Ken Rays, Queensland

I started my real learning at Wollongong Technical College and became apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner. I then won a lottery that I was unable to refuse and spent the next 21 years as a serviceman participating in training soldiers for most of that time. I found it difficult to manage when I returned to civilian life as the military had trained me to see everything as black and white so to speak with no variation in between.

I was suffering severe anxiety and much stress within myself and to my family which resulted in me seeking the assistance of a councillor, not that I could recognise this at the time. The beauty of the visit was that she could see I was unsettled and discussed with me the things I enjoyed doing. Consequently, I visited the Redcliffe Woodturners and Craft Association and I feel from there I owe them my ever-increasing interest in the beauty and form of wood. I enjoy mentoring new turners and encouraging them to try new techniques and to be mindful of their safety. My wife and I enjoy travelling and it is here I have gathered my collection of wood and met some interesting turners on the way.

I have been a demonstrator at various local clubs plus a presenter at David Drescher’s Turnfests on the Gold Coast, mixing with some of the world’s best turners and teachers. I have been inspired by people like Vic Wood, Terry Martin along with many others including international turners such as Brian McEvoy, John Wessels, and Binh Pho. I love their philosophy of keeping the art alive by sharing and allowing us to interpret their styles in our own individual way. It is through these ongoing activities that I have improved my skills and styles to allow me to display my work in galleries plus some success in woodturning competitions.


Hollow Form
The most important aspect to consider with any new work is good form and there are many areas we can draw on to assist with this subject. With most of my turning I prefer to use green timber to keep a degree of strength in my thin hollowing work. Not all pieces require thin wall finishes as it depends on the enhancement I intend to use.
I make a hollow vessel cutting into end grain to help keep the form as stable as possible. I will drill a hole to the depth required and enlarge this to hollow the piece to the appropriate wall thickness, finishing each section at a time to maintain wall stability ahead of the tool. I use both callipers and a laser light to assist in keeping a constant wall thickness. Depending on overall internal depth you may need to use a ‘steady’ to assist with the hollowing, an option is to hollow from both ends.
I believe the term of letting the form become the canvas has a lot of merit, providing you make a form that is pleasing to the eye. The designs for our piece are only limited by our imagination.
All around us we have natural shapes, shadows and textures, inspiring enhancement to add to the decorative forms we produce. In this demonstration I will show you some ideas to help you look at things around you with an eye for visual details. I will now rough sketch some of the design. There are myriads of equipment that can be used for your enhancement work around the house, workshops or available at your favourite tool store.
I mainly use my micro motor and some hand tools to carve both surface material and the wall thickness to add a further dimension to the piece. In this manner we can use both colour and shadow to attract the eye and feel to the end product. Various effects can be achieved working both inside and outside, under and over with the wall of the vessel.
Natural Edge Turning
Nature tends to influence most of the work I produce while I give it a little assistance along the way. I will turn a natural edge piece of timber and allow its shape to produce an attractive natural edge form. It is important now to pay particular attention to safety as there are some dangers turning with natural edged timbers.
Grain selection and shape have to be considered early to gain the best aspect for the final form. I will use a sacrificial block on the underside to gain more depth in the piece. Before cutting look at the bark on the timber, does it need any additional support such as super glue, edge finishes – how to keep a square edge or even thickness. Having turned a chuck grip on the inside we can reverse the piece and turn the outside form leaving a chuck grip on the bottom to again reverse later on.
Edges can be like knife blades when spinning whether natural or winged forms great care must be taken in keeping your hands behind the tool support. The ghost that appears helps to remind us of that.