Tag Archives: Projects

Cactus Plate Bowl

Ric Rac Orchid Cactus Plate Bowl Photo: Ric Rac Orchid Cactus Plate Bowl

Last month, I found these old photos that I never got around to writing up. They are still relevant. Thus, here is my Ric Rac Cactus Plate Bowl.

I created this plate bowl back in 2013. Not long after taking a class with Al Stirt at The Center for Furniture Craftsmenship in Maine.

I used Al's pattern layout, and sgraffito process.

My inspiration for the pattern was my Ric Rac Orchid Cactus. See photo above.

Note: I call a plate with a small blow in the center a "Plate Bowl". Sgraffito definition "decoration by cutting away parts of a surface layer (as of plaster or clay) to expose a different colored ground".

Here is how I created the decoration on my plate bowl:

Photo: Inspiration Inspiration

My inspiration for the pattern was my Ric Rac Orchid Cactus.

Boy this cactus was small back in 2013. It is now a big boy. I have propagated it into numerous plants. See photo at end.

Photo: Trace the Pattern Trace the Pattern

Here I have traced the leaf (stalk?) pattern onto the plate bowl with a yellow water color pencil.

I am using a WATER COLOR pencil because I can easily remove it with a wet paper towel. Water color pencils are easy to find in art supply stores.

I turned the plate bowl out of maple wood. Then, I prepped it with (one or two coats, I don't remember) of black acrylic gesso paint. I thined the gesso a little with some water. The gesso dries flat. I like to use a good quality gesso. I use either Golden or Liquitex brand.

Latter, I will top coat the finished piece with a semi gloss or gloss finish. For now, I just want a nice flat surface I can draw on.

After the gesso dried, I sprayed it with flat lacquer to toughen up the gesso and make it water proof. In 2013, I probably used Deft brand flat lacquer. Sprayed on from a rattle can. Today (in 2019) I would use 2 to 3 VERY LIGHT coats of Krylon brand "Matte Finish 1311". Matte is the name of the finish. It dries fast and makes a great surface to work on top of.

Photo: Transfer the Pattern to a Template Transfer the Pattern to a Template

After I create a pattern that I like, I need to replicate it over and over on the plate. I do this by creating a template.

I get some thin, yet rigid, see thru plastic sheet from local craft or fabric store. Quilters use this stuff. Low cost. You can get it with or with out a grid on the plastic. It looks like I had the grid stuff back in 2013. I now prefer it, with out the grid.

I trace the pattern I like onto the plastic with a run of the mill #2 pencil. Click on the photo for a better view.

Photo: Cut Out The Template Cut Out The Template

I cut out the template with an X-acto knife.

Note: Should I call it a Template or Stencil? I am going with template.

Photo: Test The Template Test The Template

Here I am testing out the template. It looks good.

Notice that I discarded the part in the middle. The part that most people would keep. I want the outline of the shape. Not the shape. Why, will become obvious in the next couple of photos.

Photo: Template Positioning Gizmo Template Positioning Gizmo

Now I need a way to rotate the template around the center of the bowl and position it at the same angle.

The photo shows the gizmo, I came up with. I cut a piece of plywood that fits in the center bowl. Then I attached the plywood to a chunk of scrap metal.

Then I taped the template to the metal with some masking tape. Now, I have a template that can be rotated to any position on the bowl.

This gizmo works on any outside shape plate (square, oval or round) with a round bowl in the center (or off center).

Photo: How Many? How Far Apart? How Many? How Far Apart?

Now I play around. I move the pattern around and decide what visually looks best. How close together, do I want the leaves? How many leaves fit nicely all the way around the plate?

I can use my yellow WATER COLOR pencil to temporarily draw things on and see how they look. Because I can easily erase the water color with a damp paper towel.

I decided, I wanted 7 leaves. 7 is an odd number. Things often occur in nature in odd numbers. 3, 5, 7, etc. Odd numbers often look best.

7 leaves allows the widest part of the leaves to almost touch. About 3/16" apart. The pattern will visually fill up most of the plate. But, not to much! See photos below.

Photo: Make Reference Marks Make Reference Marks

Now it is time to make some reference marks that will allow me to evenly space the pattern.

360 degrees / 7 leaves = 51.43 degrees. Thus, I need a reference line every 51 degrees and then fudge the last one a little if needed to make it look good.

I used my protractor to mark the first 51 degree spot. Then, I just attached the protractor to my gizmo and rotated it, to make a mark every 51 degrees.

I made all the marks with a WATER COLOR pencil so I can easily erase them latter with a damp paper towel.

Photo: 7 Reference Marks 7 Reference Marks

This photo shows the 7 reference marks.

Why didn't I use the index in the lathe? Well, I find indexes built into lathes, are generally, completely and totally useless in my not so humble opinion! They are way to hard to use. They are often buried inside and/or hard to see. They have way to many holes. I only need like 12! Counting every fifth hole or what ever is for the birds! It never comes out right! Are they zero or one origin? Err……

In this case, there is no doubt, any lathe index is completely and totally useless! I want 7, an odd number. Lathe indexes are always even numbers!

Photo: Replicate the Pattern Replicate the Pattern

Here I have taped the template to my gizmo. I am rotating the gizmo. Lining it up on my reference marks. Drawing on the pattern with a WATER COLOR pencil.

Photo: Read To Go Read To Go

This photo shows the pattern all drawn on and ready to go.

Photo: Circle T-Square Circle T-Square

This photos shows my circle T-Square. I got this from Al Stirt. The t-square has been adapted to ride on the outside edge of a circle.

In this case, my outside bowl is circular (rather than square or oval) and my inside bowl is in the center, thus I could have used this rather than my gizmo.

I could have just taped my template to the t-square and then rotated the t-square.

Photo: Outline the Pattern Outline the Pattern

Here I have started carving in the pattern with a 1/8" ball cutter (burr) in a rotatory tool.

Note: You can only sort of see the shaft of the tool in the photo. The cutter is not visible.

It looks like, I was using my Foredom Flex Tool back in 2013. Today, I would just use a Dremel style tool. It's the pattern and operator that matters. Not the tool!

Photo: Fill In the Pattern Fill In the Pattern

Here I have RANDOMLY filled in most of the pattern.

Photo: Carving All Done Carving All Done

Here the carving is all done. I used a 3M Radial Bristle disk to clean up any carving fuzz.

Ready for a finish. Hum? Well, I don't really known. It may already have a semi gloss lacquer finish on it.

Photo: The Finished Piece with Inspiration The Finished Piece with Inspiration

Can you see the resemblance?

Photo: Finished Piece Finished Piece

Here is the finished piece.

My Ric Rac Cactus Plate Blow. 8-1/4" diameter, 1-1/4" tall. Cherry wood. Power carved pattern. Semi gloss lacquer finish.

My Ric Rac Orchid Cactus in 2018 Photo: Ric Rac Orchid Cactus in 2018

Here is a picture of my Ric Rac Orchid Cactus. Out on my deck in 2018. It's a big boy now. Click on the photo for a better view.

The Ric Rac Cactus is on the right. Pointed to by magenta arrow. There is another Orchid Cactus on the left in full bloom. I love the red one. I don't known the name. It was a cutting from a mother plant with fantastic flowers.

I love Orchid Cactus because they have fantastic flowers. They are really tough. Easy to grow. But, they can be a bit ugly when not in bloom.

I love the shape of the Ric Rac Cactus leaves (stalks?) and the flowers look great. The flowers are white and orange. However, the Ric Rac flowers do not smell good. They have sort of an industrial smell. Not really foul, but not sweet and pleasant.

The red one in photo smells good. But the smell is faint.

Nutmeg 2×4 Challenge

Photo: Nutmeg 2x4 Challenge

Here is my bowl from a 2×4.

I made it for the “Nutmeg Woodturners 2×4 Challenge” on January 14th, 2019.

The bowl is 3-1/8″ diameter by 1-1/4″ tall. The base is 7/8″ diameter. Wall thickness is roughly 1/8″. It was made out of a Douglas Fir 2×4 blank. The blank was actually 3.5″ x 3.5″ x 1.5″.

I am making this blog entry because I want to show people how to use a glue block (see below) and I want to encourage all the Nutmeg Club members to get busy and make something before our January 14th, 2019 meeting.

Also, I want to remind people of 2 important points.

1. People are encourage to explore different rim options and bowl shapes. The magazine article is just one option of many.

2. People are encourage to bring in multiple bowls. Each bowl gets a ticket for the raffle. However, there is 6 ticket limit per person.

I am definitely going to bring more than 1 bowl!

The Nutmeg 2×4 Challenge

I proposed the Nutmeg 2×4 Challenge for our “Nutmeg Woodturners Club” in Brookfield CT, after reading an article in a recent AAW Woodturning Fundamentals on line magazine. I liked the article because it talked about turning bowls out of ordinary soft wood 2x4s (Pine, Spruce, Douglas Fir). I thought, well here is something that anyone can do because every has access to soft wood 2x4s. You can do it on any lathe. Mini Lathe, etc. It seems easy, so everyone will give it a go. However, it’s not that easy, so it will challenge our experienced people. People are going to learn that cutting soft wood CLEANLY is not easy!

The article was “2×4 Softwood Bowl Puts You on Top of Grain Direction” by Walt Wager in the August 2018 AAW Woodturning FUNdementals on line magazine. Click here for the article.

After discussion at a club meeting, I sent out an email to all Nutmeg Members to get the challenge started. The email is attached to the end of this blog entry.

Use A Glue Block & Part the Bowl Off

The above magazine article does not use a glue block. I want to show people how to use a glue block. Because, I think a glue block makes things a lot easier. With a glue block you can just part the bowl off and finish up the bottom with a carving chisel. You don’t need to jam chuck the bowl to finish the bowl. Jam chucking can be a problem for new people.

Here is how I turned my bowl for the 2×4 challenge.

Photo: Wood for Blanks Wood for Blanks

I looked around out back and found a nice Douglas Fir (DF) 2×4 scrap that I could use for bowls. The top piece in photo.

I also found some Spruce 2×4 scraps that I could use for glue blocks. Bottom pieces in photo.

Tip: Douglas Fir is one of the harder soft woods that you can purchase from local store. It is harder than Spruce or Pine. Thus it is easier to cut cleanly with a bowl gouge. Thus less sanding. Thus a good choice! It often has nice strong grain lines that make attractive pieces.

Note: Here I can use a softwood glue block, because my blank is softwood. Normally, I recommend using hardwood (Poplar, Maple, Cherry, etc) for glue blocks.

Photo: Cut Your Blanks Cut Your Blanks

Here I have cut out my blanks. My DF 2×4 was 3.5" wide by 1.5" tall. I cut my DF blanks 3.75" long to making centering easier (less fussy).

I cut my Spruce 2x4s into 3" x 3" blocks that are 1-1/2" tall. You really want the blocks to be 1-1/2" tall, to make your life easier. See latter photos. Only 3" to make gluing easier.

Photo: Use Yellow Wood Glue! Use Yellow Wood Glue!

Use any Yellow or White Wood Glue. In photo, I have spread a LIBERAL coat of glue with a plastic scrap.

When I put the blocks together I use an old trick. I rub the blocks around until the glue sets up a little. Then position them. I don't need to fuss with clamps.

I wait overnight for the glue to fully cure.

NO SUPER GLUE Super glue does not work well for glue blocks. If you just spread it on and then spray with accelerator around the outside it does not work! The accelerator only goes in like a 1/2" inch. After that the glue stays wet. Sooner or latter the block breaks off. Some times you can get away with using super glue if you spread it on one half, then spray accelerator on the other half. Then stick the half's together while praying they line up correctly. Because, the glue is going to set up instantly.

Photo: Cut a Tenon Cut a Tenon

Here I have cut a tenon on the bottom of my glue block. The tenon is roughly 1/4" deep with a 1/4" wide flange for the front of my chuck jaws to land on.

I turned the glue block down to 3".

I just jammed the bowl blank up against the chuck. It is being held there by pressure from the tailstock. The block is not attached to the chuck.

Use a bowl gouge and/or parting tool to cut the tenon like they say in the magazine article.

Photo: Cut the Inside (Yea, Inside First) Cut the Inside (Yea, Inside First)

Here I have mounted the piece in the chuck via the tenon I cut in previous step. Then I made the blank round with my 1/2" bowl gouge. Like they show in magazine article.

Then I have started to cut the inside shape with my 1/2" bowl goug

I turn the inside of my bowls first! Latter, I turn the outside to match the inside. This is EASIER! Less mental stress!

Turning on the inside of a bowl is always a LOT HARDER than turning on the outside. On the inside you have to swing the tool handle a lot more thru a long arc while reaching out over the lathe bed. Doing this when the bowl walls are getting thin, because you already turned the outside is a receipt for disaster! The walls flex, etc. It's just all wrong. You should turn the inside first. Get the hard part over, early, while the bowl walls are still thick and therefore forgiving.

Photo: 1/2 1/2″ Bowl Gouge with a Double Bevel

This is a small bowl. But, I still use my standard full size set of tools. A 1/2" bowl gouge, a 1/2" detail gouge and a 1/8" parting tool.

Going to a smaller bowl gouge because we are turning a small bowl is a NOT a good idea! Smaller tools (like a 3/8" bowl gouge) flex to much because the tool shank is less than 1/2".

The best solution for small bowls is a 1/2" bowl gouge with a double bevel. The second bevel cuts the heel off of the gouge. So the primary bevel is smaller and thus can turn faster inside of a small bowl. Like my bowl gouge in photo. There are also, some good photos of double bevel bowl gouge in magazine article.

I create the second bevel by extending the tip of the gouge an extra 1" beyond the end of my sharpening jig after sharpening the primary bevel. i.e. if primary bevel is created with tip sticking 2" out of sharpening jig, then secondary bevel is 3" sticking out.

Note: In this photo you can also see a lot of cracks in my blank. This blank is really small, so I decided to take a chance. Turn away the cracks. I was stupid, really stupid. I brought a nice DF 2×4 in from my shed out back. My damp shed! I then cut it into blanks. Glued on some glue blocks. Then I put the blocks in my furnace room while the glue dried overnight. The damp wood dried out and cracked! Err… what an idiot! Will I never learn. Fortunately, the cracks did not go to deep.

Photo: Inside of Bowl Inside of Bowl

Here is the inside of my bowl, nice and clean. Finally pass was with a nice freshly sharpened bowl gouge. See previous photo. I took several final passes. Each pass removed just a little wood at a time (like 1/8" or even 1/16" of inch) so I did not create a lot of torn grain that needs to be sanded out. I also just floated along on the bevel, rather than pushing in hard.

I decided to go with a shallow roman ogee bowl shape. Rather than a deep cereal bowl shape, like in magazine. The ogee shape is easier and more elegant in my not so humble opinion. See photo of finished bowl above.

Photo: Turn Thru the Glue Block Turn Thru the Glue Block

Here I am roughing out the outside shape of the bowl. I cut thru the glue block AS NEEDED to make room to work.

I am still using my 1/2" bowl gouge.

I used a 1-1/2" tall glue block to give me room to work here on the chuck side of the bowl. It will also give me room to part off latter.

Photo: The Golf Ball Trick The Golf Ball Trick

Here I have inserted a golf ball wrapper in a paper towel for padding on the tailstock side. I drilled a 3/4" hole in the golf ball so it just slips over the threads on the live center.

The golf ball supports the walls on the bowl. It allows me to make the walls 1/8" thick with out a lot of vibration. This is another good reason why you should cut the inside of the bowl first, rather than the outside.

The bowl shape is coming along nicely. I have left room on the bottom for a foot, that I am starting to form.

Photo: Thompson Gage't Thompson Gage’t

Here I am using my Keith Thompson Gage't to check the wall thickness.

Photo: Gage't In Action Gage’t In Action

Here is a close up of the Gage't in action. To the right of the brass ball on the left you can see to gold bands and 1 black band showing between the brass ball and blue plastic. Each band is 1/16".

3 bands are showing. 3 times 1/16" is 3/16". Thus the wall thickness is 3/16" at about 3/4 of the way down the bowl. At the edge we can visually see the wall thickness is only 1/8". Thus the wall thickness is perfect, on course!

A Gage't is not cheap and in this small bowl you can just use your fingers. But, I really like the Gage't. In bigger bowls, I have found it to be a huge help to students. I often still use it, my self. I encourage all my students to get one. In the end you will spend a lot less money on screwed up bowl blanks.

Full Disclosure: Keith Thompson lives near me and is a friend. I don't get any kick backs from Keith. I had to pay full price for this Gage't.

Photo: Create Foot Create Foot

Here I am creating the foot using my 1/2" double bevel detail gouge. To the right of the detail gouge in photo you can see I cut a nice clean tight junction between the foot and sides of bowl. The sharp point on detail gouge can easily do this. The round point on a bowl gouge can't get in there nice and tight.

I am also getting ready to part off. I have created space on left of detail gouge to part the bowl off. A nice 1-1/2" thick glue block gives me lots of room here.

Photo: Err.......... Idiot! Err………. Idiot!

Here, I decided to do something really stupid. Part of with the detail gouge. I knew there was a chance the sharp point on the detail gouge would catch and skate like a skew. And well, it did! I screwed it up good!

Photo: Part Off the Bowl Part Off the Bowl

Here I am doing it right. I got my 1/8" wide parting tool and I am parting the bowl off.

A nice 1-1/2" thick glue block gives me lots of room here. I could cut the glue back some more, if I needed more space.

It looks like, I wasted 1/4" of my bowl blank height. I could have made my bowl 1/4" deeper. The next one will be better.

Photo: Remove Nib with Carving Gouge Remove Nib with Carving Gouge

Here I am removing the nib after parting off with a carving gouge.

Photo: Back To The Drawing Board Back To The Drawing Board

One of the great things about these small bowls is, you turn another one in no time. My second bowl is on the left. I refined the shape on this one a little more. More of an ogee shape. I used the extra 1/4" of depth to make a smaller foot. I really like this bowl. However, the ogee could be a little better.

Nutmeg Challenge History

From time, to time, our Nutmeg Woodturners Club in Brookfield CT, likes to have a “member challenge”. Where we challenge all the members to go home and make something. Then bring it to the next club meeting for show and tell. We give out a prize to encourage participation.

Participation is the name of the game! So there is no judging! We really want everyone to bring in something regardless of their skill level. Thus, the prize is awarded via random drawing. If you bring in something, anything, you get a ticket for the prize drawing.

Our club has done this once a year (or so) for a long time. It works good! We get lots of participation and it is fun to see what people create.

New people often don’t have access to hardwood. Thus, in the past our Nutmeg Woodturners Club has passed out wood to get the challenge started. “What can people make with a 10″ x 10″ x 2″ chunk of maple wood?”

The club purchases all the wood blanks in advance. Predicting how many blanks we need is a bit tricky, but in the end it all seem to work out. We hand out the blanks at a meeting. People pay $10 for a blank. At the next meeting you get $5 back if you bring back a finished piece. You are also get a ticket for a random prize drawing. The prize is something like a $100 Gift Certificate. Club dues fund the cost of the prize and part of the cost for the wood.

But, not this time. 2x4s are easy to obtain. Thus everyone has been asked to supply there own 2×4. See copy of email below.

Challenge Email

Here is the email I sent out to all Nutmeg Club members to get the challenge started.

From: Nutmeg Woodturners
Subject: Nutmeg 2×4 Challenge. Bring in pieces for January, 14th, 2019 Meeting.
To: Nutmeg Woodturners

The Nutmeg 2×4 Challenge is based on a recent AAW Turning Fundamentals Mag that had an article on turning bowls out of Pine (soft wood) 2x4s. I have attached PDF.

People should turn bowls for the challenge and bring them to the Monday January 14th, 2019 Nutmeg meeting.

Everyone who brings in a bowl gets a ticket for random drawing for prize.

The prize is a $50 Craft Supplies gift certificate provided by the club.

People supply there own wood. Any soft wood from Home Depot, Lowes, etc. Pine, Douglas Fir, etc. NO Hardwoods! No Poplar, Cherry, Maple, etc. NO pressure treated wood!

NO glue! i.e. you can NOT glue up 2x4s into a bigger blank. Thus, people would be making small bowls. Like the magazine article.

Bowls must fit within a 4″ x 4″ x 2″ box.

Paint, stain, burning and other surface enhancements are allowed.

People are encourage to explore different rim options and bowl shapes. The magazine article is just one option of many.

People are encourage to bring in multiple bowls. Each bowl gets a ticket for the raffle. However, there is 6 ticket limit per person.

People can turn plates, hollow forms, boxes or bowls. They must fit within a 4″ x 4″ x 2″ box. NO glue!

You CAN glue on a glue block to mount your 2×4 on the lathe. NO glue is allowed in the finished piece!

P.S. I love snow! Please pray for more snow!

Carl Ford

(PLEASE do NOT reply to news@nutmegwoodturners.org. This email address is not monitored by anyone on a regular basis. Send any replies to carl@carlford.us).