Early in 2014 I watched a professional turner give a demonstration on how to turn an apple from a single piece of wood (i.e. no added stalk) and without using a screw chuck. The system involved mounting a prepared blank in a scroll-chuck and working the apple from the tailstock end back to the chuck. Work commenced on the ‘bud’ end of the apple and then, with the apple almost fully shaped and still attached to the rest of blank by about a finger-thickness of timber, that remaining piece of timber was carefully turned down into a delicate stalk.

This, of course, posed a problem! The stalk was all that was holding the apple in place and if it started to wobble, then the stalk would almost certainly sheer off. Thus the system was of little use if complex or cross-grained timbers were being used. Furthermore, to get sufficient access into the top of the apple to turn the shape on it and then to shape the stalk, the blank needed so much waste that it was actually twice the length of the finished apple. That didn’t work for me! If I’m going to use an attractive piece of timber to make a piece of fruit, then I object to wasting so much of it!  So I set about designing a simple compression chuck to stream-line the process and reduce the waste.

Furthermore, I didn’t want to use anything to decorate my fruit. Some turners like to use a clove to represent the old, dried-up flower bud, and some like to cut a small piece of twig to insert into the top of the fruit to represent a stalk. Both of these are quite realistic looking but were not going to give me the finish that I wanted.


The fruit-chuck…

My fruit-chuck is a simple cylinder, made from a 100mm (3.93”) diameter log from my firewood store. I mounted it between centres to true it up and square the ends, then turned a tenon to fit my scroll-chuck. Once mounted in the scroll-chuck, I hollowed the log out to an internal diameter of 65mm (2.55”), but left a spigot inside the hollow. This is quite an important feature and its purpose will become obvious later, but it needs to be down in the bottom of the hollow, about a centimetre long and pointed fairly bluntly.


Using the indexing head on the lathe, I marked 8 pencil-lines along the outside of the fruit-chuck and, with it off the lathe but still mounted in the scroll-chuck, I set it upright in a vice and sawed down along the pencil-lines. I had also shaped a groove on the outside of the fruit-chuck for a hose-clip to sit in, and, once it was in place, tightening the hose-clip caused the wall of the fruit-chuck to contract such that it would grip whatever was inside it. In practice, it can expand to about 68mm (2.67”) and contract to about 63mm (2.48”), so some degree of variation in the blanks prepared for fruit-turning is acceptable.


Turning the fruit…

Prepare blanks in advance. They need to be simple cylinders with a tenon on one end to suit your scroll-chuck. They should be rough turned to 70mm (2.75”) diameter and, for an apple they need to be an overall length of about 80mm (3.15”) including the tenon and, for a pear, the same diameter and about 120mm (4.72”) long including the tenon.


The length of the fruit is a suggestion to get you started. Apples and pears do, of course, come in a vast range of shapes and sizes and I have simply copied varieties that are popular over here in UK. So start off with these lengths, but by all means adapt them if there’s a shape that you want to replicate.


The pear…


Mount the blank in your scroll chuck and then, from the tailstock end, mark two pencil lines around the cylinder, one 30mm back from the end, the other 90mm back. Using a parting tool at the 30mm (1.18”) mark, cut a groove to help establish the finished thickness of the fruit. Given that the inside of the fruit-chuck is 65mm (2.56") diameter, I cut this groove deep enough to leave the blank a couple of millimetres over-sized, say about 67mm (2.64").


Next, working outwards from the groove, shape the end of the pear by cutting what is effectively one half of a bead, but continue the bead such that it flows around the end of the pear and then continues a short distance (perhaps several millimetres) up into the end of the fruit. This depression that you have just shaped is the point where the flower bud was originally situated.


Next, at the 90mm pencil-line, use a parting tool to cut a groove marking a diameter of about 30mm for the top of the neck of the pear, and then shape the pear from the widest point down to the neck. Have a good look at a pear before you do this!  It’s amazing how simple it is to produce a shape that just doesn’t look like a pear but it’s not so simple to turn a shape that does! When you’re happy with the shape, sand in your usual way and apply a coat of sealer or oil, whatever you feel suits your fruit.


I use a coat of Danish oil, liberally applied and left for just a minute or two, then I wipe away the excess, switch on the lathe and burnish what’s left. I then wipe a second coat of oil onto the fruit, perhaps the next day, and burnish it on a buffing wheel.

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Saturday the 20th. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.