Article: John Jordan Demonstrates For CMW March 21, 2015

Jordan 4: photo by Brian Johnson Jordan 3: photo by Brian Johnson

March 30, 2015 10:40, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Brian Johnson)

John Jordan Demonstrates for CMW March 21, 2015


John comes to us from Cane Ridge (Nashville) Tennessee. He is known primarily for his textured and carved hollow vessels. John has been featured in nearly every major turning exhibition over the past twenty years. His work can be viewed at John Jordan Woodturning. His work has received numerous awards, and is in the permanent collections of many museums and corporations, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the American Craft Museum in New York City, the White House, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, NC, the Fine Arts Museum in Boston, the Detroit Institute of the Arts and the prestigious Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England.

John is always in great demand as a demonstrator/teacher, traveling extensively teaching at universities, craft schools, turning groups and trade shows throughout the US, Canada, the UK, France, New Zealand, Australia and Japan, including an annual week or two at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, the Anderson Ranch Art Center and the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine.

John’s pieces are initially turned on the lathe from fresh, green logs using a number of techniques and tools that have evolved over the years. Each piece is then hand carved and textured, using a variety of different hand and small powered tools. This texturing process is very labor intensive, and can take as much as several days to weeks to complete. There is little room for error during this carving- one small slip can ruin the piece. A light lacquer finish is applied to most pieces, including the dyed work.

John has previously demonstrated and taught at CMW in September 2012 and August 2007. Click on the date to view the articles about these demonstrations in our archive.

Morning Session:

John began the session with a brief discussion of lathe maintenance. It began with polishing of the tool rest bar to eliminate any scratches, nicks or dings. Steel wool and/or sandpaper can be used in conjunction with oil. WD-40 can be applied to prevent rusting and should also be used daily before turning. The undersurface of the tailstock should also be lubricated and cleaned. The height of the spindle should be at about elbow level. The on/off switch should be moveable so one can put it where one wants it, where it is convenient and where it is safe. One doesn’t want to have to reach across the turning object in order to turn the lathe off.

Next John drew diagrams of where from a log section he cuts blanks for a bowl. Depending on where from the log one takes the blank the grain pattern in the completed turning will differ. Also the grain pattern will differ depending on how the same blank is mounted on the lathe. For hollow forms the blanks are cut in various ways to make the wood do what one wants it to (pattern of grain) and also to shrink or move the way one wants. One can also cut blanks that are oriented for end-grain work.

John began the turning portion of the session turning a side grain hollow form. Lathe speed was in the medium to low range. The blank was placed between centers. One should have the tail stock quill out about 1 ½ inches. This allows for shifting the blank to line up grain patterns, enhance some details and eliminate others. Lathe speed should start out slow. A side grind bowl gouge was used to begin shaping the blank. John uses the side grind for most of his work. It has a V-shape flute. He uses a face shield while shaping the blank – not while hollowing.

Turning began at the corner of the blank at the tailstock end. He does not initially turn the blank into a cylinder. That just makes extra work. The tailstock end will be the bottom of the piece. Whether he uses a faceplate or a chuck depends mostly on the size of the piece. The larger ones go on a faceplate. The shallower the angle of the final bottom shape determines how large the faceplate is - the shallower the angle the larger the faceplate. Faceplates can be sized to the piece so that when the bottom of the piece is reverse turned the screw holes are turned away yet the wood in the center portion of the faceplate remains on the piece.

Next John turned the waste block on the foot of the vessel and also the tenon for the chuck. Once the waste area was shaped the outside shape of the piece would be determined and turned. Once the tailstock end was shaped the top portion of the vessel was turned and shaped. The upper portion was blended into the previously shaped lower section.

John considers the rough turned portion of the project which is done between centers as “Step One” in making a hollow form. He then further refined to total overall shape. At this point the final shape can be drawn on the waste block. The tenon was then cleaned up. The shoulder has to be flat or slightly undercut so that the jaws will seat firmly. The angle of the tenon and the waste block needs to be crisp and a right angle because he used straight jaws.

The piece was removed from between centers and placed on the chuck. Now to “Step Two” which is refining the outside shape but before doing this John sharpened his tool so that better final cuts could be made. At this point a slight shaking of the lathe was noted. He adjusted the anchor point on the floor of one foot of the lathe and the shaking ceased. The surface was then refined in preparation for moving the piece and the chuck to the outboard side of the headstock. He used a ceramic slip stone to create a bur on the gouge so that he could further refine the surface with a shear scrape. He then used his double ended shear scrape tool for the final surface treatment. A very light touch was used and the surface achieved with the bur of the tool.

This completed the morning session. A plastic bag was placed over the piece to keep it from drying during the lunch break.

Afternoon Session:

The hollow form turned during the morning session was moved to the outboard side of the headstock to facilitate hollowing. The rotational direction of the lathe was reversed for outboard turning. First the lip of the top of the piece was shaped (half round on the outside and flat on the inside). Then the opening was hollowed and the inside of the opening cleaned up so that no fuzz was left. This is “Step Three.” A dimple was formed in the bottom of the neck opening and a hole drilled to the desired depth of the piece, “Step Four.” The depth of the bottom was marked by tape on the drill bit. When drilling the bit was hand held in vise grips. The depth of the bottom was to about the middle of the waste block.

When using his hollowing tools (3/4 inch bar stock) the tool rest is set below center to accommodate the bar thickness. The cutting tip of the tool should be on the center. The cutter is a 3/16 inch round nosed scraper (square stock). A straight tool was used first to open up the upper areas. When the shavings build up the tool will begin to shake and may be trapped. A compressor was used to blow the shavings out. This needs to be done frequently. A bent wire can also be used to help evacuate shavings.

Next a hooked tool was used. This tool works well because the cutting tip is on line with the shank of the tool, thus preventing torquing of the tool. John keeps the cutting tip of the tool continuously against the interior wall. This helps prevent the tool from getting trapped in the shavings. He then went back to the straight tool and went deeper into the vessel. Then again the hook tool was used. Once the vessel was rough hollowed to the final depth the hook tool could be used to clean up the interior walls.

John uses his left hand on the tool rest and on the tool to control the cutting arc of the cutter. The cutter tip should be sharpened when one starts hollowing and at least again before the finished cuts. The final wall thickness is finalized only at the upper most inner wall – nowhere else. The rest of the wall is left thicker but even as one progresses inward. One leaves a small step when one completes one level. Then one proceeds to the next level again leaving a step. One blends the lower level into the upper one. The steps let one know where to start the next deeper level. Calipers are used to measure areas that are getting down to the desired thickness. Once the wall thickness is uniform but thicker than desired the hook tool is used to finalize wall thickness to about 3/8 inch. This completed the interior of the hollow form.

The chuck was removed from the outboard and placed on the inboard spindle. The piece was removed from the chuck. A cone was placed in the jaws that the opening of the vessel would fit on. The piece was placed between the cone and the tailstock. The waste block was turned away as was the tenon. The shape of the foot or base was blended into the vessels exterior wall.

To blend the area above the waste block with the freshly turned area of the waste block the lathe speed was slowed and a shear cut was done. The small, central area where the tailstock was was removed. The bottom was made slightly concave and the piece was removed from the lathe. The central area of the base would have the nub carved off and textured. The compressor would be used to blow out free water from the vessel walls. This completed the hollow form and the demo.

Once again, John provided us with an interesting and fact filled demo that I am sure will enhance our turning ability.

Submitted by Bob Gunther