The Woodworker|February 2020

What’s all this Zen? It’s a box – a round and rather unusual one – courtesy of Dave Roberts

This month, my turning project – a small box designed by one of my customers – is a homage to the design influences of the Orient, incorporating as it does the colours and rising sun of Japan’s national flag. My first impression from his drawings was that it offered an interesting sort of challenge. But while the square top and bottom, not to mention the round ball at the centre, may look difficult, they can be realised quite easily, with some careful planning. Personally, I always enjoy turning little boxes, especially if, like this one, there is something unusual about them.

The two timbers I’ve used are padauk and sycamore, mainly because they are close-grained and won’t fall apart when they’re turned this thin. Of course, they were also selected for their colours: the piece of padauk is red and free from any blemishes, and the sycamore is, typically, creamy and fairly plain.

Turning the base square

The base is turned from a square blank so that it’s dished in the middle, but with a small flat left at each corner to form the feet. It’s important to get the blank square, so use a table saw, if you have one, to make the task easier.

I find that, when turning squares, I get the best results by paper-jointing scrap pine onto the outside. The support given by the scrap saves the grain from breaking out, and also guarantees flat edges. When you’ve finished turning, you can simply break away the pine. Paper joints are easy to make: just put a little PVA glue on each piece of timber, including the square, then put newspaper in between the pieces and clamp them together, and leave the assembly to set overnight. Once dry, find the centre and use a compass to draw a circle to guide you as you saw it into a round blank.

After drilling a pilot hole, mount the blank straight onto a screw chuck, and turn it to the finished diameter. Start by turning the underneath, but don’t carry the concave right out to the edge of the blank – if you do, you’ll lose the four feet. Don’t turn it too deep, either: you’re trying to achieve a gentle curve, and you don’t want to hit the screw on the screw chuck.


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February 2020