Keeping My Hand In

I’ve been busy running around building forms for casting the liner for the forge body, and dealing with a bunch of other stuff, including stressing out about my first colonoscopy, which is tuesday morning.

After finally getting SIOP off my chest, I made a bad decision: I’ve been listening to Blood In The Water – which I will, eventually, review somewhat. But it’s so depressing I feel like I’d be more comfortable lying on the floor and refusing to move. So, one must struggle to find cause for optimism and one must have a better reason to get out of bed than “I have to pee.”

My friend Mike G started asking me about rolling pins and whether I had some suggestions for a rolling pin. I started researching various forms of the right woods, and it turns out that the prices for craft woods have been skyrocketing lately. Eventually I found a cool angle: baseball bat blanks. They’re still expensive but they come pre-rounded, so you can avoid the nasty step where you turn a square piece of wood into a round one with a chisel. The bat blanks are delightful: cut the ends so the chuck can grab them, chuck them up, grab a chisel, and go! I found a place online [bellforest] that offers bat blanks in exotic woods.

Mike had been talking about a longer than usual French-style rolling pin and I thought it’d be fun to try to make something so simple that had to be symmetrical. It’s not exactly easy to make simple curves.

Curly maple is wonderful stuff. It’s as tough as wood gets, and it’s beautiful and comparatively affordable. All you need to finish it is a couple of passes with linseed oil. Getting those curves right took about an hour and a half. I confess, I was lazy – I believe the official proper way to make something like that is to cut a template with the ideal curve cut into it, that you can place on the wood to ensure that it’s symmetrical. I thought, “knife maker!” and just started cutting.

Then, I made a little pizza dough roller/pie roller with the left-over piece.

I like the handle design but I understand if you don’t. Most of my pizzas were rolled out using a wine bottle, to be completely honest. The nice thing about that approach is that it requires a pre-emptied bottle.

The rolling pins are “unloved art” and I’ll probably seek a home for them. I haven’t been doing auctions for FTB lately but I suppose I could put them on the block.

Then this last item is one of those patience necessary projects. And I nearly screwed it up because I was impatient. Normally what you are supposed to do is glue the wood to the bottom of your form (a plastic bucket) using some resin, and then once it’s cured to it’s going to stay there, you overpour the rest of the batch, and vacuum infuse/degas the whole thing.

The bucket-within-a-bucket design was an attempt to minimize the amount of material I’d have to remove from the interior in order to shape the bowl. Seemed like a good idea except I forgot that the chuck/lathe need something to attach to, inside where the bowl opening will be. I had to drill holes and put screws in to hold a chuck ring, and things got nasty when one of the screws snapped off when I removed them; I had to take a drill bit and vise grips and perform a surgical extraction. Next time I’m going to just say “fuck this” and pour resin. It’s not cheap but I wasted a half an hour farting around with the mounting.

It’s hard to represent these things photographically, because the whole game is the details of the weird “landscape” created in the burl. There’s a refractive line where I cut the interior – part of what you have to do with this stuff is cut until you think it’s going to look right; the bottom of this piece is fairly thick but it seemed like the right thing.

I used a metallic gold flake, and I was pleased by the way the flake fell like a sort of golden snow all over the peaks of the burl. I like how it turned out and I will be doing more of these. I’m still puzzling over the question of how to simplify the process. In the meantime it makes me happy to grind expensive pieces of wood and resin into chips.

This is a piece I made for someone who has been pestering me for a bowl, so it’s spoken for.

Need more bog oak. My appetite for bog oak is insatiable.


  1. jrkrideau says

    Nice rolling pin. I have on of similar size which is great for yeast doughs. I also have longer one with more taper for pastry doughs. both are great.

  2. James says

    Marcus Ranum:

    …stressing out about my first colonoscopy…

    Due to family history of colon cancer I had my first colonoscopy at the age of 33. I can tell you what I am sure you have already heard, the colonoscopy itself isn’t so bad. The worst part is the purge before it, if you have hemorrhoids, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the clearing process will flare them badly.
    If you were prescribed the PEG with electrolytes solution I was… you want that cold. Somehow that makes it taste a little less disgusting; it still tastes like getting face fucked by a lemon and a lime, but it reduces the salty bitter semi-sliminess a bit. The final bit of advice during the purge, when you do the phases of drinking the stuff, have a clear line between you and the bathroom. When the urge comes it will not wait long… All that said, while the purge is unpleasant, the colonoscopy itself is not a problem at all. And it’s all far better than getting colon cancer!
    Sunday Afternoon@#1

    In a pinch, surely a full one will suffice?

    Nope! Lubrication of the chef is an important step in many recipes!

  3. says

    Thank you for the comments on colonoscopy. I’ll probably report on the experience if it’s not too gross.

    My hemorrhoids are OK, thank dog. They prescribed me Miralax (which is, I think, hydrophilic polymer gel) and some laxative. They also said to make sure I just take a book to the bathroom and (this is the part I do not like ->) if I am still having the effects the next morning I should wear diapers if I have to travel more than 10 minutes to the hospital (it’s an hour!).

    I have reasons to dread colonoscopies. We don’t have a history of colon cancer in my family, but I know someone who had an “unusual polyp” in their colon which was removed and biopsied and they had to have a very unpleasant conversation that started with “well, that was lung tissue in your colon so we need to schedule you for a full up scan…” Yeah, great I know that when the time comes it’s time but that’s a really bad day.

    the salty bitter semi-sliminess a bit

    I’ve been taking metamucil for years after an incident in which opiates made me very constipated. Hmmmm… it’s a funny story. I wonder if I should post medical humiliation stories… But anyhow, I am pretty good at gacking down gack. I’ll take your advice about chilling it, though I think part of the trick is to drink it before the gack has time to gel.

  4. says

    I also have longer one with more taper for pastry doughs

    The tapered one is 24″ long and 2 1/2″ at the center tapered down to 1 1/2″ at the ends. I wasn’t sure if the taper should be more or less extreme so I kept it big and thick. I hate turning so much of that gorgeous maple into shreds on the shop floor.

  5. James says

    Marcus Ranum@#3

    They prescribed me Miralax…

    Miralax is PEG (poly-ethylene glycol) based. I think the difference between your prescription and mine is that mine came premixed, peg + electrolytes + separate flavor packet I could “add if I wanted to” (I was told I really wanted to.) All I did then was add water, shake hard, and put in the fridge the night before the start of the purge… Damn, all this talk is reminding me that I have another colonoscopy is coming up in December… joy.

    I have reasons to dread colonoscopies. …

    Oooofff… Yeah I can see that coloring things; I’m sorry.

    But anyhow, I am pretty good at gacking down gack.

    That’s a good talent to have for the purge.

    I’ll take your advice about chilling it, though I think part of the trick is to drink it before the gack has time to gel.

    In the concentration that adding 1 gallon (I think?) of water to the pre-mixed powder it only got slightly thicker in the fridge after I added the water, never gelling (though definitely not water viscosity either.)

  6. Jazzlet says

    I hope the colonoscopy has gone ok. I rather enjoyed mine, I get quite silly on gas and air, I alternated between being amazed at my colon – they had a monitor you could watch the progress on – and talking about the time I saw the Who at Charlton Athletic.

  7. says

    Beautiful works. I do love the curves on the rolling pin and how the curly maple creates those tiger stripes. That must look amazing IRL, since those stripes will change color depending on viewing angle.

    I have seen one bowl maker on Youtube saving some resin not by using a bucket to make a hollow, but a piece of sacrificial cheapo wood that he glued where the inside of the bowl would be and carving/turning it out in the end.

  8. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 Marcus
    Checking with a 15cm ruler so measurements are dicey to say the least, my “heavy” rolling pin is 48 cm (length) x 4cm at the centre.

    My “light”, pastry, one is 100cm X 3.5cm.

    Final diameters at the ends; Heavy 3.5, Pastry ~1.2. I love them both.

    BTW, the store owner who sold me the heavy one said it was known as the “Persuader”. I have no idea what he meant.

  9. says

    Thank you for that. And, oh, wow, that’s a lot more taper than I built into mine!

    I don’t know what a rolling pin would be called “the Persuader” either. Maybe it’s because it is good for getting dough to do what it wants. Or something. ‘Exhibit A’ would be a good name for a rolling pin, too. I wonder if engraving little kill-signs on the end would be tasteless.

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