Article: Stuart Kent Demonstrates For CMW January 21, 2017
January 31, 2017 11:15, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Alan Wasserman, photos by Tina Collison)
Stuart Kent demonstrates for CMW January 21, 2017
Learn more about Stuart at: http://www.stuartkent.com
CMW was fortunate to experience the sharing of skills by Stuart Kent on 1/21/17. Stuart, a NC resident, is a woodturner, educator (Fulbright Core Scholar), furniture maker and photographer. Today he shared his designs and techniques in turning segmented (or as he describes-layered) sculptural turnings.
Stuart’s favorite tool is the one that is ‘sharp and cuts’ – with a wink. For the large and irregular “layered” pieces that Stuart turns, he prefers the series of Easy Wood Cutters as they have sharp carbide cutters and if used properly, will not catch as the irregular turnings are rotating. For traditional gouges he most often prefers a Henry Taylor 3/8” bowl gouge.
Stuart’s favorite studio machine, other than his Robust American Beauty, is his 1932 Yates American G89 table saw. It weighs almost 2,200 lbs so there is virtually no vibration, it produces glass-smooth cuts, and so far the saw has required no maintenance. Cutting many pieces to fit the segmentation, one can appreciate the need for a solid and accurate table saw.
First Stuart went over a slide presentation, which focused on large segmented and layered sculptural turnings. He describes the form as segmented rings of gradual thicknesses and diameters that are laminated typically using a technique called “brick laying”. For the purposes of the demonstration at hand, the design he turned was a flower, a very large (rim diameter approximately 22”) one at that.
It is difficult to position but important to attempt an even layering of these rings so that the protrusion of the next layer (smaller at bottom to larger at rim) is centered on the prior smaller layer. Irrespective of your attempts and skill, it is likely that there will be variation in placement at this scale. To overcome that issue, Stuart usually makes the segments slightly wider than they really need to be.
The design (and structural) considerations will depend on the size of the item being turned. Stuart has turned as large as a 7’ vessel. Due to the size and inherent variations in the laminations, the thicknesses on these sculptures may be as thick as 3/4”. As an interesting side bar, Stuart indicated a 7’ piece may include $1,000 of wood to be segmented, glued and layered. On the piece Stuart was demonstrating (the rim approximately at 22”) he is shooting for a 1/8 to 1/16 wall thickness.
After the piece is glued and dry, Stuart mounts sections with faceplate and screws. For extra security (as the piece is very large, way out of round, with protruding segments and therefore lots of vibration), he uses a large MDF board and cone live center attachment to jam against the rim of the piece. This will give him security (and perhaps some piece of mind) while he is truing up and shaping the outside of the flower.
To avoid the potential of constant bouncing and difficulty in cuts, Stuart cuts a bit above center and uses his Easy Wood larger round cutter with a non-aggressive (“soft”) entry to the wood. The higher position of the cutter in relation to the vessel surface simulates a shear cut. During the shaping, Stuart changes from bottom area to top area and vice versa, to obtain the form and design of his choice. This is rather than just starting on the bottom and working straight through to the rim – although he still makes long cuts in the same manner as most turners would be accustomed to.
Before obtaining a final form/shape near the top 1/3 to the rim, he removes his MDF jam and begins the inside cuts. Once you have a smooth transition on the inside 1/3, measure the variation of thickness and go back to the outside to finish off your form. The inside cuts are positioned closer to center and also not aggressive. To avoid as much vibration as possible, Stuart will change his cutting tool to the Easy Wood (small cutter) No.1 hollowing tool. To further decrease vibration, he angles the tool to a shear push cut position and rides the small bevel on the carbide cutter. Since the pieces are often difficult (or too large) for bowl or steady rests, Stuart will use his non-turning hand to hold light pressure against the outside while the piece is rotating slowly.
The thickness will still vary and be more apparent on the rim area, looking down. So, if necessary Stuart uses an angle grinder (or other sanding devices) to shape the rim to an even thickness. He always completes the rim before completing the deeper areas of the interior or exterior of the vessel.
Uneven ring laminations may result in irregular concentricity small diamond shape holes when thinning out. If you encounter an area where the laminations could fail, simply part off that section and replace them. When this occurs, Stuart will either use the holes to accentuate a design or he cuts the holes out by making a wedge-shaped cut down the side of the vessel (after all turning and sanding are complete). The wedge removed becomes an abstract relationship of flower pedals.
The turning of the flower stem is a traditional spindle turning. Stuart may offset one end of the stem on an axis (between centers) to simulate an actual flower stem. He creates a tenon on the top of the stem that will fit tightly into a mortise in the bottom of the flower. In many cases the tenon becomes the bottom of the flower vessel, although in some cases he will glue on a base with a pre-cut mortise to receive the stem. Stuart then glues the pieces together and final sands everything by hand.
Stuart usually paints the exterior of his flowers with artist’s oil paint glazes, often using a black or white base with various colors to highlight. The interior is typically finished natural with a friction polish or with a dark tinted wax. The stem usually receives the same finish he applies to the vessel interior.
Due to the large diameters and thin walls of these flowers, they may curl, crack, and ‘wilt’ under their own weight over a period of roughly 90 days. Therefore, Stuart uses these vessels as compliments to his large (permanent) sculptures, and they are not typically for sale.
Side Bar: Stuart sharpens his carbide cutters on a fine diamond card with sharpening lubricant. He does so with a light finger pressure and about five ‘figure 8’ passes. In his experience the carbide cutter can be honed a few times before replacing with a new one.
Stuart will finish the flower he demonstrated for us at the end of February, and will share photos of the process with us. We thank Stuart for visiting CMW.