A burl is a round growth that sticks out of a tree. Burls are beautiful and somewhat rare. The grain is crazy, filled with hundreds are dark ‘eyes’.

No one knows exactly what causes burls, but they know it has to do with the tree undergoing some kind of stress. It can be from an injury, bugs, virus, mold etc. Almost all burls are covered in bark. Burls can grow on branches, tree trunks, and even underground. One of the biggest known burls was found around 1984 in the small town of Tamworth, New South Wales. It stands 6.4 ft tall, and has a weird shape almost like a trombone.

I like turning with burls for the simple fact that they are beautiful. I bought this Black Ash burl from “the burl guy”, and turned it into a bowl. “The burl guy” comes to our woodturning club a few times each year with a pick-up load of burls.

This bowl was a challenging shape to turn, because it’s not totally round.

Even though it was challenging, I love the way this bowl turned out. If you set it on its side, you can imagine the tree trunk growing up with the burl sticking out of it. I love the natural look.

Here you can see the ‘eyes’ and amazing wood grain.

This bowl is for sale here: http://www.etsy.com/listing/76352177/unique-black-ash-burl-bowl

[Edit: This bowl is now sold]

At the moment I have a lot of burls waiting on my shelf to be turned. I can’t wait to get my hands on them!


Assembling a Pen

Actually turning the wood is only part of pen making. A lot of work goes into it before it even goes on the lathe. And there is a lot of work after it comes off, too!

First I have to find my wood, then drill a hole in it and glue brass tubing into the hole. The tubing will become the center of the pen. After that it’s ready for the lathe. Once I turn it, I put the finish on and am left with this:

(Note the brass tubing inside)

That doesn’t exactly leave me with a pen …

So I thought I’d show you how I assemble it! First I slide the writing tip into the brass tubing. I use my clamp to press them together.

Next I slide the twist mechanism into the tube, and press that into place as well.

After that I can slide the ink cartridge into the twist mechanism.

Then I start working on the top. I slip the clip and cap into place and press them.

Then slide the center band into place.

Then I slip the top on.

And wa-la! The finished pen, ready to photograph and go up on Etsy!

Intro to hand tools

I did a small intro to my lathe, so I thought I’d do an intro to the tools I use also! As the wood spins, the tools shave off wood to make different shapes.

The Skew Chisel

The skew chisel is the most dangerous tool, but it gives the best cut. It can ruin your piece if you’re not careful. It has a tendency to dig into the wood and send it flying off the machine, most of the time straight at me!

On the plus side, this thing is awesome! 

You can do an entire project with just this one tool. It cuts the smoothest of any other tool, which means I have to do minimal sanding afterwards. I can start with 200 to 300 grit sandpaper. I’ve really gotten the hang of this tool, and haven’t had a catch in a long time.

The Spindle Gouge

This tool is good at making beads and coves. It’s also good at hollowing boxes out. It can do a lot of other things, but that’s mainly what I use it for. If sharpened correctly this can provide a very nice cut also. I’m not as used to this tool, so I usually sand with 180 after using it.

The Bowl Gouge

This one is mainly for doing bowls. It has a very thick metal rod that goes far down into the handle, which absorbs the beating of making a bowl. There are other uses, but that is its main one.

The Roughing Gouge

This tool is used to rough the pieces round. If I have a square piece of wood or a raw branch I use this tool to rough it down to a cylinder. This is much quicker than trying to get it down with any other tool, because of the large amount of wood you can take off at one time. It’s a bulk remover. It saves me a lot of time! Plus it’s awful fun to see those shavings fly!

That is just four of my tools. I have many more, but I didn’t want to overwhelm you guys!

P.S. just got the facebook fan page up and running! See it here.

Also been busy posting stuff on Etsy! Whew. Starting a business is hard work!