Article: Alan Carter Demonstrates For CMW December 19, 2015

Examples of Alan Carter's work: Examples of Alan Carter's work

December 22, 2015 14:09, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunter, photos by Tina Collison)

Alan Carter Demonstrates for CMW December 19, 2015

Please note that most of this demo is available on Alan’s website. Other interesting articles and ideas are on Collectors of Wood Art

You can also check out Alan Carter's three woodturning videos on Youtube, thanks to the very cool gang at thegeekgroup in Grand Rapids, MI.

Goblets with thin stems

Suspended vessels

Split bowl vessels

(photos will be added soon)


Our own member, Alan Carter, was born in 1946 in Lafayette, IN. He grew up in Connersville, IN and Rochester, NY. While in Rochester he developed a strong interest in jazz and classical music and from 1965 to 1970 attended Indiana University School of Music where he majored in trombone. Due to a baffling scarcity of jobs for trombone players, and because he was married with two children, he worked for K-Mart from 1970-1977.

In 1974 he began painting as a hobby and from 1977 to 1999 pursued a career painting photo realistic urban landscapes. From 1999 to 2009 he designed and built contemporary furniture and accessories. Beginning in 2009, he has been designing and creating turned vessels and sculptures. Alan’s design influences are many and varied. The shapes and proportions of interesting buildings may spark an idea. Almost any other art work can have an impact. Art Deco and Asian influences are certainly evident in much of his work. Many times the figure of wood itself will suggest an idea. Wood combinations are also important. The interaction of various grain patterns, colors and textures can define a piece and its impact on the viewer.

Frequently the process is open-ended. As the piece develops, new ideas evolve and directions may change. Sometimes the final result is a complete transformation from the initial design --- that’s the fun of it all.

Morning Session:

Alan began his demo turning a thin, long stem goblet. The cup portion and stem are turned separately. The blank used was 2x2x8 inch long maple. It was placed between centers. Usually Alan uses a Steb center as the drive center. Lathe speed began at about 1600 rpm. The blank was rounded into a cylinder and a tenon turned on the headstock end. As the blank was rounded the lathe speed was increased up to 2400 rpm. The tailstock end was turned away to about ½ inch in diameter and an inch long. A carbide Easy Wood Tool (scraper) was used to form the tenon, but a bedan or skew could be used just as easily. The face of the tenon was cut so that it fit flush against the face of the jaws. To give maximum support the tenon needs to be just slightly larger than the smallest jaw opening and not bottom out. After the tenon was formed the piece was removed from between centers and placed in a chuck. The tailstock was brought up.

The cylinder was narrowed at the tailstock end and the tailstock removed. The small indentation in the end from the live center was turned away and the end made concave to accommodate the cup of the goblet. Then a 1/8 inch hole was drilled into the end of the blank to a depth of 1/8inch. The tailstock end of the cylinder was further thinned using a round-nosed Easy Wood carbide scraper. Again a bedan of skew would work just as well. Once thinned it was sanded to 400 grit. A 1/16 inch thick Sorby parting tool was used to thin the stem below the ¼” inch long larger diameter distal end. Each section of the stem moving from live center to head stock end was turned to about ½ inch thick with a gouge and then made thinner with the scraper. Once distal portions are turned they are not gone back to. Each is sanded as the process continues. Sanding can also be used to evenly establish the final diameter which at the thinnest part is about 1/16inch. During the final thinning the lathe speed was increased to 2400 rpm. This higher speed helps stabilize the piece and give more efficient tool actions. Alan uses his fingers to equalize pressure on the piece while turning. The stem is made slightly thicker toward the base. The final thickness at the thinnest part is about 1/16 inch. As the stem is developed and one gets closer to the base it becomes more stable but one still needs to form the stem in increments.

Next the base needs to be shaped. Enough room needs to be left at the headstock end so one can work on the bottom of the base. The transitional curve of the stem into the base needs to be smooth with no flats. When parting the piece off the 1/16 inch tool is used and the bottom surface of the base is made concave. The initial parting cut makes the base thicker than is needed so that it can be trimmed down with further cuts to achieve the final thickness. The base is sanded prior to parting off. If a friction type finish is to be applied it is done prior to parting off. After parting off, the bottom can be finished with a Dremel or Foredom tool. An alternative is to reverse the piece with the stem in the headstock and the top of the base in a turned jam chuck to fit its shape. The tailstock is brought up and the base completed.

The goblet portion (cup) was then turned. A 2x2x4 inch piece of Bubinga was used. The 2x2 inch blank was put in the jaws and the tailstock brought up. A cylinder was roughed out to about one inch in diameter. When shaping the cup the rule of thirds is useful. Alan made the lower 1/3 the widest part. It was partly shaped but enough wood was left for support. The exterior was sanded. The tailstock was removed and a ¾ inch Forstner bit placed in the Jacobs chuck. The cup was drilled to the desired depth. It is important to leave enough in the bottom to finish the interior. The interior was completed using the Easy Wood round nosed carbide scraper. Alan sands the interior of the cup using a hemostat to hold various grits of folded sandpaper. Friction polish is used to finish the interior, again using the hemostat. The base of the cup was then finished, partially parted off, further shaped and sanded. It was then completely parted off leaving a small 1/8 inch tenon to fit into the previously drilled 1/8 inch hole in the top of the stem. The cup is glued to the stem using Titebond Original Glue. This completed the thin, long stem goblet of the morning session.

Afternoon Session

Alan began the bowl turning portion of his demo by making a split bowl. He began with a 1 inch thick round cherry blank. Before cutting the round blank it is a good idea to have the board surfaced on both sides to assure a flat surface. A waste block was made with a tenon on one side and flat surface on the side to be attached to the blank. The waste block was centered on the blank and attached with double sided tape. The waste block tenon was placed in the jaws. Alan uses Spectape (#15029) double sided tape from Wood Craft. The inside of the bowl will be on the tailstock side of the blank and the outside on the headstock side (back). The back surface was rounded and curved toward the headstock and the back completed to nearly the waste block area. A small ridge or raised area was left in the center just outside the edges of the waste block. This was done so that when the piece is reverse turned a smooth continuous curve can be achieved. At this point the outside (back or base) was essentially done.

The inside was then turned. The outer 3/8 inch of the inside was flattened to give good glue up surfaces. Then the interior was hollowed. A steel straight edge was used to check the flatness of the surface. If it is not “dead” flat a piece of MDF with sandpaper glued to it can be used to flatten the 3/8 inch edge area with the lathe turning. Further hollowing was done with care not to go into the flattened area. The tailstock was removed and the center area flattened to an area a little larger than the waste block. Then a 1/16 inch hole was drilled in the center.

The piece was then returned to between centers with the outside (the waste block had been separated from the piece) on the tailstock and the flattened area on the inside against the double sided tape. The ridge in the center of the outside was turned away to give a continuous smooth curve. It was then sanded. The piece was removed from the tape and a line drawn through the center with the grain. The straight edge used to draw the line needs to be flexible in order to follow the curve of the outside of the piece. The piece would then be cut in half. A piece of veneer can be placed between the two halves before gluing. After gluing the two halves are taped to keep them in place while the glue is drying and to act as clamps. At this point the bowl portion is completed.

Next a piece of 1/8 inch or so wood was fitted to the top of the bowl and marked with a pencil. The center of the top was determined with a center zero ruler. To make a top that has an overhang a washer can be used to guide the pencil tip around the piece. The width of the washer determines the degree of overhang. The top piece can be glued on with the wood against the bench surface and the bowl clamped with minimal pressure. Titebond original glue is used.

Then the center of the bowl’s curved edge was determined by using a cloth type tape and dividing the distance in half. This locates the center point where the base can be mounted if one wants it in the center. It can, however, be located anywhere along the curve. The shape of the base piece needs to reflect the shape of the bowl – both in curve and thickness. Similarly the curve and shape of the top piece also needs to match.

The third part of the demo was the suspended vessel. Alan did not do any turning of this piece due to time restraints. He did discuss layout using a PowerPoint presentation. This and the first two parts of the demo are available on his website specified at the beginning of this write up. This concluded a very informative and detailed demo. A video should be available soon in the club library.

Submitted by Bob Gunther