Randy Sorenson

Jim Morgans Wood Profits

Jim Morgan's Wood Profits

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is a professional furniture maker. He lives in Salt Like dry, UT.



Transform your turning with a splash of color by Michael O'Donnell

As a woodturner married to an artist, I have the good fortune to be able to collaborate with my wife, Elizabeth, on my work. That's how wc came upon the technique of coloring the bowls and goblets that we make.

I use only locally available woods—sycamore and bccch—in my turned work. The blandncss of these woods, with their fine texture and minimal grain patterns, led me to look for a way to liven up my turnings. With Elizabeth's help, I started experimenting with various color applications. The results, shown here, convinced us that a splash of color is a great way to add a new decorative element to your turnings.

Wooden rainbows. The author's turned wcx)den vessels are dyed in a rainbow of colors, making an otherwise bland wood exciting.

Coloring a Bowl

There are three things to consider when coloring a piece: the wood's grain patterns and markings, the color combinations, and the application method.


work iis an art and craft team. They live in northern Scotland.

A woodworker's palette. Water-soluble dye powders, bleach, brushes, sponges, and rags are the essential ingredients for coloring bowls.

Bleach it first. Start by randomly swabbing household bleach on the surface of the bowl. Use a synthetic brush.

Then add color. Apply a blue stain over the bleached areas to produce a lighter shade of blue. Unbleached areas turn dark.

Bleach again. Dab bleach over the wet color coat to lighten it. Use the tip of a toothpick dipped in bleach to draw fine lines.

Choosing Your Wood

We like coloring end-grain bowls best. With an end-grain turning you get more even color penetration; a side-grain piece tends to look blotchy.

Bland, light-colored woods with an even, fine texture work best for coloring. Maple is an excellent choice for a beginner. After you get a feel for the technique, you can introduce other species and grain patterns into your repertoire.

We work primarily with green wood. Once a piece is turned, we sand it up to 220 grit on the lathe. Then we start the coloring process. If you're coloring a piece that was turned dry, raise the grain first by wetting the surface with water. Let the bowl dry, then cut off the raised fibers by sanding lightly with 220 grit.

Coloring Materials

You'll get the best color if you work with water-soluble dyes—not pigments. Dyes penetrate the cells of the wood, producing rich, transparent colors that let the natural grain show through.

We've had success with many types of water-based dyes, including inks and fabric dyes. But we get the best results when we use water-based aniline dye powders, available from Garrett Wade (800-221-2942). These casy-to-apply dyes come in a wide range of colors, and the powders are concentrated. You can choose between intense, vibrant colors or soft, muted tones, depending on how much water you dilute them with. Experiment with your powder-to-watcr ratios to get a feel for the intensity you want.

Have some common household bleach on hand. We find it indispensable for creating interesting patterns in conjunction with the coloring process. Make sure to wear protective gloves so your skin won't be burned by the bleach.

You'll need an assortment of brushes to the color. We prefer large Chinese ----o--r-v brushes, available at art supply stores. We also use sponges and clean rags, and wc apply small dabs of bleach with toothpicks, twigs, or tissues. You can use a brush to bleach larger areas, but test the brush first. Synthetic brushes work best; natural bristles tend to "melt" when they contact bleach.

Coloring a Bowl

There are three things to consider when coloring a piece: the wood's grain patterns and markings, the color combinations, and the application method.

Grain. Different grain patterns result in different effects. End grain absorbs more color and tends to darken more than side grain. Color tends to bleed through the wood on end-grain areas, showing up as interesting speckles on the opposite surface.

Color. Generally, a combination of colors looks better than one hue. Wc like color combinations on the inside surfaces that contrast with the outside color.

Application. The coloring process is fast, so have your colors ready-mixed. A small bowl should take only a few minutes. It's important for the wood to be wet when applying colors. This way, the colors will have soft edges where they overlap, and they'll blend more harmoniously with each other. This isn't a problem with green stock, but you should dampen dry work with a sponge and water before applying color.

You can use bleach as a aresist," dabbing or brushing it on first to lighten the color that will follow and add interesting mottled effects. After applying color, you can add bleach on top of the color as a "discharge," making a variety of lighter lines or spots. (See photo, bottom right.) If you don't like the color you have, use bleach to remove most of the dye so you can start again.

Edges and Rims

You can leave the rims and edges of your work as they are, or you can accent them. Wc paint some of our wide-rim bowls with artist's acrylics, using whatever colors seem appropriate for each piece. On thin-walled pieces, wc usually like a dark rim. You can also darken the rim with a black fcit-tip pen, or you can burn the rim with a commercial branding tool, available from common mailorder woodworking catalogs.

Surface Protection

Dyes don't protect the surface, so you'll need to seal the stain and the wood with finish. We use lacquer because we like the look, but an oil finish will work as well. Any clear finish will darken the overall color slightly and make the piece glow. A


work iis an art and craft team. They live in northern Scotland.

Making Tusk Tenons

Knockdown joinery makes strong, handsome furniture by Ian J. Kirby and John Kelsey

Tusk Tenon

Bold detail.

Simplicity, strength, and honesty are the greatest virtues of the tusk tenon.

The tusk tenon is the original all-wood knockdown joint. You find it on traditional trestle tables and early furniture of all sorts. It's also been used for centuries on timber-frame houses. The joint has great furniture potential bccausc its intricacies are so visually interesting. It's strong and durable, it can be made large or small, it tightens to accommodate seasonal movement, and it can be tailored to fit various styles of furniture. (Sec drawings, opposite.)

To make one joint, you have to cut two mortises, one for the tusk tenon (the tusk mortise) and the other for the wedge (the wedge mortise). So it's a double-jointed joint. The wedge makes the joint self-clamping, which is especially useful in large constructions. However, it's important to fit the parts so that they slide together easily—not a drive fit, but not a loose rattle either.

Hand-tool woodworkers will find the joint a workout for their chisel skills. Machine woodworkers probably will find the router and drill press to be the best weapons, though sloping the wedge mortise requires some paring with a chisel. Even here there are several good alternatives to the sloping wedge mortise, including the dowel wedge, the folding wedge (which fits a square mortise), and the forked-wedge-with-dowel, where the mortise is simply drilled.

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