The best looking were cocobolo pieces with amazing figure, but they all had significant cracks, checks or other defects.
At that price I could pass up a few and figured I would at least get some nice pen blanks out of them.
But as I examined the flaws I realized I could get some nice pendant rounds out of the undamaged areas and so cut out about a half-dozen and worked them today with my Ruth Niles off-center turning jig.
I took the time to shoot about 40 process photos and will turn this into a teaching document for anyone interested.
The main thing to note here is that the flat stock meant I had to use a bowl gouge for most of this work as the wood was in face-grain orientation as opposed to spindle work.
The key to making these is finding a way to safely mount and turn them off-center. I’ve used wooden holdings, where you create multiple mountings on a block and affix your piece with glue or double-sided tape. They work, but are limiting in that you can only cut so many different mounting points in the wood before threatening the integrity of the holding.
A few years ago I picked up this jig from Ruth Niles at a Woodturning symposium. It’s cast aluminum with 8 different off-center mounting holes and a separate holding disk that can be rotated on a 24-point index. The combination of these two features provides for hundreds of possible variations.
The mounting plate further has inset holes so you can screw in a waste block for easier surface cleanup.
The approach here is to turn a simple round disk on center, then change the center to drill and form a hanging hole that doesn’t look like you went at it with a hand drill and a bad attitude. Next you have the option of several more off-center mountings to carve interesting partial curves across the surface.
With Ruth’s jig, you do all of this by simply unscrewing and moving parts of her jig. The glue or tape holding of the piece stays untouched and uncompromised. What’s more, the definitive screw holes means you can go back and repeat any mounting without risking the slightest shift in the work area.