Article: Art Liestman Demonstrates For CMW--by Bob Gunther August 18, 2012

September 03, 2012 11:14, submitted by Nettie Turpin (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Tina Collison)

August 18, 2012 Carolina Mountain Woodturners

Demonstration by Art Liestman


Art was born and raised in Kansas, but he has lived in the suburbs of Vancouver, BC for over half of his life. His day job is a professor at Simon Fraser University where he teaches computer science and technical writing. He brings a unique approach to what wood art can be using a little imagination.

After Art moved to BC he joined a local woodturning club, and this club held an annual 2x4 challenge requiring members to make something using only an 8 foot long 2x4, glue and finishing products. Art made an automated programmable xylophone. The project required some round parts so Art added a lathe to his shop. After completing the project, he was hooked on turning. He saw Frank Sudol which opened his eyes to expressive, artistic woodturning. He then took a class with Jacques Vesery, and his woodturning life evolved.

Aside from puzzling illusions Art enjoys exploring other surface enhancements using pyrography, carving and coloring. He especially enjoys creating pieces on the lathe that do not appear turned when completed. This gave rise to Art’s Lost Wood and Therming techniques. Although he does work off the lathe, virtually every piece he makes is based on the turned form.

Art has demonstrated at many national and regional symposia as well as many local clubs. He last demonstrated for CMW in August 2009. The write-up of that demo is on the CMW website

Art has also taught week-long classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School and at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts as well as single day classes for local clubs. He will teach a class for CMW on August 19 following this demo. His work appears in numerous exhibitions and is available through galleries across North America.

Morning Session:

Art began his demo with a slide presentation showing samples of his work. The slides showed several puzzle pieces where individual sections of the piece appeared next to the parent piece. He also showed some wall hangings and several of his teapots and teapods. Art also displayed other turned, hollowed, and textured pieces. He uses a graphite finish on many of his pieces.

Next Art showed his Lost Wood technique where pieces appear football or almond shaped, but in reality he turned them. Additional information is available in Art Liestman’s article “Beyond Round-The Lost Wood Process” in the August 2012 volume of “American Woodturner.”

The blank for this technique consisted of three pieces of wood glued together. The center piece is waste wood and of a contrasting color to the two identical side pieces. The blank was glued up using yellow wood glue such as Titebond or Titebond II. Between each layer of wood, a piece of plain brown paper (e.g. shopping bag) was glued. (It is important to not use paper with ink on it.) When dry the paper permits the wood layers to be split apart. Art placed a glued up 3x3x5” blank between centers.

The center of the waste wood was marked – not the center of the entire blank. Correct marking is essential. If not done correctly, then the two outer pieces will be unequal in the final piece. He then turned the blank into a cylinder using the spindle roughing gouge. It is important that the woods are contrasting so the glue lines will not be difficult to locate when splitting. He turned tenons on both ends. The delineation of the lid and base of the box was marked, and the two pieces parted to about º inch. Art used a small box cutter type of Japanese saw (available from Lee Valley) to complete the parting process.

Art placed a Stronghold chuck on the spindle and mounted the lid portion of the blank in the jaws. The face of the piece was trued up using the side of a parting tool as a scraper. (Art sharpens the parting tool perpendicular to the orientation of the wheel.) Art hollowed the lid and formed the mortise to fit the bottom he turned using the parting tool. The mortise needs to be cut parallel to the lathe bed. He marked the depth of the lid on the outer surface so that later when he formed the top he would not perforate it. Art removed the top from the jaws.

Art placed the base piece of the box in the jaws. Its face was trued up with the parting tool. Using a depth drill, he drilled to the required depth. Then he formed the joint to fit on the lid. He did this before hollowing. Once he achieved a proper fit, Art hollowed the base. To see the wall thickness from the opening of the box to the base Art drills several holes through the wall in the center waste block wood. This allows checking wall thickness throughout the hollowing process. The holes also let chips come out during hollowing. He turned the wall to about 3/16 to 1/4 inch thick. Art used a parting tool to mark the bottom level of the base. He achieved the final fit of the lid and base. Art placed a thin paper towel between the lid and base to give a tighter fit. He fitted the lid on and brought up the tailstock. Art finished the outer surface of the box with the roughing gouge and did any shaping. It is possible to sand at this time. The tenon was parted off the lid. He removed the base from the chuck.

Using a chisel and a mallet, Art separated the pieces along the glue lines. The flat side of the chisel should be to the good wood side. He discarded the waste wood. When splitting the brown paper, some remains on both sides of the split. This needs to be carefully sanded away. Then the two halves of the lid and the bottom can be glued together forming an almond shaped box. When sanding it is important to be careful not to take too much wood off one side or else there will not be a proper fit of the two halves.

Using this same technique one could make a hollow form with no entry hole by hollowing through a hole in the waste wood and then gluing the two halves back together. Art showed such a piece with the center for hollowing marked in blue (see photo).

In the above Lost Wood technique it may be important to match the grains of the two halves. Art showed a series of slides depicting this process. Art made the 2” x 3” blank for the project about 1” longer than needed for the final piece. Before resawing the 2” thick blank, Art drilled 1/4 inch holes in opposite corners. Similarly placed holes but somewhat larger (3/8-1/2”) were drilled through the waste wood piece. Art applied glue to all the surfaces and inserted the paper inserted, then he passed bolts through the holes and applied the clamps. The bolts keep the pieces aligned and prevent slippage when the clamps apply pressure.

Art showed a piece glued up to make a goblet that was almond-shaped in the globe and base with a round stem. It is important to leave at least 1/4 inch of good wood on each side of the waste wood in the stem area before splitting so there will be enough wood to round the stem. Once split and glued it is possible to turn the goblet using a jam chuck in the top portion and a circular live center with the pin removed against the base. This will prevent splitting the two halves.

The thickness of the waste wood determines the final shape of the piece using this Lost Wood process. If the waste wood is thick, the final piece will be pointy and flatter. If it is thin then the piece will be fatter.

This completed the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

Art began the session with “Beyond Round: Therming.” The original use of this process was to make four sided chair legs. He showed several examples of this technique used to make artistic teapots. Find additional information on this process in Art Liestman’s article on “Beyond Round--Therming” in the April 2010 volume of “American Woodturner.”

For his blanks Art used three pieces of cherry (3”x3”x8”). They all need to be the same length with square ends. Art used a jig that held the three pieces at 120 degree intervals around the two discs of the jig. The jig consisted of two circular plates about 8” in diameter with a central steel shaft connecting them. One end of the shaft had a Morse taper for the headstock end, and a dimple for the live center to enter at the tailstock end. Each disc or plate had numerous holes for faceplate screws and holes for pins to go through to hold the three blanks. A hole was drilled into the center of each blank at both ends. The pins arranged on the discs then entered each blank and fixed them at 120 degree intervals. Once in place, he placed faceplate screws through the discs and into each blank to orient each in the same position for turning.

Art mounted the jig between centers and checked all connections for tightness. The depth of the faceplate screws was marked on each blank to avoid hitting them when turning. Art used a parting tool to cut a circular groove marking the screw depth. The parting tool cut was about 1/2 inch wide. Then he used a spindle roughing gouge to make a cylinder surface on each of the three blanks between the 1/2 inch parting tool cuts. Now each of the three blanks had a cylindrical turned side. Now the shape of this side needed to be determined and marked with a marker. He turned it to that shape with a roughing gouge and a parting tool. It is possible to sand now on the turned surface but not with the lathe running. Then Art removed the screws that held each piece. He rotated the pieces 180 degrees on the pins (bolts) and put the screws in again to fix the position of each piece. After placing the jig back between centers, he repeated the process for the second side. He turned a different shape on this second position. Now there are two sides with two to go. The process was repeated after rotating the pieces 90 degrees. He rotated them again to the fourth and final sides and turned. When changing from one side to the next, one must rotate the pieces in the same directions. This completed the Therming portion of the demonstration.

Next Art discussed ways of making the Therming jig. A good size for the jig plates is 7-8 inches in diameter. He made his first one using plywood plates with no center bar. The bolts were ? inch dowel rods. Another way is to add a center bar for stability.

This completed a very interesting and unique demo. A DVD will be available in the club library in October 2012.

Bob Gunther