Walnut needle case disassembled

Walnut Needle Case

I was asked to make something for a silent auction for one of our upcoming SCA events. I was hoping to get the walnut bowl done, but it’s still being stubborn and I need to finish the Longway chuck to continue. The weekend before our gathering, I grabbed some tools and wood and went over to a friends shop, anticipating that we would come up with something simple yet elegant enough to put in the auction.

After a short conversation with Brad, I decided it’s going to be a needle case. Then we bounced ideas off each other for wood selection. I went something like this: “We could…” “Or how about…” “Oh this could be fun!” “What do you think of this?” It ended up being a scrap of black walnut that was an off cut from a bowl blank he was working on. Looks to be appropriately sized, a good piece to work with, and hey the price was right! But there is that lathe thing, will this end up flying across the room too?

Walnut needle case inside
View of the completed walnut needle case.

With it chucked up in the lathe between centers, I started to make it round. and discovered that there is a knot in it. Hmm, okay… let’s see where this goes. The knot goes all the way through the piece, but it didn’t break out while making it round. So I paused and added several drops of super glue and a spritz of hardener Poof! We are back in business.

I finished making the outside smooth – alright so I sorta cheated as I used the 100 grit method. Several grits of sand paper later, it feels pretty dry. Since I took a fair amount of material off already, I decide to put a coat of Watco Danish Oil on it. Okay I lied – maybe two or three coats. Now it looks really nice, the knot turned out wonderful and didn’t fall out!

I touched up the tenons on the ends, and proceeded to created another where the lid will attach. I parted off the lid, nice and easy like. I didn’t even drop it – so far so good.

Walnut needle case top view
Top view, you can see the lip.

I grabbed an appropriately sized Forstnerner bit and inserted it into the Jacobs chuck. With the lid the three jaw chuck, it centered up nicely. After calculating the depth I proceeded to drill. Man that was slick! Now to clean up the center spur and the overly crisp bottom from the Forstner bit since it wouldn’t have the right SCA-period feel. I tried a couple of tools before turning on the lathe to see if I can get a good angle. I opted for a small fingernail gouge and that seemed to work quite nicely in the fairly small area inside. A couple of passes in the center got rid of the spur, and I moved on to thin the wall a little bit and see if I can get rid of the sharp inside corner. Kerplop, the lid drops to the floor. It wasn’t a launch, but not a good thing either. I now have a nick on the inside of the lid. Oops! Let’s just put that aside for now.

Assembled Walnut Needle Case
Assembled walnut needle case.

I chuck up the bottom, the same way as I did the lid. Started drilling, beautiful shavings coming off the bottom end grain. I opted to take it easy, slowly going deeper, removing the chips, blah blah blah. I get about half way in and notice the shavings are quite damp. Doh! The wood is not as dry as I had hoped. Oh well. I continue and get to the depth I calculated and all is good. The base has the lip for the lid, I do a minor amount of sanding to clean it up and put a slight taper on it, minimal is best at this stage. Next I part the bottom from the tenon, intentionally making it concave so it will sit well on a flat surface.

The lid still has too much material on it to fit, so I chuck the top up again. Several trials, some more minor sanding and its a tight fit. I stop messing with it before I go too far.

Walnut needle case disassembled
Nice view of the knot and grain as well as the top of the lid.

One minor catch on the lathe that doesn’t cause any major damage is reasonable. With the lid on the base, we closed up shop for the day and I went home. I was hoping to get back on Sunday but didn’t make it. It will have wait until Wednesday.

A few days go by, and I’m back in the shop on Wednesday evening. During my time away I was quite concerned about the amount of wood I removed and the moisture that was in it. I was hoping it didn’t crack. Luck was with me and all was good!

I finished shaping the top and sanded what I could reach on the lathe safely. I then parted the lid and used a chisel to clean up the rest of the waste. A good sharp chisel goes a long way in this sort of cleanup. While at it I cleaned up the little bit of waste on the bottom. A fair amount of hand sanding on the outside and a bit on the inside made things quite smooth.

I then applied more oil to the entire piece, several coats. More like continuously for about 15-20 minutes as it soaked in quite fast. I let it sit for a bit, then whipped off the excess and lightly buffed it. The result was a rather nice mat finish.

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