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The Art and Process of Wood Turning...

"Sharing will enrich

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Ana Monnar

  • INDEX

  • January 9th 2024 Fluting Jig

  • March 3rd 2023 Harvesting storm damaged Arbutus Root Burl

  • Nov 5th 2022 From The Forest To The Table in 31 Days. Turning & Drying Green Wood

  • Aug 15th 2022 Electronic Thickness Device

  • Apr 17th 2022 Vicmarc VOD 300 Oval Turning Device

  • March 6th 2022 It's All About Safety

  • March 1st 2022 Cutting Up A Root Burl

  • Feb 14th 2022 Meet Mr. Hoover

  • Jan 15th 2022 That's A Big Soup Pot

Jan 9th 2024 Dave & Alison

Fluting Jig

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The platform for the router or laminate trimmer is made using a 1" steel post that fits into my banjo. I attached a .250 thick aluminum plate 16" X 8" to the post by drilling and tapping 1/4 20 To prevent the table from coming loose and spinning I drilled a 1/8 hole through the plate into the same 1" steel post and installed a roll pin. The 1/4 20 T Tracks are from Lee Valley Tools they are mounted into the MDF, drilled and taped to secure to the aluminum plate. The stop blocks are used to define the start and stop location of the router for repeated cuts. I use the same platform for my branding tool when branding pieces mounted on the lathe as shown below.

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The laminate trimmer is mounted into a wood base using ready strapping. The trimmer would easily tip forward so I removed the black plastic base and made a new one from plexiglass, the new one rests on the table surface so the trimmer is now stable. The white plastic you see at the router bit is HDPE that I turned and thread on the lathe so it threads into the plexiglass base. I have a HDPE threaded washer that is removed in this photo but the washer fits between the plexiglass and the part you see and allows for bit depth adjustments. The white nose simply rides along the contour of the piece to make the desired grooves. This method seems to work easier than the previous way using a sacrificial guide screwed down and the router base would follow that guide.

March 3rd 2023 by Dave & Alison

Harvesting storm damaged Arbutus Root Burl

About 2 years ago we were offered a couple of big old Arbutus trees that were broken off during a winter snow event.

After cutting and clearing away the branches and broken portion we now have the burl to cut up into chunks for later processing.

After a full days work and an awful lot of saw chains all that remains is what's underground.

There is about a truck load of burl chunks and a few chunks of figured wood to haul out from this one tree.

In order to move our burl chunks off the ridge and some 600 feet to the road we set up a ZIP line between the trees. The cable is about 150 feet long so using a ladder we secure one end of the cable  to a tree about 10 feet high on the tree. On the far end of the cable we use a chain style ratchet hoist with a Chicago Grip to grab onto the cable and pull it up tight from a 2nd tree. We then attach a pulley to the zip line and use a length of rope to control the downward speed and to retrieve the pulley back up the hill for the next load. For the first tree we hauled out we used a block and tackle to hoist the wood chunks up high to the pulley. We had some difficulty with that process so purchased a light chain block hoist and that proved to work far better and quicker. This is a very steep slope, too steep to climb up and difficult to get enough elevation without obstructions between the two trees for the zip line. There are a few videos below that better explain and show how the zip line process worked for us. This tree required 2 setups of the zip line and was a full days work to move to the trucks. The other tree was far more difficult and further away it required about 6 zip line setups and several along a rock face. That move took close to three full days, the work for both trees was spread out over a 5 week span so we had time to recuperate between days. Between the two trees we ended up with just over two pickup truck loads of Arbutus Burl.

Click on the RED links below to view a short video of the ZIP line process

Under normal conditions we would have harvested the wood very shortly after being offered it. These two trees however required some planning and thinking as they are located on the top of a high ridge with no access. We could also only harvest in early winter so as not to disturb nesting birds and other factors.


This Arbutus (Madrone) Tree was cut down by contractors in July sometime.

(They can cut with permission during fire restrictions)

We cut the burl/stump up and removed it Sept 23rd, notice the green shoots sprouting up. Due to the fire ban being put back to “extreme” the chunks sat for a week or so in the yard. Once the ban was reduced to “High” we were able to use the chain saws in the morning and processed the chunks of burl. We divided up our labour into 2 equal piles, a coin toss determines who gets what pile.


  • Oct 3rd Rough turned a bunch of bowl blanks, processed 48 3x3x12 pepper mill blanks.

  • Oct 4th Boiled a bunch of mill blanks and 6 bowl blanks, typical boil time 6 to 8 hours start to finish in a 60 gallon SS boil pot. It takes over 3 hours for my pot to start boiling when full of water and arbutus turnings. I like to leave the boiled wood soak overnight and cool down slowly. They actually absorb more water by leaving them but it seems to dry faster.

  • Oct 5th Removed the wood from the boil pot and set them along the garage wall to air dry in the sunshine, you need the surface water to dry quickly. This also works well if you remove them right after the boil is done. I do it both ways and think letting them cool slower is less stressful. The issue is watching for mold, dry to fast and they may still crack, dry to slow and they may get moldy.

  • Oct 5th This blank I chose weighed 85 oz, I placed it along with all of the other boiled pieces on stickers in basement with a dehumidifier 24/7 and a fan on a timer. I check the wood daily and reduce the fan time as needed. Initially the fan runs 8 hrs per day, if I see cracking I unplug the fan from the timer.

  • Oct 14th The blank weighed 55 oz, the blank was put back on the lathe and returned thin (about ¼”) and then put in the shop beer fridge, the returned weight was 19.95 oz.

  • Oct 25th Weight 15 oz, removed blank from the fridge, remounted on the lathe and a few final finishing cuts. Sanded to 600 and removed the tenon, finished the bottom. Finished weight 13.33 oz,

  • Oct 28th 1st coat tung oil applied, 6 more coats will follow over the next week.

  • This Arbutus Burl bowl measures 10 3/8” diameter X 4” depth

  • Nov 4th Five coats of tung oil have been applied, weight 13.47 ounces

Nov 5th 2022 by Dave & Alison

From The Forest To The Table in 31 Days

Turning & Drying Green Wood

Aug 15th 2022 by Dave & Alison

Electronic Thickness Measuring Device

Electronic Thickness Measuring Device

When I started turning cowboy hats I was using a light bulb in a jamb chuck to gage the thickness of the top of the hat. I first used an incandescent bulb but it would burn out while turning due to vibration. It was difficult to remove the hat, replace the bulb and then return the hat to the jamb chuck perfectly as it was. The tolerance is very fine so any wobble is not acceptable. I then decided to us a modern LED bulb, this presented a new challenge as the wattage is not close to the incandescent I was using so gaging the thickness was still difficult. As I have some knowledge in electronics from my working career with CN Railway I decided to build a simple electronic device to measure thickness. This device will measure up to almost 1/2" thick material but is better suited to 1/4" and less. It is very simple, inexpensive and useful to gage thickness wherever you cant reach with a caliper or fingers. Once you turn enough hats you can gage the thickness by the sound of your cut but this takes many hats and a keen ear, this device helps reassure your thickness.


The above photo is a cowboy hat on the jamb chuck with a light bulb inside along with a rare earth sphere magnet. The hall effect transistor is mounted to a thin piece of wood with 2 rod style 1/4" rare earth magnets which are drilled into the end of the wood and sits just proud. Once the magnet on the wood device finds and attracts the sphere magnet inside the hat the transistor conducts and outputs a voltage. The transistor output is fed to the digital multimeter and provides an accurate representation of the thickness. Simply slide the device around and the sphere magnet will follow, when the material changes in thickness that will be represented on the multimeter. This device needs a little bit of fine tuning to place the rod magnet in the wood with respect to where the transistor gets mounted but is straight forward. The meter voltage is simply a pre determined value by measuring a piece of flat wood say 2 mm thick, the meter should read about 4.5 volts. Then when your work piece is 2 mm thick the voltage reading should be the same at 4.5 volts DC. As the wood gets thinner that voltage will increase as the transistor is getting closer to full saturation. The supply voltage is 5vdc and if you removed the wood and placed the two magnets together then the transistor will saturate and your meter should read full supply voltage.


I used a Apple iPhone wall adapter with a USB port and then took an old pc mouse with a USB cord, cut the cord off the mouse and that became my 5 volt supply. I purchased a Hall Effect transistor in a little package, it came mounted on a circuit board with a resistor and capacitor along with the connector and cable for $12. Using a digital volt meter for the display and lastly a 1/2" sphere magnet with two 1/4" rod magnets and some wood. The circuit is simple and can be made by anyone that knows how to solder and use a voltmeter. I used 3 pieces of arbutus (Madrone) to match the density of the wood to the wood I am turning. The desired thickness is 2 mm the other pieces are 4 mm and 8 mm so as to get a reference to thickness with the meter. It took some minor tweaking with the magnets mounting them in a thin piece of wood and then mounting the circuit board so as to get a voltage output on the meter. Basically the circuit conducts with the presence of magnetism and then outputs a voltage. When I place the sphere magnet onto the probe magnet the transistor saturates and outputs the nominal 5 volt supply voltage. With a 2.5 mm piece of wood between the two magnets the transistor outputs 4.5 v dc and with the 4 mm piece of wood that changes to about 4.2 volts. So if your turning any object that you need to measure thin wall thickness you can use this device. As an example my calipers don't fit inside a vase or in this case the hat so I put the sphere magnet inside the jamb chuck and use the probe on the outside so it attracts to the sphere magnet and see what the voltage on the meter displays. The lower the voltage the thicker the wall thickness - the hat in the above photo reads 4.64 vdc so the thickness is less than 2 mm.


Parts required.

Magnetic sensorwww.Phidjets.com P/N 1108

https://www.phidgets.com/?tier=3&catid=5&pcid=3&prodid=78

Hammond Box 1591-A

Hammond Box 1591-M

1 red and 1 black female jack that accepts your meter leads.

2 each 1/4" by 1/4" rare earth rod magnets

https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/hardware/rare-earth-magnets/magnets/rod/40076-rare-earth-rod-magnets

1 each 1/2" rare earth sphere magnet

https://www.leevalley.com/en-ca/shop/hardware/rare-earth-magnets/magnets/ball/45088-rare-earth-spherical-and-hemispherical-magnets  

In the left photo the device reads 4.56 vdc and the digital caliper reads 1.96 mm this gives an exact reference voltage. The right photo shows the transistor probe and cable connections cleaned up in small plastic Hammond cases.

April 17 2022 by Dave & Alison

Vicmarc Oval Turning Device ​VOD 300

Oval Turning

Ovalturning is an old turning art, which has been practiced in Europe since the 16th century, in

order to produce oval articles. There is only one specialist requirement for ovalturning, and that is the Oval Chuck. We purchased a modern model oval chuck made by Vicmarc in Australia, there are very few of these chucks in use in North America. The next couple of pictures are the inner workings of this extremely well made device. This model of oval chuck was developed by Johannes Volmer and built by Vicmarc. The button below will take you to J. Volmers book on oval turning.

The buttons below will take you to a few short videos using the oval turning device.

Arbutus Burl Live Edge Footed Oval Bowl

March 6th 2022 by Dave & Alison

Its all about Safety

Pax says Safety First

When working in the shop always wear your safety gear before starting to turn.


Cutting up a root burl.

Sourcing Wood for Turning 

The above tree has been uprooted from high winds, it was located high up on a ridge on Galiano Island BC. The wood we salvage has to be cut up in manageable chunks to provide the most yield when turning. This is often difficult as the tree is laying down on a rocky slope, there is no machinery to maneuver the wood for us, its all done by hand. Arbutus wood is very heavy and sinks in water so that gives you a bit of an idea what a good chunk weighs. We often have to roll the pieces to where they can be rolled down the embankment and gathered up on flatter ground, then use a dolly cart to move them to a vehicle. Another challenge while harvesting Arbutus Burl are the stones and rocks embedded in the wood as the tree grows around them in the soil. Arbutus trees prefer southern exposure on rocky outcrops thus we can easily go through 10 or more chain saw chains in one day of harvesting. 

The main trunk has broken off from high winds, this tree is growing out of the rocky ridge, a future source of some Arbutus burl and will definitely require a lot of saw chains.

If you look close there are two large stones embedded in this tree one on the back vertical side and one on the flat cut, all you can do is cut as much wood away as possible and hope to break it apart using a sledge and wedges.

March 1st 2022 by Dave & Alison

14 February 2022 by Dave & Alison

Meet Mr. Hoover

Vacuum Kiln Drying

Using a vacuum kiln to dry lumber is not new and has several advantages for the average wood turner but first a little physics.

The boiling point of water is the temperature at which the vapor pressure of the liquid water equals the pressure surrounding the water and the water changes into a vapor. Water at a high pressure has a higher boiling point than when that water is at atmospheric pressure. In other words , the boiling point of water varies with surrounding pressure. Water boils and turns to vapor at 212 degrees at sea level where the pressure is 14.696 PSIA and 0.0 inches of vacuum. Inside a vacuum chamber like the home made model above water will turn to a vapor at 104 degrees at 27.75 inches of vacuum 1.066 PSIA. 

Wood placed inside our vacuum chamber with heating pads on either side to heat the wood evenly when under vacuum will vaporize the water in the wood at a much lower temperature so there are less stresses caused to the wood thus there should be less cracking and warping. A temperature controller is used to set the parameters of the heat mats to control the wood temperature. Another important advantage is time, a piece of green wood can be dried in the vacuum kiln in as little as 7 days. One of the issues to the vacuum kiln is even heat distribution on the wood so rough turned bowl blanks need a heat mat that can shape to the contours of the bowls.

This book in the photo below is an excellent source on building your own vacuum kiln, by Joshua Salesin and available on Amazon. 


Hoover came about through a few conversations and help from family. My brother William put me onto the idea, I then talked to my turning friend Glen who liked the idea as well. He mentioned it to his brothers Gord who is a pressure welder and Robert a steel fitter and before long his son Adam who is in HVAC also got involved. Before we knew it we had a finished vacuum kiln and were ready to start drying turning wood.