The Egg Collection

When I started woodturning a few years ago, I soon realised I did not have enough space to keep a finished turning of every type of timber I sampled. The answer was to create an 'egg' from each sample. An egg seemed to be the best way to show all aspects of the colour and grain of a timber and give me a rough idea of it's turning properties - also far more interesting than the standard 6" x 3" x 1" sample that timber collectors use.


Making wooden eggs...

There is probably a hundred different ways to turn an egg and even my own methods change according to the timber I'm using and the required quality of the result. What follows is my preferred method - not necessarily the best or quickest method - just the way I do it to make eggs for my timber collection.

Start with a blank about 50mm x 50mm square or a length of branch about 70mm or more long. Rough it down to a cylinder between centres or you can grab it directly in the standard jaws of your chuck as pictured - doesn't really matter. If you don't have a chuck, just glue the blank onto a piece of waste timber and mount it on your faceplate.

If you do grab the square blank directly in the chuck, keep in mind that it can easily work loose so you will need to retighten the jaws a couple of times.



I usually turn a spigot on one end ......



.... then remount it in the jaws for a more secure grip, and it's also handy for remounting if you need to remove the egg at any time.

Use a parting tool and calipers or an 'eggsactly' gauge to reduce a section to the required diameter for your egg - mine are roughly 44mm. Continue with the roughing gouge to reduce the rest of the blank to the same diameter (roughly!).

If you are comfortable using a skew chisel and have chosen good turning timber, round the fat end of the egg with a rolling action of the skew. For hard or difficult timbers I prefer using a spindle gouge to shape the egg - much less effort required and it can still give a good finish if used well.

Mark the length of your egg on the blank ......

....and part in to about 20mm diameter and about 10mm wide.

Shape the long end of the egg next with the same chisel action as before. Once you reduce the bulk to where you finished with the parting tool, part again to about 10mm diameter and finish shaping with lighter cuts as the egg will now flex if you cut too hard.


Now is the time to fill cracks or voids if there are any, then sand the egg to remove all tool marks. Experience will tell you what grit to start with but if you're careful with the chisel, you should be able to start at about 240 grit and work your way up. My 'collection' eggs all get the same treatment, regardless of wood type - sanded through the grades to 1000 grit, a rub at speed with Ubeaut EEE polish followed by 2 coats of Ubeaut Shellawax burnished in at high speed.

The next step is to part off the egg ready for finishing the 'pip'. If you don't have an egg-chuck like mine or some other way of holding the egg, you could use a skew chisel to part the egg off with a slicing action and finish sanding and polishing by hand at this point. When parting the egg from the waste, leave 1 or 2mm of the spigot on the egg side to help centre the egg in the chuck.

Sit the egg in the chuck and screw the ring on loosely. Mount the egg-chuck on your scroll chuck and bring the toolrest up close to the 'pip'. With your right-thumbnail against the pip, rotate the chuck until the 'high spot' is against your thumb and push slightly on the egg with your thumb to move the pip closer to centre. Tighten the ring when it's as close to centre as you can get it - doesn't have to be perfect. With practice, it only takes a couple of turns to get the pip close enough to centre.

Use a spindle gouge or small skew to shape the tip of the egg then sand and polish as you did before.

Once again, with practice, you can blend the two sections together so that nobody can tell how the egg was held.

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Making an Egg-chuck...

To finish the parted end of the first couple of eggs I made, I just sanded and hand finished to remove the stub but I decided this wasn't good enough as I wanted fully polished eggs with no sign of how they were produced. A few simple modifications to a PVC pipe fitting produced a simple chuck to hold the eggs which are loosely sized on a standard XL chooks egg.

A friend asked me to make them a chuck so here is the step-by-step ....



Start with 1.5" PVC pipe coupling.



Mount it on your standard chuck jaws centring it as best you can.



Use a parting tool to separate the tube past the end of the thread by 15 or 20mm.



Use a skew chisel to cut a notch to suit the dovetails of your chucks jaws.



Reverse the tube onto the jaws and true up the end and inner diameters with a scraper styled tool.



Screw the outer ring on and true up the inner diameters with some form of scraper - I use a Sorby hollower for this type of cut.



Cut 2 disks of scrap timber just bigger than the largest inner diameter of the PVC fittings. I use ply for strength in all directions but any scrap will do. Drill the centre of the disk and mount it on a screw-chuck with a scrap timber spacer behind it to keep your tools away from the chuck.


Shape the disk to fit snugly inside the base of your egg-chuck. If you take too much off, a layer of masking tape will take up the slack - it's not that crucial but you do want it tight enough to stay in place while the seat for the egg is cut.


Mount the egg-chuck base on the jaws and fit the disk in place. Turn a bowl shaped recess into it to suit the shape of the big end of the eggs you create.




Mount the 2nd disk on the screw chuck the same way and shape it to fit snugly......




.... inside the outer ring.


Remove the disk from the screw chuck and grip it in your standard jaws but do not tighten it too much as you will be left with a fairly thin ring which will crush easily. Turn away enough material working from the centre outwards to allow the small end of an egg to protrude far enough to work on finishing it. Be careful doing this as you are working very close to the steel jaws.



You may need to 'tune' the seats in the disks to get the 2 disks close enough to each other to allow the outer ring to screw on to the base sufficiently. (I would want at least 2 full turns connected)



There ya go Toni!

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The Eggsactly gauge...


After turning about 30 or 40 eggs with no end in sight to the types of timber available, I thought it might be a good idea to have a gauge to help make sure the eggs would fit in the egg-chuck OK.

The gauge is about as simple as they get and could be made from just about any material you have on hand - mine is just a scrap of Lamipanel (Nope! No hole in the bathroom wall!) The 'caliper' side is about 44mm and the 'length' marker is about 56mm.

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Photographing the eggs...

This is not so much a "How to" as it is a "How do I" photograph the eggs as I'm still not 100% happy with the results I'm getting with my current setup but I don't know what else I can do to improve them any further. If you have any tips or ideas, please leave me a note using the 'Feedback' page. The photos from egg #462 onwards are about as good as I can get them - except the reflection from the 2 halogen lamps - if I could get rid of that I'd be a very happy camper!

This is the setup I have used for the eggs from #462 onwards. The stand was ratted from an old transparency projector and the tent-frame is just some aluminium angle glued together. The tent was made to completely surround the frame but I found that all that whiteness reflecting off the eggs was part of my problem - now I'm only using it to diffuse the 2 x 150W halogen lamps a little.

The background is black velvet and black cardboard was used to make the 'ring' - all this was to avoid the white reflections or 'flare' on the margins of the egg that have plagued me for so long. With the black background I could finally get a crisp edge on the egg but needed a narrow white border to make later editing possible, hence the white egg shaped disk behind the egg, close enough that it does not reflect off the egg.

The white balance is established by taking a shot of white paper where the egg sits, the focus set to about 1/4 of the depth of the egg (eg: halfway between the nearest point and the edge) and the aperture is set to 32 for maximum depth of field. Then I just keep swapping eggs and taking shots using the remote so I don't even touch the camera. The glossiest eggs get a squirt of anti-reflective liquid that wipes straight off after the shot.

The colour reproduction from my new camera is spot-on so once the shots are taken, all I have to do these days is remove the background, crop and resize.

I use a program called 'Instantmask Pro' to very easily remove the background - you just scribble a line on the egg with the green pen, scribble a line on the background with the red pen and hit the preview button - magically simple!

I then use Zoner Photo studio to crop a 4:5 ratio section out with the egg and resize it to 200 x 250 pixels - all done!

This process beats the hell out of how I used to get these pics but I would still love to get rid of those reflections from the lights so any suggestions would be appreciated.

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Collectors/Display Cabinet...


A pile of egg-cartons stretched across the couch in the living room is not the most attractive way to show off a collection of anything so I designed and built this cabinet to suit my needs.


In 'collectors' mode, it is a simple 4 drawer cabinet standing about 1400mm high made from Rose Mahogany (dysoxalum fraseranum). The cabinet can be lifted off the stand to make transporting the unit to shows and craft fairs easier and the stand sports another 'utility' drawer.



In 'display' mode, the top is lifted off and the drawers removed and stood on their faces around the cabinet. The top is then placed back on to lock it all together. The whole top section sits on a bearing allowing it to rotate like a jewellery case and can be lifted off the stand to be used independently on a table or bench if required. Sounds easy but with over 200 eggs in there it's a lot heavier than it looks!










One of the criteria in my design was to include expandability and the idea was that another set of drawers could be added on top. While this idea still holds true, I will be making a stronger stand for it,  possibly containing another 8 drawers, to cope with the weight of so many wooden eggs.

To see a 'how to' on the making of the cabinet, follow this link to the Ubeaut Woodworkers Forum that I spend way too much time on!!!

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Gallery Egg display boards...

Ever since I filled the cabinet I realised I needed an expandable system to show the eggs in as I couldn't even see the entire collection myself! Got to the point where I was making the eggs, photographing them, then dropping them into egg-cartons stored in boxes in the garage - unsatisfactory by any standards! Several years and 456 eggs later, an idea sprung to mind while trying to get to sleep one night and a couple of months later I was grinning from ear to ear when I finally finished these and hung them on the wall in the gallery.

Started out with some experimentation making the clips from PVC pipe and gluing it to Perspex until I was satisfied the idea could work. Next I drew the plan up using Sketchup to work out the best layout and to get some idea of how the finished product might look.



I decided to aim for 1000 eggs in total as I probably won't live long enough to pass that figure and won't have to worry about building more boards. With the layout I chose it fits 253 eggs per board for a total of 1012 eggs. 

Grabbed a sheet of 10mm Perspex and cut it into four equal pieces and then got a good friend with a big CNC to cut the 'flutes' into it according to the Sketchup drawing, plus some 'keyhole' slots to hang the boards from. The main purpose of the flutes is to increase the gluing area but they also served as precise locators for the clips and kept the eggs closer to the board. I also polished the edges of the boards before removing the protective paper to complete the 'transparent' look.

I cut a strip lengthwise about 25mm wide out of several lengths of 40mm PVC drainage pipe and then started cutting it into 17mm lengths on the tablesaw - slid each length over a turned piece of waste timber for support while cutting. Didn't count them, just calculated roughly how much pipe I would have to cut up to produce about 1100 pieces.

This was followed by rounding the corners of each clip - the only method I could find that didn't leave 'furry' overhang was taking the corners off on the CBN wheel on the grinder - quite a few hours spent making PVC dust on that part!

Finally the ends were 'crimped' which is the key to securely holding the eggs in place. To get this done I made a small 'former' which I mounted in the drill press - worked well until my shoulder got sore so I attached a foot pedal arrangement to the press and flew through the rest.


The clips are glued in place with clear PVC cement. While it might not be intended for Perspex, it does a pretty good job with enough surface area involved in the bond. It stands the test of time OK too - I used it to make a letter box from PVC and Perspex about 16 years ago and it is still intact!



I made the pictured wooden jigs to align the opening of each clip correctly and apply a bit of pressure  with a solid steel billet while the PVC cement did it's thing. Having two of the jigs was essential so that I could glue one clip in place and apply the weight, then glue the next clip in place and transfer the weight to it, and so on. . . . . . 1012 times!!!!! - I wasn't cut out for repetitive jobs!





A completed board. Would have been nice to have transparent clips as well but I am yet to see a flexible clear plastic that doesn't go brittle and crack in a short space of time. I don't know how long the PVC will stay 'springy' either but it will never be exposed to direct sunlight so it should see me out at least!

All four boards loaded and hung in the gallery (which is still being fitted out at the time of writing). Every tenth clip has a number on one side so I don't have to look for the number on the bottom of each egg to find a specific egg.

If ever you're travelling through Emerald and you'd like to see the collection/gallery, just drop me a line via the Feedback page and we can make arrangements.

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