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Thread: What percent of the time does it all come together?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Chevy Chase, Maryland

    What percent of the time does it all come together?

    I found the "hate it when this happens" thread familiar, so I thought maybe we could commiserate on another front. What percentage of the blocks of wood you mount end up as pieces you are satisfied with/proud of? For me it's no more than 50% - probably less. So many chances for things to go wrong:

    - the wood has a flaw - internal stress crack - knot - bug holes - etc.
    - I underestimate my drying warpage and don't have enough meat to re-turn the blank
    - I mess up the curve - inside or outside or both
    - I get get a catch
    - I make the bottom too thin
    - I make the shape clunky or ugly (myriad design ugliness)
    - and on and on
    ~ Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Escondido, CA
    Great question.
    One of the big things for me is the learning curve on woods. One of my favorite woods is eucalyptus, but I can count on a lot of crack filling on bowls and leak-cracks on chalices. Recent Fern-Pine tree has molded immediately on the ends but once turned and coated with shellac or wax, the loss rate has been about 1%.

    The other big difference has been to make a whole lot of one design. Sam Maloof recommended to find a design you love and keep developing it throughout your life (not exact words). I got a lot of help in chalice form from this site and have made about a hundred so far. At first I would twist them apart or get a a destructive catch over 50% of the time. I have learned what order of steps keeps it together and what is needed to manage forces that would rip it out of the chuck.
    Veni Vidi Vendi Vente! I came, I saw, I bought a large coffee!

  3. #3
    When I copy a form, I can usually turn to satisfaction. I probably have about 50% turn out differently than from where I wanted when I started. But I rarely call it a fail; I just turn it smaller or thinner. Because of the analog nature of turning, I find it possible to make palatable lemonade from any aesthetic lemons. For me, I've learned that my favorites are rarely my audiences' (friends and family). Conversely, they often like my salvaged fails.

    I have lately been having more fails in the flat world, but that's because I'm building less and less from plans or pictures and trying to design in my head. (just can't get used to Sketching up).

  4. #4
    Well, in theory, success rates increase as you get more 'experience'. I still get some catches, mostly to not paying attention. I have learned to be selective when cutting out my bowl blanks, which means when to burn some log sections, and where to cut them out. NO KNOTS! With my Madrone, which really likes to warp and crack, I have found it best to get logs when the spring sap is up. Later in the year, I get a lot more cracks. Like my martial arts instructors have said, '10,000 more times'.

    robo hippy

  5. #5
    I'm my own worse [best] critic. I've had very, very few pieces that come off the lathe that i'm completely satisfied with. There is always something that could of been done just a little differently that would of made it better. Then there are the total flops as mentioned previously, unseen bug holes, knots, voids, etc.
    I can duplicate a known form pretty well, but struggle still on something original.
    Sooo to answer the question......probably a little less than 50%.

  6. #6
    On being complimented on his latest woodwork, my father would drag in the mechanics crawler, a flashlight, and a inspection mirror, saying "No, its not good. Crawl under here and I'll show you my mistake." Or at least that's the way we saw it; and tease him for such.

    Then I picked up a board and made things (firewood mostly), and discovered I responded exactly like my father. I didn't notice, but LOML was kind enough to point out this little character flaw.

    Forgot where (here?) I saw someone post (sorry! can't attribute) that woodworking is like golf. No matter how well you played the last round, you know you could have shaved at least one more off your score. For 90% of the world golf is played against themselves, not the person walking next to them. And they (you) know it could be better. Much like woodworking.

    I rarely repeat anything, so no chance to hone a specific object. But hopefully the skill set has expanded along the way. And once or twice I couldn't find anything to point at in shame. .....Okay, once!

  7. #7
    Being able to take a compliment gracefully is a rare trait. I always admired that about Roger Federer.

  8. #8
    It's hard to say. I do a limited amount of repetition, instead mostly following where ideas lead. That aside, often what I consider successes meet tepid response, while what I feel is moderately successful are "best yet". So whose count do you use?

  9. #9
    Generally speaking, I am definitely my own worse critic and am rarely satisfied with the end result. But, every once in a while the finished item makes me think I got it right ......until I look at it a few months later! Funny think is that the only turnings that I still "like" after a lengthy period has passed, are some food safe maple bowls I make on occasion.
    No, it's not thin enough yet.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    "Brownsville", North Queensland, Australia.
    I fit into the "I am my own worst critic" mold & I agree with the Sam Maloof example about repetition, perfecting technique & form. I do more spindle turning than bowl turning as I love the challenge of hand made repetition (copy) spindle turning. Once you get on a roll it is surprising how easy it is to be "successful." Sure there will be variations but that is the essence of hand made, enough variation to look hand made but not enough to look ghastly. With other turning projects I have very few failures as I tend to be more choosy about what wood I put on the lathe & what I spend my effort upon. I guess that comes from my Dad who was originally a cabinet maker / wood machinist and moved onto general small industrial & house building. He would often say "you are the craftsman, what (faults) you see your clients won't see."

  11. #11
    It always comes together. The question is how close it comes to your vision (presuming that you start out with a vision!). And even if it does, how satisfied are you with the outcome. As is the case with many makers, my favorite project is typically the one I am currently working on and my least favorite is the one I just finished. Get into it for the process, not the outcome, and you can just feel the pressure easing off. Let others judge for themselves how well you succeeded. There is almost always someone who will like what you have made and others who will not, regardless of how you personally feel about it.
    David DeCristoforo

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Green Valley, Az.
    I've had lots of experience at making pieces that I didn't like after they were finished. A lot of them ended up in the trash. But that was mostly in the past. Today my success ration is pretty high. The difference is planning and not being in a hurry. Take the time to get it right. Too many turners mount a blank and just start turning and whatever happens happens.

    Even though I've turned a lot of forms I have my favorites. Even so, I nearly always make sketches. Certain forms come easily, others not. A good example is the ogee form. Getting those curves just right can be difficult. When you do, the results are very satisfying.

    During the turning of a difficult piece I always take it off the lathe to view standing up and also upside down. Good form is good form whatever angle it's viewed from. A little tweaking can make a real difference. I try to never say "that's good enough". If you can make it better do it. You'll always be glad you did.
    Last edited by Wally Dickerman; 08-26-2015 at 3:02 PM.

  13. #13
    I have never started with drawings, well except for full scale drawings for furniture. My drawing is lousy, and I may have a general idea of what I am going to make, but some times the wood says otherwise.... This probably works for me because as a potter said to me once, 'all of your work is so utilitarian'. Yup, I like plain and simple...

    robo hippy

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    What % of the time does it all come together .. for me ALMOST Never .. but 95% of the time I am pleased with the results ..
    I'm not a professional turner, my wife told me several times, that I'm a professional complainer .. so be it ..
    I've seen beautiful trees, beautiful sunsets, beautiful sky, etc, etc .. so when a turning doesn't break into pieces, I think WOW .. did I luck out on this one !!

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it ..

  15. #15
    I think what you're touching on is the essence of what makes an artist or craftsman.

    I've heard that the truly great artists and master craftsmen are never satisfied with their work.

    One of my son's is an accomplished (as in award - winning) cellist but he is driven because he is never satisfied with his performance.
    I've talked to him about it and he said the day he plays a piece to his complete satisfaction he will never play again because he knows he can't duplicate it.

    That's what keeps him motivated.......

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