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2nd September – Mark Baker

8 September, 2013

Look in any number of museums and you will see pottery and metal vessels with shapes that are still in use today. In spite of modern design concepts these classical forms endure and when used in woodturning can be relied upon to produce a pleasing shape. (Well, I suppose that might depend on the Turner!) Interestingly many had no foot on which to stand; they were placed on sand or, in the case of an amphora, in a wire frame.

Mark's bronze style bowl

To illustrate the point, Mark had brought along several beautiful turned bowls finished to resemble bronze like the one in the photograph. The finish is a system using multiple applications of acid reactive paint. Very expensive apparently but the results are spectacular. Different finishes are possible including rusted iron.


Taking his cue from the classics, Mark’s demonstration was a lidded pot. He started with a piece of ash roughly cut to an octagonal shape to reduce the turning. This was mounted between centres to shape the outside and form a spigot for later reversing to hollow the inside. Mark likes to support his work using the tailstock even when mounted in a chuck. This is more secure and minimises vibration.


He touched on the use of scrapers. Although traditionalists might not approve because they allegedly do not produce as clean a surface as a gouge, some wood can defy efforts to cut with a gouge. Most people will also find it easier to refine a shape with a scraper. (The late, great Bert Marsh said that he hadn’t found a surface that couldn’t be improved by scraping. Good enough for me.- Editor). A scraper should trail which can be difficult to achieve in a confined space, so Mark likes negative rake scrapers where the top surface slopes down to the scraping edge. These will effectively trail even if used straight on to the wood.


Before reversing, the outside was decorated with a series of beads using a bead forming tool. Though the purists might look down their noses at such a tool, the alternative of cutting each bead with a beading tool is time consuming even if you have the skill. A bead forming tool will also produce identical beads though it is important not to cut the bead deep with it as the crown might tear out. The surface prior to beading should be the final level of the crowns of the beads. He used a parting tool to create flats between beads.

Mark with lidded pot

Mark apologised for not doing any sanding. He suffers from a dust allergy and his workshop is equipped with extraction and filtration. He admitted this is a most inconvenient condition for a professional wood worker. However, he gave a useful tip for cleaning up features like beads where sanding is time consuming and likely to remove sharp detail. He uses radial bristle brushes by 3M available in different grades of coarseness. (see photo).

Mark's 3M radial brush

After reversing the pot onto a chuck a slight adjustment was needed before doing the inside. Mark used a coring tool to remove a large plug of wood which subsequently became the lid. Such tools save wood and reduce shaving waste. The inside was hollowed with gouges, the bottom of the hollow needing a steep square grind to enable the bevel to rub. A ledge was left in the inside wall for the loose fitting lid to rest on.

Mark's lidded pot

Footnote: Old clay pots were finished with a variety of feet. Often they were simply parted off. A simple extension of this was to make a domed hollow in the base which was easy when the clay was still wet. More expensive pots featured a rim at the foot with parallel sides. The centre of the rim continued the curve of the pot. Mark showed how this can be done on a wooden pot. A scrap block in the chuck can be turned to take the rim of the pot with a pad of soft material in between. A microfibre towel makes an ideal pad or a piece of foam backed abrasive (with foam towards the pot of course). With the tailstock supporting the centre, the inside of the foot can be cut with a parting tool leaving a small area in the middle to be hand finished. This can be further developed by cutting away the rim to leave 3 feet on which the pot stands.


A helpful critique of the gallery rounded off a well presented and fascinating evening. All the gallery pictures can be seen on the website.

Dave Gibbard


*Mark Baker is a professional Turner and Editor of Woodturning Magazine as well as a welcome regular visitor to the Club

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