‘Alien’ Seed Pods

 






Video showing the creation of my ‘Alien’ Seed Pods

I was invited by Woodworking Europe to take part in a collaboration event to celebrate European Maker Week (30th May to 5th June 2016), which is a celebration of ‘makers’ and ‘innovators’ across 28 countries.  Participants were asked to create something on the theme of a star (inspired by the European flag) and to produce a YouTube video to be published simultaneously at 12:00 UTC on 29th May 2016.  Since this may be the last year that the UK is a part of Europe I was happy to accept the invitation and help promote British woodturning and ‘makers’.

I have recently started exploring the design potential of vessel openings (the entry hole on a hollow form for example) and knew immediately that this would form my ‘star’ inspiration.  I have also just started exploring non-functional, sculptural ideas for woodturning (very much inspired by artists like Alan Adler).  From this my ‘Alien’ Seed Pod prototypes happened.  Following these I plan to go on and explore the potential of these most interesting forms.

This was my first prototype of a seed pod. It has a long way to go!

This was my first prototype of a seed pod. It has a long way to go!

I made three prototypes initially, all in Sycamore.  The first explored a basic shape and colouring idea (including the star opening) which moved me forward but was somewhat disappointing.  The second expanded upon the carved tail idea and toyed with pyrography details.  This left the third which formed the main emphasis of the required YouTube video, developed a workable colouring idea and furthered the carving of the tail details.  Following these I have a minor plan to change the tail to a method incorporating a separate piece (in a different wood perhaps) which will also require less carving and shaping.

In all three pieces I started by turning a basic flower / seed pod shape (not based on any particular species) and hollowed the interior to within a couple of millimetres thickness except around the opening area which I kept thicker to enable carving.  Using a simple template I produced a star shape around the top which I then carved and shaped to produce something almost petal like.  On the second and third prototypes I created texture, depth and definition to the ‘petals’ which added to it’s seed pod like appearance.  I expanded the size and complexity of the tail details which were carved insitu from the Sycamore blank with a variety of rotary tools and a lot of sanding!

This is the forward view of the second prototype.

This is the forward view of the second prototype.

 

After I made the second pod, I knew immediately what changes I wanted to make and how I wanted to proceed.  I put this one aside, unfinished, and moved straight on to the third.  I chose to make the video around this one so it actually took a couple of days to produce, compared to just a few hours with the first two. I had planned to use some form of pyrography on the third pod (you can see a little around the ‘mouth’ of the first), but I proceeded to colour and finish it before the pyrography plan formulated.  As I had already lacquered the piece I didn’t want to risk damage to the surface so returned to the second to pursue the pyrography.  This was my first foray into pyrography on a turned piece.  I have played around with waste wood and a simple soldering iron type in the past, but I have recently bought a ‘proper’ burner (Peter Childs Artist’s Pyrography Machine) and was itching to experiment with it.

 

Here I demonstrate the texture on the tail, produced with a pyrography pen.

Here I demonstrate the texture on the tail, produced with a pyrography pen.

After decoration, I left pod two with an unfinished surface which looks beautifully raw.  It really needs a protective coat of something, but I need to explore this further.  I played around a little with the pyrography to try and produce a ‘scaled’ appearance on the tail.  I’m not sure I achieved this, but I’m very happy with the result anyway.  Oddly I think this little prototype has become the most tactile piece I have made to date.  I can’t wait to explore the pyrography textures further.

 

 

A look into the mouth of prototype 3!

A look into the mouth of prototype 3!

Piece three is from a slightly larger blank which allowed me to open out the ‘mouth’ a little further and produce more detailed petals / folds and the addition of the stamen.  The tail is far more complex making better use of all the space within the blank, but adding a lot of work.  I planned to build upon the ‘marine’ colours of pod one but to induce a more iridescent effect with the spirit stains by over laying and merging colours.  I also wanted to explore a new medium I have just purchased, resistive / masking fluid.  When painted on to a surface it provides a latex cover which resists further colour.  Rubbing with your fingers quickly and easily removes the latex when required.  I used it here to create a mottled effect around the ‘petal’ area.  Though I like the result produced, I shall bring the effect further down the body next time and create a less defined separation between the colour zones.

The full view of 'marine' pod 3 showing the colour details

The full view of ‘marine’ pod 3 showing the colour details

 

Tools and Equipment Used

There is nothing really complicated in these pieces, but I did use a lot of tools and equipment in order to get the result I wanted.  Now lets be honest here, after the initial turning you could create the whole piece with a single carving tool and a load of sandpaper, but where would be the fun in that?  I enjoy using power tools as much as hand carving (which I like to save for opportunities when I am away from my workshop).

For hollowing the pod I used a ‘straight’ Kelton Hollowing Tool and the Crown Teardrop Scraper in the Crown Revolution Handle.  I can just squeeze both of these tools through a 16mm opening, though I had plenty more room on these three pieces.

An example of Latex Art Masking Fluid. This is the brand I used, but there are many others.

An example of Latex Art Masking Fluid. This is the brand I used, but there are many others.

For most of the ‘tail’ wood removal I used a Proxxon Long Kneck Mini-Angle Grinder and Dremel 4000 Series rotary tool with a variety of carbide burrs.  Details of these can been found on my Carbide and Rotary Tools page.   Further to these I also recently bought (and used to great effect on these pieces) a Kutzall Taper carbide burr (which has clusters of carbide ‘hairs’) and a set of relatively cheap (Chinese import?) 120 grit diamond burrs which were fantastic for sanding in difficult to reach areas but also for smaller areas over the entire piece.  These were well complimented with a set of (also cheap) diamond files which I bought from Axminster Tools in the UK, however they appear to be fairly generic Chinese tools and available from usual sources.  Not seen in the video was two sets of  ‘rifflers’.  These are shaped files and rasps for roughing and shaping in almost any direction.  I have an extremely course set, stone rifflers, and a very fine set designed for general metals and jewellers and I find these to all work well on wood.

 

 

 

A typical Chinese Diamond Burr Set

A typical Chinese Diamond Burr Set

These course rifflers, sometimes called 'Stone Rifflers' are very course and great for fast roughing.

These course rifflers, sometimes called ‘Stone Rifflers’ are very course and great for fast roughing.

A set of fine 'file' rifflers. Stone rifflers are extremely course.

A set of fine ‘file’ rifflers. Stone rifflers are extremely course.

Cheap Diamond File Set

Cheap Diamond File Set

 

I also used a few FlexCut carving tools.  I only have four, but use them all quite regularly and employed at least three on various parts of these pieces!  The ones I use have one handle and a range of interchangeable tools.  These can also be used in a Proxxon reciprocating carver which is on my ‘To Buy’ list.

Flexcut 'Craft Carver' Set

Flexcut ‘Craft Carver’ Set

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For your convenience, here are links to most of these tools etc on Amazon.

Diamond Burrs http://geni.us/XzCBB
Diamond Files http://geni.us/uZ6m
Riffler Sets http://geni.us/UtuO6eh
Art Masking Fluid http://geni.us/rtiB
Dremel 4000 http://geni.us/jLivAA
Proxxon Long Neck Grinder http://geni.us/B4LCquf
FlexCut Carving Tools http://geni.us/CdrW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “‘Alien’ Seed Pods

  1. Alan Adler

    Tom, This is a terrific video. You covered so many techniques and showed skills to teach a complicated subject. I follow a very similar path when I create my seed pods. If you have an oscillating sander you may like it to shape the tail of the pod.

    Reply
    • Tom Stratton Post author

      What size sander are you suggesting Alan? I have a large oscillating multi tool and a 5 inch orbital, but I suspect you have something smaller in mind!

      Thank you for the feedback and compliments.

      Tom

      Reply
        • Tom Stratton Post author

          Oh ok, yes an oscillating spindle sander. One is planned when I move to my new workshop. I have a few decent sized sanding spindles for my drill press but never thought about them! I’ll use them on my next one. Thanks for idea !

          Reply

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