Thursday, 22 December 2011

Inspiration, Disaster, and Recovery

I was shutting down my lathe the other night when I took a casual glance at the bowl that I was working on.  It's an egg shaped thing with a bit of natural edge at the top, and the way it came to rest the length of the oval opening was horizontal.  "It looks like a fish mouth" I thought.  "I could put some googly eyes on it, some fins, and it would look just like a fish ... fish bowl!"  As soon as I thought it I knew I would have to make it.  And I was mad. 

Although I am not a 'serious' woodworker, there is still a big part of me that wants to be taken seriously.  Making silly fish bowls is not the way to do it.  Was I just being pretentious?  I had put a lot of work into my 'serious' bowl and was close to being finished.  I decided to sleep on it and see what my inner voice would whisper.  What I didn't know was that I had already placed myself on the path and soon I would be unable to turn back.  Boy, that sounds ominous.

My first mistake, which I had made minutes befor that casual glance, was to turn the sidewall a little too thin about half way down the bowl.  I then compounded the error by leaving a step on the inside wall of the bowl rather than gradually increasing the thickness back to the width I wanted.

After sleeping on it I was still undecided on which way I wanted to go with the bowl.  I did know, though, that I wanted to get rid of that step in the side wall.  So that's what I proceeded to do.  After a minute or so the shavings built up so I stopped to clear them and check my progress.  This is what I found.

Disaster!  The bowl had changed shape slightly overnight as it lost moisture.At first, I tried to treat it as a 'design opportunity' but  there was no way I could make it work.  My 'serious' bowl was done.

Maybe though, if I could repair it to be smooth enough, I could paint it.  Fish bowl was on, pending a successful repair effort.  The question was, how?  The wall was paper thin at one end and less than 1/16th at the other.  I decided to build it up in layers.  The layers would have to be even thinner than the walls of the bowl.  My solution was to use shavings from a chunk of birch that I had in the shop.

Here is a shot after the first layer:

And the last.

After sanding it was still pretty rough, so I made a paste of sawdust and glue and covered it with that.

I let it dry overnight and I was pleasantly surprised at how strong it turned out to be.  I sanded it again and used a little wood filler to finally get a surface smooth enough for paint.