Square Turning - page 3

Cutting the Top

Turn the lathe on spinning at about 500RPMs. This is a good speed to start with until you are more comfortable with the square edges. You will use the side of the gouge and make shear cuts drawing the gouge across the front of the wood. The cut is made from the inside to the outside. Watch where the cutting action is being done on the gouge, it should be about half way down the edge of the bevel between the front and the rear of the cutting area. As you look straight over the side of the gouge, as it is being drawn across the woods surface, you should see the inside of the flute. You don’t want both edges of the tool against the wood, just the bottom surface. Your rear hand can twist the gouge’s handle and open up that gap and give more aggressive cutting, or close it and you get more of a shear scraping.

As you are cutting and draw the gouge out, your will feel and hear where your gouge is in relation to the square. When it is clear of the full circle, the cutting action is less and you will hear it ticking away at the wood, with the ticking less and less as you get out to the corners. Think of the circle you initially drew on the wood. Anywhere outside of that circle, you are on the four corners, and thus not always fully supporting the gouges cutting surface.


If this were a bowl we would want to establish the outside perimeter early in the process and start to carve out the inside and set a wall thickness. You then work down to an area where the flat, square portion of the vessel will start. Because this is an oil lamp, we know that we will drill a 1 " hole in the center for the insert. A good start is to drill a hole about " deep using a Forstner bit in a drill chuck in the tailstock. This will give you the guideline to work your cutting around. We will make a dome on the face by resting the edge of your hand on the tool rest with your fingers over the tool (but not wrapping around it) and pulling the gouge in toward your palm, like making a fist. This brings the tip in and starts to scoop out the inside. By pulling it in and then drawing it out at an arc, we start to shape the wings to be swept up as the one I turned for this article. Keep using the same cutting action, bringing the gouge all the way across the face each time. If you look at the turning done here it is essentially two cutting strokes. One cut from the top of the dome to the base, in which you bring the gouge across the face and then push the tip in toward the headstock. This cut rubs the front bevel as you would in cutting the inside of a bowl, but the cut goes from the inside toward you.

The other cut is a shear scrape of sorts, from the base of the dome to the ends of the "wings" and is scraping with the bottom edge of the top of the gouge. Again you will hear the tone change from a deep cut to a ticking sound becoming less frequent as the gouge nears the outer edge. Do not get impatient and try to remove too much stock at one time. Patience is required here to not create rings in the wood that become very difficult to remove. The idea is to make a smooth line from the edge of the dome to the ends of the wings. Once you have the top of the wings done, stop the lathe and move the tool rest around behind the work, setting it parallel to the back. You can remove the wasted wood fairly quickly and you will now have a round waste block on the faceplate and the exposed bottom of the wood. Stop the lathe and move the tool rest about half the thickness of the waste block toward the wood. Now use a similar action as before and start cutting away the underside.


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