Article: Alan Hollar Demonstration, May 2013

May 23, 2013 09:41, submitted by Tucker Garrison (author: Bob Gunther)

Alan Hollar CMW Demonstration

Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC

May 18, 2013

Alan is from Crossnore, NC where he has his home, studio and workshop. He has been turning since 1986. He is self-taught, being introduced to woodturning when he needed to make replacement parts as a furniture restorer. In addition to turning Alan spends much of his time sculpting pieces. He feels that “turning wood is similar to language in that you have a vocabulary: the more you use it the more comfortable you become. You also become more creative and more expressive within the parameters of the medium.”

Alan frequently gives demonstrations for both woodturners and the public. He has demonstrated in the past for CMW and for the North Carolina Woodturning Symposium in 2011. He teaches at his studio, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Alan is a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild, the Piedmont Craftsmen, and the American Association of Woodturners. He is an honorary lifetime member of Carolina Mountain Woodturners.

Morning Session: (Open Natural Edge Vessel with Legs)

Alan began his demo by adjusting the moveable Stubby lathe bed (ways) so that the end of the ways (headstock end) lined up with the tailstock edge of the Stronghold chuck. Thus, the bottom of the vessel, when in the chuck, lined up with the end of the ways which made measuring depth and bottom wall thickness easier and more accurate. The piece of cherry for the vessel had previously had the outside turned. It was placed in the jaws. The tailstock was not used. In laying out the piece Alan wants the bottom of the vessel to be about ¾ to 1 inch above the surface on which the vessel’s legs will be standing. Alan sets the tool rest somewhat below center. He stressed to check the lathe pulley positions in order to know what speed will be reached when the lathe is turned on and not have a regrettable surprise.

Alan began turning by shaping the outer surface of the vessel where the legs would be formed. When turning one needs to look at the top profile of the vessel and not where one is actually cutting. This permits one to better evaluate the emerging shape of the vessel. Alan left a rim around the top of the vessel about 2 – 2 ½ inches wide and thinner than would be the final thickness of the wall. The increased thickness of the area below the rim permits the legs to be carved.

Alan does not go to any lengths to keep the bark on his natural edged vessels. If it stays on during the turning process, fine. If it comes off, fine too. He then turned to hollowing the vessel. He sets the tool rest so that when the tool handle is parallel to the ways the tip is on center. He hollows from the outside in and moves the tool rest into the piece as the hollowing goes deeper. Once one has hollowed some of the wall and not nearly to final thickness one is at a point where he/she can practice cuts to see what works best. One wants to get the wall from the rim to where the carved legs will begin to its final thickness before worrying about the rest of wall thickness. Alan continued the deep hollowing and used a curved tool rest that let him turn the deeper areas and not be far off the tool rest. He made a final cut on the interior and a section of bark came off. Because of this he manually removed the remainder of the bark. The thickness was measured and found to be a little over ¼ inch. Another cut was made which became the final one. The deeper aspects of the vessel were then turned. Alan sometimes uses a gouge with a 70 or 80 degree bevel for the deepest areas. The thickness of the bottom was then measured so that a final thickness could be turned. At this point Alan would blow out free water from the vessel walls with the compressor. A heat gun might also be used. Sanding the interior would be to about 320 grit and the outside to150 grit.

The vessel was removed from the chuck and the bottom wall thickness measured. The piece was then reversed turned. A jam chuck was placed on the headstock. The tailstock was brought up and the live center placed in the original center on the remaining nub. The bottom was turned leaving the wood for the legs and the final bottom thickness of about ¼ inch. This completed the turning portion of the natural edge vessel with legs and the morning session.

Afternoon Session

The vessel turned in the morning session was still on the jam chuck in preparation for layout of the legs. A shop-made flat table was attached to a faceplate with a post for the tool rest. This provided a flat surface to mark the leg positions on the vessel. The pencil used to make the marks should be flat sided – not round. Three legs were decided upon. The location of the first leg was decided upon and marks made. The vessel was rotated so that one of the stop positions corresponded to the mark for the first leg. Because the lathe had 24 positions it was rotated 8 stops to mark the 2nd leg and 16 positions for the 3rd leg. Then the patterns for the 3 legs were drawn using French curves that were flexible. The initial pattern for one side of the first leg was hand drawn. The remainder of the first leg and the other two were drawn copying the pattern hand drawn on the first one. Once the legs were outlined the areas to be carved away were shaded which prevents confusion later on in the process.

The vessel was removed from the jam chuck and placed on a carver’s work positioner that had been modified to hold the piece using bungee cords. Once in the work positioner carving was begun.

A chain saw carving tool was used. Before even thinking about using this power tool ALL the instructions and cautions need to be read and understood – and adhered to! Alan uses 2 chains stacked on center. Once finished using the larger chain saw cutter, Alan used a smaller Merlin 2 inch chain saw cutter to define the carved areas.

After using the Merlin, Alan used a rotary flex shaft tool with a flame shaped cutting burr. Alan does not do all the cutting and carving at one time. He sets the piece aside for a few days to partially dry before further finishing and sanding.

After drying for several days finer tools can be used. Alan had another partially carved vessel that had partially dried and was ready for the finer cutters and burrs. This was placed on the carver’s positioner and the surface treated to further smooth it and blend in the shape.

After the discs and burrs are used sanding can be done, usually starting with 60 or 80 grit paper. Sometimes 120 grit paper can be used to start the process. If one wants to do any surface texturing it should be done before the vessel is hollowed. Alan sands using power sanders if possible. He starts with the grit that removes the marks in the wood from the cutters and burrs. If needed, 60 grit paper is used. Alan finishes with the finer grits using a random orbital sander. Sanding grits should not be skipped. To go from one to the next the new one should be 1 ½ times that of the previous one. If he is going to put finish on a piece Alan does not sand higher than 320. The important factor when sanding is not so much how fine one sands but how well one sands. Alan uses two finishes. For functional pieces he uses Watco and buffing is used. For decorative ones he uses oil and lacquer or just lacquer.

This completed an interesting and informative demonstration. A DVD will be available in the club library in July 2013.

Alan Hollar’s Workshop – May 19, 2013

The day after Alan’s demo at the Folk Art Center he conducted a hands-on class for CMW members at the Ox Creek Community Center. The topic was turning natural edged bowls. Ten students were involved. Each student was provided four poplar blanks so that multiple pieces could be turned during the class. Several students progressed to putting feet on the pieces using various carvers.

Once the class got under way, which was by 9 AM, the chips flew – enough to fill 6 black bags for John Hill’s chickens. I have attended numerous classes but the students in this one did not stop for anything except lunch and to look at John’s unbelievable wood turning collection. Everyone had a good time and went home a better turner.

                                    Bob Gunther