Chatter Work

Discrete rings of chatter work in aspen

Discrete rings of chatter work in aspen

Somebody, sometime, was working with a scraper that was too light for the job. Instead of throwing away the “ruined” piece of work with a resolution to get a scraper heavy enough to cut without vibrating, this person saw the potential in his “failure.” A new technique was born.

My inprovised chatter tool

My inprovised chatter tool

I have been playing with chatter work for a little while and like the effects. I do not have a commercial chatter tool. No doubt I could do more with one if I did. What I have is a reworked sawzall blade held in a pair of vice grips. This makes a good way of experimenting without paying for a new tool.
The tip of my tool

The tip of my tool

pinwheel pattern in aspen

Pinwheel pattern in aspen

I have tried a few different woods, all working end grain. I have produced some acceptable work with green boxelder (see The Chatterbox on a Taper), but generally it is too prone to pull grain. Aspen works a little better than boxelder, but it still can loose chunks of wood. Oak seems to work fine. It may be that a commercial tool would alleviate some of these problems.

Here are some photos of what I have produced recently. This piece of aspen shows a pin-wheel pattern. I had the tool rest angled such that the distance between the rest and the face of the aspen got progressively greater as I went from the center to the outside of the disc. I added a touch of red rouge to bring out the highlights.

chatter work on oak

chatter work on oak

On this piece of oak, I failed to produce any swirling effect. The lines seem to radiate straight out from the center. I used a flat surface on my pyrography tool to darken the raised portion to make them stand out.

I will have to keep trying to see what I can do. What are your experiences with chatter work?

Ellis Hein, author of The Woodturner’s Project Book

About Ellis Hein

I am a woodturner and the author of The Woodturner's Project Book. I have a life-long interest in the gospel preached by George Fox and the early Quakers. You can see some of my material on that subject at
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