Lesson # 2; An Introduction to Beads, Shoulders and Curves

Bags already packed I poured coffee into both a travel mug and a 40-ounce thermos then headed into the garage for the forty-something minute drive out to Grandpa’s Wood shop for my second lathe lesson.

“Well… at least you are on time for this morning’s lesson,” said Grandpa followed by, “you look like a bag of shit hit you on the way over, are you okay?”

I starred blankly at him, then took a big sip of the coffee mug and sat down my things whilst explaining that last night I spent 3 and a half hours chasing the Northern Lights across the Northeastern part of the county.

After a few more sips of the strongest coffee I have made in a few days Grandpa said, “lets get this party started,” and pressed his safety glasses down against the bridge of his nose.

Safety glasses down, I stepped around the routing table and stood beside him as he began to speak, “It’s pretty simple today, we are going to have you shape this chunk of pine into a cylinder not a baseball bat like last week. Then I will show you some techniques with a few other tools. Then we will wrap up the lesson with a demonstration on how to make a bead, a shoulder and a curve. Also I will introduce you to a couple new tools. Does that sound good to you?”

I simply nodded my head yes followed by a long swig on the coffee mug.

He handed over the two morse tapers and I jammed them into the tailstock and headstock. Then we positioned the chunk of pine and moved the banjo and tool rest into place. After this we adjusted the rear chuck, moved the pulley release pin over and locked it down, then powered up the lathe.

  • Objectives:
    • Remove bark from chunk of pine using a 1″ roughing gouge
    • Create a symmetrical cylinder
    • Introduction to 3-new tools
      • Parting tool
      • Mini roughing gouge
      • Skew
    • Observe, how each new tool is used during a demonstration
    • Put into practice the use of each new tool
    • Introduction to 3-new types of carves
      • Bead
      • Shoulder
      • Curve

First we placed against the tool rest a roughing gouge and knocked out all of the bark. Then we readjusted the banjo and the tool rest to be within a few millimetres of the newly shaped cylinder.

The cylinder took shape after a few bypasses and Gramps informed it was a bit oblong. We stopped the lathe and the spinning chunk of pine to check the thickness with a ruler.

The ruler is pressed against the length of the cylinder. Its a quick way to reference the high points within the cylinder. As you can see anywhere the ruler is not touching the cylinder means the other section is larger and therefore requires more carving. Per this measurement we estimated another 2 to 3 millimetres had to be removed to make this a symmetrical cylinder.

Next we took a few passes at the cylinder using the roughing gouge and we became a bit more strong armed carving it down 5mm instead of 2 to 3mm. Thus I placed the ruler a few more times and took a few more swipes before it was nearing its required cylindrical shape.

With the chunk of pine in its needed form, we used a #2 pencil to mark out the areas which we would be carving out beads, shoulders and curves.

As a new person I’m always gathering a bit more information on what specifically it is I am trying to accomplish and marked the chunk of pine with a few more details for clearer understanding after Grandpa had provided a demonstration. Also I found this handy to review between rotations during my own independent hands-on training.

After penciling in where the cuts would be carved out he explained the carving tools that we would be using to create the beads, shoulders and curves. First up is the parting tool. Its a 1/4″ wide triangular pointed tool with a 45-degree slope. Instead of cutting it scrapes into the wood leaving a rough area which would require touchup later on.

The parting tool is easy to use and quickly cuts deep lines into the spinning wood. Also with any tool he informed in this case as we would be making several cuts with the parting tool, it was best to get all of those cuts completed then move on to the next tool and cut.

With the parts cut into the wood, he moved onto the 1/4″ 40/40 mini-roughing gouge to begin creating the shoulders followed by the curves.

Its a slow and methodical approach which I being a newb to the wood shop was still having difficulty understanding the words take it slow and easy.

With the smaller rouging gouge he slowly started from the centre of the bead and worked in short methodical strokes removing very small areas of wood at a time.

Next he moved into creating the shoulders for an aesthetics appeal to the spindle work. The shoulders are a flattened section which transitions the piece from the bead to the curve.

Shoulders in place he began moving the mini-gouge back and forth through the centre of the wood carving out the curve in-between the two beads.

Demonstration over with, we marked out the area to the right where I would be practicing the same cuts with the same tools he had just shown the techniques for. It took less than five minutes before Grandpa had his hands back on the tools and back into carving out the pine cylinder providing extra instructions on how-to complete the task at hand.

With the last half-hour of the lesson winding down the curve, beads and shoulders were anything but of a misguidance in the interpretation of words spoken earlier about its up to you how you want to carve this out.

Results: 3-sharpe beads, 1-large square bead, 1-short non-smooth curve and no shoulders.

Lesson learned: Be methodical, patient and precise working in slow rhythmic strokes.

~ Aaron JacksonCrabb

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