Several fellow “Creekers” have requested information on how I generate/turn/finish my Native American Baskets. With the help and support from John Keeton, I will attempt to show with text & photos how I accomplish this. I usually turn everything “green”, DNA soak, wrap, dry & weekly weigh/record the weight of the turning. At some point the piece looses no more weight and this is my cue that the piece is dry and ready to finish turn.
For this exercise I have decided to utilize a piece of 8/4 x 10” KD Hard Maple to demonstrate my methods for turning, beading, burning, dyeing & final finish.
I start by locating the center point of my blank. Using a beam compass, I will scribe a line showing the outer limits for bandsawing, then to the bandsaw for the circular cutout. Next step will be to drill a 5/16” hole in the center, opposite the side of the future waste block, to a depth of 3/4”. I then attach the blank to a wormwood screw held in my chuck.
I prepare a clean, true, circular area sized to fit my waste block. The waste block will be approx 4” D. x ¾” thick hardwood and be centered and epoxied to the surfaced area with pressure from the tailstock while curing. Once the epoxy has cured, I will measure/layout a 5” D. “foot” (my choice based on a 10” D. size) on bottom and with the tailstock in place start removing wood using a 3/8” fingernail gouge, doing the general shaping from the foot toward the rim.
After all the “roughing” is complete, I will reverse the direction of the gouge and start smoothing the surface while “riding-the-bevel.” This may take 2-3 passes to achieve a smooth surface. I am more concerned with a ”level” surface, i.e., no low/high surfaces. Surface irregularities will become evident when I start my beading process.
While beading, if I encounter a “low” area, the beads are difficult to form a full “arc”. If all looks OK, I will proceed to my brief sanding sequence. Sanding consists of using a 6” ROS with 180 and 220 Abranet sanding disc. Usually not a lot of time required for sanding…….The old Adage comes to mind……”Good knifework precludes sanding” Good luck!! Doesn’t always hold true for me but I keep trying. Please remember to turn an appropriate tenon on the waste block to fit your chuck.
At this point I un-screw the form from the wormwood screw, remove same, reverse and affix the form to the chuck and tighten just enough to secure into the chuck. I rotate the piece by hand to check for “runout” and correct as needed. If all is well, I re-tighten my chuck and start removing wood from the “face” side starting at the outer rim area and working towards the center. I try for a ¼-5/16” wall thickness consistently from rim to center. I do nothing to establish the final diameter at this point, the beading will determine that for me later. Once all the excess wood is removed I will make slow, smoothing cuts with the bevel riding to achieve the previously-mentioned “level” surface. Very often I use a large, heavy scraper with negative rake to smooth the surface.
Beading….For my beading I use a 1/8” beading tool as manufactured by D-Way tools located in Washington State. (www.d-waytools.com) These tools come un-handled and I use them this way. They are exceptional in their design and manufacture. They hold a very good edge and need little sharpening. The tool is used “flute down” on the toolrest at about a 40 - 45 deg. angle. I will usually spray sanding sealer on front/back surfaces as this seems to lock-up the fibers making for cleaner cutting with the beading tool. Check-out Dave Schweitzer’s video on his website for proper use.
Starting at “dead center,” I will lightly engage the right point into this spot and slowly swing the tool to my left to score the wood lightly with the left point. (I always place my index finger atop the toolrest to “brace” the tool from “rollover/tilting/skating). Then, engage the right point in the previously scored left line and again swing the tool left to score the left point. I only want to score the surface lightly at this point. I will usually repeat this scoring for 10-14 beads then returning to my starting point; I will proceed to “deepen” the scored lines. I will always leave the last bead “as is” to be used as a starting point for subsequent scoring.
Beading usually takes 3-4 passes to get the desired arc with no flat tops on the beads. This is important to have a full arc on the bead as it makes burning a consistent, continuous burn line across the bead possible. If the bead has a flat top, you will encounter a “break” in the burn line. The beading should be done using very lite cuts with a sharp tool. If I have a spot that has tearout, I will re-spray with sanding sealer and re-bead.
I will continue with the beading towards the outer edge of my form but…..when I get to within 3/8” or so of the edge I will stop the lathe and decide if I have room for one or more beads but still leave enough room for a ¼-5/16” diameter rim. Once a decision has been made I will use a negative-rake scraper for this rim forming. I modified a Sorby tool for this purpose.
Size is approx ½” wide x 3/16” thick and I think mine was an old skew (Ah, a favorite of all you turners out there, huh?) I ground the end square across then using a 5/16” Dia. round chain-saw file, I filed an arc into the end, (centered on the width) this filing was done at a 5-8 deg rake for clearance. I then ground off all the metal on the outsides of the arc to basically a point for clearance from damaging the adjacent beading. I then ground a 5 deg negative rake onto the top face, which qualifies it as a negative-rake scraper. To sharpen, merely grind the top-flat-side
My other consideration would be to purchase a ¼” beading tool from D-way tools and solve the problem associated with modifying a tool to do the job. The Vortex deepens!!
I use this “rim” tool in an attempt to make the rim “round-in-cross-section”, taking lite cuts, bracing the backside of the form with a gloved hand helps considerably. Continue the rim forming until reaching the backside to a point where I think the smaller beads will blend in.
The beading for the backside is the same as previously mentioned for the front. Proceed with the beading toward the foot, scoring, deepening, etc. When I get close to the foot I will stop the lathe and make a determination as to whether or not I have room for another bead or?? Sometimes I get too close to the foot, then, I need to reduce slightly the foot diameter by a tad, allowing enough room to add another bead. For this “foot reduction” I will use a small spindle gouge, very carefully!!
Next, I will sand the entire beaded surface removing any ”fuzzies” that always seem to appear. For this I use a Klingspor 4” dia. “Star Sanding Wheel” (180 grit) with an extension chucked into my drill.
I turn the lathe on slow speed and engage the sanding wheel to the surface parallel to the beads (not across the beads). Do both faces and reverse the direction the get the fibers “going and coming”.
Since all of my designs are “pre-determined” prior to any turning, I will at this point divide my platter into appropriate number of segments utilizing a Degree Wheel.
To download a copy, go to www.smithart.us click on “downloads and misc” (my quotes) and choose the “18 sector: Degree Wheel. For those of you with a large format printer, scale-up to 12” dia and print onto some heavier cardstock with a slick, coated surface. Using 3M(or eq.) spray adhesive affix this print to a pc. of 1/8” thick acrylic material, then drill the appropriate-sized hole to fit your spindle. Lock this assembly onto your lathe with the chuck and turn the outer diameter to finished size. For those who have a “std” size printer just burn the data to a CD, drop-off at your local print shop and get it printed the correct size for you. Note: Mr. Smith asks that we use his Degree Wheel downloads for non commercial purposes. I think that’s a good idea. Thanks, Mr. Smith
The Degree Wheel is affixed behind my chuck. It is marked with various numbers of segments with a max of 12. In addition to the segment locaters, it also has divisions at 2 deg intervals making it most versatile. This degree wheel in conjunction with the “stop” and marking “scribe” allows me to draw pencil lines radiating from the center outwards toward the rim in a precise manner (assuming no operator error.) The “stop” is made with a wood base. It has a 2” Dia. Magnet embedded flush with the under side for locking onto the ways of my lathe. The magnet is available from Harbor Freight, and is very reasonable in cost.
The “stop” also has a vertical leg of acrylic affixed to the base. The upper end of the acrylic is at the exact centerline of the headstock. A small spring clamp is used to “lock” the degree wheel to the “stop”. The “scribe” is made of wood, consists of a base with an attached vertical leg which holds a pencil in a hole which is centered on the headstock.
In use, rotate the degree wheel to the required location (segment number), affix with a spring clamp and using the “scribe,” I draw a line from center to rim by sliding the “scribe” along the lathe “bed.”
For this Tutorial I have chosen the Pima, “Nine-Petal-Squash-Blossom” pattern. It has nine (9) outer divisions with another nine (9) inner divisions centered between the outer divisions.
I will start my layout by establishing the “outer” nine divisions. Clamping the degree wheel on a “9“ I will “scribe” a pencil line from center-to-rim, move the degree wheel to the next “9”, scribe another line from center-to-rim, on & on until completion. Time for a little math……nine divisions gives me 40 deg between segments (360 deg divided by 9 equals 40….right??). So, if I want a line exactly between my 40 deg segment marks I need to move the degree wheel by 20 degrees. Piece of cake!! Start at an established line, remove the springclamp & move the degree wheel by 20 degrees, re-clamp, scribe. Then Move the wheel 40 degrees, clamp & scribe……so forth & so on. Soo easy even a caveman can do it!! Remember to “scribe“ the “backside”. Same program but just a little more trouble Once the back side is all laid-out with my segment lines I will remove the piece from the lathe and retire to the house for a little R & R. 95% of the remaining work will be completed in the confines of the house…….namely my recliner!! With good lighting on either side for these elderly eyes. Yes, as John K. would say, I am long of tooth.
With my pattern in hand, I will start laying-out the pattern. First to be established are the closely-spaced double burn lines on both sides of the 40 deg pencil lines. These double burn lines start at the third bead and go inward for 8 beads. Once this has been completed I should have 9 double burn lines equally spaced around the outer area of the piece. At this point I need to mark-out 19 equal spaces with 18 pencil lines between the 40 deg. Marks/double burn lines. Place these layout lines on the third bead from the rim. This part of the exercise will prove to be the most exasperating!! Note:The 10th. Space will straddle the 20 degree lines. These are established by trial & error with dividers. Once these are finished I will use a narrow piece of manila file folder stock as a "guide" and a push pin located in dead center of the piece. Place the “guide” against the pin and place the other end on one of the 18 previously marked locations and draw a light line from center to rim. I use an el-cheapo mechanical pencil from Wallyworld…..a doz for $3 for this purpose. Try to get these light lines as evenly spaced as possible. Then, using the pattern, I will start to layout the perimeter of the outer pattern, observing the offset steps in the pattern and following the previously drawn pencil lines at the 19 spaces. This takes a fair amount of concentration so be sharp. I will layout one segment of the outer pattern and if I feel confident that I’m correct I will then use my woodburner and burn the perimeter lines of only one segment. For burning I use a Detail Master woodburner of 50 watt size. Mine is very old but never a problem. For burning handpieces I order a special tipped handpiece. It is called the Flat 9-C (1/8”) or a Flat 9-D (3/16”). Call DM and ask for Bob Hanson, he is familiar with the above mentioned handpiece #. I have used the “fish scale” pens but find the above mentioned pens to be much better suited for my stuff. If I feel confident that my first segment pattern is correct, I will layout & burn another until I’ve completed the required 9.
So far we have only burned the perimeter of the outer segmented pattern. Now we can “fill-in” with appropriate burn lines the interior of the pattern(s). Try to get your spacings as good as possible but do not be discouraged if this doesn’t happen. Remember, that all the present burn lines will be dyed a fairly dark color and as such most burn lines will not be too visible. If I am to use a Burnt Sienna, that’s a different story because this dye is more transparent so the burn lines will show thru. So as a recap we are looking pretty good with what we’ve accomplished so far so,……let’s venture farther.
Returning to the 9 double burned lines started at the 3rd bead & going toward the center for a distance of 8 beads, lets start laying-out the “inner” segments that fit between the outer segments. Using the pattern as a guide, notice that there are “connecting” lines that “tie” the “outer” segments to the “inner” segments at the “step” locations. So with this in mind layout the inner segments so that this can happen. If the layout has been followed you should have 4 un-burned beads between outer & inner segments at their respective step points. This will become the four beads that receive the “connecting”, narrow double burn lines Do a repeat with the inner segments as before, layout, burn, fill-in the field with burn lines. Lastly, connect outer & inner patterns with the previously-mentioned narrow-double burn lines. These “connecting“ lines will later receive dyes to match & connect the inner & outer patterns. Good luck.
Once the front has a nicely laid-out & burned pattern, it’s time to duplicate this pattern on the back side. The back should be a “mirror” image of the front. The diameter of your foot will determine how much of the pattern will be allowed. I always save the interior of the “foot” to place my credits, signature, species of wood & date. Place a push pin in the wasteblock hole and using the previously mention piece of Manila File Folder stock locate the required 19 spaces within the 40 deg marks as earlier. Lightly draw these in as earlier and when finished start the burning process as before. I will leave the tenon on the bottom intact until all burning/dyeing is finished…..It makes a very nice “handle” to hold the piece.
If all burning of the “pattern” is completed I usually will do the dyeing next. For this piece I have chosen a pattern as done by the Pima Tribe of AZ. It is dyed using Copic Markers as sold by Oozak located in MI. www.oozak.com Talk to Rusty Gorter, he’s a great guy to do business with, sells a great product. I use the "Original" Copic marker, they offer refill kits, optional nibs and just an all-around excellent product. I use Dark Bark, Burnt Sienna & Cadmium Red, depending on the piece’s origin as all Native Americans did not have the same raw materials to choose from, hence different shades of dyes are used depending on what the Native Indians used.
The Pima Indians only used the light colored Willow as a base for their baskets with a darker material from the Devils Claw plant for the almost black colors for their patterns. I’ve chose to use Dark Bark to represent the dark Devil's Claw material. I will use two pens for coloring/dyeing, one has the “Standard Fine” nib & the other will have the “Super Fine” nib. The latter I use for the finer detail work & the former for “fill-in” on the pattern. If I make a “mistake” with the dyeing, my only recourse is to use a scalpel with a #12 blade and actually shave down until all dyeing has been removed. Not a pleasant task so be “right” with your dyeing, It’s difficult to remove.
If by now I have all the dyeing completed, front & back, I will return to burning the “background”. Time consuming but necessary!!
I will now be ready to layout the pattern for the Rim. I have used various patterns, spiral-wrapped & the Herringbone. It is sometimes difficult deciding which to use. Some tribes used one or the other at different times, so it’s a crap shoot sometimes.
For this exercise I have decided to use the Herringbone pattern. I will use a moldable epoxy to form a pattern. I get this epoxy at Ace hardware, it comes in a tube, 1” dia or so. Cut-off a section 1/8” long and knead this until it’s mixed & pliable. Steal a small piece of Saran Wrap from the LYB’s kitchen, place the wrap out flat, roll the putty into a rope, lie down on the wrap, fold wrap over rope, grab a glass & roll/flatten the rope to a thickness of 1/32” or thinner. Place this whole assembly over the rim bead and using the fingers “form” the flattened putty to fit tightly over the contour of the rim. Tape in place with sufficient tape to secure in place & leave to cure overnight.
When cured, remove tape, Saran Wrap and trim off the excess that protudes past the edge of the rim. Decide on the “angle” of a sawcut diagonally across the putty at each end. We will need opposing angles at the ends. I use a small razor saw to make my cut, cleaning-up with a scalpel, sandpaper, files, whatever. This pattern is used to draw pencil lines from the edge of the rim to a center point (midpoint on the circumference of the rim). I will layout these lines on a portion of the rim, burn with a skew shaped straight burner tool, then layout the opposite side using the opposite end of the epoxy guide. This is a slow process but is doable…..Trust me!! Once this is completed, I do a very thorough inspection for flaws, mistakes, pick off fuzzies, ect., ect.
If all looks good, I will return to the lathe and complete the remaining 5% of the work. I install a vacuum chuck, position the tailstock and place the piece on the vacuum chuck. Bring-up the live center cone to engage it on the previously used recess on the wasteblock. Apply lite pressure with the tailstock to secure in place. Switch the lathe on and use a very slow speed setting, check for proper alignment. If all things seem right, I apply more pressure with the tailstock and start removing the wasteblock using a fingernail gouge. After most of the wasteblock is removed I switch-on the vacuum pump, apply vacuum and proceed with the waste removal with tailstock retracted.
I want a concave area inside the foot area. This will become the area for printing the species of wood, credits to the Native American Tribe and signature with date and my town of residence.
After sanding the foot interior to my satisfaction, I retreat to the house for placement of the information. For this I use a 2mm Calligraphy fountain pen. Being long of tooth necessitates all the steadiness of hand I am able to muster but, I keep trying!
I start my finishing by brushing on a coat of Watco Danish Oil-natural (clear), not a heavy coat, just enough to cover and penetrate. Allow this to dry for a minimum of 10 days...No exceptions!.....Another "Trust Me on This One". Once my 10 days have passed, proceed with Krylon rattle-can products.
I first spray a coat of Workable Fixative, top and bottom. Allow this to dry a couple of hours. When dry follow with Matte Finish, same drying procedure then I spray UV Resistant finish as before. I sometimes use "Gloss" but UV comes in either Gloss or Matte, your choice. In between coats I will inspect for stray objects that always seem to find their way onto the nearest wet surfaces.
March 4, 2011, was the date for my Reception in Cape Girardeau at the Gallery. I wanted to display this tutorial piece and so I hurriedly sprayed the Krylon finishing coats allowing drying time between coats on Friday AM. We departed later in the afternoon to the Gallery to get set-up & displayed. WELL.....as luck would have it a couple from St. Louis attended the reception. The Lady went sorta "nuts" over the piece and she purchased it. Gone, sold!! The sad part of it all is I did not get a photo of the finished piece. SO.....I'm attaching the picture below to show what it did look like previous to being totally finished.
AH, it's now time to sit back and appreciate your Masterpiece......Or....is this merely your First Piece? Hopefully you will have done a presentable job and be motivated to do another piece.
As it is with most "Art" one must have a Passion to do these pieces justice. Good luck.
A brief explanation of how I find my reference material:
I subscribe to “American Indian Art” magazine, 4 issues per yr. $20 a year. Barnes & Noble carries it on their newsstands. Back issues are available from the publisher. Back issues can also be found on E-bay.
Three good reference books:
“Tradition and Innovation” by Craig D. Bates & Martha J. Lee
(out of print, check secondary markets like ebay, used book dealers)
“The Ella M. Cain Collection of Mono Lake Paiute Basketry” by Bonhams & Butterfields, Auctioneers. (Contact B & B in San Francisco for availability)
“Degikup-Washoe Fancy Basketry 1895-1935” by Marvin Cohodas
(out of print, check secondary markets like ebay, used book dealers)
All of the above Magazine/Books are very good reference material and from time to time become available on the secondary markets. Also, check with your local library, if not available there, they can do an interlibrary search and most likely will find the book someplace. These are usually loaned for a duration of one month.
This pretty much concludes my Tutorial, I’ve enjoyed it even with delays!! If I can be of any help, please leave me a PM on the Creeker site. Good luck with your endeavors.
Welcome to the Vortex!!
Thank You All