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Oriental Ginger Jar

Monday 9 July 2018

This month, I will be creating another piece that has been in my sketchbook for far too long. The only reason I have not created it is for fear of failure. It took me some considerable time to find a way to create a faceted shape that fitted the image in my mind's eye. But here, with the support of my wife and the editor, I have been able to give the piece time to develop and realise a finished piece, which fulfils what I originally visualised.

At the outset, I had a clear vision of what the finished piece should look like and was able to visualise every detail. There were, however, a few problems along the way; the biggest problem was that I wanted to create the facets by turning them, but this proved impossible. The turning in this project is probably less than 10 per cent of the total time taken to create the piece; this may be unacceptable to the purists, but to those who wish to create interesting objects/works of art, it is not important. The finished item is what matters and only the highest of standards will be acceptable.

For this project, you will also need various power tools including an Axminster multi-tool, a reciprocating power carver fitted with a 'V' gouge, a radial sanding brush that fits into your drill, a random orbital sander, large and small micro planes (with coarse and fine blades) and a small selection of hand carving gouges. Lastly, you will also need a selection of various acrylic finishes.

Tools used: Small specialist end grain hollowing tool, 6mm (1/4in) skew chisel/small long-grind/fingernail spindle gouge, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 12mm (1/2in) round skew chisel, 6mm (1/4in) long-grind bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail bowl gouge and 32mm (1 1/4in) spindle roughing gouge

Step 1

For this project you will need a part-seasoned end/spindle grain English beech (Fagus sylvatica) blank measuring 140 x 140 x 180mm (5 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 7in). The lid is made from a cross-grain blank measuring 70 x 70 x 50mm (2 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 2in,) just like a bowl. Firstly, centre the blank and mount between centres. The grain needs to run parallel with the bed, which is made round with a large spindle roughing gouge. The shaping and decorating of this piece is carried out before hollowing the centre, which gives the piece stability as work progresses. Next, with the blank rounded, create a spigot using a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool to fit your chuck. With the blank now mounted in the chuck, the top face can be profiled to the chosen angle, as per the drawing

Step 2

With the top complete, use a long-grind bowl gouge to shape the side of the blank. Shear-scraping the surface with the gouge further refines the shape. Lower the handle and this will allow the tool to shear cut. Use a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool to refine the top – this is where the lid will sit and must be square/correct

Step 3

It may be necessary to further refine the top face of the vessel, if needed. You also need to sand the piece at this stage

Marking out & shaping the vessel

Step 4

Using the indexing head of the lathe, and with the toolrest set at centre height, mark with a pencil the 24 sections around/down the piece. Mark three of the sections, then miss a section, mark three, and so on, around the piece. This will give you the large sections that will become the faces to be decorated later

Step 5

Lock the lathe spindle and isolate the power supply to the machine. Using a coarse micro plane carefully begin to remove the material to create the flat face of the vessel. Ensuring that you are working in the direction of the grain will make this stage a lot easier

Step 6

You can really get behind the tools as you work, depending on the lathe you have. You can also see the amount of effort that is being put in as the work progresses. Continue to do this until all six faces are flat

Step 7

It is a good idea to maintain the lines as you work – lose these and the piece will appear shabby, which you do not want

Step 8

As you get close to the final profile you will need to change to a finer blade and work carefully until you reach the line. Care at this stage will ensure great definition in the final piece. It is worth taking your time and producing a piece which looks great

Step 9

If you have one available use an orbital sander to work through the various grades until you are satisfied with the overall finish. Some hand sanding may be required, but be careful not to lose the definition around the area that will become the panels

Panel layout

Step 10

Set a pencil line at the top of each of the wide panels – I use the old carpenter's trick of using the edge as a guide. Good hand-eye coordination is necessary to ensure all the lines are visually marked out the same. No measuring needs to be carried out here

Step 11

Make a template to fit the panels – template card is available from all good sewing/craft shops – then create a paper template, using spray adhesive to stick this to the clear template, before cutting it out. Remember that a template needs to be slightly smaller to allow for the pencil line drawn around the piece

Step 12

Lay the template against the top line of each large panel and draw around the template, adjusting the position if needed. Each panel may vary slightly and when finished, if the panels are slightly different, the eye will not see this

Carving & decorating the panels

Step 13

Begin to decorate the panels by carving with a 'V' gouge the boundaries around the panel edge – I used my Ryobi power carver for this. First go round the piece, then carve along the piece. Here, the panels need to be as straight as possible

Step 14

With your chuck transferred to a carver's clamp, you can now texture the centre of each panel using a round burr fitted into a flexible-shaft rotary tool. This will take some time and should only be done for relatively short periods

Step 15

As work progresses, considerable debris will be generated and fuzz on the face will appear; some of this can be carefully removed with a brass brush

Step 16

When the texturing is complete, sand the decorated surfaces with a rotary sanding brush fitted into a drill

Hollowing the vessel

Step 17

With the texturing complete, the piece can now be removed from the carver's clamp and be returned to the lathe. Begin by creating a dimple in the centre of the top of the ginger jar. Now centre a drill and drill a hole to the final depth. Begin to open up the vessel carefully using a long-grind bowl gouge. This will create space to allow the debris somewhere to go as the hollowing begins

Step 18

Once there is enough room, introduce a specialist end-grain hollowing tool to remove the remainder of the waste wood. Be careful, as the vessel is no longer round and will need to be left considerably thicker than normal. Shear-scrape the inside of the piece when you are at the final thickness

Step 19

When you are completely happy with the inside, sand through the various grades of sandpaper

Step 20

With the hollowing complete, re-sand the top of the ginger jar. Allow the inside to cool as considerable heat is generated when hollowing and sanding. Before applying a sealer to the inside you should spray/seal with acrylic sanding sealer. Once dry, this can be sprayed/coloured black

Removing the spigot

Step 21

Remove the vessel from the chuck and re-mount it between centres. Using a scrap wood tapered spigot mounted in the chuck, begin to remove the waste wood that was the chucking method

Step 22

Use a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool to define the base

Step 23

Relieve the bottom using a small gouge to dish the underside while still reducing the waste at the base. Do this until you reach a point that you are happy with – mine was somewhere under 6mm (1/4in). With the piece removed from the lathe, sit comfortably and carve away the remainder of the chucking method, working carefully with the grain. You are then ready to sand the bottom

Step 24

At this stage, the piece is now turned and decorated and is just waiting for its lid to be fitted

Ebonising & colouring

Step 25

Hold the piece in your hand and apply a coat of liquid black all over the top of the piece. When applying the colour to the textured areas ensure that the colour gets into all the detail. Multiple coats will be required, then the piece needs to be left to dry. When the black is fully dry burnish the flat areas with a dead Nyweb pad or workshop paper towel. The acrylic can even be carefully sanded using fine abrasive, but remember to remove any dust

Step 26

Apply a layer of gold to the top of the texture with a dry brush – too much paint and the texture will become full – but use a dry brush and the colour will float over the top

Step 27

When the colour is fully dry, spray using Chestnut acrylic satin spray lacquer and cover with multiple light coats until the desired finish is achieved. You can clearly see the piece is jammed onto a tapered stick for spraying, this can also be used when colouring

The lid

Step 28

The lid is created using a cross-grain blank. Ideally, this should be rough turned and allowed to stabilise before finishing; it is just like turning a miniature un-footed bowl. Mount the blank between centres and create a small spigot to fit into the chuck. Reduce the blank to a diameter of 65mm (2 5/8in) and turn a small bead at the base of the lid – this I did with a small skew chisel – then remove the centre

Step 29

Use a parting tool to refine the opening for the inside of the lid. You will need to check your final opening diameter for the lid. You can also see that I added a centre detail with a small skew chisel

Step 30

You are now ready to sand the inside of the lid…

Step 31

…And then texture the inside of the lid. With the texture complete sand with 3M sanding brushes, as they have a much smaller diameter

Step 32

Reverse-chuck the top onto a jam chuck and turn the outside to remove the chucking method, creating the outside profile of the top/lid. Create a centre detail to reflect the inside

Step 33

Hand carve the centre button on the outside top, which will add interest to the piece when finished

Step 34

Again, texture the top, as per the rest of the piece. When completed, sand with the rotary sanding brush to remove the fuzz and soften the detail

Step 35

With the texturing complete ebonise the top, inside and out, before finally allowing to dry

Step 36

Dry brush the decoration with gold to complete the colouring, allow to dry, then apply multiple coats of satin lacquer. The ebonised oriental ginger jar is now complete