A little over a week ago, I began work on a batch of turned bowls as part of a larger order that had been placed with Sebastian Cox Furniture where I work. In total, I had to make 40 units in total – 10 bowls in sycamore, 10 bowls in chestnut and 20 smaller bowls in hazel and chestnut. Although I have been working with wood since my school days and have always used a lathe from time to time, I am by no means a professional woodturner. Having completed the task now, I am even more of the opinion that wood turning is something which us regular cabinetmakers severely underestimate in terms of skill set.
During the project, I found myself constantly unsatisfied with the results I was getting with the finish on the timber. I believe that a well-cut piece of wood should in theory not need very much more than a quick sand with fine grade paper at the least, however my efforts with the gouge and chisel I was using left unsightly scrape marks and rough grain on the wood, not an ideal situation for a premium product!
I had to refine my technique and resist the urge to try and simply sand out the scrapes with low grade paper which would have taken time and effort. I realised that it was the tools that were letting me down the most. Sharp tools are vital to achieve a good finish on the wood and so I took the time to try and get mine as sharp as I could. I worked them both on a course diamond stone and soon I was able to cut some very good shavings!
These bowls then, were a steep learning curve, and I came away from it much wiser about the ins and outs of wood turning. I really think that if you are not a regular turner, then it is very easy to underestimate the skill it requires to achieve professional results.