Finishing Coastal Banksia
The Candlestick Saga
This story really started in about 1957 when I met the local clergyman at a small Episcopal Church in the town of Pontiac, Michigan. Various activities were enjoyed together over the next two years, particularly those relating to snow and ice, the good things and the not so good. Like the car rally's on the frozen lakes and the ice skating and the ice fishing and also digging the ice away from the bottom of the garage door when it had thawed then snap frozen the night before, and also the shoveling of the snow from the path. Beautiful memories that always come to an end when its time to come home. The usual lack of continuous contact gradually comes down to at best Christmas cards occasionally and then nothing, until you are fiddling around on the internet one night and go searching for a name and then another and woe and behold the address of the husband and wife match. Bingo - the Internet has done it again - and so the contact is rekindled.
One of the first things that my friend was directed to was the guild's web page where everything looked like museum stuff so he said. So he was impressed.
The next major step in this sequence was a bush fire in the Ti-Tree along the railway line reserve in Seaford. The result of which was some felling of various trees considered dangerous as the cleanup crews sorted out the mess. One of these trees was a substantial Coastal Banksia, which was deemed available and finished up standing on its end in my workshop for about ten years.
Then out of the email comes a request from my mate (who is now running a marine park by the way) "Please send some of my woodturning over for a surprise Christmas present for his wife." Well that how this article got started.
Because now I had to make some more things to replace those I had sent overseas.
Why a pair of candle sticks - well you come to a stage in your experience when you say what haven't you tried and it hits you - You haven't ever tried to make two of the same thing. And the candlesticks just seemed the right thing to make out of the Banksia tree, which was by now very dry.
The experts always tell me make a full sized sketch before you start so that you can get some idea of the balance and perspective. So we did a sketch or two and decided on something very simple but clean because the other challenge with the Banksia was to get a good finish on what is considered a very porous material. Some people who know the local landmarks may say that the finished articles look like the Clock tower at Beaumaris, which they do if you have a twisted sense of perspective.
The timber preparation was relatively simple using the electric chain saw and the electric plane to remove the rough stuff then starting slowly to turn the blank. The initial cylinder was quickly achieved and then the important lengths and diameters transferred to the blank starting from the top end. The top end was then squared off and the billet taken out of the lathe and setup vertically in the pedestal drill. A hole was then drilled centrally into the top to take the metal ferrule care being taken to leave sufficient material to allow a good fit for the final mounting of the ferrule. This hole was then drilled about 38 mm deep.
The next step was to make an auxiliary centre to fit into this hole. Why - because you have just removed the original centre point and you don't have anything to support the timber.
I found the shape of this extra centre was particularly important as the success of the appearance of the ferrule mounting depended upon the concentricity of the material around the hole. I did try a straight taper but this allowed the billet to wobble so a little mechanical engineering was called for and the final shape is as shown. This centre was made from as hard a timber as I could find and worked very well.
Now we are back in the lathe to do the turning - recheck the lengths marked and set the calipers to the several diameters required and away we go.
The basic turning was fairly quick - then came the sealing and the finishing.
The design was modified in detail in some areas to accommodate the characteristics of my turning tools particularly the radius of the scraper used on the internal radius of the drip catcher. I also reasoned that a slightly larger radius here would make for easier cleaning.
Then started the final sanding and sealing. 180, 240 and 360 grit aluminium oxide papers were used thoughout to get a suitable base to start sealing.
Wattyl Pre Sanding Sealer was used and all told about seven coats were applied leaving to dry about twelve hours between each application and sanding.
The final appearance was obtained with the U-Beaut and Triple E compounds to get the desired smoothness and satin gloss.
The ferrules were then fitted into the top hole carefully carving the hole to suit the lip on the outside diameter. 24hour Araldite was then used to glue the ferrule in place. A little cleanup after the Araldite was hard and the job is done
Now all I have to do is to decide on the shape for the next pair as this pair have disappeared already.
Attached are some suggestions.