Monday 9 July 2018
I like to challenge myself to explore new design concepts and to stretch my technical skills; this helps to ensure continuous development and avoid becoming stuck in a rut. For the past number of years, I have set a target of achievement as selection for the prestigious Royal Dublin Society (RDS) National Crafts Competition. In 2013, my submission was entitled 'Jugular' – a contemporary hollow form vessel in bleached ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and contrasting rich burr elm (Ulmus procera) with steam-bent handle, mounted on a glass base.
I wanted to combine a streamlined elegant design with colour, texture and finish to give strong visual impact. I sketched up my design – a background as an architectural draughtsman helps! – and when happy with the proportions, I set a scale to the sketch so I could work to dimensioned components. I knew that precision turning and attention to detail, especially on the rim to handle visual line, were required to complement the strong design elements.
I started by rough turning the ash and elm from dry timber and allocated a further two weeks of drying to allow the wood to stabilise. The next stage was to finish the ash and elm components to very precise tolerances – a uniform 4mm wall thickness. A rebated joint was then cut on the elm and ash to allow the two components to be glued together when all finishing had been carried out. The ash was mounted in a jig and the two holes bored for the ebony (Diospyros spp.) pins to attach the handle later. The elm was mounted on a jam chuck and the base had a 0.5mm steel plate inserted and a plug of the waste spigot glued in to hide the steel plate. The idea behind this was to stand the finished piece on a glass base, which had a rare earth magnet inset in the glass. This would help to stabilise the piece and reduce the risk of toppling due to its narrow foot.
The ash handle was turned and steam-bent to follow the curve of the ash shape, allowed to dry and then ebonised before being drilled for the ebony pins to link both jug and handle. Next, the handle was attached to the piece and the angle of the top of the jug and handle was cut on a bandsaw using a jig to hold the piece securely. The final stage was to assemble the top and bottom parts of the jug being careful not to get any glue on the finished components. The combination of contrasting woods – deep rich colour and polished bleached ash heightens the visual impact.
'Jugular', 2013 RDS National Crafts Competition: 1st prize woodturning; Irish Woodturners Guild Award; RDS Award of Excellence (Reserve), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), elm (Ulmus procera) and African ebony (Diospyros spp.), 350mm high x 100mm dia. (PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE ROYAL DUBLIN SOCIETY)