Article: Betty Scarpino Demonstrates For CMW, July 18, 2015

Betty Scarpino:

August 02, 2015 15:51, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Brian Johnson)

Betty Scarpino demonstrates for CMW, July 18, 2015


Betty Scarpino was born in 1949 in Wenatchee, Washington, USA. Her career began in the seventies when she produced purely functional pieces. During these early years she did not develop her artistic innovations but it did provide her time and opportunities to master the techniques that she now uses to create her sculptural and non-functional pieces. She has a degree in industrial arts from the University of Missouri where she also studied wood sculpture. Betty’s wood sculptures combine fluid motion with intricate detail. Her creative energy draws people to her and numerous awards have come her way. Her work is available at some of the finest galleries in America and she exhibits widely in juried shows. She was awarded her second Creative Renewal Fellowship by the Arts Council of Indianapolis in 2007 (where she now lives). Currently Betty works full time as a sculptor, woodturner, writer, teacher and printmaker.

Morning Session:

Betty began the session with a slide presentation of the transition for her work from the initial area to others and more recent work. Initially she began doing routine woodworking. Then she began turning and subsequently branched into carving, texturing, sculpting and coloring. Much of her work is pure wood carving. During the 2006-2007 period the selling of her work, as well as many others, dropped off. She needed a job and quite timely, the position of editor of The American Woodturner became available and she was selected. She served in that capacity from 2008-2014. During that period she did very little woodcarving or turning. Then in 2014 she was asked to go to China for an eight day carving event. There were 38 carvers from many countries and each carver was given a 6 foot golden teak log to carve into whatever they wanted. Betty began that process using a chainsaw, then a reciprocating carving tool and others to refine the desired shape. The completed pieces remained on display in China. After the China stint Betty returned to woodturning and carving on a full time basis. She showed examples of the topics for today’s demonstration: a turned, colored egg, candlesticks, a wall carving and a green wood pod. Betty also does woodcut print panels.

Betty then turned to the hands on portion of her demo. She began by turning a 2 inch diameter ash egg. There are no flat spots on an egg’s surface. The ash used is a ring porous wood in contrast to a diffuse-porous wood. In the ring porous wood the pores are in the growth rings. In the diffuse-porous wood they are spread throughout the entire piece of wood. Ring porous woods include ash, oak, elm, osage orange, locust, mulberry and catalpa. Betty placed a rough turned egg between centers. A tenon was present at both ends. The shape was refined with a small spindle gouge turning down hill. Then a straight edged tool was used to shear scrape off any ridges left from using the spindle gouge. Betty used a skew held on its side to achieve the desired smooth surface. The surface of the egg was then sanded using triple folded sandpaper up to 220 grit. The piece was removed from the lathe and the ends were cut off using the band saw. The egg was held in a parallel jaws wood clamp so that it would not be pushed into the saw bed during cutting. After cutting the tenons off, the remaining small nubs were sanded off using sanding pads on the drill press (Grip a Disc brand from England). Once sanded the egg would be dyed. Betty uses Behlen-Solar Lux. She used Blood Red in the demo but any color can be used. The stain was liberally applied with a cloth. It is important to wear gloves when applying the dye. It is not wiped off but 4-0 steel wool can be used to smooth the surface and remove any areas of excess dye. Next a spray semi-gloss lacquer finish is applied. Betty prefers Deft brand. The last step is the application of Liming Wax (Liberon). Before waxing the lacquered surface is smoothed with 4-0 steel wool (Liberon). The wax is applied over the entire egg surface. After a short time period (minutes) the excess wax is removed with a paper towel. The egg is signed with an electric engraver.

Next Betty made a pair of curved, flat, candle holders. She started with a 7 inch disc of 8/4 maple placed between centers. The outside edge of the disc was trued up and the edges rounded. The base edges should not be rounded off too much. If they are, the candle holder will not sit securely flat where it is placed. The top surface (tail stock side) was trued up and the top edge further rounded. Both top and bottom edge curves were blended into the sides. A band was marked on the top side of the blank. When marking any details on the top room needs to be left for the candle insert holes. Grooves were cut with the skew. The tops of the grooves were intentionally left flat and not pointed. The edges of the band were cut in a deeper groove to make the band more prominent. Grooves were cut into the band area with the skew and were not sanded. The blank was then taken off the lathe and cut into two approximately equal halves. A pleasing ying-yang curve was cut. The actual cut needs to go through the center mark. The holes for the candle inserts would then be drilled.

Betty then bleached the band area on one of the candle holders. Two part bleach was used (Kleen Strip). A cotton swab was used to apply the bleach. The bleach application was begun in the center of the band and worked outward. Three coats are used with drying between coats. Betty does not use a neutralizer (vinegar) between coats because it gives the wood a yellowish tint. If the bleached object is placed in the sun while drying it will bleach more quickly and lighter. Some woods simply will not bleach. Some take more coats, for example osage orange may take up to 20 coats. This completed the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

Betty began the session by making a pod out of a green log. A 9” long and 6” diameter section of a freshly cut beech tree was placed between centers. The center of each end was determined before the piece was mounted. With this piece it was reasonably simple because the pith was well centered. It was rough shaped into a 4” cylinder with a large spindle roughing gouge. Each end was shaped and tenons turned. A gouge was used to further shape the ends. The central pod portion is sort of egg shaped. The fatter portion of the pod was about 4” in diameter, tapering slightly to the thinner end. All the exterior curves of the pod are flowing and gentle - none sharp. This is more like nature and also makes cutting on the band saw easier and safer. The skew was used to smooth the surface of the pod. The pod can be left plain or it can be decorated with a band of grooves which was done in this case. The two edges of the band were cut about ¾” apart. Then grooves were cut in the band. This was done around the fatter portion of the pod. The edges of the band were rounded so there were no sharp corners. The rounding, somewhat widening and deepening these edge grooves, made the band stand out or appear to stand out from the pod’s surface.

The piece was removed from between centers. Where the piece was to be cut lengthwise in half was determined and the piece was glued, using a hot glue gun, to a ¼ inch thick piece of 5”x9” plywood. Small wood wedges were glued between the pod and the board (sides and ends) to hold it in a secure position when cutting on the band saw. Masking tape was also wrapped around the piece for added support. The cut line was marked on the pod in a gentle curve from one end to the other. The cut was made separating the two halves. The half without the small crack and without the pith was used to carve out the pod half. Before carving wall thickness needed to be determined. The half pod needs to be held in place for carving. This was achieved with a parallel wood clamp which held the pod and the clamp was held to the table surface by vise clamps. An Arbortech Mini Carver was used to start the hollowing process. It is very important to keep both hands on the carver when it is being used. Then an Automach reciprocating carver was used to remove more wood with finer cuts.

Betty’s next project was a sculptured disk. She began with a 9-10” disk that had been cut into a donut shape. Then a design is decided upon (or before the donut shape). Once the design is decided a reciprocating carver is used to shape the piece. Once carved all lines need to be tactile smooth and pleasantly shaped. Also the entire surface needs to be smooth. Files and rifflers are used to eliminate high spots on the surface (Brand of file - Auriou). Then sanding is done using various shaped forms wrapped with sandpaper. Betty starts at 100 grit – then 150 – then 220. After the 220 she uses Siasoft sanding pads. These are from Vince’s Wood and Wonders. The 240 pad is used first. The pads do not leave abrasive particles behind after using. A 320 pad is then used and is the final one. Then a finish is applied and a stand was made for display purposes. If a design is to be applied such as grooves, beads, bands, texturing or bleaching it is done after the “sanding” and before finishing.

Another item Betty uses is to apply milk paint on the turned eggs. A paste is formed with the milk paint powder using water. It has to be stirred for 10-15 minutes until all the lumps are gone. Then it is thinned with more water. When Betty is going to texture an egg painted with milk paint she adds a small amount of acrylic paint to the mixture. This helps prevent chipping during the texturing process. Texturing is done with the engraver and carving through the paint surface is done with a reciprocating carving tool. Small bumps are made on the surface with fabric paint.

This completed a very interesting and informative demo.

Submitted by Bob Gunther, Photos by Brian Johnson