Friday, 19 June 2020


The Right Tool for the Job

Absolutely no point struggling with inadequate blunt tools!  I'm a bit obsessed with sharpening, doing it properly and frequently.  So often I hear folks saying "well it was sharp when I bought it".  No it wasn't, probably just had a ground edge to whip off any burrs in the manufacturing.  The other phrase that drives me nuts is "I sharpened it just yesterday".  Probably last week and it's likely it wasn't sharpened correctly anyway - angles all wrong, sharpened on the wrong side of the bevel, not a mirror finish all the usual mistakes and then I'm told that the tool steel is rubbish.  It may well be but you can't blame your tools for poor maintenance, they don't sharpen themselves - perhaps it's thought  the elves pop in at midnight and do the job for them!  I'm constantly sharpening throughout the day whilst working and it's particularly important if you want a really clean cut thread.
Tools for Thread Chasing

Chisel on the left is essential for undercutting the female thread so you don't bounce against the wood.  Sounds weird but that's exactly what happens and then you're up the creek without a paddle!
On the right it's a pointing tool that can be used as a skew - again essential for this type of box turning.  The tool at the top is a moveable rest.
I'm a great fan of Ashley Isles tools, always have been, but even more so after visiting their works in Lincolnshire to buy some one awful wet Monday in the winter.  The office address at that time was a pub and we turned up there and it was closed.  Heard noises out the back and found Ray Isles the publican in his little workshop.  I say 'little' - small because it was so jam packed with stuff but in fact it had been an aircraft hanger to house Lancaster Bombers being serviced between missions in the war!  We even got taken to see the remaining Lanc there and afterwards he opened the pub, his wife came out in her nightie and did us a smashing lunch with a pint of ale and Ray whisked off to the works to get his brother to sort out the chisels I wanted to buy - personal service with a smile and a history lesson with brunch and a pint.                                                                                      

Thread chasing chisels are in made as male and female tools and Ashley Isles also make a universal chaser that does both.  I've found that the more teeth to the inch the easier it is to use them - the ones with fewer teeth, turning a bigger thread are, for me at any rate, damned tricky.  This one here is the Universal Chaser and 16 teeth to the inch.
Universal Thread Chaser
These two are the male and female, the female having more teeth, in this pair it's 24 teeth to the inch.  It's really important that you use the right one for the threads otherwise it's confusing and just doesn't work and goes completely wrong.  This really is a case of practise and practise and then practise some more.

Female Chaser is bottom 

This pair of chisels are 11 teeth to the inch - big difference in terms of thread size and as I mentioned earlier more difficult to work with.

Male Chaser is top

So these are the tools you'll need to make boxes with threaded lids.  Have fun giving it a go, get the right wood, make sure you're comfortable, get the tool rest in the right position, the speed right and have fun...

Monday, 1 June 2020


Density of grain is the main thing so selecting the timber is crucial.  I've only used with Box as that's what I've saved specially. I've also been told that African Blackwood, which I'm unlikely to find in Waltham Abbey or the rest of Essex, also Lignum Vitae again not growing around here but I'm keeping my eye open for some old bowling bowls that I could re-purpose. So Box is the wood for me.
Thread Chasing

You need your chisels to cut the wood cleanly so they need to be super sharp, at least the 1st or leading tooth.  Before you get that far you need to make your box!  I've found that I need to be in the perfect frame of mind for this and I still find it a challenging project.  One day it'll go swimmingly the next it's an aberration - nothing goes right.  Then it'll work perfectly, all very frustrating.  I think it's a lot to do with your stance and mood, no good blaming the tools - I know they work perfectly, are super sharp so check the lathe speed, that's important too.  It's the female thread that, for me is trickiest and then when I think it'll all go wrong it goes perfectly!  And of course you must make sure your grain matches up when you thread the lid - we don't want mis-matching grain do we!

Threaded Box from Box Wood

Pleased with this little one though. Did a bit of that clattering chattering to the top.  It screws up easily and tightly and I found that it perfectly holds a 5pence piece!  I decided to try small and this measures 1 and an 8th inches high and 7/8ths inch diameter.
For things I've been turning recently have a look here