Welcome

Welcome to the website of the Black Country Wood Turners!

We are a friendly bunch of people , who have nothing better to do with their time than to reduce otherwise perfectly fine pieces of timber to piles of shavings and sawdust on our workshop floors. Oh, yes, and every now and then this also results in something mostly round and brown.

If this is your idea of having fun, then please joins us on one of our meetings or as a permanent member. If by now you are thinking “this is weird”, then you are missing out on the rituals of a tradition that is several thousand years old and you are definitely in the wrong place. We are having fun. Are you? Do you live in the UK near Dudley, West Bromwich, Oldbury, Halesowen, Stourbridge, Kidderminster? We meet usually every 3rd Thursday of the Month at 6pm at Dudley College, Mons Hill, and we would be more than happy to welcome you to our next meeting.

 

Important Notes:

CONFIRMED on 25/09/2017 by Steve Johnson that Mons Hill will be open for our next club meeting, which will be on Thursday 19th October and Sally Burnett will be our professional demonstrator for the evening.

The Mons Hill site is due to close at the end of October and the committee have received confirmation from Steve Johnson ( Dudley College Estates manager ) that our new location will be in the College main building at The Broadway, Dudley DY1 4AS. Club members should access the Forum for the most up to date information.

 

Club Meeting 20th July 2017. Dudley College Access Problems

The 20th July was a club meeting night. However the evening started badly when we arrived at the Dudley College Mons Hill site. The access road to the college was gated and locked, and club members were refused vehicle access to the building by the contractors. This obviously made things very difficult for some of our more senior members.

The Black Country Woodturners club is very grateful to the landlord of The Caves public house for allowing club members to use the pub car park. Unfortunately, parking at the pub left us with a long walk up through the woods on dirt paths to the college building. As the club meeting was a hands-on evening many members had brought heavy equipment and tools. Sadly for us a large proportion of the equipment was impossible to carry all the way to the college building which meant a somewhat curtailed evening of woodturning, but as usual with our club being a pragmatic bunch of people we made the most of the evening. Thank you to Wolfgang and Ian in particular for just getting stuck in.

The Black Country Woodturners club is very appreciative of the facilities afforded to the club by Dudley College but the club feels let down by not being informed in advance of the access problems. Hopefully the issue will be resolved by our next meeting in September.

 

Ashwood Nursery Open Day

As usual for the club, we had a stall at the open day of the Ashwood Nursery just down the road from Wall Heath. This event usually attracts a good crowd, and this year was no exception. There were a few differences to previous years, though: After some initial heavy rain we had a dry day (hooray) and there were no midgets (hooray) and the club had a much bigger stall, consisting of two conjoined tents.

About half a dozen club members enjoyed a day out, with demonstrations to the public, who in turn showed good interest. The club managed to take about £140, and as usual half of that goes back to the charity chosen by Ashwood, and the other half gets donated to the charity chosen by the club. Here are a few pictures from the day:

Club members Paul and Ron watching the public taking keen interest.

Sometimes there was almost a queue to get to the front!

One of our club members with his display.

And this is the display of another club member.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two club members manning the charity table.

And here the chairman himself demonstrates woodturning.

Wolfgang Schulze-Zachau demonstration June 2017

Wolfgang Schulze-Zachau demonstration June 2017

                                                                                                                                          

 Blackcountry woodturner member, Wolfgang Schulze-Zachau, gave the June meeting demonstration. During the evening, he covered a wide range of topics including; wood carving effects, tool choices, sanding options, colour effects and other wood finishes.

Wolfgang kicked off the evening with a demonstration of wood carving and the preparation required to start the process off. He talked about the tools he used, including both manual tools and power based tools. He then demonstrated the tools to show the different type of effects that can be achieved with each. He personally preferred the manual tools and the fact that when correctly done there is no need for any sanding to be undertaken, he believed was a great benefit.

Throughout the demonstration Wolfgang answered questions from club members and gave practical advice about tool sharpening. He then talked about sanding and his personal preference for using professional products such as Abrenet.

He showed the meeting the tools and accessories he found most useful, including his palm sander and soft sanding pads he used for curved surfaces. He advised the meeting to buy the best tools they could afford, as he had discovered that it only “hurts” once and you end up with something that may last you a lifetime.

Wolfgang started the second part of the evening with an unfinished piece from a previous demonstration. He mounted the piece in a chuck and trued it up. Whilst doing this he spoke about the types of cuts he was using and the less experienced club members found this level of detail to be very useful. The wood used was ash, so it was plain and very light coloured which made it perfect to demonstrate colouring. Firstly, due to time constraints, he sprayed the wood black. This took only minutes to dry. Wolfgang then added some colour (green) and polished off the excess. This had the effect of highlighting the growth rings in the wood with a faint green hue. The overall impact of black with green highlights was very effective. Wolfgang talked about the specific products he used and where to buy them from. Throughout the evening Wolfgang was generous with his help and advice and everyone was grateful for the self-deprecating way he told us about some of errors and mistakes he had made along the woodturning road, to help the rest of us to avoid them if at all possible. Hot sanding of wood is a no-no!

He finished the evening with two further short demonstrations.

He showed us the technique for adding metallic colour to a platter and talked about the importance to only use the best quality brushes to apply the finish. The place to get the right quality was any artist material stockist.

 

Finally, he talked about the fact that even the smallest piece of very expensive hardwoods can be utilized.  He turned a door cupboard knob from a small offcut of ebony. Showing the meeting a glue chucking technique for small pieces of wood and demonstrating a number of woodturning cuts. He completed the demonstration with a simple wax finish on the knob, perfect!

 

A thoroughly entertaining and informative evening was had by all. Thank you, Wolfgang.

Mark Taylor Demo

Following on from the previous demo, where there was a mixup in dates between us and the demonstrator, this time around it was like fate itself had intervened: our demonstrator was struck down by illness.

Fortunately for us, this time we had a little advance warning, and our chairman and the event organizer managed to find a replacement, Mark Taylor. A few years ago, Mark hung up his salesman suit, and started working full time on his piece of woodland, and on that evening he came to use with his pole lathe and shave horse, to demonstrate how these are used.

Mark clearly is a very happy man, despite his clear knowledge and acceptance that on his own he would struggle to make a living. As far as he is concerned, though, spending all day every day in the woods more than makes up for all the financial deprivations.

His woodland consists mainly of ashes and rowans, with some other typical local species thrown in as well. He had brought some typical items to the demo, hand carved spoons and bowls, but mostly spindle work. His demonstration was a glimpse into what a typical bodger would have done: set up a camp in the woods, assemble a shave horse and a pole lathe (often only bringing along the metal parts and making the rest up from wood cut on site), and then producing hundreds and hundreds of “bodged” spindles, mostly for chairs and tables and the likes.

He started out with an ash log, about 2 feet long and 5″ diameter, and used a special wedge to split it twice down the middle to get 4 quandrants of roughly equal size. One of these was then held on the shave horse and Mark used a drawknife to quickly rough it into shape.

This piece was then mounted between centres on the pole lathe and then turned into a chair spindle with the same tools one would use on a powered lathe: a spindle roughing gouge, spindle gouge and skew chisel.

The main differences are that firstly the bodger has to power his own lathe by constantly pumping a large pedal on the floor, which is connected at the back to a rope. This rope is wound once or twice around the work piece and its other end is attached to a rubber cord mounted between two flexible poles. Between the poles and the rubber, this provides the energy store that pulls the floor pedal back up, thus allowing the turner to initiate the next pump action.

Secondly, actual turning can only happen during the down stroke. In consequence, very good tool control is required to get a decent surface.

Thirdly, the actual turning speed is low compared to motorized lathes, maybe a 200rpm or slightly more. Again, this requires good tool control, and some patience.

Mark clearly knows what he’s doing, as the finish on his items was nearly flawless. He also demonstrated some bowl turning on the lathe, which is generally done with hook tools and on end grain. This generally involves a cone in the centre to remain in the bowl, so that it can be held on the lathe (there is no such thing as a scroll chuck on a pole lathe), which is then whittled down to a small diameter once the rest of the bowl is finished, and finally removed with a sharp tool when the bowl is taken off the lathe.

All in all, a very entertaining and instructive, some might even say inspirational, demonstration.

March meeting

The March 2017 club meeting got off to a bad start when the demonstrator we were expecting did not turn up. A few phone calls later it emerged that there was a mix up with dates and confirmation e-mails going missing. In short, our demonstrator was not going to arrive. After some urgent conversations the committee asked for a volunteer to do an off the cuff turning demonstration. Firstly of course we needed another volunteer to go home and pick up some tools.

The whole evening was saved by Mick Smith agreeing to return home and fetch some turning tools and by Wolfgang Schultze-Zachau stepping into the breach and agreeing to do a demonstration.

Thanks to Melvyn Adams for supplying a piece of “wet” beech.

Wolfgang demonstrated a number of techniques as he produced a natural edged goblet. All through his demonstration he answered questions from the floor. He also gave tips and advice suitable for both beginners and the more experienced members of the club. Everyone present was very impressed by the way Wolfgang overcame every obstacle, some of which were; the very short notice to do the demo; using someone else’s tools; the chuck being tool small for the wood and then at the most critical moment he discovered the wood was rotten in the middle. However, nothing phased Wolfgang and he cheerfully carried on with the demo, thinking on his feet, and working out solutions to all the problems as he went along.

 A genuine master class in wood turning under pressure.

The committee and the club would like to thank Mick and particularly Wolfgang for saving the whole evening for everyone present.

 Club members brought in some terrific items this month.

February meeting

Our meet in February was a hands-on day, with 2 lathes in operation and 2 grinding stations. On one lathe, Mick Littlehales demonstrated turning a chunky bowl/dish from a piece of ash, with a mortice (to hold the piece on the chuck in expansion mode) and a variety of decorations around the rim. The other lathe was used by our chairmain, Roger, to give some newcomers a first chance to try their hand with a roughing gouge, bowl gouge and spindle gouge.

One of the sharpening stations was operated by Wolfgang, helping a few members getting their tools back into shape. And, of course, we also had a display table with quite a nice array of turned items.

January demo: Robert Till

In January, we had Robert as our demonstrator. He greets from Stafford and has been turning wood for a long time. His demo focused primarily on birds houses and bird feeders, both items that generally sell well at craft fairs, are fun to make for both the experienced and the less experienced, and do not require expensive materials or special tools.

Here’s the man himself:

The typical bird house can be made from many different types of wood, for this evening he had brought along some pieces of part seasoned sycamore, some with a little bit of spalting starting to develop, and in various stages of progress. The main body is about 4-5″ diameter and about 9″ tall (obviously this can be adjusted to available timber within reason), and a second piece is required for the lid, approx 1″ wider in diameter and 3.5″ tall. Depending on the method chosen for mounting the pieces, extra timber needs to be added to the length to account for tenons.

Robert started out with a piece that had been turned into a round cylinder, but nothing else. He put it between centres, skimmed it to ensure roundness and turned a tenon on one end, so he could it in the chuck. Once mounted in the chuck, a hole was drilled down the centre to approx. the depth required, and he started hollowing the cylinder, always taking time to explain the various cuts and tools used.

Since hollowing is not the most attractive work to demonstrate, this item was then swapped out for one that had been hollowed already. Robert made it very clear that the only chance of success with partly seasoned wood is by keeping the wall thickness even from the top right down to the bottom, otherwise one should expect cracks to develop during the final drying. He then turned a shoulder into the top of the bird house body, where the wall thickness is reduced from 6mm to 3mm, and finally proceeded to turn the foot of the body, where it gradually tapers into a point. A very important bit is the drain hole at the bottom, about 5mm in diameter, which ensures that any moisture can escape safely.

Robert did not do any sanding during the demo, but mentioned that the finish on these bird houses is very much left to the individual maker, but one should seek advice about suitable finishes from relevant organisations (clearly some lacquers or oils would be at the least an irritant to the future occupiers and at the worst a health hazard). The entry hols for the birds should be positioned at least 120mm above the foot (apparently that’s a safe distance where cats cannot reach inside), and its diameter has an influence on which birds can enter.

The lid was turned in similar fashion, with a lip protruding into the shoulder in the bottom part. This is where the two are eventually joined together with a few screws. Again, wall thickness has to be even to prevent cracking, and decoration is left to the individual.

Towards the end of the evening, a little bit of time was left, which was used to make a bird feeder to go along with the bird house. Made from a similar size piece of timber, the bird feeder has a domed roof, rounded bottom and a recess for the feed. Turning the recess is initially done with a standard spindle gouge, but in order to achieve substantial depth the use of a hollowing tools is required.

And finally a few pictures showing some more of Robert’s work:

October meeting: demo by Bob Mercer

Bob gave a really interesting and entertaining  series of short demonstrations.

The first demo was of a pewter turned pen, sorry no photo, which Bob turned using his own hand made pewter blanks mounted on a pen mandrel. Bob made the blanks by drilling a 12mm hole in a piece of dry wood 50mm deep and filling with molten pewter. He then drilled the blank and inserted a brass sleeve. Bob took time to explain the whole process to club members and answered numerous questions from those present. He also explained the need for a thorough sanding regime from 240 to 12000 grit and even using a metal polish to give the mirror finish he achieved. A really excellent demo.

Bob also demonstrated a slightly different way to finish off a 5” oak hand mirror.

During the evening he showed club members what can be done with what would be sometimes be classed as pieces of scrap wood. Bob made a standard bottle stopper then he turned a novelty off centre “ducks bottom” bottle stopper.

In a previous demo Bob was unable to finish a pendant due to a missing jig so he decided to finally complete that project in purple heart wood, and there was even time for an oak light pull.

Throughout the evening Bob gave members tips and advice on the use of tools and materials and the best sources for pen blanks etc.

Bob keep us all entertained with his story of building a coracle a few years back and the oak seat he had used for it, had been recycled, and part of that seat was now the 5” hand mirror he had turned earlier.

Bob delivered a packed programme and I can’t remember a demo with so many finished projects and so much sound advice.

And, of course, we also had a members work display table. Here are a few pictures from that:

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September meeting

The September meeting was a demo by Steve Heeley from Cannock.

bcw-sept-2016-022He turned a small box with a winged lid and a finial. He showed us how to create a “lattice/lace” effect on the wings of the lid
using a Dremel type drill, and answered club member questions and gave tips and ideas on several
subjects including types of finish.

He had a recent health scare and strongly advised all present to have a really good dust extraction system and to always wear a mask. An entertaining and very informative evening was had by all.

It was a real shame we only had 15 members turn up for the demonstration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Member's work on display.

Member’s work on display.

Ashwood: John’s Garden Open Day

John is the owner of Ashwood Nurseries, and has his private, landscaped garden right next to it. He holds open days 3 or 4 times a year, and usually with a good attendance from the general public. The Black Country Woodturners generally participate with a stall on the summer open day, and so we did again this year.

Ashwoods-1A large open tent was erected, with various stalls inside, including a small lathe for demonstrations, and a charity table right next to it. We had about 10 club members in attendance, so there was plenty of variety.

The weather threatened with rain all day long, but it never did actually rain, so were quite lucky in this regard. However, the garden is right on the banks of the river Stour, and in consequence there were plenty of tiny little midges around, not enough to drive people away, but certainly enough to be a nuisance for us at the stalls.

John’s garden has a huge variety of plant species that you would otherwise only find in a botanical garden, but let me tell you, we could almost match it with the variety of work on show!

Unfortunately, sales were quite low, only the charity table produced some good results. The author of this article didn’t sell anything, and it was very similar for most other club members.

Ashwoods-2On the other hand, our demonstrations on the little lathe gathered quite a bit of interest, and we may even see some new club members coming from this event.

Here you can see Melvin putting the finishing touches on a 8″ cherry bowl, and yours truly proceeded to make a yo-yo and a bud vase, which promptly sold from the charity table for £5.

All in all, a nice day out for the club, and well received by the attending public.