At the Club evening I turned fruit, specifically pears, from Banksia Nut. I first prepared the Nut by giving it a quick brush with a soft wire brush to remove any loose particles of material, nothing too heavy or you run the risk of causing damage to the nuts surface features. I then cut the larger end of the nut on the bandsaw to true it up and give a good flat surface. As I was making fruit I drilled a 4m hole in the flat end, judging the centre point by eye, and fitted it to a screw chuck, bringing up the tailstock to offer light support.
Donít forget all of the health and safety bits that should be done, particularly checking that the mounted nut does not foul the tool rest. This is important with these nuts because of the varying size and shape of its diameter. As advised on the first page, Banksia Nuts do produce a lot of sharp waste that could be dangerous to the eyes and any exposed skin. They also produce a very fine dust so masks or respirator use is advisable.
Now, down to the turning. Using a roughing gouge I turned out the shape of the pear that I wanted, shaping the fatter base end of the fruit at the tailstock using a smaller spindle gouge and skew chisel to obtain the desired curve. Although basic shaping can be done do not turn too much away at the headstock at this time, leave enough to support the item when the tailstock is removed. This is the reason that I try to always turn the base of a pear at the tailstock, thus providing support when the item is reversed.
With the tailstock removed this end can be worked to give the small dimple that is required and drilled with the 4m bit which serves two purposes. Firstly to provide a mounting point so that the work can be reversed onto the screw chuck and the pointy end of the pear completed and secondly to provide a hole in which to glue a small clove when the piece is completed to give a realistic finish to the base. I use an old Jacobs Chuck glued into a short home made wooden handle and drill by hand and eye. It does not matter that this hole is not on the true centre line. Have you ever seen a perfectly balanced and symmetrical piece of fruit? Any slight off centre variation only adds realism and character to the finished work. Sand and finish the base and lower part of the pear.
The final turning is indeed to reverse the pear on the screw chuck and complete the shaping of the pointy end to size, length and shape, curving it around with the smaller spindle gouge and skew. Ensure that the original drilled hole is still present, or drill another hole in the end, off centre if you wish, in which to glue the stalk. Sand and finish as the base blending to match. Turn a small stalk to a suitable size and later glue this into the top of the finished pear.
I tend to use a friction polish on smaller turned items, but any finish of your choice may be used. Apply the polish with the work stationary, making sure that it is well spread and worked into the wood. Start the lathe and apply a soft polishing cloth to the surface and buff to a deep dark brown shine. I then apply a top coat with a wax stick onto this finish, allowing the friction of the revolving work to melt the polish onto the wood, again, finish with a soft polishing cloth. If natural features are left exposed on the finish do be aware that they can be very sharp and may cause injury to unprotected fingers and grab at the polishing cloth.
Due to the variation in diameter and shape of any individual nut and the size of your work some may be entirely finished to a high gloss polish, whilst others may be left with a natural surface of either the nutís surface and/or the seeds pods or the soft fibrous inner layer. The first one that I finished was entirely smooth using the above process, the next one combined all three of the above textures due to the varying diameterís in the singe nut.
A lot is said and written about lathe speeds, the only guide that I use is to turn with a speed that you feel comfortable with. Too slow and the tools will not cut cleanly and the finish described here may not be effective. Too fast and you will not be comfortable or confident at the lathe. I am lucky to have a lathe with an infinitely variable speed control from 0 to 3200 rpm, if yours has fixed pulleys better to be too slow than too fast!! Enjoy your turning, do not endure it