Christmas gift interlude

2014 ornaments 1Happy New Year!  Did everyone enjoy their holidays?  Our family did, despite the fact that my kids and I were passing around some kind of bug.  Started the last day I had to go to work before Christmas, and my youngest is just getting past the final few days of it.  I hope.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been working on some Christmas presents in the last couple weeks.  I’ve been intending to make some of our Christmas presents for my wife and I’s families for several years, and just never found the time.  Well, I made sure to find the time this year.  I made a pen for my wife to replace one I’d had to repair, because I apparently disassembled it wrong and it didn’t work as well after that.  For our families, I made a trio of Christmas tree ornaments from a kit from Penn State Industries.  I turned a bell out of Zebrawood for my mother-in-law, a Christmas tree out of Padauk for my grandfather-in-law, and a snowman out of Bubinga for my parents.

The ornaments were a new adventure for me.  The only things I’d turned before had been (mostly) straight-barrel pens, so creating such a contoured piece was a fun learning experience.  I probably didn’t do it the “right” way, but they got done and everyone seemed to appreciate them.  I did figure out that the only finishing technique I’ve learned for the lathe – a CA glue finish – doesn’t work nearly as well on contoured pieces.  I had a lot of trouble sanding the finish smooth without sanding through it in the high spots.  I think part of the problem was that I had my speed up too high, so the finish was getting flung off the high areas.  I said earlier that I found the time to make these – the last possible time before the holidays.  In short, not time enough to go get another finish to use.  So, I did the best I could with the CA on the bell and tree.  The snowman actually had quite a bit of luster to it after cutting and a bit of sanding, so I didn’t finish that one.  That’s also part of why I gave that one to my parents – if it started to look bad after a while, I could easily take it back and put a finish on it, though I don’t anticipate that.  I had originally planned to paint a face on the snowman, but I couldn’t bring myself to paint over such a nice looking piece of wood.  Should’ve used pine or poplar instead if I really wanted to paint it. Ah, well…maybe next time.

The only caution I have regarding the kits is that you make sure to look at the kit pieces before you start turning.  There’s no bushings specific to the ornament kit – the instructions just say to use any size.  When I started on them, I just pulled out the tubes and went to work with the basic 7mm bushings.  It wasn’t until I’d finished everything and was ready to start assembling them that I noticed that the top and bottom parts were nearly twice the diameter of those bushings.  My better half assured me that they didn’t look bad, and I can always trust her opinion on such things.  I have a tendency (as do most crafters, I’d venture to say) to be too close to the work, and therefore I see all the mistakes plain as day.
All in all, I think the presents I made were well appreciated by everyone.  I enjoyed being able to give gifts that I’d made instead of something I bought (or a gift card).  The appreciation that was shown for these gifts meant that much more to me knowing that it was something I had made myself.
That’s all for this episode.  Next time, back to the bench project?  Maybe?  Only time will tell…

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