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Copyright: John Berkeley. All Rights Reserved  Last updated 21/3/2017

Answer; No 1

Firstly, the cord is merely to have my armrest available for use at all times. It is so useful, once you get used to, it does take perseverance and practice, that it is best to have it to hand at all times. I use it, as you will have seen on my DVD, for things other than chasing threads.

To use it successfully tuck the handle end under your arm pit, and place the rest on your tool rest. Lock your chaser on the end by gripping it between your thumb on top and your index or second finger under the tool rest and at the end of the armrest. By locking it thus properly the chaser should then be fixed, and not move, on your armrest. Most students who come to me have a problem with their right hand, which always wants to control the tool and move the chaser gradually nearer the item being chased. Once the thread is “struck”, that is started, most success is obtained by pulling backwards on the armrest with the finger at its end to ensure the chaser engages and follows the thread. The worst thing you can do is watch carefully and move the chaser with your right hand at a speed which is almost inevitably the wrong one, resulting in threads being damaged or destroyed.

I am sure this is all shown on my DVD, but most importantly “beware your right hand”.


Answer; No 2

I find it best to turn alternatives using negative rake tools, i.e scraping tools, with care at no more than around 1800 rpm.

Because it cuts best at room temperature, ideally store it all indoors and turn it as soon as it is possible, whilst not too cold. Colder temperatures make the substance more brittle and less easy to turn.

It can easily be cut, with care of course, on a normal band saw.


Answer; No 3

I have a list of top tips which I email to those who request them. Here they are;

1. Always use good dust extraction.  This not only protects your lungs, but also helps remove the dust in the air so it does not land on your work.

2. When you buy new abrasive always code mark the reverse of each sheet. I draw lines, to correspond with each grade, along the whole length. This only takes a few moments. When you cut a piece off, its grade is now immediately recognisable.

3. Always work diligently through the grades, beginning with the coarsest to remove tooling marks. Each successively finer grit removes any marks left by the previous one. Going to at least 1200 grit gives a finish that will be much more long lasting.

4. Whilst sanding always keep moving the area of the abrasive in contact with the work to avoid excessive heat build up. Some woods are more susceptible than others to heat shakes caused by this heat build up.

5. Never use abrasive folded double. This may save your fingers from feeling the heat, but the wood may get too hot, also causing heat shakes. Some woods are more prone to this than others.

6. When sanding on the lathe, keep moving abrasive from left to right and back again, and avoid leaving peripheral lines.

7. After final grit, probably 1200, then burnish with a small piece of corrugated cardboard.

8. Make your own discs, if for machine sanding, or blocks to suit the profile you are sanding. With Velcro backing available it is easy to also make your own sanding drums.

9. Abrasive can be cut to size to fit your discs. It is not essential to cut it into a disc, it can be square, for most jobs.

10. Abrasive can be fitted to spindles for sanding inside those awkward places, and to protect your fingers.

11. Use liquid paraffin or very soft wax when sanding to avoid dust.

12. When sanded down to the finest grade apply a thin coat of Melamine lacquer with soft paper, rubbing it on along the grain.

13. Once dry this can be de-knibbed with Webrax or Mirlon. I find this safer and kinder than wire wool.

14. Re coat with Melamine and when dry wax and polish. Buffing with Carnauba wax gives even more shine. If you prefer a matt finish then go over your work with Webrax or Mirlon.

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