A special delivery this afternoon

A couple of oak logs to keep me busy

As you know, I love turning green wood and I was lucky enough to be asked if I wanted any of the oak that has just been felled here in the village – beautiful one metre logs – I will be busy!  And as they were leaving, they asked if I might be interested in some even larger ash – we will see tomorrow!

A couple of oak logs to keep me busy

Sanding Sealer and Friction Polish

If like me you use these products, it can be a problem if you live in Portugal – hard to get here (in fact impossible so far as I know).  Having them sent from the UK is now impossible through the suppliers I used to use, but Mylands have told me today that they can arrange delivery – great news!

It has been a while – but I am back in the workshop!


A large bowl (52cms x 36cms) that I turned last spring from green oak

I have been busy over the last year, working a great deal with green oak, amongst other woods.  The impetus for the larger bowls has evolved after an invitation from João Nunes, who is a Professor at the University of Aveiro and was the designer for an exhibition – Agricultura Lusitania.  This exhibition was inspired by the work that is going on at ADXTUR- Agência para o Desenvolvimento Turístico das Aldeias do Xisto.  A wonderful project in central Portugal.

More about this shortly – meanwhile, here are a couple more photographs of my turned bowls in the exhibition.  DO check out the lovely video of the exhibition too!


A large green oak platter – this moved beautifully as it dried

And another one that did not make the exhibition

Another large green oak bowl

Another large green oak bowl


Wooden cutting boards versus plastic – An old argument!

I am sure many of you have heard this discussion – I know that I have often been party to the debate – for those of you who are interested, here is a post (taken from www.woodworking .co.uk) ) by Dr Dean O. Cliver, on the relative merits of wooden and plastic cutting boards – I leave the rest to him!



Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D. 

We began our research comparing plastic and wooden cutting boards after the U.S. Department of Agriculture told us they had no scientific evidence to support their recommendation that plastic, rather than wooden cutting boards be used in home kitchens. Then and since, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat and Poultry Inspection Manual (official regulations) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1995 Food Code (recommended regulations for restaurants and retail food sales in the various states of the U.S.) permit use of cutting boards made of maple or similar close-grained hardwood. They do not specifically authorise acceptable plastic materials, nor do they specify how plastic surfaces must be maintained.

Our research was first intended to develop means of disinfecting wooden cutting surfaces, so that they would be almost as safe as plastics. Our safety concern was that bacteria such as Escherichia coli O157:H7 (commonly known as E-coli) and Salmonella, which might contaminate a work surface when raw meat was being prepared, ought not remain on the surface to contaminate other foods that might be eaten without further cooking. We soon found that disease bacteria such as these were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present.

Although the bacteria that had disappeared from the wood surfaces were found alive inside the wood for some time after application, they evidently do not multiply, and they gradually die. They can be detected only by splitting or gouging the wood or by forcing water completely through from one surface to the other. If a sharp knife is used to cut into the work surfaces after used plastic or wood has been contaminated with bacteria and cleaned manually, more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface.

“Manual cleaning” in our experiments has been done with a sponge, hot tap-water, and liquid dishwashing detergent. Mechanical cleaning with a dishwashing machine can be done successfully with plastic surfaces (even if knife-scarred) and wooden boards especially made for this. Wooden boards, but not plastics, that are small enough to fit into a microwave oven can be disinfected rapidly, but care must be used to prevent overheating. Work surfaces that have been cleaned can be disinfected with bleach (sodium hypochlorite) solutions; this disinfecting is reliable only if cleaning has been done successfully.

The experiments described have been conducted with more than 10 species of hardwoods and with 4 plastic polymers, as well as hard rubber. Because we found essentially no differences among the tested wood species, not all combinations of bacteria and wood were tested, nor were all combinations of bacteria and plastics or hard rubber. Bacteria tested, in addition to those named above, include Campylobacter jejuni, Listeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus.

We believe that the experiments were designed to be properly representative of conditions in a home kitchen. They may or may not be applicable to other plastic and wooden food contact surfaces or to cutting boards in commercial food processing or food service operations, but we have no reason to believe that they are not relevant, except that not all plastic surfaces are subject to knife-scarring. Before our first studies had been published, they were criticised incorrectly for not having included used (knife-scarred) cutting surfaces. We had been careful to include used surfaces, and so were surprised that others who did later experiments and claimed to have refuted our findings often had used only new plastic and wood. Although some established scientific laboratories say their results differ from ours, we have received multiple communications from school children who have done science projects that have reached essentially the same conclusions that we did.

We have no commercial relationships to any company making cutting boards or other food preparation utensils. We have tested boards and cleaning and disinfecting products, some of which were supplied to us gratis. We have not tested all of the products that have been sent to us, simply because there is not time. We are aware that there are other food preparation surfaces made of glass or of stainless steel; we have done very little with these because they are quite destructive of the sharp cutting edges of knives, and therefore introduce another class of hazard to the kitchen. We believe, on the basis of our published and to-be-published research, that food can be prepared safely on wooden cutting surfaces and that plastic cutting surfaces present some disadvantages that had been overlooked until we found them.

In addition to our laboratory research on this subject, we learned after arriving in California in June of 1995 that a case-control study of sporadic salmonellosis had been done in this region and included cutting boards among many risk factors assessed (Kass, P.H., et al., Disease determinants of sporadic salmonellosis in four northern California counties: a case control study of older children and adults. Ann. Epidemiol. 2:683-696, 1992.). The project had been conducted before our work began. It revealed that those using wooden cutting boards in their home kitchens were less than half as likely as average to contract salmonellosis (odds ratio 0.42, 95% confidence interval 0.22-0.81); those using synthetic (plastic or glass) cutting boards were about twice as likely as average to contract salmonellosis (O.R. 1.99, C.I. 1.03-3.85); and the effect of cleaning the board regularly after preparing meat on it was not statistically significant (O.R. 1.20, C.I. 0.54-2.68). We know of no similar research that has been done anywhere, so we regard it as the best epidemiological evidence available to date that wooden cutting boards are not a hazard to human health, but plastic cutting boards may be.




Publications to date from our work:  Ak, N. O., D. O. Cliver, and C. W. Kaspar. 1994. Cutting boards of plastic and wood contaminated experimentally with bacteria. J. Food Protect. 57:16- 22.  Ak, N. O., D. O. Cliver, and C. W. Kaspar. 1994. Decontamination of plastic and wooden cutting boards for kitchen use. J. Food Protect. 57:23-30,36.  Galluzzo, L., and D. O. Cliver. 1996. Cutting boards and bacteria–oak vs. Salmonella. Dairy, Food Environ. Sanit. 16:290-293. 

Park, P. K., and D. O. Cliver. 1996. Disinfection of household cutting boards with a microwave oven. J. Food. Protect. 59:1049-1054. 

Others are in press or in preparation.




Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D.,
Professor, Department of Population Health and Reproduction
School of Veterinary Medicine
University of California






Enjoying the new lathe

I have now had the chance to enjoy the new arrival in the workshop – I can hardly believe that it has been nearly a year and I have not been able to spend anywhere near enough time turning!  That is the problem of a job that keeps me far too busy.  But during the past months I have managed to try out the lathe and I can not sing it’s praises too highly.  Here are a few pictures of a piece of ash I was given:

A knotty piece of ash - 54cms x 18 cms

Beautifully knotty

I rough turned the ash and a lovely piece of apple – both were green  at this point!

Two roughed out bowls - apple in the forefront

One of the problems with the VB36 – the only one I have encountered so far – is the control box.  I wrote to Hegner about this a few days ago after the box fell off the lathe and the knob fell off – and received a very helpful mail back from Christopher Waghorn – one of the HegnerUK technical team.  I am quoting below and including the photos that he kindly sent.  I will report back on how this turns out.

Dear Mr Bovey,

I am very glad that you are enjoying using your VB. Regarding the magnetic strip – we have to agree with you. As you may know, our company, Technology Supplies acquired HegnerUK and also took on the manufacturing of the VB. One of the main complaints levied against the VB was the magnetic strip used for the hand controller – so we changed it – Because your lathe was built shortly before we made this change we will send you free of charge a magnetic pad that we now use on all our new machines.

The magnet is quite strong – so we have altered the design of the hand controller so the controls are mounted on the lid of the box and the body of the box has the magnet attached – this stops the effect of trying to pull the rear cover off when moving the controller (it is quite a strong magnet! – even able to hold the weight of both the controller and the cable on the curved surfaces of the headstock casting).

Please find the couple of photos showing the mag pad as fitted to another customer’s VB hand controller – the wooden insert on the back to reinforce the lid and spread the load has been shaped to miss the rear of the components. We also stick the pad to the hand controller with silicone sealant as well as bolt it using a large support washer.

Let me know if you would like us to send this ‘mag-pad’ to you, although it would involve fitting it yourself.

I am going to give this a go and will let you know if it rips the back of the control box!

As Christopher describes above - plywood on the back of the control box

And on the lathe

The VB36 arrives in the workshop

A picture is worth a thousand words - yep, I was a rather happy!

For quite some time now, I had been thinking about this moment – now the time had finally arrived!  To be honest, I couldn’t get the grin off my face!  Special thanks to Hjördís for understanding and all the support and photographs!

But let me backtrack.  The help I received form Technology Supplies – the then distributors for Hegner VB36 lathes – was great.  I had to juggle the delivery with one of my visits back to Portugal from Sudan, so not easy.  It all went perfectly – I arrived on the Friday, had the weekend to enjoy some pottering in the garden and a glass or two of excellent Portuguese wine and on Monday, the driver of the delivery truck called and said he would be in Covas on Tuesday – he was and I decided to deliver it to the local builder’s yard, as his truck would not have managed the small lane where we live.  Carlos kindly organised that one of their trucks – with a crane – lifted the lathe over the wall – we have a terraced garden so nothing is easy to move!

380 kgs to lift over the wall – easier this way

Then we had to get the lathe form the roadside to the workshop – and yes, it would be great if the workshop was nearer the road, but that is another story.  We had to unpack the lathe and put it on a pallet trolley.  The next point I have to make is how incredibly well it had been packed.  Like the VB36 itself, the packaging and attention to detail was impeccable.  I could never have managed without the help of Patrick and Antonio, but with the three of us it was very simple to move and install.

Inside the crate – Antonio and Patrick were almost as pleased as me I think

After that is was easy – and within a few minutes were were ready to put it into the workshop.

One last step

The installation went very well – and by the end of the day, we were all done.  The next day it was time to see what all the fuss was about.  I had a piece of apple wood that I wanted to rough turn – so on the lathe and indeed – it was an utter joy to use.

Firm as a rock and effortless power

It is far too early for me to give much of a comment about the lathe – but I am impressed with the attention to detail – even though everything I have heard lead me to believe that I would be impressed.  I had lot of work to do to get the lathe into the workshop – and I had to reorganise the space as a result, so turning time has been very limited to date.  The short bed tailstock was out of stock when I ordered the lathe and TSL have been very good about delivering the tailstock at their expense and I have just learned that it will be sent off any day now.  The lathe arrived on time, beautifully packed and the booklet with installation guidelines was helpful and complete.

A couple of roughed bowls - ash (50 cms approx) and apple (30 cms approx)

Before VB36 - the Record lathe has done me proud and I will still use it - need a better stand though

Then we had to move everything around!

A big change around

And after a lot of hard work from Patrick and Antonio which involved much lifting and moving and the building of a shelf for seasoned wood – the finished product:

The lathe end - not quite as it is now - but getting there!

A shorter workbench - and a shelf above the window

Not impressed

Finally – a VB36!

Well, after a huge amount of prevarication and requests for information, I have ordered a new lathe – and it is going to be a Hegner VB36, with the short tail-stock.

Picture from the web page - to be replaced with my lathe in my workshop!!

This was not at all the straightforward decision that I thought it might be, as a great deal has been happening behind the scenes at Hegner in the last little while.  Although the VB36 is actually not originally a Hegner product, but developed by the owner of Hegner and marketed by them – it is now sold by Technology Supplies Ltd, who have taken over the company.  Their interest in taking over Hegner was certainly not to market the VB36 – but rather to benefit from the very profitable products that Hegner produces for the educational market place.  Thus, the question large in my mind was would Technology Supplies Ltd be likely to be a sensible choice as the vendor of the lathe I was thinking of purchasing?  My comment to date is that their sales department has performed satisfactorily, but their technical advice was a little slow – and hesitant.  Spares and assitance down the road could be a problem.

For a while it was touch and go whether I would choose a Hegner or a Oneway 2416.

Not my second choice - rather my first equal choice - but slightly bigger footprint than the VB36

In the end it was not because one was especially better than the other – but rather that one took up less space.  If I was somehow able to miraculously enlarge my workshop so that space was not an issue, then the decision would not have been at all straightforward and I might well have been patriotic and bought Canadian!  Anyway, for now Alea iacta est!  I have continued to use the Oneway Stronghold Chucks though and have already ordered more for the new VB36.

I have used Stronghold chucks from the outset and I am very pleased with them

Probably the most useful advice I received was from Peter Hemsley – Proprietor of  Toolpost – and how wonderful it is to have an owner of a company that takes the time to write a very helpful mail, which answers questions and gives an honest opinion.  A Huge thank you to Peter.

One thing that did puzzle me and I was not sure about, was the VB36 bayonet chuck system and I quote the helpful reply from Peter on this subject – I hope it might make some of you think:

“If you really want a bayonet mount for the spindle accessories, then the Versa-Mount is available and, provided the VB is specified to have an M33 spindle or spindle adaptor, then it is compatible.  However I am far from convinced of the advantages of the bayonet as there are still screws to tighten – but three of them – and the final connection to the spindle is still an M33 thread.  I would have to ask: “what do you gain?”.  Just my opinion, but your question deserves an answer.”

I have also found very useful information about the VB36 on the web and there is a VB36 Users Group too – if you are interested.  Incidentally, I notice that on the new Hegner VB36 page posted by Technology Supplies Ltd, there is a Woodturners Forum for questions – brand new and never used!!  I will be interested to see if it is useful.

For now, I am just hoping that the lathe arrives while I am back in Covas – I am now waiting for my money to get form one account to the other – meanwhile, a bank somewhere is making interest on the money it is holding for the past week.  That, though, is another story.



Masks and More

Faces - and exhibition of masks by Alaeldin Elgizouli

There is very little more frustrating than thinking about things creative and not being able to actually try them out!  Working in Sudan is more than a full time job – and although I do get breaks at home in Covas, I usually find that I am badly in need of doing very little for a week or so – by then it is already time to head back to Sudan!  I promise myself endlessly that I will get into my workshop – but rarely do I manage.

One of the pleasures of being in Khartoum is to look at what other people are doing creatively and there is quite a vibrant arts scene (although I am yet to find another wood turner!).  If anyone wants to check out exactly what is going on, you should look up the Sudan Artists Gallery, where there is a list of artists working in different media, with links to many sites.

I was recently at my favourite restaurant and they have regular shows – this one was wonderful – “Faces” by Alaeldin Elgizouli and I thought that I would post a few photographs of his work.

He works in mixed media and although he is a painter, he is also a mask maker and puppet maker.  He worked as a lecturer at the University of Khartoum –  in the faculty of applied arts and also at the Khartoum College of Applied Art.  If you are interested in contacting him, you can send Alaeldin Elgizouli an email.

Back to Covas in July

I have been very bad at writing here – probably not totally surprising as I have been incredibly busy in Sudan since I came back ten months ago.  But nevertheless, I am determined to get into my workshop for some days when I am back in July.  I have a great deal of wood stored away – some of it I should have liked to have turned wet, but was not there when it was kindly brought round to the house.  So now it will be dustier and more of a challenge to turn.

I have a piece of old vine – an old vinho verde vine that used to grow over the veranda and sadly died over the winter.  It makes beautiful bottle stoppers and I have already made a few stoppers form smaller pieces – but the larger piece I have at present is probably about a hundred years old – according to my friend Steve (he should know as he works in the port wine industry).  I am hoping I can make a few small bowls and maybe also carve a piece as well.

I also have a piece of pink ivory – such a beautiful wood, and I have been looking at this piece for a few months now and trying to decide how I should turn it.  It comes from a large trunk I have that was cut down for a road widening scheme in South Africa years ago.

So, watch this space and hopefully you will see some new pieces soon!

What has Sudan got to do with woodturning?

Actually, quite a significant amount!  For years now I have worked in the humanitarian field as anyone who has read these pages will know.  Now, I have the chance to meld the work that I have been doing with my true passion – the environment.  Probably never a more important time to be doing this either.  Shortly I will posting notes about some of the really interesting efforts that various agencies are making to address the terrible effects of environmental degradation in Sudan.  Sorry, no pictures at the moment!

I shall be back to my workshop on a fairly regular basis – I hope, so there will also be some turning posts too!