Breaking-in the new lathe!

Published by Les on

After repeated problems with my old lathe, I took the plunge and bought a new one a few weeks ago and have been using it for mostly run-of-the-mill, small turnings since then. Today, however, was different!

The Stratos FU230, long-bed version.

A few days ago I collected the last of a batch of oak burrs from a local timber miller and I couldn’t wait to get a big lump of it onto the lathe just to see what it hid beneath its bark. My apprentice came with me to the timber yard and was willing to help to load the trailer, but many of the pieces of timber were bigger than him, so when the crate of burrs was nearly empty, I popped him into it and he handed out all the scraps…what don’t turn will burn!

The piece of burr that I selected was a good size and generally square in shape, so I roughly rounded it out into a circle, but it was still too large to fit onto the lathe in it’s regular format, so the extension bed and tool-rest were fitted and the head-stock swung around to clear the bed. I really like using the big, gnarly lumps of timber, but I’ve learned not to have too firm an idea of what I want to make before I start. Sticking to a predetermined shape can result in cutting away some of the best features of the timber; far better to start cutting, take a peep at what is held beneath the bark and inside the timber, then develop a form to suit that grain.

What the initial cuts revealed was the most amazing, distorted grain and burr by the bucket-load; I don’t think that I’ve ever worked such a wonderful piece of timber before. Progress was horribly slow because the timber was such an awkward shape, big, heavy and very out of balance, so the motor was barely ticking over, but the drudgery of slowly picking away at the lumps was well and truly compensated by the beauty within.

Eventually, a decision was taken. What I suspected was going to be a big, big bowl, ended up being a free-standing sculpture with scorched and lime-waxed areas, with a little copper gilt-cream rubbed in as well. What makes this sculpture different to those that I have made in the past, is that its central area is hollowed out and recessed, rather as though it had a deep, hollow-form at its core. We’re calling it “Ogof”, which is Welsh for cave. All I have to do now is to decide where best to offer it for sale.

“Ogof” stands on a scorched oak plinth, held upright by three stainless steel rods. Overall, it is 58cm high x 43cm wide.

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