Here was a demonstration not to be missed. Mark Sfirri entertained and educated us on the wonders of multi-axis turning for our November meeting. As shown above, Mark walked us through the methods and evolution of his artwork using the various pieces he had on display. The slide-shows show some of the steps that go into his hallmark statuesque figures.
As you click through these pictures, you will see the shape Mark will demonstrate. Note that the blank is off-axis, the first of 6. This axis will be used to shape the belly of the figure, shown on the green-board behind Mark. Mark told us he marks out the axes ahead of time on the top and bottom of the blank, setting them in with the cup-style centers before he begins to turn. Among his favorite tools are a 5/8ths deep-fluted bowl gouge with a 30 degree grind, a roughing gouge (used square to the cut surface) and a detail gouge with a fingernail grind. Here are the grind profiles he likes. Mark starts with the bowl gouge to make a pommel cut that defines the neck and shoulders and then uses the roughing gouge to shape the front of the figure. In the last photo Mark uses the model to check his progress on the front of the figure.
This series shows Mark shaping the back of the figure with the second axis. The top of the shoulder, back and buttocks to legs are essentially a bead, cove, bead, straight line. The key to these interrupted cuts, Mark explains, is to put pressure on the tool rest not the wood, and focus on the top shadow while cutting- not where the tool is, and cut downhill. The detail gouge is good for getting into tighter places. It is good when starting off to stop and check your progress against a model or drawing, Mark demonstrated both.
Mark cleans up the wide surfaces on the back with a Stewart-MacDonald rasp. Not much is needed because he has used light cuts which preserve the edges and prevent tear-out. The two centers for the head are much closer to the center of the piece and form the line at the center of the face.In the third photo, Mark refers back to the drawing- labeling your centers decreases the potential for mistakes and makes it easy to go back and tune-up the figure. Mark is also careful to avoid turning off those centers as he shapes the head. A pencil line drawn on the top indicates the limit of the cut. Once Mark completes the head, he shapes with a chisel and mallet following the curves already present on the shoulders and head to define the neck.
The face of the figure is made by turning on two centers, the intersection of which form the nose or center-line of the face. To complete the head, he uses a center and makes a top cut leaving a small tenon, shown in the second photo. A pad foot completes the figure, an historically old turning feature. It, too, uses multi-axis turning and is the intersection of a cove and bead. Mark then turns off the base forms a tenon for mounting, trims the tenon off the top of the head, and has a complete figure!
Lucky Dave Healy has the winning ticket and goes home with the demonstration piece. What a beauty!
Mark also took the time to take us over to the student center to see his commissioned sculpture, Building Blocks. He showed us a video of its making, turned from a single piece of pine- a deceptively simple structure at first glance. Then you start to think about what went into it, and you get closer and just start to appreciate the craftsmanship that went into it. A captivating piece, for sure.
Thanks, for a great presentation and a wonderful piece of art!