Michael Kehs returned last month to provide our demonstration. If you don’t know him, he’s a woodturning master and has been a Bucks Woodturner since the 1980’s. He has demonstrated all across the country and won numerous awards for his artistic turnings.
He started out the demonstration showing how to make a bud vase or weed pot. He first saw these being made from old split rail fences by the legendary Palmer Sharpless, one of the founders of our club. Michael brought a number of the ones he’s made (shown below along with two Saffron Boxes), and commented that they were a good money-maker at craft shows.
To make them, he uses a screw center since this allows him to spin on a new blank rapidly. (If you are going to make money from these, you need to turn them out at a good clip.) His screw center is a 1/4 cap head screw that he shaped with a grinder and cut-off wheel. A washer inserted between the stock and base of the center can be removed if the thread strips in the stock, thus giving him a second chance if there is a catch.
With his blank in pace, Michael uses a drill bit affixed to a Morse taper for easy insert into the tail stock. He drills a 3-4 inch hole at about 400 rpm. With a 3/8 inch spindle gouge he shear scrapes the wood to taper the hole which he then sands. Switching out the drill for a cone center allows him to turn the outside of the pot without fear of losing the blank. (click on the pictures to enlarge them)
To shape the outside, Michael suggested using a 1/2 inch spindle gouge to make the turning quicker. He also reminded us to get you body into the cut, ride the bevel but with a light touch, and not to be afraid to experiment with different shapes.
After completing a couple of these vases, Michael introduced us to Saffron Boxes. These turned forms were recently on display at the Center for Art in Wood. By visiting their website, you can see a few that were on display; one dating back to 1906. Painted versions of these spice cups from colonial times can be seen on the web.
To make one, Michael starts with a cylinder, forms tenons on both ends and marks off the cap, base and widest part of the midsection. Michael then, separates the base from the cap, forms the inside of the cap, forms the matting surface of the body, puts the two back together and begins shaping the finial, cap and body. Yep, he makes it look easy!
When he is about ready to shape the top of the finial, he uses a bit of tape to make sure things stay together after the tail stock is moved away. Then, after the finial is sanded, and the cap is removed, the body can be hollowed out. Michael like to reverse turn the inside- it’s just easier. Just remember to use those set screws to keep the chuck secured.
How do you part off the base? Michael likes to make another lid to be used as a jamb chuck. With light cuts he easily removes the leftover stock and tenon. with a little sanding, you have the perfect box to store your valuable spices!
Want to decorate that box and make it a little more special? Michael showed us how he uses his cup burrs (he sells them if you are interested), grinding balls, and branding irons. Even better yet, consider taking a class with Michael. He offers two-day, ten-week, and individual instruction in many aspects of turning and woodworking at Michael Kehs Woodworks.