Canadian Woodworking

Spanish olive hollow vessel

Author: Paul Ross
Published: February March 2003

The body of this piece is turned from one piece of Spanish Olive.

The foot is made of African Blackwood. The caps consist of Blackwood with numerous other exotic woods, such as Cocobolo.

The entire project is divided into three sections: the body, the foot and the cap. Each section is turned individually and then assembled. I chose to use highly figured and relatively costly woods, so I wanted to get the most out of each piece.

Therefore, I used waste blocks on each section to hold with the chuck. That way, I can turn the entire piece of exotic wood without any waste.

The first photo shows you the three sections: the foot on a waste block, the cap of African Blackwood on a waste block, and the body with a waste block on both sides.

The Foot

Begin with the body. Mount it between centres on the waste blocks so you can get one true centre. Use a ⅜” beading parting tool to true the waste blocks on either side of the body (photo 2). Both the headstock/tailstock and each waste block are centred when you put them into the chuck.
With the body still in between centres, true up the Spanish Olive with an outside cut, using a bowl gouge (photo 3). Now put the body in a chuck and, with the tail stock in place for support, shape the bottom using a bowl gouge (photo 4).

The tail stock is still in the way at this point, so you have to pull the gouge with the handle towards you, from the centre out. This is somewhat of a shearing cut. When the bottom has been shaped to how you want it, a bit of light scraping cleans the ridges or any tool marks. I did this with a fairly heavy scraper, a 1 ¼” x ⅜” round nose (photo 5).

I always watch the back side to see the profile of the piece.

Flip the body onto the other waste block in the chuck and, with the top exposed, take a facing cut across the face to clean the surface flat. Do this with a bowl gouge, flute facing the direction of the cut, and from outside into the centre. The next step is to drill a “pilot” hole (photo 6).

There are a couple of reasons for this hole: 1) to define the approximate bottom of the piece inside, and 2) to give the hollowing tools (used to hollow the inside) a void in which to fall. At this point, transfer the size of the cap onto the body. Use a pair of dividers set for the diameter of the recess on the cap (photo 7).

Next use a gouge to scrape and shape the top half of the body. At this point, I’ve sanded the body starting with 120 grit and worked my way up.

Now hollow out the inside of the body. There are many hollowing devices available for this process. They all perform well in their own way. Based on the size of this piece, I used one of the smaller sizes of “McNaughton Hollower” which come in four different sizes and in sets of three. They’re basically scrapers with slightly different curvatures. You can see the different shapes of the cutters in the set that I used (photo 8).

To use these tools, it’s a simple matter of scraping the interior of the body (photo 9). Remember, these are scrapers, so make sure that the top of the scraper is on centre, with the tool in the downward incline.

When first starting out using these tools, always start from the top of the piece and push the tool down to the bottom, in a sweeping motion, finishing in the hole. It is important to wait until you have some experience before you come back up with the tool because it has a tendency to grab when doing this. Remember to pivot on one spot of the rest, so as not to disturb the path of the tool. Always work the mass to the bottom so you don’t remove a lot in the bottom, making the bottom thin and leaving the top thick.

The Cap

Mount a small piece of Cocobolo in between centres and turn it into a cylinder creating a tendon on one end (which will be glued into the African Blackwood part of the cap). Now, place the African Blackwood section of the finial in the chuck, and take an outside cut and a facing cut in order to true up the piece.

Transfer the diameter of the tendon of the Cocobolo section onto the Blackwood section. Make the hole on the top part of the lid to accept the finial (photo 10).

Scrape the shoulder flat where the finial sits so that you have a good joint with no gaps (photo 11). Assemble the cap and finial so that they are ready to be turned (photo 12).

Use the small spindle gouge to shape this, always going downhill with the direction of the gouge (photo 13).

Note: leave the tail stock in place for support. Shape to the desired profile. Remove the tail stock and then shear off the last little “pip” using the toe (or long point) of the skew (photo 14).

Now to finish the cap, turn the bottom. One method is to take the jaws off your chuck and put on rubber bungs from a “jumbo jaw” set. Then grab the finial with the rubber bungs (photo 15).

The Foot

Grab the foot in a chuck and shape it. Shape the body side of the foot to the contour of the body. Make a small hole in the middle of the foot to accept the tendon that you turned on the body when the waste block was removed (photo 16).

Now you can either centre the body on a vacuum chuck or insert it over a jam chuck. Turn the waste block off and a small section of the body is left like a tendon to be glued into the foot.

Sand each section to conclusion and then finish. I buffed both the foot and cap using Triple E, White Diamond and Carnauba Wax. I spray lacquered the Spanish Olive body.

Although this project requires a little more skill than others that I have presented, give it a little thought and have a little patience and you will have no problem turning these fine hollow vessels.

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