The Gouge’s Handle

by | Mar 24, 2016 | 0 comments

Hand-Turned Baby Rattles

Today I turned 103 baby rattles. This may seem a long day, but it’s less than a day’s work at two and a half minutes each. I’ve been turning rattles since I was 16.

Tom Donahey was the straw-boss at Drew Langsner’s volunteer week. At 16 I was the youngest volunteer by half. Tom told me I could sell as many rattles as I could make to craft shops – this peaked my interest. I got the general pattern from one of Mike Abbott’s books, modified it to meet Federal toy regulations, and away I went.

Now, at age 31, everyone tells me I am too young for my elbows to be hurting. I went to a doctor a couple weeks ago.

“My elbow hurts.”
“What’s wrong with your wrist?”
“My wrist? It’s my elbow.”
“No, it’s your wrist.”

Apparently, if your wrist isn’t working properly it can cause your elbow to work overtime, causing your elbow to hurt. Why your wrist doesn’t go ahead and hurt is beyond me, but there it is.The Severed Gouge

I’ve been flapping my hands around at weird intervals (wrist exercises) and examining my wrists for stressful situations. Today I found one: turning beads (ends of baby rattles) with a spindle gouge.

“Why is he using a spindle gouge?”, you ask. “I thought he liked a skew?”

A skew leaves a better finish than a gouge and you have more control over the shape you are creating. A gouge is faster (and it requires less skill). For me, turning rattles is all about speed.

At rattle number 37 1/2, I looked down at my aching elbow. My wrist looked like this:


Examining my hand motions I jammed the gouge into the work, ruining the rattle. But I discovered the gouge handle was far too long: to get out of the way of the gouge-handle I had to throw my body into the lathe bed, stand on tipy-toes, and crank my wrist into some awful position not recommended by doctors.

I cut off about 4″ of the gouge-handle, but the handle was now too fat where I needed to hold it, so I turned it down smaller.

turning gouge


It worked! At rattle 103 my elbow ached far less than it did at number 37. Turning the bead was easier. I found I could brace the end of the gouge against my pelvis and push it from there, reducing strain on my wrist (I also plunge-cut with the skew and parting tool by pushing with my pelvis – what control!).

Many questions remain. Why was my gouge handle made so long? Was it designed by a bowl turner? Why did it take me 15 years to cut the silly thing shorter?


A Box and a Massage

A couple weeks ago my friend Allyn brought her 9 year-old son over to make a box.sawing

Sawing was hard, but once he got it he loved it.

indexDrilling was satisfying.banging



After dinner, mom was allowed to help with the lid.massage

On the weekends Allyn is a massage-therapist, and a good one. I had three students last week. On Saturday she came over, set-up her table in my house and gave everyone a 20-minute massage.  I was too busy teaching to catch the action, but to judge by the jubilant atmosphere after she left, it was a success.  Allyn’s been wanting a settee for year, so maybe I can get her back for next class…


Subscribe to Elia's Blog

Search the Blog


Donate below to help keep the blog going.  Thanks!