September 2002

As well as making a set of Royal Ark Mariner working tools this month, I had the rare opportunity of making a set of brass-bound gavels. A photo record existed on my old website but I photographed this job too, so that you can see just what goes into these incredible objects.Click on "May" at the foot of this page to see a finished one. An earlier set can be seen in the gavels section.

Three pieces of heavy industrial brass tube are prepared. Note that an engineering lathe is being used for the entire process. Precision meets art in this project. Three billets of sapele are cut to form the gavel heads
Three rough "blanks" are turned. The gap in the middle is longer than the brass tube that will surround it, but its diameter fits precisely. The blanks are sawn into two pieces (they will be cut to length on the lathe). Now, the precision of fit can be plainly seen
Something has to hold both halves together. Both are shortened to half the length of the brass tube and bored to receive an oak pin Oak is used because its density is similar to this sapele. It is made to fit exactly.
The halves now join exactly, with the brass tube making a snug fit, both in diameter and in length The ends of these gavels will have to take many years of bashing. Therefore we need a very hard timber. This is a (very heavy) piece of French acacia
The ends of the blank halves are bored to receive acacia discs And finally, the finished shape can be applied to the blank halves, which are then made perfectly smooth to receive their final finish
And they all fit together exactly as they ought to Now we get to the really frightening bit. The whole must be lined up, secured, and drilled (almost) right through, to receive the handle. A 20mm blacksmith's drill takes quite a bit of handling - and even more courage!
Thankfully, all three came through it unscathed (no image yet) The handle is made to fit exactly. It is so exact, it pushes the halves apart slightly. When these are finally glued up, the handle can no longer be pushed in. It has to be squeezed in the lathe chuck to reduce its diameter slightly. When it is glued in, it will re-expand. I have about 30 seconds to get it right before it is secured for ever.

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