Max, a 2017 Windgate ITE International Residency Fellow, stopped by the Hicks Wood Shop in June. He demonstrated how he can turn a piece on a few axes, establish a form, and then hollow, carve and sand to it create one of the pieces for which he's become so well known.
Knowing how he does it, for one, gives you a pretty good start on figuring out how he's made some of his pieces, but there is so much more to it: it's the geometry, the flow of lines, textures and overall shape of the piece that form his body of work. But it was fun to see where he started!
To make the piece he's holding in the first photo, Max explained that it is "simply" a matter of turning a sphere with two coves on off-axis centers. But, we're getting a little ahead of ourselves- let's first see how he made a sphere, for that alone was worth the price of admission. After making an extra long cylinder, Max took the diameter of the cylinder and marked that dimension along the length of the cylinder. With a ruler, he then found the center and marked that. That's pretty standard.
With these three marks you know where the top of the sphere will be and where it will end. But here is where it gets interesting. The cross-section of this cylinder can be thought of as a square. If he turns that square into an octagon, he can then knock off the corners of the octagon and approximate a sphere.
Max then showed us how to make an octagon within a square: find the center by drawing two diagonals, then, with a compass draw an arc from a corner that intersects the center. Do the same for each corner and you'll establish where the 8 facets of the octagon will be. The dimension from the square's corner to the corner of the octagon will be proportional to the size of the square. That proportionality is defined by striking a line from the corner of the square through the opposite lower corner of the inscribed octagon.
By drawing this out on a scrap panel, Max had a gauge he could use for any sized cylinder. A close-up of this drawing with a hypothetical, larger square is shown below as an example.
After making the gauge, Max is took the excess off the ends to define his cylinder so that its length equaled its width. Then, with dividers, he marked the cylinder wall and the "top" with the dimension to the octagonal corner. (keep those divider points down to avoid a horrible catch!) Connecting these two lines defined the octagonal facet. He repeated these marking on the other side as well.
He then connected those two lines using a bowl gouge to make the straight cut between them, with successive passes, of course. With these corner cuts made, it's easy to picture the octagon in the cross-section of the third picture.
It was now time to take the corners off the octagon to approximate the sphere. Max first divided the faces of the octagon in half. He then divided those sections in half again with his marker. The spigots are a too thick, at this point, to draw in the last line in this picture.
This first photo is where Max reduced the spigot to about half the distance to the center- this gave him two lines and a corner between them to remove. He took the two corners off of each side and then rolled his gouge over to shear scrape away the high points. You can see how quickly it takes the shape of a sphere.
Now that Max had a sphere, he set up the piece to make two intersecting cove cuts. Using the indexing mechanism on the lathe, Max divided the equator into 12. This is for the purpose of orienting the sphere, but first he removed the spigots with a handsaw. After remounting the sphere on a new axis defined by the equator, he counted up two and a half divisions from each side and made a mark that he scribed around the sphere.
You can see how these guideline define the position of the cove he then cut. Once it was cut, he rotated the sphere along the equator line to get a new axis for second cove cut. When that cove was completed, he had the basic form ready for hollowing.
To hollow out the form, Max cut a tenon, mounted the piece in a four jaw chuck, and used a Forstner bit to begin drilling a hole through the piece. During the demonstration, he was able to rotate the piece, use the expanding jaws to hold the piece and finish drilling through from the other side. Once the hole was drilled, Max drew an outline of the inside and outside of the piece to define its shape and wall thickness.
Max then began hollowing the inside by following the curvature seen on the outside of the piece as it rotated. Max experimented with a Monro hollowing tool, but often uses standard tools, such as the Kleton Hollowers. Then for some fast wood removal, Max used an Arbortech. He then follows this up with air driven rotary tools and lots and lots of sanding.
Can't forget about those perpendicular features- they need to be hollowed too. With a hand held drill and Forstner bit, Max quickly removed most of the wood, and then, again, it is a lot of patient grinding and sanding to get those uniform 1/4 inch walls.
Max donated the demonstration piece to be part of the 50/0 Raffle. The lucky winner was Bryan Richardson. Given Bryan's recent spoon work, we expect to see a fantastic result next Show and Tell, in spite of the huge task that remained. A very informative and well done presentation. Thanks, Max!