He makes it look so easy, but as Mark St. Leger breezes through the process, you realize, “man you gotta have some skill to pull this off!” That’s the feeling we all got when Mark demonstrated for us last month. Even if you’ve seen the Rock-a-Bye box done before, it’s well worth it to see Mark do it a second time. You always learn something new!
If you are interested in a step by step guide to creating one of these boxes, Mark kindly offers directions on his website (under Articles and Handouts). While you are there, you can see some of the tools he offers for sale, including a hollowing tool he designed and used in the demonstration. You can also check out this old Bucks Woodturners Newsletter (page 5). In the meantime, here are some pictures from our meeting.
There are three jigs necessary to complete the project: a collet chuck, a simple jamb chuck, and an eccentric chuck for forming the finial. Here are three pictures of each. Notice the two tenons on the eccentric chuck, formed by utilizing the two centers, separated by an 1/8th inch, on the base.
Mark used a piece of Norwegian Maple burl for the demonstration and he commented that his preferred finishes are Danish Wax and carnauba wax. It is a pretty piece of wood!
He starts with a very accurate cube and mounts it between the head stock spindle (no insert) and the live center tail stock (with the center point removed). Before turning he checks to make sure it is aligned as perfectly as he can get it. He starts shaping the top, then the bottom and turns a tenon on the base. Notice that he’s about 3/8 inch down from those points and sneaks up on it from both sides. Mark likes using an old table knife as a parting tool.
With the piece in the 4 jaw chuck, Mark gets ready to hollow it out First, he removes the tenon and then drills a 5/8 inch hole. He has the Forstner bit marked with tape so that his hole goes 1/4 inch from what will be the bottom.
With his Hunter hollowing tool, he removes wood from the base stopping often to clear the shavings. Note he leaves about an 1/8 inch wall at the top of the vessel. He cleans this up with a 1/4 inch round skew.
You’ve probably been wondering where those jigs come in. Well here’s the jamb chuck! Mark turns a tenon and uses it to capture the box so he can turn its tenon off.
What’s that golf ball doing there? It’s just a great way to stabilize the piece so Mark can remove the tenon without losing the piece.
The collet chuck comes in handy to shape the top of the collar. First, Mark makes the collar from Blackwood and makes sure its tenon fits the box.
Then, he creates a mortise in the collet chuck to hold the collar. He uses a skew chisel to shape its top and then drills an 1/8 inch hole, 1/8 inch deep as a mortise for the finial.
And finally, the finial. He creates a tenon on a boxwood blank, puts that in his eccentric chuck, with the off axis tenon, and shapes the top of the finial with a small roughing gouge. With the centered tenon on the jig in the chuck, the can work on the base and its tenon.
With that done, he’s done! It was a great demonstration with all sorts of tips along the way. Just like his beard, Mark keeps getting better and better. Thanks for a great demonstration!