Article: Emmet Kane Demonstrates For CMW, June 20, 2015

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June 29, 2015 14:45, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Alan Wasserman, photos by Tina Collison)

Emmet Kane demonstrates for CMW, June 20, 2015

With 27 years of wood turning experience and experimentation, Emmet comes to the CMW for a demonstration on certain aspects of his embellishing and texturing of turnings. Due to the time limitations Emmet did not cover all aspects of his experiences but gave the audience great glimpses and guidance to the subject matter.

Emmet's first message was: Experiment without the fear of failure. "After all, Doctors bury their mistakes but Woodturners just burn them."

Emmet covered embellishment with design, gilding, pearl based acrylic paints and tannin ebonizing. Texturing techniques used products such as the Arbortech, along with texturing burs used with the Foredom or Dremel.


The first project explored was the turning of a wet maple block approximately 5" square and 5" thick

Emmet prefers and 90% of his turnings are from wet wood. He turns to completion and allows the piece, with a certain control of the process, to warp into a piece of art.

The piece turned was from half of a log cut along the pith, with the rim being a straight flat rim but facing the bark side of the half log and tenon facing the pith side. This form is favored by Emmet due to the resulting centered grains flowing from the bottom to the top.

The main tool that Emmet uses is a 5/8 bowl gouge with a swept back "Irish" grind and the "sweep" being as long as 1 to 1 1/2 along the side of the gouge.

The piece was mounted center to center and the sides were trued up with both push cuts and side to side cuts. The side to side cuts almost seemed like scraping cuts. But upon inquiry, Emmet confirmed he was riding the bevel with the flute almost in a 12 o'clock position.

The shape Emmet ended up with was similar to a cone shape. A tenon was created for the #2 One Way (serrated) jaws. He prefers serrated jaws as he feels they grasp wet wood in a more secure way. He recommends not to tighten the jaws to complete tightness but rather tight but not to its last rotation.

The face of what will be the top side was then trued up with a back and forth side scraping cut.

Texturing began on the face with a 2" Arbortech disc at slow lathe (500 rpm) speed. The Arbortech met the wood at a 45 degree angle, just below center and meeting the piece as it rotates towards the cutter. Also demonstrated were the various texturing designs by a mere change in speed or a shift in angle toward the face. No need to worry about sanding as Emmet uses a nylon rotary brush to get rid of torn fibers from the texturing. If the piece is too wet to sand, use a hot air gun or hair dryer to (partially) dry a bit and then again use the nylon rotary brushes to smooth out the texturing.

After he is satisfied with the look of the texture on the face, he then "hollows" out a small cup size hole which does not go deeper than 1 or so inches. The diameter of this cup is your design choice. On the piece Emmet was demonstrating, the diameter was approximately 2". This hollow is sanded to 320 Grit, or more, to a smooth surface. Then Emmet "frames" the outside diameter of the hollow "cup" to separate the texturing from the wood, no more than 1/16" out and down from the rim of the cup (this creates enough of a foundation to eventually reverse and chuck in expansion mode in this frame).

Using a fluted parting tool, Emmet then commences to create groves (similar to a honey dipper grove) along the entire side of the turned piece. He puts a mark on the top of the parting tool so that he can control the even depth of each grove. The groves taper down the bottom, following the hollowed cup form and then to the bottom, leaving a solid interior to your desire and design. It is suggested, when making these groves, that you dip the parting tool in water from time to time to keep it cool and also slightly slant the parting tool towards the bottom while you are cutting. You will have to sharpen the tool about every 5 cuts as you go along. You may need to stabilize any cracking of the tubes from the grove by applying some CA glue.

To ebonize the wood, Emmet creates his own mix of White Vinegar and steel wool. There is no precise combination and he suggests just a handful of steel wool to a pint of vinegar. Keep the mixture in an open jar for a few days before using. (He has also used 98% ammonia along with the steel wool but indicates this is a bit more toxic). The mixture will last "forever" so all unused mixture should be saved for the next project.

Use a 1" or so thick brush (with a plastic handle as a wood handle will be effected by the mixture) to apply the mixture, making sure to keep away from the hollow cup on the face (protect your lathe as the mixture can affect your lathe). Now you must leave your piece to dry. Place shims or use close pins to insert just near the tip of each of the groves you created. Insert four shims along each grove at 1/4 of the way around each diameter. Place the piece upside down to dry for approximately 8 weeks. Using a paper bag may be preferred.

When dry, true up tenon and reverse chuck. Wet sand the groves with 180 Grit and mineral oil lubricant. Emmet dry sanded the hollowed cup up to about 320 Grit or until smooth.

At this point Emmet applied gold gilding to the surface of the "cup" that was hollowed. To do so, first he applied a gild sizing with two or more coats. Once tacky, he then applied the gold guild to the tacky surface by pressing on, using the back side paper that the guild was fastened to. He would then use his fingers to smooth out the gilding. The gold leaf gilding should be oil based. Sizing is repeated and so was gilding, at least a second time and sometimes, as needed, additional times. Avoid touching the guild for a few days, until completely dry. An alternative to multiple gildings is using a yellow acrylic paint and then size and apply the gold leaf. You may still need to apply another guild coat. Let guild dry for 3 days to a week between re-gilding. Do not apply any finish on the gilding.


An alternative to the gilding is the use of pearlesent ink paint.. Emmet prefers the deep blue color but of course, experiment to your satisfaction. He usually applies 15 or more coats of the acrylic paint. To "clean" up unions between the gilding or paint and the "frame", use a non-woven fine abrasive.

Use a designated (for black) polishing rotary brush to buff piece. Reverse jam chuck to remove tenon to your design choice.

Afternoon Session:

After the lunch break, Emmet had a slide show, showing some of his form and texture inspirations (classic sculptures) and then went on to show the progression of his work for the past 27 years.

Visit Emmet Kane's website
Emmet Kane has a retrospective exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland. The exhibition explores Kane’s remarkable journey of development as an artist and woodturner from 1988 through to the present day, and features a huge array of work: from functional vessels and bowls, wall hangings, artistic pieces (both large and small), and recent small scale intimate works. Find out more about the exhibition on the national gallery website: 'Journey' video.

The next project: Emmet trued up a 5"x 5" bowl form. Using the 4" Arbortech he first experimented with the 45 degree angle process discussed above. He was not happy with that design so he used the Arbortech with a light tapping motion to the side of the piece in stationary mode (not spinning on the lathe). The texture turned out to be random slants with no set design other then they all appeared in a "sweeping" form.

The next was texturing the face of the piece. He did so with a point tool, creating groves on the face with the groves going along the entire diameter of the face.

The ebonizing mixture was applied, not only for color, but to soften the texturing. He then used a propane gas flame to lightly burn away tear out and raised grain from the texturing. The use of the nylon or non-woven abrasive was then used to soften the texture some more. His finish mixture of 2/3 mineral oil, 1/3 Danish oil would then be applied (he did not have this mixture with him at our demonstration so he used Liberon Finishing Oil as his finish. He then buffed to a matte finish.

He then turned a hollow cup, similar to the one, above. He then "framed" out the cup, the side of the rim and what would be the bottom of the soon to be "finished" piece to separate the texture and color from the bare wood. At this point he reversed/jam chucked and cleaned up the bottom. The gilding process, as noted above, was followed.


Third and last project:

Emmet trued up an (outside) bowl form. He created approximately 7 small beads with a point tool staring approximately 1/2" down from the rim. The rest of the outside was smoothly cut wood. The face was trued up.

Ebonizing (as above) was applied to the face and the beads on the side of the piece. A burner flame was gently swept along the face. The face was then lightly brushed with a brass wire bush along the grain. A hollow cup was then created on the face. A "frame" was created along the diameter of the hollow cup as above. The side of the piece was turned down (leaving the beads as is) on both sides of the beads. The turning was deep enough to eliminate any color, define the bead texture and also to shape the side further.

Finish was then applied, as above and buffed. The piece was reversed, chucked and the bottom turned off and presto, another finished piece.

A video of Emmet Kane's demonstration will be available soon in the Library.