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Making redwood globe stands

Yesterday I received a consignment of salvaged redwood from the USA. Although the surfaces are weathered, it looks as if it has some very nice ripple figure. You can see this in the block on the left in the photo below, and in the second picture too. See also the silvery-gray weathered surface contrasting with the freshly sawn ends.

Blocks of redwood waiting to be turned
Weathered surface of redwood beam showing ripple figure inside
Ripple figure shows in weathered surface

After checking carefully I┬árealized┬áthat one block is missing, but the sender has promised to forward it later. This is all to be made into a pair of large globe stands similar to these but showing the wood instead of being ebonised. The globe itself is almost life size (actually it’s approximately 43 inches in diameter. The whole thing, ball and stand, seems huge!) I’ve never turned redwood before and am looking forward to seeing the figuring. I was a little surprised by the low density of the wood, I hope it finishes OK. The stands will be going back to San Francisco when complete and will be a feature of a new hotel.

The first job is to sort out the wood for each set of components. It will make the legs, with upper and lower sections separated by gilded mouldings, the feet, and some decorative buttons to go on the big mahogany disc that sits under the globe.

The pieces are a little over-length, which is a good thing as it gives some leeway. So the next job is to mark the centres of each block and turn a dovetail spigot on one end to fit my big Vicmarc chuck. I am starting with the long upper sections, which are big and heavy, so the spigot has to be generous in depth. I don’t want the block to come loose in the lathe!

Then I transfer the block from the spindle lathe to the Graduate short bed, holding it by the spigot at one end only. It looks a bit alarming to see such a big block held only at one end, but as long as I keep the speed low it is safe enough. This block is nearly 500mm long.

Upper leg section being drilled

I need access to the free end in order to drill through the block. I use a skew chisel to scrape a small V shaped recess in the free end, then use an old fashioned auger freehand to drill a half inch diameter axial hole right through. You can see the auger in the photo above, and here is a close up of the business end.

Redwood block being drilled in lathe
The hand auger used to make axial holes

The wood is soft, and drills easily. This type of drill is good at keeping on centre, but isn’t quite long enough for these blocks, so when it is at full depth I switch to an ordinary twist bit fitted with an extension bar. The hole comes out fairly central at the chuck end and there will be plenty of waste to allow for truing up. If I tried to drill to this depth with an ordinary twist bit in a hand drill or even the bench drill, it would be certain to wander badly off centre.

The hand auger, and also this twist bit, which also has a cross handle, does not turn. It cuts a true axial hole into the spinning wood. All I have to do is hold the handle at approximately the right angle, and push.