Canadian Woodworking

Two earrings, one turning

Author: Paul Ross
Published: June July 2003

These earrings are turned as one piece, then cut into two and shaped off the lathe.

This project is both elegant and economical. The project requires a bit of off-set turning with an eccentric chuck. The eccentric chuck allows a true centre to be manipulated to produce off-set centres.

On the eccentric chuck the “face-plate” is in a slot. Move the faceplate from centre (off-set it) to the extreme edge of the eccentric chuck, by turning the set-screw on the side. Essentially the faceplate rides on a threaded rod. The back up piece (shown with the hole in it) provides a larger gluing surface for the earring piece. Fit the eccentric chuck, which has a 3″ recess on the back of it, onto a Stronghold chuck.

Glue the backup block to the face plate, and make sure that the face place is in the true centre position. The backup block is now ready to be faced off. Do so with a small ⅛” parting tool. Glue the earring stock onto the backup piece while it’s on the lathe. Use the tailstock as a clamp.

Treat the initial turning of the piece as a small faceplate project. Take an outside cut, using a small ⅜” bowl gouge. Then position the rest across the face and true up the face with a cut from the outside to the centre.

At the start, rub the bevel with the gouge in a low position. Keep the flute facing towards the cut as it approaches centre. Then lift the handle slightly, to bring the tool onto centre.

Scrape the face lightly with a small scraper, to refine the shape and to create a slight radius of the piece.

Leave the piece on true centre, and cut a small groove with a ¼” spindle gouge, about a third of the way out from the centre. I made three individual grooves at different centres: the true centre which cut first, and two other off-set centres.

To make the second groove, turn an Allen key in the eccentric chuck to off-set the centre. As you turn the Allen key, the set-screw rotates and moves the “face plate” from the centre. Cut the first off-set groove.

At this point apply some chatter work to the piece. It doesn’t show up in the photos but you may recognize it. Chatter work is the spiral, chattered pattern, which results when the tool vibrates against the wood. You may have produced this effect without actually realizing it or intending it when working on long slender spindles and the wood vibrates against the tool.

To purposely create chatter work, simply apply a tool that can vibrate to the stable wood. The tip of the chatter tool is somewhat like a spring steel that is slightly curved down and gripped in a holder. It’s the tip that does the vibrating. Theoretically, you could make infinite patterns of chatter work by adjusting: how far the tip of the tool is in (or out) of the holder; the speed of the lathe; and the speed of travel used to traverse the piece. Each adjustment has a different affect on the outcome of the pattern.

To use the chatter tool, hold the top of the tip on centre, with a slight downward incline. It is very similar to the way you use a scraper.

I highlighted the chatter work by coloring. You can do this with draftsman’s markers. These have a fairly long, soft tip.

Repeat the same steps to turn another offset centre.

When you have made three grooves, return the piece to true centre and sand to desired grit. Then use a very narrow parting tool to part the back of the piece off the backup block. The backup block needs to be slightly concave to accept the front of the earring because the front of the earring is slightly radiused.

To turn the back of the earring, flip it and hold it on the backup piece with doublesided tape. Then apply a piece of double sided tape to the backup block .

Put the tailstock in position for support while you are cutting the bottom. Remove the tailstock and cut the last little pip with a skew.

You can now cut the piece in two. Align it symmetrically and cut it down the middle with a fine-tooth coping saw. Now book-match the halves together, holding them with a small, quick-release clamp. Use a small drum sander, in a drill press, to sand the cut side of the earring so that it is slightly concave. Make two moon-shaped halves. Glue the earring posts onto the back halves and you’re done.

Turning your own jewellery ensures that you have (whether it’s for yourself or a gift) a truly unique accessory. If you do give them as a gift, be sure to include a business card, because a lot of people will be asking, “Where’d you get them?”

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