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[Mail: Kenn@Bobbinmaker.com ]

Why bobbin blanks start out square.

I spoke to my father who is a gifted wood carver and his suggestion for preserving wood is to not let it dry out. If the bobbin is finished then you don't have to worry about it. He did comment that the oil on your hands will wear the wood so if you are not going to use it for a while you might want to wipe the bobbins off before storing. Also for display bobbins, don't let them prop up against glass. It's a great idea to have the dome over it be the bobbin needs for be on a stand. It is best not to have them in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time (I'm talking years of display not good sunlight while working.) I hope that this helps.

Ledonna Wallace
Houston TX

For those interested in bobbin making I just went back over some of my links and came across this gem. It is a lovely page showing the steps in creating a bobbin on a lathe by Mike Bester. www.angelfire.com/ct/mikesbobbins/birth.html It's very interesting even if you don't plan to make them.

Lori Howe
Arlington, VA


Mike's page was absolutely wonderful and I loved seeing his birth of a bobbin. I have one question and no one to ask - Mike states, "However, all must start with a square blank which is rounded, marked off, shaped, sanded and polished." Why does one have to start with a square blank? Is there a reason for it? Is it just availability or is seating it on the lathe the answer? I don't know that I'll ever get into this - good grief! so many things to do! - but I tremendously enjoy watching the process.

Betsy Evans

Now don't quote me but as I understand from the little I learned so far........... Square stock is easier and cheaper to find as it's sawn from square planks. The Chuck that holds it in the Lathe is a 4 point for square wood or 3 point for round. I assume you asked as you were thinking of using a round branch? I haven't any idea how that would be done in terms of drying properly. I assume the bark would have to be removed for drying but I seams to me I remember talk a year ago on arachne about how to dry branches by sealing the ends so it dries evenly?? Anybody know??

Lori Howe

I only made a few bobbins on a lathe before I got rid of it -- my hand-whittled ones were better . As to the reason for square stock (in addition to the ones Lori mentioned): some lathes, instead of a "gripper" chuck have a "spike" one, and it has to be embedded into your piece of wood *dead centre" -- if it's not, well... have you ever seen those comic bicycles where the axle is *not* in the centre? They go sort of "kaa-chunk, kaa-chunk", depending on which (under-sized or over-sized) part of the wheel hits the ground... The same happens to a bobbin which has not been centered properly. And it's easier to draw your lines cater-corner and crossing in the middle than finding a centre of a dowel.

Tamara P. Duvall
Lexington, VA, USA

Hi Betsy,

The reason bobbin blanks start square is because of cutting the wood on a straight table saw first. Once the blank is trimmed down to the 3/8" square blank for Midlands or 1/2" square for Continentals, then it can be trimmed to length and readied for the lathe. The square blank can be mounted onto the lathe with either a 3 or 4-jawed chuck that will grip the wood or by using a drive spur that has a 1/2" square depression in it in order to grip. Once you can rotate it, it can be then turned round. You can also purchase exotic woods already made up in doweling but it is expensive. You can make your own dowel maker with a wood high speed router but that is time consuming as well. Easier to just chuck it up and let the chips fly.

Feel free to ask these questions. All bobbin makers approach the craft from a different set of experiences and knowledge. There is no one right way to make one, but you can certainly make a lot of them wrong.

Kenn Van-Dieren - Bobbins by Van-Dieren
Zwarteweg 84 2121 BD Bennebroek the Netherlands

The first hundred or so bobbins I made were from the small branches off our cherry and apple trees. They were not dry but had been laying in the field for a month or so. I am still using all of them. I sealed them with Tung oil right away and none of them have cracked or changed shapes in any way. We just finished pruning the trees yesterday and I wanted to see what would happen if I turned a bobbin from the really wet wood, so I did one this morning from a piece of cherry. It has had two coats of Watco so far and needs another already as it seems to be absorbing it really fast.

For turning it I used the head with a sharp point and four "holders". I have no idea what it is called, but it is what I use for all of the stock, whether it is round or square. I do need a different one, however, for some really small stuff I have that I want to work with. My husband is working on that for me so I will just have to wait and see what he comes up with.

Lucy Harvey in Wyoming

Yup. Me again. I have harvested a lot wood over the years and harvesting for bobbinmaking is quite like harvesting for full sized wood. The first thing to remember is that wet wood warps. When looking at wood to harvest, do not use the small branches that will tempt you. Each branch has a center core for transporting water from the base to the leaves. You need to stay away from that portion, as it is the wettest. So if your blanks are going to be 1/2 square, you need at least a 1-1/4" thick branch to start. Some will say never use branch wood at all but I do.

First you want to cut the branch into quarters, right down that center core. Then it is gone. I usually then cut it to approximate length and seal the ends with a sealer. Any sealer will work but I use paraffin because it is cheap and easy. I melt it in a tin can on the stove and then just dip then in. Can be messy but it works. Then throw it on a shelf for a couple of months. The wood needs to air dry through the side of the wood and sealing the ends keeps them from drying faster then the remainder. That is where the warpage comes from.

After sitting on the shelf for awhile, I go back and cut it into oversized blanks and reseal the ends. Then back on the shelf for another couple of months. At that point I turn a couple of bobbins to check the dryness. If it is to wet the bobbins will still warp. Also, you can pinch the sawdust together and if there is excess dampness, it will tend to stick together in a clump.

I rarely use wood that I have not had control over for less then six months. Even kiln dried wood that I have purchased. Part of that is my peculiarity but not all kiln dry wood is correctly dried by companies either.

There is a way to dry small amount in the microwave but one must use care. I can look up the directions if any one is interested. Last time I did it, I got to buy a new one for my wife.

There is also a section on my website under the Bobbin FAQ-tory that discusses this. You can find that at www.bobbinmaker.com/bmfound.htm

Kenn Van-Dieren - Bobbins by Van-Dieren
Zwarteweg 84, 2121 BD Bennebroek , the Netherlands


I want to thank you for the info about drying wood. I guess I have been extremely lucky because I made well over a hundred bobbins this last year and most of them were from the cherry and apple trees, small branches, and very wet. Not one bobbin has warped or split.

I want you to know, though, that we are taking your advice for drying some of the wood, and as I said we do appreciate it a lot. I will probably still make bobbins out of small, wet branches though just to see if any do warp. It might be that another kind of wood will be more apt to do so.

Lucy Harvey in beautiful, big Wyoming

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