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5th March – Charles Ash

8 March, 2018

Our Visitor tonight was Charles Ash, of Touchwood Crafts.

TouchWood Crafts was established about 10 years ago by Charles in his rural Oxfordshire workshop.

He makes chairs and other furniture in the traditional way of green wood working using no power tools. As recently as 50 years ago, bodgers would buy a “stand” of suitable trees in a wood and convert them in situ into spindles for chairs. A chairmaker would buy the spindles and complete the chairs in his workshop. The wood was often beech but other wood was also used, like ash and sweet chestnut. At that time the trees were hardly mature when the stand was sold making them easy to fell and process on site single handedly.

Charles showed us how he would split a log of chestnut with a relatively blunt axe. This splits the log along the grain. The log halves are split and split again into pieces of triangular section. The next stage is to refine the shape into a roughly round section using a draw knife. This is done by sitting on shave horse on which the wood is clamped so that the top surface can be shaved. The clamp arrangement is foot operated and can be quickly released to reposition the wood. The resulting rough spindle is now ready to be turned.


This is where the pole lathe comes in. Made of wood, there are just 3 metal parts, the pointed tailstock and headstock and the clamp nut and bolt for the tool rest. Course adjustments are made by moving the sections along the bed and clamping with wooden wedges. The head and tailstock points are then pushed into the ends of the spindle using the metal screw thread. The spindle revolves on the pointed ends with a little oil for lubrication. (Old bodgers were said to have used spit.)


Before positioning the spindle between centres, several turns of the drive rope are wound around it. The drive rope is attached to a treadle underneath the lathe and a cord stretched between 2 springy vertical wooden rods above. By operating the treadle the rope turns the spindle towards the operator and when the treadle is released the rope springs back spinning the spindle in the opposite direction. Cutting is done on the downstroke with tools held against the rest. (Such a lathe in the woods would have been operated in the same way but the return stroke effected by means of the rope attached to a bent, springy sapling).

The gearing can be changed by altering the diameter of the spindle where the rope goes round it. A smaller diameter gives a faster rotation but requires more force to be applied by the leg operating the treadle. If this sounds easy remember that it involves standing on one leg for hours whilst pushing the other leg up and down, simultaneously guiding a cutting tool in synch with the direction of rotation. The fastest recorded time for making a pair of legs from a log is 8 minutes!


Charles uses mostly Ashley Iles carving gouges and chisels on the lathe. He sharpens these by hand with a wet stone and Veritas honing compound, touching up with Emery cloth from time to time in between. In the traditional way Charles does not sand the spindles; they are used straight from the cutting tools.

Bowls can be turned on pole lathes though Charles did not demonstrate this. A cylindrical wooden mandrel with metal teeth is hammered into the bowl blank for the rope and the bowl is turned both sides without remounting leaving a central post which is snapped off and the bowl surface cleaned up with a carving tool.

After an extended tea break during which Charles was surrounded by people eager to know more details, he took a look at the 14 items on the members’ gallery. Always interesting to get a different point of view from a visitor, Charles remarked on the fine detail of some items which would not be possible to achieve on a pole lathe. Also how thin some of the end grain bowls were, with the core of the wood retained. This would cause disastrous splits when turning green wood on a pole lathe and would always be avoided.

Take a look at the website for some lovely examples of traditional furniture and the courses you might be tempted by.

Dave Gibbard


5th March – Gallery

8 March, 2018

5th Feb – Club Night – Turn in

12 February, 2018

A good turnout of 68 members and one visitor attended the popular “Turn-in” evening. We had three lathes in operation Alan Baker was challenging members to show off or improve their Skew techniques on the Charnwood lathe with his selection of Skews. Alan attracted a wide selection of the membership from novices right through to our more experienced members, and as usual even the experts were learning from their peers.


Always popular, Harry Woollhead was probably the busiest, showing us pendant making with offset turned centres, and turning goblets with natural edges from branch wood. As usual we were treated to some rather old jokes mixed with some very good advice as well as some rather unique tricks of the trade, such as “securing” a pendant on the lathe using a screw chuck, several small squares of plywood, kitchen unit melamine and a couple of layers of double sided carpet tape.


The plywood was just a spacer due to the length of the screw, and the white melamine very cleverly showed through once the hole Harry was boring through the pendant reached the required depth. The Carpet tape was very effective in holding the piece, so much so that it had to be removed using a craft knife to break the seal the remaining sticky patch was then cleaned off with cellulose thinners.

Harry then hung the finished pendant on a leather necklace. He purchases his leather strands from Creative Crafts in Winchester for about 12p a metre (other craft retailers are available).


Our final demonstrator of the evening, taking a break from the tea table was Chris Davey our in-house Lace Bobbin supremo. Chris was using his own 35-year-old home-made treadle lathe, based upon an old singer sewing machine treadle frame topped off with a very simple lathe including a self-made wooden chuck using small screws to hold the bobbin blanks in place. When asked if the lathe was variable speed his reply was it depended upon how fast his feet moved. This gives him great control over the turning speed. It’s a great test of a turner’s skill to combine turning fine detail with his hands whilst peddling the treadle at varying speeds with his feet.


Chris kept his audience engaged by producing a wide range of bobbins along with his vast knowledge of the many hundreds of specific bobbins used by the various regional and international lace makers


Following the tea interval Ian Woodford was volunteered to give us a critique of yet another very impressive gallery table. Ian imparted some of his woodturning knowledge with some useful tips such as setting aside some part turned boxes and lids allowing them to move before coming back later to finish them off. This helps with the fit of lids etc.

We then returned to the three lathes for the rest of the evening, stopping briefly for the raffle.

Andi Saunders

5th February – Gallery

12 February, 2018

3rd January – Martin Saban Smith

1 February, 2018

Some turning, some colouring and some finishing

39 Members attended yesterday meeting. Including 2 new members, Peter Skidmore from Nursling and Carlton Bath from Chandlers Ford, Giving a total of 41. We also had 4 visitors from Wimborne who had particularly come to see the demo by Martin Saban Smith.

From his workshop in Four Marks, Hampshire, Martin teaches, turns, and films his creative woodturning creations on social media. He also makes the popular Hampshire Sheen range of wax and oil finishes as well as blending the atmospheric Intrinsic Collection of coloured dyes.

Martin is a well known YouTubing woodturner with an internationally known and respected channel with around 200 turning and business oriented videos on it. As the developer of Hampshire Sheen, Martin personally makes each tin for UK and European customers and retailers, taking pride in the fact that it has become a go-to finish for turners everywhere. He continues to strive to produce, by hand, the best finishing waxes available.

Colouring wood is a passion for Martin, and many of his pieces have colour applied to them, as well as other embellishments. In early 2017, he blended his own range of water based colours in shades that he prefers – the Intrinsic Colour Collection. This range of moody shades are different to the other brighter colours on the market, and lend an additional level of atmosphere to turned work.

Martin’s own turning is more artistic rather than practical. Many pieces can be found on his YouTube channel.

Martin went on to show us how he produces, colours and finished one of his circular pieces of Art. Placing a rather fetching example on display next to his lathe, that he has decided will not be sold but had provisionally been priced at £700.

He started his demonstration with a Sycamore blank, he like sycamore as it is a close grained wood capable of taking a fine finish and its pale colour is a good basis for colouring. Starting with a half inch bowl gouge he formed the “frame” on the outside edge moving onto 3/8th gouge. When turning Martin watches the top edge of piece rather than the end of the tool this he feels gives him a better idea of how the work is progressing. Then back to ½” gouge to reduce the thickness of the piece by at least ½” all over to leave an overall thickness of 1¼” to 1½”

Then he started to “dome” the face removing a little tear out with the 3/8” gouge.

Martin discussed “rule of 1/3rds” and the “Golden rule” of 1:1.168.

(Phi is the basis for the Golden Ratio, Section or Mean The ratio, or proportion, determined by Phi (1.618 …) was known to the Greeks as the “dividing a line in the extreme and mean ratio” and to Renaissance artists as the “Divine Proportion”.)


He then marked a pencil ring approx. 1/3 from centre, cut a dip and dome to create central boss which was then tidied up with scraper. At this point he would then normally sand using 120 – 140 – 180 – 240 and then 400 grit, he doesn’t feel the need to use 320.




Martin then did a gallery critique. As with most of our recent speakers he was very complimentary about the items on display and took time to discuss each piece with each and every turner, dropping in some good advice where appropriate



On the subject of “should woodturners use colour or not?” Martin’s stock answer is “It’s my wood, I’ll do what I want with it”. In explaining how he selects colours and finishes Martin used a word new to my vocabulary “Chatoyance”


Coined from the French “œil de chat”, meaning “cat’s eye”, chatoyancy arises either from the fibrous structure of a material, Chatoyancy in wood occurs in various species – particularly hardwoods, and particularly where stresses from the weight of the growing tree result in denser patches, or where stresses cause burl or bird’s eye. This ‘figure’, which has a striking three-dimensional appearance, is highly prized by woodworkers and their clients alike, and is featured regularly in furniture, musical instruments, and other decorative wood products. Figuring takes on a variety of forms and is referred to as flame, ribbon, tiger stripe, quilting, among other names.


He started with a “Blue Peter” blank (one he prepared earlier) which he had stained black and then sanded back to almost original leaving a small area still partially coloured which emphasised some of the natural Chatoyance of the wood. Then using a selection of colours from his own “Intrinsic colour” range he applied a combination of black and brown to the frame area using very small amount on his paper towel from a spray bottle. This is then gently applied without the lathe running, just turning the wood manually. This done he then moved onto the centre of the piece applying a combination of colours that complement each other – first Flame then Burnt Orange, Yellow and finally Ruby. Always darkest colour first. He applied the stain in patches and feathered out as it dries allowing a soft merging of the colours rather than hard lines where they meet. The original black remains darken remains of the original black darken the additional colouring highlighting the Chatoyance of the wood. Then “Honey” was applied in the centre of the boss followed by Flame and blended together, lightly sanded back with a 400 grit pad by hand. Martin then touched up the sanded area with more Honey.

Then using his Robert Sorby texture tool at approx. 500 RPM he cut some textured rings on the centre, starting at the centre and applying the tool for a count of five, moving out and repeating three more equally spaced circles, Martin then changed to another texture wheel for the a final ring, he then used a point tool to make a couple of border rings.



Martin applied a sanding sealer, he explained that the water base of the colouring raises the grain of the wood but the sealer then removes it

He used a microcrystalline wax stick to the outside frame to achieve a high gloss finish, Moving onto the main part of the piece Martin then used some white Ti Wax to fill gaps on the surface and then buffed it off. Although designed as an embellishing wax Ti Wax also works as a finishing wax. He then finished it off with Hampshire Sheen Hi Gloss

Martin then finished off the evening with a quick Q&A followed by the usual raffle.


A guide to Martin’s Intrinsic colour rang

Black: In several coats you can build up a deep, pure black shade.

Burnt Orange: A dark orange, on the orangey side of brown.

Earth: A warm brown, the colour of drying mud. Sounds bad, but makes a great undercoat or accent colour.

Flame: A bright yellow-orange. Add luxurious fire by blending with Burnt Orange and Ruby. Forest Green: Rich green, quite dark, a lot like Jade. A great accent colour and blends well with Straw and Honey.

Honey: A glorious yellow. Superb as a bold single colour or a ‘wash’ overcoat.

Midnight Blue: Deep blue with hint of purple. Add to quilted figure and catch the purple glint as you turn the piece.

Plum: Sumptuous Purple. Looks quite Royal, lending an air of expense to your work.

Ruby: Darkish red, Ruby adds a deep and opulent shade which blends superbly with Burnt Orange

Stone Blue: A fairly bright blue. Mixes magnificently with Midnight Blue.

Straw: A rich yellowy-green. Almost grasslike, one of the brightest colours and mixes well with Stone Blue to create a luxury green.


Andi Saunders

3rd January – Gallery

6 January, 2018


4th December – Gallery

19 December, 2017