measuring approx 9” square by 1½” thick between centres using an Elios drive in the headstock and a revolving centre in the tailstock. Before starting he explained that the most important thing when turning square edged work is to protect the corners. Using a bowl gouge, he started turning the underneath, beginning at the outside edge and turning a small amount at a time. He took great care not to catch the corners or hit his arm with them. Once he had turned the corners he turned a spigot, trued up the underneath then turned it to a gentle curve. Again, he did the final cuts with a scraper. Before turning it round on the lathe he turned a small groove to mark where the foot would come to. (See photos MB12_27 and 28).

Mark mounted the platter in the chuck and held it in place with the tailstock. He found it to be out of true – it was thicker on some corners than others – so he carefully ‘nibbled away’ at the edge until it was an even thickness. Before turning the inside surface he drew a line on each edge, from corner to corner, following the line of the base, to give him a visual reference to turn it down to. He then started turning from the outer edge, working towards the middle, turning it in small sections, blending each part into the previous section and finishing each section with the curved scraper. Once he had finished the outer areas he used a flat ground bowl gouge, with the flute turned round to 4 o’clock, to turn the solid part and removed the tail stock to finish the final area in the middle. (See photos MB12_29 to 33).

To finish the underneath, he removed it from the chuck and mounted a block of timber in the jaws which he turned to a slight hollow. He held the platter against this, with paper in between them, and held it in place with the tailstock. Then he turned away the foot, blending it into the rest of the outside with his scraper. (See photos MB12_34 to 36).

In conclusion

This was a very interesting, evening which got me thinking about alternative ways of presenting my work. Mark is an excellent demonstrator who goes into a lot of detail to make sure you understand what he is doing. I look forward to seeing him at the club again some time because I think he has a lot of knowledge to share with us.

The Elios drives are available from Brian McEvoy in Canada and can be purchased from his website - I have contacted Brian by email and he says he is very happy to send these to the UK. If you are interested in buying from him you need to choose the ‘US & International order’ option against each item when ordering. He accepts payment by PayPal or credit cards.

Lorrie Flannery

SWC club member