Article: Steve Sinner Demonstrates For CMW July 19, 2014

July 24, 2014 14:51, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Tina Collison)

Steve Sinner demonstrates for CMW July 19, 2014


Steve comes to us from Bettendorf, Iowa. He is a nationally known wood artist who is in many galleries and private collections worldwide. As far as he can remember the process of making has fascinated him. All sorts of objects, from scooters to chessman, came out of his basement workshop prior to high school. An appreciation of fine art and classical music began in high school but he never considered making art. After high school he earned a degree in Industrial Education and work in manufacturing followed. Steve obtained a copy of Dale Nish’s “Creative Woodturning” in 1976, which led to his near addiction with the subject. In fact he resigned his day job in 1998 to create art full time. His work is reflected in the following quote. “A passionate love for wood is the basis of my quest to create art from this fickle material. I seek to reveal this passion to the viewer. Wood surrenders its beauty reluctantly. It would prefer a natural demise, quiet and unassuming. Yet when treated with proper respect, wood will provide a spectacular show that most find astounding. Wood reflects a warmth and life not found in other materials. And no two pieces are ever the same. Using wood as a canvas for geometric and graphic images has become the crux of my most complex works. I enjoy solving the technical as well as artistic problems associated with the art. With this effort I derive immense pleasure from sharing my passion with others. It would be difficult to choose the greater pleasure – creating or showing”.

Morning Session:

Steve began his demo with a power point presentation (slides) depicting the harvesting of wood, wood preparation, and numerous examples of his signature hollow turning. He also showed layout and design. His classic vases were shown as were his straight vases. He discussed and showed examples of image transfer to his work. Goblets were shown that were decorated and pierced. Any wood that he harvests is immediately coated with end grain sealer. In his pieces he wants straight grain with no branches and the pith centered. He finishes his pieces with Helmsman Gloss Spar Varnish which is applied with a foam brush (JEN Mfg. Co.) on the lathe rotating at about 20-30 rpm. This brush is used to evenly, thinly spread the varnish. After the first coat dries (over 4 hours) he sands with 600 grit paper (3M 260 L). This removes the shine and thus permits the second coat of varnish to adhere to the surface. When sanding one should not use the fingers- use mouse pad material with Velcro glued on so that hook and loop paper can be used. [If you would like detailed information about Steve Sinner’s Gloss Varnish Application, click on this link.]

Steve then turned to the hands-on portion of his demo with the assistance of his business partner Joe Meirhaeghe. Steve placed a 9” diameter, 12” long poplar log between centers and roughed it into a cylinder. It is important to center the pith, especially at the tailstock end (base of the vessel). When rouging out Steve uses a face shield. Once the cylinder is turned it needs to be inspected for any defects. Steve does not use spindle washers (spacers) to prevent chuck locking-up. Instead he cleans the opposing surfaces with steel wool – NOT sand paper. His chuck and inserts are all locked on with set screws. This is especially important when reverse turning. He uses a 2 prong drive center that is held in the chuck and not with a Morse taper in the spindle. The 2 prong center is placed so that both prongs are set equally in the surface of the wood. The tailstock center he uses has the center point removed. Thus the piece can be recentered if needed. If the point is left in place this is not possible. It always centers back into the initial hole if minor adjustments are made. He uses a center steady to hold the piece secure.

On the roughed out piece the base is at the tailstock end and the top in the headstock end. The lathe speed is determined by safety measures, not by a dial speed number. The general shape of the piece was further roughed. When designing his pieces Steve uses the Golden Rule (1:1.618). After roughing he used a bowl gouge to flatten the base of the piece and form a tenon. He then used a ½” x ½” scraper to narrow the bottom of the piece above the tenon. A 1/4” x 1/4” scraper was then used to refine the tenon into a dovetail shape.

The piece was then removed from between centers (Anchor seal was applied to all exposed end grain areas). It was placed on the chuck and the tailstock brought up. Shaping was continued. The tailstock was set parallel to the lathe ways. A slightly raised band was formed around the widest part of the vessel to give the steady rest a uniform surface against which to run, and prevent discoloration in the finished work. The top of the vessel was trued up and shaped. A scraper was used to refine the shape of the neck of the vessel. This completed the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

Shaping was continued with the bowl gouge. Humps and flat areas need to be avoided in order to get a pleasing form. Subtle out of proper shape areas can be more accurately detected by feel rather than sight. Then the base (tailstock end) was cleaned up with a pointed gouge to avoid hitting the chuck. The edges of the base were rounded off and not left flat. End grain sealer was then applied over the entire exterior of the vessel.

At this point the hollowing process was begun. The steady rest was placed on the ways and its three wheels adjusted to rest against the piece on the area previously turned for that purpose. The tool rest was then brought up. A divot was formed with the gouge on the tailstock end. The rim of the top was turned to final thickness. Then an inverted cone shape was turned to accept a Forstner Colt Bit. The bit was placed in the end of the boring bar. The boring bar was placed distally in the captured rest. The proximal end was placed on another special hollowing tool rest. It was adjusted so that the boring bar was parallel to the ways. It is important to have the safety pin in the distal end of the boring bar so it does not come out of the captured rest. The center hole for hollowing was then done in stages in order to prevent shavings from trapping the bit in the wood and one will not be able to remove it.

The Munro Hollower II cutter was placed in the boring bar and hollowing was begun. The bulk of material was removed first and wall thickness was not aimed for at this point. It will be done later using the laser attachment. At this point a scraper was used to clean up the neck for final wall thickness in that area. The laser was then set up for final wall thickness (about 3/16”) and hollowing continued. Hollowing was not completed at this time but if it were the piece would be end grain coated and hung upside down to dry. Once dry it would be returned and the band that was around the pieces for the steady rest turned away. Steve freezes the piece for 1-2 days prior to hanging up to dry to speed the drying process.

A previously turned, dry piece was placed between centers with a cone jam chuck in the headstock and the point-free tailstock brought up. The piece was out of round secondary to the drying process so its position was adjusted on the tailstock end. Once it was lined up as much as possible the foot was trued up and the dovetail tenon also trued up. The piece was then removed from between centers and placed in the chuck on the trued up tenon. A high density polyethylene cone center was placed on the tailstock and this was brought up. The outside was trued up and the steady rest area refined. The neck area of the vessel was also trued up as was the remainder of the vessel down to the base. Once the outside was completed the interior would be turned again and a constant wall thickness established. The center steady rest could be used to hold the piece when refining the interior wall surface. One needs to clean the center steady wheels to prevent wax contamination of the dry vessel.

Sanding is done using cloth backed paper (parts of sanding belts) in the various grits. Steve sands to about 320 or 400 grit. Then the varnish (as mentioned earlier) is applied – after drying, the piece is sanded with 600 grit 3M-260 L paper, then varnished again. If a glossy surface is not desired the gloss can be rubbed back with steel wool, pumice, or whatever you prefer. This completed the afternoon session and an interesting and informative demo. A DVD will be available in the CMW Library.

Submitted by Bob Gunther