Trying Something New

Once I began to hone my craft from hobbyist to woodworker, my friends began to take notice of the quality and creativity of my craftsmanship. With that came plenty of suggestions: "have you considered making.....?" Although flattered I have also become a realist who recognizes very quickly the limits of my skills or the time and effort that would be involved in trying certain things.

As every woodworker advances we also become more aware of our own idiosyncrasies that we factor into any project.  I am one who gets distracted easily so simply making the same thing over and over again, no matter how good I've become at it, becomes less interesting let alone challenging.

Enter new challenges worth tackling.

One of my latest ventures is turning chess pieces on my lathe.  At a couple of recent markets some passer by's asked if I made chess sets. ( queries which were prompted by their notice of a checkerboard pattern end grain cutting board)  At first I shrugged off the suggestion but after consideration I decided to tackle a chess board.  I did my youtube research and made a chess table that dropped into an open table frame I made before.

The next task would be the chess pieces.

 I played around with this idea for a few months; turning some pieces to get the feel then setting it aside, not sure the effort would not be worth the reward: 16 pawns all as close to identical as I could create, followed by four each of Rooks & Bishops, and two Kings & Queens....then there was the daunting task of how I'm going to create the 4 Knights necessary to complete the set.

Projects that I start but don't finish never make it to my scrap heap; instead I keep them somewhere nearby where I can ponder the challenge and weigh the cost; this was no different. I finally "chucked up" another blank on my lathe and took another crack at the pawns.

This go around turned out better than expected.  I made one which led me to try another; but 16 would test the accuracy of my eye and certainly my skill level as well.  To simplify my challenge I used my initial piece as my template and then cut and planed my wood so that all my blanks were identical.  

I then used a very sophisticated template (not!) that became my measuring stick.

What I discovered was that the more pawns I made the easier it became (no brainer huh?) but what was more interesting was that the details necessary were sufficient to hold my attention and challenge me to make identical pieces. (Perhaps not a big deal to you.... but a must for me:)   I'm near completion of the pawns and they're not all identical; however I have reduced my margin of error to around couple hundredths of an inch.

 I can take pride in this type of precision, so the time invested has become more worthwhile by the day.  I'll keep you posted on the coming pieces but my bottom line goes back to the saying I heard first  in grade school:

"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again!"

Happy Turning!


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