Going BIG

Now that I have my new workshop (mostly) kitted out, I really want to get on with making some bigger items. So I made a start a few months back, pretty much right after the lathe was up and running again, with a piece of ash that gave me a blank just under 16″ diameter (400mm for the ISO folks).

I didn’t have any particular plan, I was just trying to have some fun, and somehow this shape emerged, with a curved outer rim, a raised ring, and, instead of a bowl shape, a domed centre. The wood was dry and stable, harvested from an ash tree that came down about a year ago, and I left the whole thing in a cupboard for another 2-3 months, looking at it in regular intervals.

Inspiration did take its time. One day I suddenly saw what I wanted to do with it, and from there it was easy. There was loads of work to do, with all the carving and the masking and colouring, but I knew where I was going. So here it is:

Considering this is the first of its kind, I should probably be happy. I am, but only to a certain degree. The colouring is not good. I completely miscalculated the effect the natural colour of the ash would have on the blue. Instead of giving it a little contrast (see the classical shape piece from a few weeks ago), the blue just looks dead.So, next time around, I need to either use a different wood or choose a different colour. I am happy with the carved rim, and the black textured streak is OK, but needs a little more definition, I think.

Well, I’ve got a few more large blanks lined up and rough turned already, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

Posted in Turning | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Just a small box

I know, I know, I have been busy with other stuff. Like painting rooms and fitting an apron to a corner bath, and fitting skirting to a bedroom. And yes, we’ve been away for a weekend at the Burghley Horse Trials. That’s almost a story on its own.

At any rate, my mother’s birthday is at the end of July, and this year we couldn’t go and see her, it just didn’t work out. So I made her a small box. The blanks were actually leftovers from a piece of commission work, where a fellow in Kidderminster wanted two identical holes cut into a slab of walnut, so he could display some ancient pieces of china. Due to the difficulties encountered there, both the blanks had a hole in the centre, which I needed to do something about. In the end I decided to use a small leftover piece of zebrano to make the handle on the lid and also a plug for the bottom.

Clearly, there isn’t all that much room inside to store big things, but some jewelry should fit nicely, or maybe some other bits that need a keepsake. In the end, this really is just a way of me saying to my mother “I think of you”.



Posted in Turning | Leave a comment

Glorious ripples

The studious reader of this blog will remember that about 4 months ago I got hold of an entire trunk of a rather large sycamore, all of which was (and still is) rippled quite strongly. The classical dish in the last post was made from that wood, and so are the two pieces in today’s post.

First up is a almost flat, and not quite square dish, doused in red spirit stain and finished with acrylic lacquer. I cut 2 grooves into the wood to emphasize the squished rectangle shape, but I think I need to enhance these grooves with some black.

As usual, the trick with these is to turn them in stages, so that the material doesn’t get much of a chance to wobble away from the tool. This is about 5mm thick, and shows a fair degree of flexing towards the corners. Now, contrary to what you may believe, the grain in this dish actually runs horizontally, despite the heavy rippling wanting to make you think otherwise.

The other piece is this hollow form. It was made from a block that still had some bark attached to it, and some of it is still on the finished form. Again, the heavy rippling may want to make you think this is turned from end grain, but in reality this is side grain. This piece is surprisingly heavy, mostly because my hollowing tools couldn’t reach any further. Again, yellow spirit stain and acrylic lacquer.

A few more pics to show the beautiful figure in the wood:








And the best thing about all this is: these were made from off-cuts. The really nice big discs are still to come. Watch this space.

Posted in Turning | Tagged | Leave a comment


Many of my more intricate turnings are based on paper designs, and sometimes it takes several drawings before I get the proportions right. The final product is then the result of implementing the design as close as possible to the drawing.

There are however other things I make, where the path is completely different. I have whole shelves full of half-turned or finish turned items awaiting some final decoration or colouring or what not. Many of these will remain on these shelves for another month or two or maybe even a year, until I feel inspired to do something with them.

This shallow bowl or dish is one of those that I have actually finished. Made from rippled sycamore, with a very classical, simple, elegant shape, a few beads as decoration on the rim, and some blue and gold accents to frame the actual bowl in the centre. None of this was planned or designed, it just happened.

This dish is about 14″ diameter and stands about 3″ tall. The colour is textile dye, with a 2 layer approach for the gold accents (fontenay base and warm gold paint on top), all sealed with 2 coats of acrylic spray lacquer.

As I get more experienced with my turning and decoration skills, I feel more and more torn between these two paths, the inspirational free-wheeling and the controlled design approach. Both have their advantages and allures, challenges and shortcomings.

Posted in Turning | Tagged , | Leave a comment


Does anybody know the collective pronoun for eggs? I believe it’s a gaggle of chickens, but I haven’t got a clue what it is for eggs.

However, apparently eggs sell really well at craft shows. But I haven’t got many (or any, actually). So, a couple of weeks back I decided to change that. I started with a few pieces of curly (rippled) sycamore, then added a stick of yew, and a few offcuts of other species (ash, laburnum).

There is really not that much to it. Turn between centres for the most part of the shape, and sand to finish (about 240 or 320 grit unless it’s yew or other hard stuff, where you want to go to about 400 or 600). The comes the trick: cut off the two ends. Make yourself an egg-chuck. That is essentially a tube from relatively soft wood, with the inside diameter just slightly more than your largest egg (oh, did I mention that they should all be more or less the same diameter? Otherwise this gets very time consuming).

Then make a recess about 1/2″ from the open end, and check that you can fit a pipe clamp into that. Now cut slits into the tube, about 2-3″ deep. 6 slits (3 cuts across) should do the trick. Fit the pipe clamp on, and hey presto, there’s your egg-chuck. By the way, the same principle applies for fruit, just different diameters, that’s all.

Now mount your egg into the chuck, making sure the unfinished end sticks out far enough to get a decent cut on it. Centre the egg, tighten the clamp and finish the end. Reverse, lather, rinse, done.

I finish all my eggs first with some paste wax and then with my own hardwax mixture, and once the wax has set a little, they get polished with a buffing wheel.

Clearly I will need a whole lot more than just these 11. So, at some point during the next few months, I’ll have to dedicate an entire day or maybe even weekend to just making eggs. Loads of eggs. Really big clutches of eggs. Ooops, now I have given it away.

Posted in Turning | Tagged | Leave a comment