Article: Robert Lyon Demonstrates For CMW, September 24, 2016

Lyon 445: Lyon 459: Lyon 462: Lyon 464: Lyon 485: Lyon 498:

September 28, 2016 18:43, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Alan Wasserman, photos by Tina Collison)

Robert Lyon Demonstrates for CMW, September 24, 2016

Learn more about Robert Lyon and his unique turnings at

Robert Lyon came to CMW to our September 2016 meeting to demonstrate, not the “how to’s” but the “what to’s”.

A professor who taught at LSU, Auburn University and recently retired from the University of South Carolina and now a full-time wood artist living in Columbia, South Carolina, Robert Lyon brings to this demonstration a lifetime as an educator and inspirational seeking artist. From turning a bowling ball into a cup to recreating life forms into a woodturning project, the message imparted was to become inspired by the earth, life forms, material objects and life experiences that can be repurposed into wood art.

Before commencing our projects of thought and deciding what to turn, we are reminded of some essential basics we all must apply, both safety and procedure related:

A. face mask to prevent unwanted projectiles

B. turn speed down before starting the lathe

C. unsupported edges (lack of anchor on the tool rest) is the cause of catches

D. use of ventilated helmets and/or masks

E. hold cutting tool with your finger tips for better fine control of your cutting shapes (Robert’s preference is holding under the tool)

F. handle resting on your hip, using your legs to move the gouge

G. turn your body to create coves and bead forms

H. as you cut, watch the top of the turning piece to establish a pleasing profile

I. point tip of tool in the direction of the cut

J. when changing tool size remember to readjust your tool rest so the cut is at center of the piece

Your designs and what to turn should have certain elements:

• effect of balance

• use of catenary curve

• use of ceramic forms for inspiration

• decision on incorporating feet in your designed piece

• bowl rim alternates, avoiding the straight rim design

• symbolic re to the human body

• natural forms from observations of different life forms

One of the projects demonstrated was the use of pencils, both with and without wood (solid graphite) glued into a turned vessel.

Robert’s inspiration for this project came from his life passion as a bee keeper. Robert refers to his vessel as a Ticonderoga Vessel. The pencils to be used can be both color and graphite with and without wood pencils.

Robert begins with grouping a number of pencils (choice of pencils with and without wood, color and graphite) and epoxy together in this grouping. 16 pencil grouping will yield a 1 1/4 drilled hole)

Once the groupings are dried, the next step is to cut/slice, horizontally, in approximately one inch groups. These groups could be looked at as fibrous or honeycomb forms.

Next would be turning a dry/originally rough turned vessel that will eventually seat the cut pencil groupings. Robert used a block of wood, 16” long and 5” square. Complete with a finished cut, the form you are satisfied with. Maintain a thickness from the inside of the vessel that will be thick enough to receive the inserted pencil grouping and when you finally thin down the inside of the vessel, the pencil groupings will show. Robert prefers a Crown 5/8 bowl gouge, ground similar to a spindle gouge grind.

While still affixed to the chuck and lathe, utilize the index wheel and a flexible ruler or tailors measuring tape to establish your intended insert holes that the pencil groups will be glued into. Create a marking of a pattern on your vessel that you feel satisfied with and will be well balanced. This pattern has no limits but it appears best in a pattern, rather than indiscriminate locations on your vessel. The two patterns illustrated were spiral and straight/longitudinal.

Depending on the diameter of your pencil group, select the appropriate corresponding size Forstner bit. To drill the hole straight, Robert uses a One Way Drilling Guide, maintaining your banjo at 90 degrees from your lathe bed. Since the holes to be drilled will be traveling up and down the piece, a steel “T” is clamped to the banjo and is used as your “90 degree guide” while re-positioning your banjo to the next drill spot. These holes should be approximately 1/2” deep.

Also illustrated was the effect of pre-drilled holes on an angle extending from the upper side (say one or two inches from the top) protruding the tips of individual pencils on an angle through the top. The bit used for this is known as a French grating bit, purchased a Lee Valley's Garden Catalogue.

Now that you have drilled holes in your vessel, glue your pencil groups in with Titebond Original glue. As for the top “angle side” drilled slots, insert cut off pencil tips (approximately 1 1/2” long) and also glue with Titebond. Before doing so, make sure the pencils are sharpened to a fine point. As a side note, when using woodless, solid graphite pencils, you must use epoxy as Titebond will not adhere to the graphite.

Once your glue is dry, remount your piece on the lathe. Use a flex saw to saw off the extended part of the pencil group close to the surface of your vessel form.

Begin peeling away the remaining portions of the extended glued pencils that were not sawed off, utilizing light cuts with a sharp spindle gouge. End your shaping and blending of the pencils with shear cuts and then shear scraping. You can design into your vessel groves with a bedan (or other tools of your choice), create beads and expand as your imagination may lead.

You are now ready to sand. Be aware that sanding a graphite pencil insert (wood pencil or not) will create a controlled “smudge” circumference line along your vessel. Robert prefers Norton 3x brand sandpaper, sanding with a shelf liner backer on the sandpaper. Apply medium pressure for gently sweep lines and heavy pressure with the sandpaper to achieve a more bold sweep mark from the graphite. To avoid most smudging, if not all, use an orbit sander. Of course, if using non-graphite (color) pencils it is more likely with a soft to medium pressure sanding that there will be no smudging effect. Also during sanding and after sanding is complete, make sure your hands are clean of graphite as it will discolor your vessel to the touch. The preferred finish is lacquer based and applied by spraying. Oils will cause a smeared and unattractive result.

The next project demonstrated was a glued rubber eraser vase.

Robert suggested the use of a group of similar shaped (but can use different colors) of large pencil erasers. When using different colored erasers, you can create designs of contrasting colors of your choice. Epoxy is used to glue these erasers in layers. This will take multiple glue sessions until you obtain a large enough set of glued erasers similar to a block of wood, to be able to turn and shape into a satisfactory form. (One audience member suggested turning a pencil holder and being able to double the item for an eraser). Glue the block of erasers to a glue block and mount on your lathe. Use gentle light cuts, preferably with a sharp spindle gouge. Since there is a lack of grain, it does not matter in which direction you perform your cuts.

Another expansion of inspiration was gluing together pre-cut denim (jeans) material. Applying epoxy with a chip brush, layer, say, 10 squares at a time. Soak in epoxy. Create constant pressure to squeeze the layers tight. Allow to dry. Repeat this process until you have a large enough block of jeans that you can mount and turn. Robert uses a homemade jig consisting of a plywood press to assist in the squeeze drying process. (the epoxy mixture used for the above projects is a 1 minute set)

Utilizing a similar process as the denim material mentioned immediately above, we were also shown what a glued/pressed set of paper from a book would look like. It would be interesting if you can position, say a copy of a significant text (like the Constitution or a diploma) and position it such that some portion of the writing will survive the turning of the object. When creating a paper block for turning, the glue of choice is again, Titebond. You will only be able to glue, say, 10 sheets at a time and this process requires patience over a number of days as the glue takes some time to dry.

Robert also shared with us a Power Point slide show addressing various avenues of design. These are links to his "Dropbox" account. (NOTE: Dropbox requires you to join to view these slides.)

Robert Lyon Power Point Presentation-Short Version:

Robert Lyon Power Point Presentation-Long Version:

Submitted by Alan Wasserman