Turning a Banksia Pod Vase  - August 2011 - Minor Update

Part 1

Banksia Pods

Banksia Pods are the Australian equivalent of  pine cones.
Pods are harder and fairly easy to turn.  They are messy though.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 1

I highly recommend doing a few preliminary cuts with a band saw.  

Banksia Pod 'Lips'

Trim  the sides to get rid of most of the seed pod 'lips'.
If you don't do this, those 'lips' fly all over the place. Trim the ends to get down to solid material.


Turning a banksia Pod Vase 2

Since this is a vase and there is limited material to work with,  a sacrificial block really helps.  
We need to keep this pod centered  and  we also need
a good, safe method of attachment.  
I have a stack of 2 x 4 ends. These work well for sacrificial blocks.
Measure and
cut one for mounting to the faceplate.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 3

Screw the faceplate to the block.  I like using  drywall screws.  
They are quick to install and easy to remove.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 4

Mount the faceplate and round it down.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 5

Cut a  1.5"  insert  into the block approximately  1/4"  deep.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 6

Back to the banksia pod.:

The yellow piece of plastic on top of the pod is used to find the center.
Center here is an approximation only. Mark it and do the same with the other end.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 7

Hammer the chuck as close to center as possible. I use a wood equalizer.
It won't damage the chuck. It is made from apple and is tough.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 8

Mount the pod to the lathe.  The object here is to get the pod more or less round
and to cut a tenon on the left side a little smaller than 1.5"

I use double eye protection and a face mask.  Pieces tend to fly off in all directions .  
Part way into the pod you will run into red fuzz, which is the reason
for the face mask.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 9

The pod is more or less round and the tenon (on the left) is cut.  
The tenon is cut using a parting tool.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 10

End view of the tenon.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 11

Remove the pod from the lathe and glue the tendon into the sacrificial block.
Elmers wood glue is good and strong.  Let it dry for a day.

Some of the more experienced turners may point out that these steps are
unnecessary if you have the right kind of chuck.
While that may be true,
this to me is the safest and worth the extra steps.

Also, we are going to be exerting a fair amount of torque on this piece later on.
It is essential to keep the piece as centered as possible.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 12

A day later it is cool enough to work in the garage for a while.
The glue is dry and the banksia pod is ready for turning.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 13

You kind of have to let the pod dictate how it is going to turn out.  
Some people like to leave a lot of red fuzz.  
I prefer to leave a hint of it
if I am going to leave any all.

I use the gouge to cut the locations for the vase top and bottom.
I find that if you do this at the outset it helps in turning the vase and getting the perspective right.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 14

It is taking a bit of turning do get rid of the deep fuzz pockets.  
That is why people desire fat banksia pods.  More to work with.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 16

I am making this vase fairly wide and heavy because a dried flower arrangement will be used .

The banksia pod is then sanded up to 320 grit.  Next comes the fun part.
Using a scratch awl, pull out all the seed hulls and clean the banksia pod holes.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 17

I think this pod will look nice with some inlay.   This is  how I start out:

1.  The seed holes are deep and will suck up a ton of inlay materials  so take some
     bits of tissue or paper towel and plug the holes to  within 
 about 1/8" of the surface.

2.  Fill with medium to fine grit material and and top off with thin super glue.  I use an accelerant.

3.  Top off with a thick coat of CA glue - medium viscosity.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 18

Let sit overnight.  I usually always let it set a day even if accelerant is used.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 18

The next day  the CA glue is sanded down.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 20

I was a big  fan of the 3D sander. Saved on sand paper and saves lots of turning time.

A better way is to use a cheap 5-6" sanding disk attached to a drill (I learned this over time).

Use a 40-60 grit disk from a discounter like Cummins. 

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 21

After the inlay is sanded down I double check for obvious gaps and holes in the inlay.
Fill with medium viscosity CA glue and sand one more time.

Sand the entire banksia pod to  600 grit to show off the inlay.
 Remember it is rock and
it does take a finish.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 22

Time to use the parting tool on the vase top.  Make a concave cut so there is a dimple.
The dimple will be used to guide the pilot  drill bit.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 23

Drill a pilot hole.

Turning a banksia Pod Vase 24

I use spade drills do bore out the center.  The bit here is a 1" bit.
After that I use the parting tool to create a convex vase bottom . 
It is an
easy way to ensure the vase is flat.  

The outer rim of the vase is flat because it has not been removed from the lathe while turning.

Cut in  towards the center using a slightly convex cut.
The vase will rest on the rim and viola!  It is flat!

(Took me more time than I would like to admit to figure this out)

Banksia - Ready for Finish

The banksia vase has been drilled out and cleaned out.  It is ready for a finish.

Finished Banksia Pod Vases

Both banksia vases have the same finish.  The one on the left had urethane directly applied, which gives it a rougher looking finish.  
The vase on the right had a coat of  EEE applied prior to the urethane finish, which made for a
smoother end product.

Part 2

Here we are a couple years later and my large box of banksia pods has been reduced to odds and ends.

Banksia Pod Vase

First up on the chopping block is this long, skinny banksia bod.  At first glance it doesn't look like I will get much out of this.

Banksia Pod Vase

Today is probably not the best day for turning banksia pods.  It is hot, sweaty and sticky outside.

Banksia Pod Vase

Hmmm.....are you thinking what  I am thinking?  Maybe I'd be better off trying to get two vases out of this banksia pod.

Banksia Pod Vase

Huh.  This is going to work out just right.

Banksia Pod Vase

A sacrificial block is a necessity here.  Not enough spare material to work with.

Banksia Pod Vase

Time to get out of the heat and let this sit for a day or two.

Banksia Pod Vase

While cleaning out the banksia pod seed holes, a seriously degraded area about the size of a quarter becomes visible.

Banksia Pod Vase

Use banksia sawdust and CA glue to back fill.

Banksia Pod Vase

I think this area will come out ok. However, the area will stand out like a sore thumb if the rest of the pod is not sealed with CA glue.

Banksia Pod Vase

I have a bunch of sandstone already crushed so I will go with that.

Banksia Pod Vase

This banksia pod vase is finished as follows:

1. Sand down to 320 grit.
2. Coat the pod with a thin layer of CA glue
3. Sand down to 400 grit.
4, Check for imperfections and repair.
5. Sand to 600 grit.
6. Apply EEE and then remove all traces. Note:  There is a downside to this - the EEE accumulates in the seed holes.
7. Finish in this case, is clear urethane.

Banksia Pod Vase

I cut the vase bottom slightly concave, which helps keep the base flat and then hand finish the vase bottom.

A Family of Banksia Pod Vases

A family of Banksia pod vases.

A few More Banksia Pods

A few more Banksia pod vases.

Vase with Siamese

The only thing I can lay claim to here is the vase.  Nice arrangement.

A final reminder about turning banksia pods.

A.  Use safety glasses and a face shield during initial turning.  The banksia pod seed lips go everywhere at a high rate of speed.
     Don't just use a face shield because I've had pieces richochet off the inside of the face shield and into my face..

B   Consider using a particle mask until you get the red hairs turned out.  I don't think it is toxic, but breathing banksia pod hairs
     is not something I would care to do anyway.

If pens are more your style, here is an in depth look at turning a 7mm Banksia Pod Pen.

For something guaranteed impressive, how about a Banksia Cigar Pen.

Also,  I would be interested in seeing others Banksia creations.  I'd like to devote a page or two other Banksia turnings.
Heck, might even give me a new idea or two.  

If you are up for a real challenge, might I suggest a Banksia Pod and Ebony Hair Stick.

Want an easy project idea? How about a few Banksia Pod Mushrooms..

Or....How about some Deviant Art.........Guaranteed to Stab you a few times during the construction process.