Jack Ewing's

Hawaii woodturning
Hawaiian Style

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From Tree To Gallery

I had an old jeep which I jacked up 4í in the air, got a saw horse for a tool rest, sharpened a piece of 1/2" rebar, screwed a chunk of wood to the rear rim, fired up the jeep, put it in 2nd gear and became a master wood turner!!!! All BS, but it could be done, other than the "master turner" part.

Actually, I bought an old 12" Delta lathe with some small gouges, which I still use for spindle turning small stuff.

I obtained some books on turning from the library, and started "making Frisbees."

I flew quite a few chunks when I first started. One broke my 3í x 8í garage window! Replaced it and put 2 by 4 wire over it. Also broke my overhead florescent light, which I have since screened. After a couple years I obtained the larger lathe you see in the photo.

I'm basically self-taught.On Molokai there weren't any other wood turners here that I was aware of. A few years later I met Robin Baker who is primarily a carver but also turns and we exchange info frequently.

Danny Derohan from Kauai and John Bergholz (excellent turners) both have come over and helped me out in years passed.

Via telephone and email, I obtained information from Kelly Dunn on the Big Island and Bob Hamada on Kauai, mainly on finishing.

Turning is quite easy with the right tools that are sharpened correctly once you get the hang of it. Good finishing is another story!

From tree to the gallery. When I get a tree, I cut the wood in the largest chunks I can handle. Having a Bobcat (My baby) I can pick up close to 1000 pounds.
After transporting the wood home, I have two acres on the hillside in Kawela, Molokai, I paint the ends with semi gloss latex to help prevent drying and cracking. I then spray it with insecticide and cover. Powder beetles can do big time damage over here.

Click images to enlarge

If Iím going to side turn the timber I split the wood long ways which also helps prevent checking. Other than Norfolk pine, I try to turn the wood as soon as I can. If I donít have time to do so, I sink it in a 10,000 gallon tank I built, which preserves it until I have time to rough turn it.

When you first cut Norfolk pine the wood is completely white. To obtain the black you have to let it sit in log form in the shade or lightly covered for a couple months as the black is create by a fungus as the wood dries. To check on how much fungus has formed you have to cut it and check it.If you cut it to soon there's no black. If you wait to long it's almost all black and when you turn it thin you get very little translucentcy. After years of blowing chunks I finally woke up and now use a core plug tool to check it.

From my tank Iíve turned pieces that have been sunk for over 5 years and they came out fine. Only problem is I forget whatís in there! There's probably a few tons. I currently have about 20 tons of timber sunk and stacked waiting to be turned.

This diagram will help you understand how I extract the bowls from the timber. I always end turn Norfolk pine and most of the time I end turn Kou as well. Photo on the right shows from log to finished Norfolk Pine.

I side turn all the Milo, Pheasant Wood, Kamani and Koa, because the centers of the branches or trees of these woods are usually soft or cracked, which would leave an area in the bottom which would have to be patched.

The finish I use on a particular piece depends on the kind of wood. On Hawaiian calabashes I use mineral oil. In early Hawaii the oil of the Kukui tree was used. I tried it but it remained a bit tacky. I sink the finished translucent Norfolk pine [about 3/16" thick] for a couple days in a mixer Hawaii woodturner Kelly Dunn turned me on to which is basically a Danish oil.

After soaking, I wipe off all the oil and let it dry for a few days. I then buff it and it's ready for selling. Aloha Jack

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Copyright Jack Ewing, 2003