• Roger Waterhouse

Winning and Losing

I've had a good autumn of turning, including successful shows and quite a few interesting commissions. In the run up to Christmas I thought I would make some of my food presentation boards, but this time out of really decorative wood. Here are some of the results.

You can see that a couple of the ones in the foreground have a hollowed out portion that you might want to use for olives or something similar. This involved off-centre turning, which is always an interesting challenge.

Spurred on by this, I thought I would make a long board with about half a dozen cups in it that could be used for presenting a whole mezze.

I found a suitable thick piece of oak, cut a handle at one end, and rounded the corners at the other. I didn't want it too long and thin, so I decided to stagger the cups in a zig-zag pattern. Drawing it out was a real challenge, to get a pleasing balance between a useful size for the cups, the spaces between them, and the boundaries of the board.

But the real challenge was mounting it in the lathe such that it was securely held, and I could align the centre of the faceplate with the centre of each cup in turn. This was how I did it.

You can see that the board is off centre to the face plate. It is held by 6 rubber buttons.

But of course, the large, irregular piece of wood needed to spin in the lathe. And you can see from the picture above, and the one below, that as soon as it started turning it would hit other bits of the lathe.

So I had to strip those bits off and mount a free standing tool rest in front of the body of the lathe.

Turning the first cup took a long time. I had to do it slowly because any faster and the peripheral speed at the ends of the board would have launched it across the workshop. I was only turning the central 3 inches, where the speed was approaching zero. But it worked and I was well pleased with the result. So I adjusted the position of the board and moved on to the second cup. (As you can see, it was dark by now).

That went well, though getting the same depth and curvature of the cup wasn't easy.

Then I moved on to the third cup, on the other side of the board. Again, the circumference of the cup was easy, but getting the curvature right was challenging.

Then, disaster!

I had cut right through the base.

So, you win some, you lose some.

And had I learned anything, apart from to measure thickness more carefully next time?

First, my method of holding the wood would not have been adequate to turn the end cups. I should have screwed through the faceplate into the underside of the board. Hence leaving screw holes.

Second, the time taken to lay out the design, position and keep repositioning the wood would only have been worth it on a production run. No one would pay the price for my labour on a one-off.

Third, it was a bad design anyway. The cups were 3 inches in diameter - any less would have been pretty useless for food. For the cups to be attractive as well as useful they needed a 1 inch depth. The board should therefore have been 1 1/2 inches thick at minimum. It would be half as heavy again as my board, which was already difficult to carry with one hand even without food.

Perhaps I shall try something different !

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