Article: Michael Gibson Demonstrates For CMW July 21, 2018

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July 26, 2018 09:16, submitted by Mike Seltzer (author: Alan Wasserman, edited by Mike Seltzer, photos by Scot Roberge)


Carolina Mountain Woodturners had the good fortune of a demonstration from Michael Gibson, a master of form. Michael developed his skills, begining as a handcrafted boat maker in a small village in England. From there he went into finishing carpentry and then into woodturning. Michael was kind enough to share his talents, teachings and tips along the way. To illustrate these skills, Michael utilized his famous Tea Pot project.

First is to select the piece of wood you wish to work with. Although no wood preferences are necessary, select a big enough straight grain piece (usually from the trunk of the tree) to turn end grain oriented and to the intended size of the tea pot, its top lid, spout and handle of your desire. (perform a Google search for tea pot forms to obtain ideas as to form and design). Michael’s choice is using green wood, avoid the pith and rough turn. Bag turning (about 3/4” thick) until dry and then remount for final turning.

Fasten center to center. True up with your roughing spindle gouge. Speed as fast up to vibration (and of course the “scare/comfort” factor).

Create a tenon on both ends (Michael uses his bedan for creating his tenons). Tenons should be sized so when fastened to the chuck, the jaws are closer to the “close” position, but leaving enough diameter for eventual shrinkage and final turning adjustments. On the bottom tenon a second larger tenon is made to provide for, 1. avoiding tool contact with chuck when shaping bottom and 2. the “fudge” factor when shaping and hollowing, it also makes sanding a lot easier.

True up and start preliminary rough shape while still fastened center to center. It was observed that Michael tends to use the side shearing cut, back and forth with his bowl gouge to rough shape. He uses the push cut for a finer tune to the desired shape. Shape from side to side.

Remount bottom tenon into your chuck. Now cut off intended lid and put aside during continuation of tea pot base form.

Continue shaping, going from one side to the other. Form is crucial in any turning so continue shaping, keeping in mind for a continuous and flowing lines (no flat spots) using the Golden Ratio (2/3-1/3) both in width and length (the resulting form is still not final as you are just in the rough out forming stage).

Once satisfied with form, begin hollowing. Since you are in end grain orientation, you hollow from center to side. Drill a hole with a fostner bit to the desired depth (since this is going to be a second turned piece, depth can be your 3/4” thickness). Turn speed down when hollowing. Michael uses the Sorby arm brace with a John Jordon cutter and bar. He first hollows to approximately 1/2” from the intended (rough turned) 3/4” thickness, starting from the top and continuing to the bottom. The hollowing motion is center to side, back and forth and following contour of form.

When you reach your desired thickness, change to a tear drop cutter and with gentle/light cutting to remove any sharp edges which helps in the drying process.

Mount lid and shape outside and then hollow out bottom of lid to approximately 3/4” thickness. Leave “tenon” on bottom and size approximately for later fit onto base of tea pot.

Bag both and wait until dry.

Once dry, resize tenons on both bottom and top, fasten bottom to chuck and final turn, outside and inside continue this process until all cut marks, peaks, valleys and tear outs are eliminated.

Create a satisfactory opening for the lid to close on the base but also create a small channel about 1/8” from your opening with your parting tool (this creates a natural drain when pouring tea if this project was ever to be used?)

Sand the inside of the base to “smooth”. You can create a wood jig with a velcro pad on its tip to maneuver your sanding discs while sanding.

Drawing lines on the outside of the base to size the spout and handles becomes the next step. Line up the intended hole for the spout to desired height on the base. Use your Golden rule when you make your choice. Also line up your handle to your desired design generally centering the handle to the spout. Draw parallel lines, one above and one below the intended spot where the spout will be placed and at a thickness of the intended thickness of the spout. Do the same for the top and bottom part of the handle.

Upon examining the grain and any features in the wood, select the spot and a drill hole (size of a penny nail) in the middle of the two parallel lines, where you intend to fix the spout. For the handle holes, you will be using a 3/32” steel pins, so drill a holes of that size in the appropriate selected spot where the top and the bottom of the handle will be fixed to the base. Assure when marking there these three holes will be placed, that they are in exact line with each other. To assure this line up, dray a straight line across the top but down opposite sides where this line up will occur.

Now fit the bottom of the lid to create a snug fit with the tea pot base.

Now clean up the tenon and mount the lid to a chuck. Create a tenon on the lid that will fit into the base. No need for a jam fit as, with any tea pot, removing the lid should be a smooth operation.

The last step on the lid, before reverse chucking is to finish the hollowing down to a finished thinness of say 1/4” (as should be for the base).

When Michael reverses the lid to finish the top of the lid form, he creates a wooden open collet that will fit into his chuck. This not only creates a tight fit to secure to the chuck, but also prevents damage to the intended lid tenon that will fit on the base. (if you use dove tail jaws, you can avoid this method by simply lining the jaws with a wide rubber band and this will secure the lid and avoid marring the lid tenon).

When shaping the lid, keep in mind that you want the shape to match the curves on the base so you have a continuous curve.

Drill a hole that the expected turned finial will fit (this assumes you will select a separate contrasting wood for your finial).

Now to create the spout. Cut and shape the intended spout on a bandsaw. Use a contour gage (plastic tipped is preferred so it will not mark up your outside base) to assure the correct curve union to the base.

Do the same with the handle. However, it is suggested, when creating the form for your handle, that the upper part of the handle should be a bit thicker than the bottom part.

Both spout and handle form are to be completed with a rotating carver and bit. Michael starts with a Foredom and aggressive bit down to the Master Carver, with a softer bit and then round sanding bit.

To create the spot where you will be drilling holes on the spout and handles, mark a center line on each. Find center of the union area. First use an awl to mark the drill hole and then drill.

For the Spout, it is suggested you use a 1/4” hole and dowl, using the original Titebound glue to fasten. For the Handle, use a hole to fit a penny nail. The drilled holes in the handle should be parallel to each other. The nails will be glued in with epoxy.

To assure a tight fit of the spout and handles to the base, before gluing, fit them as if in place and about to be glued. Then slide carbon paper (carbon facing spout and handle union area) and slide back and forth all around the intended union area. The remaining carbon marks will show the high spots on the spout and handle union area that needs finer grinding (using a Dremel type rotating tool).

Keep this process going until you are satisfied with a tight fit. Before gluing to base, create cross hatch scratches on the union area of the spout and handles to create stronger unions. Glue the spout first and fasten with wide rubber bands. Once glue is cured, do the same with the handle.

Finishing is your choice. Michael uses Krylon # 1311 mate finish spray. Once finish is cured (See what can suggests), buff with Tripoli and then White Diamond. After that, use a micro-crystalline polishing wax such as Renaissance and buff.

Thanks to Alan Wasserman for his efforts in authoring this article.

Michael Gibson may be contacted through his email address -