While it is true that a good craftsman can do a lot without dedicated, specialized tools, that is only part of his description. Another aspect is to look at the question, “What more could he do if he had the right tool?”
I recently had the opportunity to play with the right tool, the Proforme Hollowing Tool by Woodcraft, which Craft Supplies, U.S.A. was kind enough to let me evaluate.
I have hollowed end grain many times using gouge and scraper and have always found it to be a difficult task. Green wood is easier than seasoned, but I still have trouble with catches. However, with the Proforme Hollowing Tool, I was able to avoid catches almost all the time.
I used these tools on green wood and dry wood. I cut such hardwoods as oak, cherry, osage orange and purple heart. I used it in situations where the cutter was constantly engaged in the wood and in situations where the cutter was alternately cutting wood and encountering voids. In all these situations, this tool performed with ease those jobs I had struggled to accomplish before.
The Proforme hollowing tool is quite similar to a hook tool. It has the added feature of an adjustable cap that limits the depth the tool can bite into the wood. You can also twist the tool slightly to let the cap rub on the side to regulate how fast it cuts into the side of your vessel. I found this cap to make the tool very controlable and to make the tool almost catch proof.
The cutter mounts on a 5/8 inch steel rod by means of a tennon on the cutter head that slips into a hole in the rod. This is secured by a set screw. The Proforme set comes with a straight rod, a slightly bent rod and a gooseneck bent rod. The straight rod is used in most hollowing operations. The others are used for working in behind a lip of a hollowed vessel.
I found that I got a little torque from the slightly bent rod and the goose neck rod. That may have been due to not having the cutter adjusted properly. I was very pleased with how I could cut behind the lips of the hollow vessels I turned.
I shaped the exterior of my vessel first and then hollowed it out. To use the hollowing tool with the main cutter, you can either drill a hole or start with a plunge cut. Either reach into the hole or plunge about 1/8 inch in and swing the cutter to the left to cut an arc toward the exterior. As you work your way into the vessel, bring the cut to form the desired thickness of the wall of your vessel. A bowl gauge is a definite must-have to check the wall thickness. Once you have established the wall thickness, begin a new cut and again sweep it toward the exterior.
When turning a hollow vessel, you will need to stop often to remove the chips and to check on the wall thickness.
These tools also have the option of attaching a scraper head. I used this scraper to produce a shearing cut to smooth the surface left by the other cutter.
Woodcut offers an optional, dedicated tool rest for use with their hollowing tool. While I did not have a chance to evaluate the tool rest with the tool, I can see that it would be a very nice addition, allowing even greater control of the cutting tool as well as increasing the distance you could reach into a vessel.
I had one catch using the shear scraper. I was trying to clean up the junction of the sides and bottom of one of the four legged, off axis clock bodies,as described in the Feb., 2011 issue of Woodturning. The scraper hooked in the wood of the bottom and knocked off a couple of the legs.
Maybe I was pushing the limits of what I could expect the tool to do. More likely it was that ubiquitous, “operator error.” Maybe I could have easily done that task with the optional tool rest. Whatever the source, the damage was done. That ruined project, however, has given birth to the Wyoming Shooting Star. So all was not lost.
Ellis Hein, author of The Woodturner’s Project Book
Have you seen the plans I have up for sale for the space saving cabinet?