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2nd November – The Les Thorne Show

9 November, 2015

Traffic chaos outside delayed the start and we went ahead without the video system as Steve hadn’t arrived. This was set up as Les carried on. If anyone can cope with such setbacks surely Les can? Eventually a record audience of 73 turned up.

Acknowledging the large number of new and generally inexperienced members, Les went back to basics and demonstrated making a candlestick. This involved both spindle and “faceplate” turning, the latter referring to wood mounted on the lathe with grain at right angles to the axis. It also, involves a joint. It’s a good idea to draw the shape before starting or get one from a book.

Starting with the base, there are many ways of holding the blank but since the hole would not be visible, a screw chuck was the obvious choice. The blank had been cut into an octagonal shape rather than circular to avoid creating a bias on the bandsaw blade. The time required to go from octagon to circle on the lathe is negligible. For this, Les used a bowl gouge, not a roughing gouge which is not designed for faceplate work. His bowl gouge was ground with a long grind which is more versatile than traditional grinds allowing both pull and push cuts.

Les, candlestick

Turning speed should be as fast as vibration and your nerve will allow. Not only is it quicker but a smoother cut can be obtained.

The underside was turned with a very slight concave shape for stability and a dovetail recess cut in the centre. This should be of a diameter to suit the chuck jaws which will only be circular at a particular diameter. Reversing onto this dovetail enabled the top surface to be turned and a hole made in the centre to take the spigot on the stem of the candlestick.

Les had pre-drilled the hole in the end of the spindle for the metal cup which holds the candle. The tailstock revolving centre was inserted into this to ensure the hole is central when finished. If your centre does not fit, turn a simple plug. The spindle had been cut to an octagonal section. It is quicker to remove wood on the bandsaw and fewer shavings are produced. This time a roughing gouge is the tool for the job of turning a cylinder. A few strategic pencil marks were made to give a rough guide to the shape. Curved sections are separated by “punctuation marks” like beads and the transition between the base and stem is also disguised by a bead. The shaping was done by a spindle gouge and skew chisel before sanding. Les regards grits of 180 or courser as shaping grits and finer ones for smoothing.

Not content with having made a nice candlestick, Les went on to age it by burning with a blow torch. The purpose of this is to add some texture by removing the softer parts of the grain. After rubbing the burnt particles off with a liming brush he then sprayed with black lacquer and finished with liming wax. Les claims that this is a more interesting appearance which is reflected in the perceived value.

Les, burning

As usual, my memory and the space available hardly do justice to the wealth of detail presented. Still, a large number of you were there to see it for yourselves and if you want some more then get the DVD or sign up for some hands-on tuition. Googling Les Thorne will point you in the right direction.

Not only was attendance high, but after last month’s poor showing the gallery table this time had an impressive 18 items. Les did a helpful critique at tea time and commented on number and quality of the work of members. You can see all the pictures on the website.

Dave Gibbard

2nd November – Gallery

9 November, 2015

5th October – John Wyatt

3 November, 2015

There was a good turnout considering it was a wet and windy October evening. We were treated to an interesting demonstration of Lattice Work Bowls by John Wyatt who is quite new to the demonstrating circuit.

John is Chairman of the Forest of Beer Woodturners and regards himself as “just” a Hobby turner, having taken up turning upon his retirement 15 years ago.

Due to the intricacy and repetitive nature of the work, John brought along a selection of pieces in poplar at different stages, so that he could move the demonstration along at a pace to fit into his time slot. A complete bowl would take too long to complete.

John W bowl 1  John W bowl 2

Nonetheless, John found time to explain the difference between bowl and spindle gouges to the novices in the group when asked to do so by a member of the audience.

Because of the nature of the work John turned the inside of the bowl first, unlike the normal method for a traditional bowl. Once the inside was shaped John then used a Dremel fitted to a customised sledge on a plywood shelf, to make a number of indexed cuts from near the centre of the bowl out to the rim. Using this method he was able to make angled cuts rather than straight ones.

John W jig

Following the tea break, John reversed the piece on the lathe via the spigot he had left in the centre and proceeded to turn the outside of the bowl, using a set of LED lights on the inside to guide the depth of his cuts. He made a series of grooves to break through where they crossed the inside ones.

He then explained how he tidies up the latticework using a small file, and then how he finishes the bowl with an oil coat. John is not a fan of colouring wood.

Following a healthy round of applause John then moved over to the Gallery table to critique the work on display. Amongst the work on display was a number raided from the “Novice Corner” when only three pieces had been entered.

Andi Saunders

5th October – Gallery

21 October, 2015

7th Sept – Jennie Starbuck

17 September, 2015

Jennie, from Surrey Woodturners, is a regular visitor and can be relied upon to give an interesting presentation packed with ideas. She borrows materials and techniques from numerous unrelated crafts and applies then to her woodturning. Some things she does would bring a frown to the faces of traditionalists but she certainly gives anything a try. Often the results are most attractive, converting a plain turned item into something special.

Jennie's demo- punch for shapes    Jennie's pierced platter

It was only possible for her to give a taste in a couple of hours, but Jennie has kindly offered to send details of her methods, tools and materials to any member who asks on I have copies and confirm that they are very comprehensive.

Jennie’s lathe is a cheap one modified by engineer hubbie Chris to produce smooth running with lots of torque. Chris is also responsible for the numerous tools and jigs she uses. Do you rent him out, Jennie?


Her favourite turning tool is a Hamlet bowl gouge with a fairly normal grind. For her type of work she doesn’t like the more extreme ground back wings currently in vogue. She uses a Tru Grind jig for sharpening, considering it worth the outlay for speed and consistency.

Her starting point is often a shallow bowl or platter but if intended for piercing e.g. with a burr on a Dremel tool, it has to be thin (as little as 1mm) requiring special care to cope with vibration. She had a few tips to deal with this. Firstly, leave a thicker bead right at the edge when turning a thin rim to give extra support. Vibration is usually speed sensitive so try going faster. Take very small cuts maybe with a larger tool. Try shear scraping. Hold a pad against the back of the bowl to act as a damper. Holding this and the tool on the rest at the same time needs a bit of practice. For this and other operations she advocates taking time merely to practice rather than trying to make an end product as most of us do.

A common starting point for many forms of decoration is to make a groove or recess which can be filled with polyester casting resin. The resin can be clear or loaded with dye or metal powder. It can be used to encapsulate thin items cut from wood or card etc or coloured granules. I particularly liked her platter with a black card ring encapsulated in the rim, the card having cut outs of various shapes. Simple punches are available in craft shops to cut a large variety of shapes from card.

Almost anything can be encapsulated in the resin though it may need sticking in place to prevent it floating up before becoming set. This includes coins or natural items like leaves or flower petals. It is a good precaution on light wood to seal the wood with acrylic sanding sealer before pouring coloured resin to prevent it bleeding through the pores.

Jennie's platter with card inset

When using casting resin you always mix more than you use. A useful tip is to pour the excess each time into a plastic cup where it will set. The resulting block of various coloured resins can then be used as a turning blank.

The resin surface can be cut, sanded and polished as wood but it might be harder or softer than the wood so it is best to try not running the tool or sandpaper cross the boundary.

When applying spray paint, stickers can be used as masks or stencils. If you carefully go round the outline with a pyrography tool it will seal the edge and prevent paint bleeding through the wood.

I’m sure I only got a fraction of that but if it has whetted your appetite remember Jennie will send you all the details.

Jennie's examples

Finally Jennie reviewed the members’ gallery which as usual had some very nice items but rather too few. We all love to see what others are making so how about some more work on the table? Pictures of all the gallery items can be seen on the website.

Dave Gibbard

7th September – Gallery

10 September, 2015

3rd August – HWA Challenge and Bob Hope on Chairmaking

11 August, 2015

There were 2 options for the Challenge, A, something with a finial and B, something made with 2 or more materials. We had 16 entries from 10 turners, many satisfying both criteria; and what a high standard they were. You can see all the entries on the website, but here are the first 3 choices of the 53 members who voted:-


1st Choice was Ian Woodford’s spherical box with excellent crisp finials at top and bottom. The box seemed perfectly spherical to the eye with a nicely fitting lid and good grain match at the join. The box sat on a stand which matched the finials. A clear and deserved 1st choice from one of our most experienced turners.

 Ian with cert

2nd choice was Alan Baker’s segmented bowl. Quite apart from the amount of work that must have gone into it, the bowl had a lovely “ogee” profile and was well finished. The spiral pattern of the inlayed blocks becoming larger towards the rim was well planned. Alan is a relative newcomer to woodturning and this piece is evidence of remarkable progress.

Alan Baker with bowl

Talking of remarkable progress, 3rd choice was Dave Simpson’s beautifully finished decorative item based on a pod of contrasting seeds (peas?). A good deal of carving and texturing had gone into this work of art. Dave is quite new to the Club and to woodturning and shows real aptitude.

Dave Simpson  with pod

Whilst the votes were counted and certificates being done by Lynda, our calligrapher for the evening, the lights were dimmed for Bob Hope’s presentation on chair making. Bob suggested a stool is a good item to start with though he had obviously progressed to much more complicated and beautiful chairs. My favourite has to be his Windsor carver with steam-bent arms and back.


It is important to plan ahead. Get the sizing right for the intended purpose or person and draw it up. Also, trying to design matching spindles of the right size on the hoof is a recipe for a poor result. If in doubt, buy a book or pattern.


Traditional materials are ash, oak, beech and, for the seats, elm though this is not readily available since the dreadful disease. The shaping of the seat was traditionally done by hand with an adze though Bob uses an Arbotech, modestly claiming not to have the skill to use an adze. Personally I’d be more scared of the Arbotech.

Bob also makes rush seats but instead of the traditional rushes he uses a paper rush which is applied wet. This produces a very similar result but is easier to use than the specialist rush weaving.


The legs are usually turned with tapered ends to fit the holes in the seat. Drilling the holes has to be done carefully and jigs are recommended to get the angles right. For the legs there are rake and splay angles. The rake on the back legs is generally greater than the front (about 105 degrees compared to 95 to 100) because of the weight transfer when the sitter leans back. Splay is the sideways angle. This is needed for stability but too much and the legs stick out and clash. The holes are tapered so that the joint tends to tighten with use. A parallel hole is first drilled on a tilted table on a drill press then a taper bit is used. The holes for the legs usually go right through and a wedge is inserted in the exposed spindle end. Other holes, like those for the stretchers are blind and they have different angles. This all needs to be worked out carefully and time should be taken to make jigs, however simple, to get all the joint angles right.

Bob and chairs

Bob favours cascamite glue to fix it all together which is hard to beat for the purpose.


Chair parts often involve bending. This is an acquired skill and requires a steam chamber to be made. After prolonged steaming you have a short time to get the wood onto a table and bend it round pegs set out to define the curve. A steel strip on the outside of the bend helps to prevent splitting. Bob finds that there is always a certain amount of spring back afterwards and this can be avoided by using laminated strips of wood glued together.

Many chairs have a lot of plain spindles which are usually not turned but split and roughly sized with a spokeshave then finished with a dowel cutter.


Whilst on the subject of tools, Bob has invested in a “decent set of drills” with sharp central points to avoid wander and sharp edges to stop break-out. He is also happy to use modern methods where they are superior and quicker than traditional ones. An example is a router rather than chisels for mortice and tennon joints.


Asked about finishing, Bob said for durability he uses 4 coats of polyurethane, diluted for the first couple of coats. Alternatively chairs may be painted.


I hope I got most of that whilst counting votes in the dark but if anyone wants to try their hand at making a chair, I’m sure Bob will be happy to give the benefit of some advice. Thanks Bob, great presentation.

Dave Gibbard


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