Ring holder boxes

Every year I try to come a with a couple of new ideas for things to make for my nieces and this past Christmas what I came up with was ring holder boxes. It’s not a new idea, other people have made them before but while I’ve made ring holders and I’ve made boxes this was my first time to combine the two ideas.

The basic idea is to make a ring holder that serves as a lid for a small box where other pieces of jewellery can be stored. To give credit where it’s due my wife gave me a lot of help in refining the shape and proportions when I was first trying to figure out the design for these.

The first prototype was made from mountain ash wood and while the basic idea worked out there were a number of changes that I wanted to try in the next one.

The next ring holder box was still mountain ash but with some refinements to the shape and proportions.

After the second box I was happy enough with the design to start making the ring holder boxes for my nieces Christmas presents. For these I decided to use some maple burl wood with really spectacular figure to it.

I decided to make one more that is a bit special. My wife had to work on Christmas day so I was left at home with some time on my hands. I already had her present but decided to make her one more using a nice piece of plum wood from a tree that had been in our yard. It turned out to be a bit tight time wise but I managed to get it done just in time to present it to her when she got home (no time for wrapping though).

Market schedule for 2016

Seeing as it is December 1st already I guess it’s about time to post my Christmas market schedule:

  • Dec 14-23 – Christmas @ the Shipyards running 11 am to 6 pm everyday except 11 am to 8 pm on Fridays. This is in the Pipe shop building, the same location as the Friday night markets during the summer.


As we approach the end of March I reminded that my first markets for the year are only about a month away so it is time to get a schedule posted so people know when they can find me. I will be posting updates as more markets get scheduled. For now I am busy in the workshop but look forward to seeing everybody soon at the market!

This summer I will be at the North Shore Green Markets Friday night market on a regular basis. The dates that I have booked are:

  • May 6 & 20
  • June 3, 17 & 24
  • July 8 & 22
  • August 5 & 19
  • September 2, 16 & 30

I have some dates booked for the Saturday Summer Sessions put on by Twilight Markets in July and August. These are always fun nights with a great lineup of bands to enjoy and small beer garden. I may add another one or two nights but for these are the nights I have booked:

  • July 9, 23 & 30
  • August 13 & 20


Christmas Markets 2015

The Christmas markets are approaching quickly. I have a bit of a lighter schedule than previous years but still have a plans to take place in a couple of good local markets. Some of my work can also be found at the Green Market Artisan gift shop.


  • November 21 – North Van Holiday Bazaar – taking over from the very successful Delbrook Christmas market that ran for many years. This show is being run at Carson Graham high school on the same dates for the second year in a row and will feature many of the same vendors that used to go to the Delbrook market.
  • December 5 & 6North Van Holiday Bazaar
  • December 18, 19 & 20 –  Shipyards Christmas Market – the North Shore Green Markets group that organizes Friday Night Markets in Shipbuilders square will be running their Christmas market on the last weekend before Christmas.
  • Green Market Artisan Gift shop – featuring the work of several of the vendors from the Shipyards market that runs all summer this store is located behind the building on Lonsdale Ave and just across the parking lot from Lonsdale Quay.


Vacuum Chucking

As the size of the bowls I’ve been turning has gotten larger the need for a vacuum chucking system has become greater. This is not so much for holding a bowl while doing the bulk of the turning but mostly for at the end when removing the tenon used to hold it in a chuck and cleaning up the bottom. The traditional way of doing this is with a jam chuck but those are a little fussy to get right and need to be sized for each bowl. Another popular method is to use something like cole jaws that can be customized to hold a bowl from the rim. These work but they are expensive and there is still a size limit. The method that I had been using was a bit of a cross between those methods. I have a set of flat jaws that I can screw pieces of wood to and then make something like a jam chuck but with the adjustability of a chuck. This worked really well since it could be set up to work with a few different sizes of bowls. The problem was that I reaching the limits of where I felt safe using it as I started turning larger sized bowls more often.

The beauty of a vacuum chuck is that the larger you go the stronger it gets so it actually works better as the size of the bowls gets larger. The amount of force holding a bowl onto a vacuum chuck is related to the amount of vacuum developed and the area on which it acting so as the chucks (and therefore area) get larger the force holding the bowl on gets larger.

Early this year I decided that it was time to do something about it. The first thing I needed was a source of vacuum and after a bit of research and looking around I settled on a used Gast rotary vane pump that I found on ebay. This is an oilless pump capable of pulling 4.5 cfm and reaches about 24 mm Hg while in use.

The next thing I needed was a way to connect it to the lathe. This is fairly simple since there is a vacuum adapter fitting sold for my lathe that simply attaches to the hand wheel. The rest of the equipment I needed included:

  • A liquid filled vacuum gauge
  • A needle valve to regulate the level of vacuum
  • A small in-line gas filter to protect the pump from dust
  • A cross fitting to connect everything

The fitting for the lathe fit on one side of the cross fitting with the needle valve on the other side, the gauge on the top and the air hose connected to the bottom.

The in-line filter is attached in the middle of the airline before it gets to the vacuum pump. This is important because sanding dust will get sucked into the system while it is in use and it could damage the vacuum pump.

The air hose is then connected to the vacuum pump. The other thing that is needed are different sized chucks to hold the bowls on the lathe. There are commercial versions available but I found it fairly cheap and simple to make my own using different sizes of PVC fittings, left over construction lumber and craft foam. Basically I made wooden face plates from the construction lumber by drilling and tapping pieces to fit the threads on my lathe. I then trued them up and cut a groove for the size of fitting I wanted to use and then glued the  fitting into the groove. On the open side of the fitting I fastened some close celled craft foam to help it form a seal with the bowls without causing damage. So far I’ve only made three different sizes but those seem to work for a wide variety of bowl sizes.

Overall I’m very happy with how well the system works and only wish that I had done it sooner. Once I ddecided to do it I was able to find some great resources online then filled the gaps by talking to Beverly Pears from the Greater Vancouver Woodturners guild who had the same lathe and recently set up her own system. One of the best online resources I found was on the Golden Horseshoe woodturners website with a wealth of information.

Winged bowls

One of the forms that I have been exploring this year is winged bowls and in particular I’ve been exploring winged bowls where the wings coming down to act legs and suspend the bowl. I’m not sure what sparked my interest but some of it may to do with having come into possession of a number of pieces of wood that lent themselves well to that particular form.

The first one I tried was this one made from a piece of Japanese snowball wood.

I found that the legs moved a bit as the bowl dried but I was able to bend them back to where I wanted them by steam bending them in the microwave.

On these next two bowls I experimented with the orientation to see if I could show more of the crotch grain in the wood. Both of these next two bowls are made from plum wood. On the first one I orientated it so that the bottom came from the outside of the tree. It worked well but lost feathering from the crotch figure in the grain.

On this next bowl I reversed the orientation so that the bottom of the bowl came from the inside of the log. This resulted in a great display of the crotch grain feathering but I wound up with the wings being too short to work as legs. I tried steam bending them into place but on this piece it didn’t work. Still kind of an interesting piece though.

Another attempt was with a piece of magnolia wood given to me by a neighbor.  It had a crack in it that I was hoping to be able to turn away or at least keep tight with the application of some glue but it didn’t work out that way. Being turned from green wood it changed shape as it dried and the crack became much larger. I have a few ideas for making it a decorative feature but haven’t entirely decided which to go with yet. The options I am considering include: leaving it as is, decorative stitching with leather or copper wire or using some kind of resin to fill the crack.

The most recent one is a winged bowl made from butternut wood. The wood came from a tree that my parents had cut down in their yard and then sent me a couple of pieces.  At first I was thinking that it was too large to do a winged bowl with but I decided to try it anyway.  The piece did not lend itself to making a suspended bowl so I decided to go with a more traditional winged bowl design for it. It was much lighter than I expected and did not change shape much in spite of having been turned to finish from green wood. I think this is because the tree was cut near the end of winter before the sap started to flow. I also noticed that when I had it on the lathe it was not very out of balance to start which would be explained by the low moisture content.

Although I have some pieces now that I really like I still feel that I have not yet put all of the elements that I would like in one of these bowls together. I’m getting closer but I’m going to have to play with the design a bit more I think. What I would like to try next is a winged bowl where the wings come down to support and suspend the bowl and oriented to show the feathering of the crotch grain.