When the Sr. Warden of my Lodge asked me to help him with a new gavel for his presumed forthcoming year in the ‘East,’ I grinned from ear to ear. He told me of what his thoughts were and that he was a huge fan of the beehive and bees. After a little bit of back and forth we decided that a traditional Bee Hive looking gavel head with a handle would look a little too cartoonish, and a bee hive gavel head with a handle out of the top of it would look too much like a honey-dauber!
The challenge underway to find a solution to properly satisfy Bro. Holmes for his upcoming year.
After quite-a-few revisions and design concepts, something had to be done! The deadline was approaching and I hadn’t even produced one single flake of saw-dust! Then it hit me like bee sting to the eyeball! I wanted to keep the appearance of his setting maul simple and encourage discovery and have it be complex and elegant enough that it’s design would stop someone in their tracks.
Here is what the final project scope consisted of: Make a setting maul out of smaller pieces of hexagon dowels and assemble them to look like a honeycomb pattern. Use a contrasting wood for the handle and top it off with a one of a kind curiosity!
I went to Woodcraft Austin and met up with Mike who helped select pieces of wood that would best suit his color taste. After an hour the looking at every possible piece of wood the decision was made to use Niove wood for the bell of the maul and a spalted Maple handle which had a touch of chatoyance to it.
Turning the handle on my lathe was easy. Making hexagon dowels, not so much. After ripping the Niove planks into sticks accurate to 1/32 of an inch, I ran them over a 30 degree bit on my router table, which was expertly adjusted, and cut off the four edges which resulted in perfect hexagon dowels! I should add, that one cannot simply purchase hexagon dowels. You’ll need to make them yourself. Apparently they’re ultra rare. Especially when you are trying to make something custom.
Each dowel was cut to length and epoxied together resulting in something that looked like a part of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude!
Finally, the main body was turned on the lathe, sanded several times and assembled together. A clear coat of TruOil was used to create a hard durable finish that will last lifetimes.
Finally, the top of the handle was adorned with a small piece of 45 million year old baltic fossil amber, complete with a mummified bee. Just wow!
This wood-turning project was less about wood turning and more about math and the relationship math has to nature. It was incredibly hard to produce hexagon dowels, which at first glance seems like a pretty simple thing – and I’m sure it is if you’re not trying to actually make anything with them. However if you need to make 20 of them and they all need to be exactly the same size and account for the compounding addition of adhesive between them, well, let’s just say it get’s hard. Hexagons also do curious things when you start to stack them up. Geometric patterns start to show up where you wouldn’t expect them. And once you start working the piece on a lathe, new and exciting things happen. It’s hard to stop while knowing new unknowns will be revealed if you just take off 1 more thin layer of wood.
All in all it’s a slightly decorative looking setting maul with rarity at it’s heart. Every time someone turns it upside down I hope to see them light up when they see the hexagon pattern revealed to them.