I’m back at the John C. Campbell Folkschool for a week of turning with Cliff Lounsbury. I was really interested in this class because it was a class on using a router on the lathe. Usually these are mutually exclusive tools. The only time I had really heard them being used together was in making fluted table legs, but I knew this was going to be something else entirely.
The trip up was easy and the weather here, while cooled than Florida has been perfect. One thing that has been great is that my wife and I are taking classes together again. Although we have both been here a number of times in the last few year, I have come to assist teaching a class and she has been regularly teaching quilting. It’s nice when we can both come together and just be here as students.
As usual, we jumped into things very quickly. After dinner we all headed to our studios where the teacher ran though his plans for the week. In some classes people started working right away, but in our case, only one class member was familiar with Cliff’s techniques. For the rest of us there was a lot of explaining for us to comprehend. Even with this overview I knew this class was going to be special and that really became clear this morning when Cliff started demonstrating how to combine the router with the lathe. Finally, I was beginning to get the big picture and very quickly was beginning to get some ideas for my first project.
After the demo and more explanation, we all got a chance to get our hands on the tools and give things a bit of a try. I was pleasantly surprised that this technique was going to give me more control than I though.
I guess some more explanation is in order to understand the concept. First of all you start with a piece that has already been turned, not a rough blank. The piece is mounted on the lathe and the lathe is unplugged, so no unplanned surprises occur. The next step is to put on the router jig. This consists of a base that allows the whole until to pivot. On top of the base is a machinists cross slide, with the router mounted on top. The bases gives you the ability to pivot the whole assembly and the cross slide gives you precise control of the router in the x and y axis.
Here’s a picture of a bowl I was working on that might help get the concept.
The router lets you cut away anywhere original surface. What this allows you to do is remove wood following the original shape of your piece in an intermittent fashion. On the bowl above only the outside of the handles are the original surface. Everything else has been routed this allows you to create surface carvings much more elaborate that my relatively simple bowl. Cliff also came armed with nearly every kind of power carving and sanding system available to smooth out the routed surface.
This system also allows you to do fluting. I’ve done fluting on some of my pieces before, but this is a whole lot easier. Here’s Richard giving fluting a try.
It was a lot of fun trying something totally new. It didn’t take too long to get the hang of the router and the degree of control you have, but it does take awhile to remember which crank to turn. I worked until 9:00PM working on the bowl. Still needs more sanding, but I’m pretty happy with the results.