Sunday, December 28, 2014
Turning wooden mallets
I found a branch of an old gum tree (not sure of the species but it is quite resinous and extremely dense) that had fallen and dried. I cut it up with the chain saw and trimmed the side branches and made it more or less roundish. I then turned the mallets to the right on my lathe, one larger and the other for more delicate work. It is a long time since I have done any serious turning on the lathe and even then I was not that good. Hopefully I will get better with practice.
The larger one had a serious crack which I filled with epoxy then used a scraper to smooth. One of the characteristics of this wood is that it tends to shrink considerably as it dries leaving some quite significant cracks down its entire length. I turned my wife a dibber from a piece of green wood and after drying it now has some cracks, although not serious. I did finish it with oil although I probably should have used a sealer to slow the drying process.
The smaller mallet was made form a section that was mostly crack free. When the wood splits the crack seems to spiral slightly and only appear on one side. Unfortunately the tree does not grow that large and is extremely brittle and drops branches all over the shop.
I finished them by applying a coat of shellac then a couple of coats of a 321 wiping varnish (3 parts thinner (gum turpentine in this instance), 2 parts poly and one part boiled linseed oil) rubbed in with 600 grit wet 'n dry then finally a coat of wax.
I expect that these will be extremely durable given the toughness of the wood. One is about 600 grams and the other about 350 grams.
I am not entirely convinced by my first attempt and with what I have learnt may try again this time using greener wood and a more refined shape. I think if I can get a larger piece and use only one half of the branch (slice it down the centre before I start) It should not want to crack so much, just oval as it dries. Also finishing it while green may slow the drying process and hence it may want to crack less.