Article: Chris Ramsey Demonstration For CMW April 13, 2013

April 17, 2013 15:13, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Tina Collison)

CMW Demo April 13, 2013 Chris Ramsey



Chris Ramsey was born in New York City and now lives in Somerset, Kentucky where he has his home and studio. He began his turning career using a Delta lathe but now uses a 3 hp One Way 2436 of which he has four. One of the four he keeps in a trailer and uses it for demos. Chris has been a technician in the electronics industry, a manager of a construction company, a builder, a facilities manager of a major bank and an owner and operator of his own business (American Network Cable of Somerset, Kentucky).

Chris has exhibited and taught throughout the USA, the Far East and Europe. He demonstrated for CMW in 2003 and 2008. He teaches at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts and the John C. Campbell Folk School. His signature work pertains to thin walled bowls, hollow forms and full sized and miniature sized hats. Chris spends a good deal of time appraising downed or felled trees to find the perfect pieces. In these pieces a bowl or hat is waiting to be released.

Morning Session:

Chris began his demo using a large piece of cherry that was cut 10 days ago. Prior to the demo he had balanced and rounded the piece. He uses a 2 prong drive center so that the piece can be balanced and the natural edges level. A tenon had been turned for the #4 jaws. The outside shape was trued up. Once trued the shaping was begun. The goal was a closed mouth natural edge side grain hollow form. Chris is very particular about the shape of his pieces. He feels that a thin wall is important but shape is more important. Due to the side-grain turning there are alternating periods of side/end grain cutting. This will cause the tool to vibrate or bounce. Chris controls this by using a heavy tool handle with a lot of downward pressure onto the tool rest.

The grind on Chris’s gouge is such that when used at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock it is essentially catch-free. It is ground by hand and a jig is not used.

Shaping continued by rounding off the lower portion of the vessel and the initial formation of the leg areas. If a good ogee shape is turned before carving is done the end results are much more pleasing.

Chris then turned to hollowing the piece. Before hollowing he lacquered the outside of the sapwood so that it would not be stained when the CA glue is used to hold the bark in place. He then applied super thin CA glue to the bark followed by accelerator. Hollowing was continued.

Chris changed to turning from the opposite or other side of the lathe. This was done so that he could get under the bark rim. Lathe rotation direction was not changed (reversed). Some vibration occurred. At home Chris would use a faceplate and not the chuck. By doing so the vibration could be decreased or nearly eliminated. A ¼ inch wall thickness was achieved. Once Chris hollowed below the bark thin CA glue was applied to the inside. Chris measured wall thickness using the Keith Tompkins wall thickness gauge. During turning transition lines develop. To eliminate them it is necessary to turn below and above them – not across them.

Deeper areas were then hollowed – again from the opposite side of the lathe. When turning the deeper areas of the piece the wall thickness is progressively left thicker so that the legs can be formed. They are legs – not feet. Once the inside bark area was finalized it was cleaned with the compressor and lacquer was applied. CA glue and accelerator were used. Chris then removed a lot of wood from the deeper areas. Once the area that needs to be thicker is reached the outside shape is no longer mimicked. A nice curve into the bottom is achieved. It should not be flat. Chris leaves the center of the bottom higher so sanding will not dig a hole. This completed the interior of the closed mouth natural edge hollow form and the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

Chris used another piece that had been previously turned and sanded. It was somewhat larger than the piece turned in the morning session. On this piece only the leg layout and carving needed to be done. First the dimensions of the bowl were determined – 10 ¾ inches deep and 13 ¼ inches high. The bottom line of the piece would be 10 ¾ inches plus a 3/8 inch bottom wall thickness equals 11 1/8 inches. 13 ¼ inches minus 11 1/8 inches equals 2 ½ inches equals leg thickness from the bottom of the vessel. By making the legs extend up the sides where the wall thickness was made thicker the legs will be about 4 ½ inches high – or at least appear to be.

A piece of wet suit material was taped into the bottom of the vessel to go against the jam chuck. It is cheaper to use a computer mouse pad than wet suit material. The piece was placed on the jam chuck, the tailstock was brought up and the piece was centered. The tenon was turned away except for a 2 inch wide nub. Chris then hollowed the bottom of the piece down to nearly final thickness (calculated above). He raised the tool rest up and recut the interior curve of the bottom. He left a 1/8 inch thick rim around the bottom. It is important to try to extend the outside curve of the piece into the curve in the bottom. At this point the base is ready for carving.

A jig was used that slid on the ways and held a pencil on the midline. Chris determined what would be the front of the vessel and made a mark. The legs are situated so that the front two legs (2 of 3) are situated like two bulldog legs when viewing from the front. The third leg would be like the dog’s tail. Chris used a 48 position pin index wheel to determine the position of leg #1 and set the index at 48, then 32 for the #2 leg and 16 for the third leg. Lines were drawn on the outside and inside of the vessel at each of these points. Chris then marked circles around the outside of the vessel covering the leg areas. Each circle was ¼ inch from the next. The leg shapes were then determined using the lines as a guide and they were drawn on the outside of the bowl. Ogee shaped legs are very appealing. A template can be used.

An angle grinder using a 4 inch Galahad (holey) cutter was used to shape the legs. One can see through this cutter while it is being used. The wood between the three legs was carved away leaving a nice curvature although somewhat lumpy. Micro planes were used to clean up the surface and refine the leg shapes. After the planes 80 grit discs were used on a pad in the electric drill. This further cleaned things up. The piece was then placed upside down in a garbage can filled with shavings. The remainder of the carving can be done when it is in this position.

This completed the afternoon session and a very interesting demonstration. Sources for items used by Chris can be found on his website:

A DVD will be available in the CMW library in June 2013. Submitted by Bob Gunther