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A Bowl on a Pole Lathe by Darrell LaRue

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Recall my previous attempt at a bowl on my pole lathe back in early July.  A comedy of errors, truly one of those "learning experiences" one hears about.  Fast forward a few weeks, and I've had time to think about what I did right and wrong, and to make a new tool.  That's right, he's blaming the tool, folks.  Turning is like that I guess.

A short time (that's Galoot time, not SWMBO time) ago fellow Galoot Ed Paik dropped off a hunk of freshly cut maple he had scavenged from his neighbor.  I roughed out a couple of bowl blanks from this rapidly drying maple, slathered them with wax emulsion, and put them in a plastic bag to keep them wet enough to work.  Time passed, and my summer holidays approached, and the bowl blanks grew moldy and ugly.

When I finally got to the cottage (where my pole lathe lives) the weather was not conducive to spending a lot of time outside at an activity like operating a pole lathe.  Sitting on the beach drinking cold beverages was a more proper occupation when the temp ran over 35 C.  So I set up the lathe in the "basement" (more correctly termed a crawlspace in this instance, but tall enough for a short guy like me) and mounted the Bodger's Muddle in the rafters above.  The basement was a bit cooler than the Great Outdoors, so I could actually work on the lathe without expiring from heat exhaustion.

I used the mandrel I made in July (scavenged birch from the firewood pile).  A 1 inch hole bored in the face of the bowl blank would accept the end of the mandrel.

Note the mould growing on my bowl blank... turners love this kind of thing, they call it "spalting".  With my luck, it'll end up being just plain ugly.

It's just a friction fit, driven with a mallet.  This whole arrangement is then set into the lathe, with the drive rope around the mandrel.  The outside of the bowl gets rounded off first, using a roughing gouge and a Sorby bowl gouge. 

I dunno if the Old Guys used anything like a bowl gouge, but it worked great on the pole lathe for me.  This is where I was stymied last time. 

Now that the outside was round, it was time to start hollowing.

And here's the fun part: you can't get too close to the centre because you need the strength there to drive the bowl, and if it gets too thin, then that hammered-in tenon will split that mortise.  That's one of those "lessons" I mentioned earlier... 


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