Thursday, October 18, 2007

Graeme Priddle visits Central Ohio Woodturners - Part I

Graeme Priddle is in Ohio for a couple of weeks - first for some hands-on classes and a club demo for Central Ohio Woodturners, then the Ohio Valley Woodturning Guild symposium, and then another class for Central Ohio Woodturners. I took a class on Oct 7th with Graeme out at Woodwerks.

"No! Don't steal my soul!"

Graeme doesn't think he's photogenic, but I think most of you will find that he actually is quite photogenic.

We started the day with a discussion on design inspirations. Graeme told us about his background and inspirations from his home in New Zealand, which focus on the sea and on the cultural heritage of the Maori people. Graeme's wife is of Maori descent and the symbolism used in that culture finds its way into Graeme's art.

He showed us the layout for one of his small, multi-axis boat forms. Only the hollowing is done on the lathe.

The rest is done off the lathe, beginning with carving the exterior shape and then progressing to texturing and coloring.

When the form is carved, the hollow part can break through the exterior to introduce some lovely shapes and a peek into the interior space.

The carved form needs to be symmetrical along an axis to have this effect work well.

The end result is quite nice. The negative space is branded with a coil brand (the fern fiddlehead that has so much significance in Maori symbolism), and the positive space is reminiscent of a fern frond.

The interior space of the hollow form is also branded and painted black.

Details make all the difference. The crisp lines are achieved by masking and all of the brand marks are in the same orientation.

Graeme asked us about our individual passions and design inspirations. I enjoyed hearing about my clubmates interests. We also did a short exercise where we doodled some designs and talked about where those ideas originated.

Graeme did a demo for us to show us how he makes one of his canoe forms. He draws the profile on a rectangular piece of wood.

The heavy lines of the drawn profile show up as the blank spins. He turns away the excess wood on each end and then the middle.

The profile is checked frequently until the excess wood is removed.

He doesn't turn a cylinder before making the cuts because he needs the legs to remain square. The cuts on the middle are similar to pommel cuts, except he sneaks up on them from the middle rather than cutting straight down a line.

The profile is put onto the legs after the middle section has been turned.

Graeme sharpens his tools before doing finish cuts. He showed us how he trues the grinding wheel. He uses a round diamond stone and rolls it across the wheel by putting pressure down against the tool rest. He also rounds the edge off the wheel so that he can use that surface for grinding his gouge profile.

Before touching the tool to the grinding wheel he removes excess dust and resin with a metal wire brush. That keeps the gunk from going onto the grindstone when sharpening the tool.

Graeme has a long fingernail grind on his gouges, He uses the rounded edge of the wheel for the long grind on the sides of the gouge (pulling the gouge toward him while its in contact with the stone). Then he touches up the end of the gouge.

The finish cuts are pretty nice - very little sanding required.

Next step is to mark the center and take the piece to the bandsaw.

This is where having those square segments are pretty useful.

The profile is marked and the excess wood removed.

The ends can be sawn off.

The rest of it is carved away, first using an arbortech. The tool is held securely by bracing the arms against the body.

The arbortech makes quick work of this process, and it's much easier to use than I had imagined. I bought one to use in the class and I'm glad to add it to my carving toolbox.

I don't think these shoes are OSHA approved. . .

The arbortech can't do the entire job and the detail carving is done with carbide burrs. Graeme uses an air-driven carver. This could also be done using a rotary carver such as the Foredom SR or some other high-torque unit.

Bob McVicker is watching carefully to learn everything he can about the carving.

While Graeme was cleaning up the profile, I took some photos of his tool bench. I love how he's organized this tool box - great for doing all the road trips a demonstrator makes each year.

He uses an air hammer for texturing.

After the legs are carved, the piece goes back to the vise for additional carving. This time to remove the wood inside the "canoe."

The arbortech removes most of the wood, first one side and then the other.

The final touch is some handwork using a wide, shallow carving gouge.

It's not quite as exciting as watching paint dry. . .

Actually, most people are fascinated by carving.

Graeme continued his demo with layout and texturing techniques. The first step is to do the masking of the areas not to be burned and painted. He places wide masking tape on plastic lids and punches out circles of various sizes.

He found the perfect source of lids back in New Zealand - an icecream brand with his favorite flavors, including "hokey pokey," whatever that is. . . I'm still not sure. It kind of looks like butter brickle.

The circles are placed and then connected using automotive detailing tape, which is flexible and can make curves pretty easily.

Graeme's signature texture is the coil brand shown here with one of his homemade branding pens. He had the class make one of these, too.

He brushes off the resin after each brand. He needs a temperature controller that runs a lot of current in order to heat up the wire and have it retain heat during the branding process. His preferred one is made from a car battery, but the Detail Master or Burnmaster will do in a pinch.

There's Bob again - I think he enjoyed watching Graeme work.

Before painting over the branded areas Graeme rubs the tape down with a book binder's paper creasing tool. The edges of the tape need to be secure so that paint won't leak under the edges.

Thick acrylic paint is applied with a toothbrush.

The tape is removed after the paint dries. Looks pretty good, eh?

Graeme and Bob at the end of the day.

I enjoyed the class, too. While everyone else was making branding tools, I was at the lathe trying a multi-axis technique. I made a three-axis hollowing on a rectangular shape, which I then carved into a pod form. I'll show a picture of Graeme sharing it during the club demo in my next posting.

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