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6th February – Jennie Starbuck

10 February, 2012

Tonight we welcomed the return of Jennie Starbuck. She seems to have been very busy experimenting with methods of decorating her work. Her sources of inspiration are Jan Saunders for her colouring and the Vietnamese Binh Pho for his pierced work. Look up their galleries on Google for a real treat. Jennie regards such techniques as a way of adding value to plain boring wood as well as presenting the opportunity to let those artistic instincts run wild.

Jennie covered so much that this report is not going to be a detailed account. Take a look at her website for a fuller picture. Jennie said she’d be happy to answer questions too and you can contact her via the website. She also has a list of suppliers of tools and materials she will let you have.

For piercing, the starting item (often a bowl) needs to be thin, not much more than 1 mm and of uniform thickness. She demonstrated making a shallow bowl from sycamore. Since the bowl was shallow she used a conventional straight gouge grind. When hollowing she left plenty of wood in the centre when turning the rim and worked towards the centre. She warned against trying to go back to the rim to do a final finishing cut – it will have moved.

She uses a dentist’s drill with a burr tip to cut a pattern by piercing. A Dremell works too but the dentist’s drill is much faster and the cut is less sensitive to the grain of the wood.

So how do you get the pattern onto the wood for piercing?

Well, you can just draw on the wood freehand if you feel confident enough.

Or you can use grids with radial and axial lines and mark up by joining corners of grid boxes rather like marking up spirals on spindles. An indexing device on the lathe helps with this but Jennie will sell you grids for the purpose.

You can buy stickers of shapes and patterns which will do the job if you can find some that suit.

Another method is to get a paper print of a line drawing, hold on the wood and transfer the ink by dabbing the paper with a suitable solvent like cellulose thinners or xylene. The solvent obviously has to dissolve the ink. You might need to get a photo-copy as most ink jet printers present a problem.


Jennie then spoke about crackle paint and went on to demonstrate the use of iridescent paint. In bulk this appears not to be coloured, the colour only becoming apparent when spread thin. This is achieved by a suspension of mica particles of certain sizes which reflect light, the colour being produced by optical interference, rather like the colours on a film of oil on water. It looked great fun if a little messy, spreading the different paint colours around with the fingers!

Finally she had a tip if you want to reserve an area for piercing bounded by thicker wood, maybe separated by a bead. (She’s a fan of beading tools by the way, for speed if you are going to do any number of them, especially if they need to be the same size). Putting this detail on the face of a bowl when it is thin is difficult because of lack of rigidity. Jennie suggested cutting the beads and recessed area on the face first, then turning the back in a smooth curve. She left a spigot in the centre of the face for reversing to do the back, reversing again to remove the spigot.

She was happy to give her comments on the members’ gallery items. A good display this time as you can see on the HWA website.

Finally she presented the Club with a turned wooden plaque carved and coloured with the Club logo. This was produced with a CNC laser cutter which she and Chris were playing with. What a clever, generous gesture.

Dave Gibbard   

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