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3rd November – Les Thorne

7 November, 2014

Les has made the November slot his own and we always look forward to his show and the banter. He has become a most accomplished turner with a relaxed confident style. He says this is the only demo he does these days where he feels nervous because of his history with the Club. Well, it didn’t show, Les.

Tonight’s demo was a box with texturing, colouring and even a metal finial. I couldn’t possibly give a full account so I’m just going to give an outline description with some tips Les mentioned that struck a chord with me. If you want more detail you could put his DVD on your Christmas list, or even sign up for some hands-on with the master.

The process of making a box starts with turning a cylinder between centres and putting a chucking spigot on each end. There’s no point in wasting time getting a fine finish as the shape will be refined later. There’s that reference to time which figures a lot in Les’s thinking as a professional turner. He says that Gary Rance thinks the same way and that anything that takes longer than 6 minutes can’t make money. Les claims that Gary was told this by a girl at King’s Cross station.

The cylinder is mounted in the chuck with tailstock brought up for stability and the positions of the parting line and mating spigot marked. Les starts with the lid end in the chuck. You should think about the operation sequence to minimise re-chucking not only to save time but also because each time the work piece is removed and put back in the chuck it is likely not to be on precisely the same centre no matter how careful you are.

The base to lid ratio is a matter of taste. It’s not a bad idea to draw the box first as the appearance on the lathe can deceive, particularly as the finished box will be shorter because of the overlap. Les doesn’t like a lid to fit too tightly but snugly enough that it settles in place as the air inside is expelled. To achieve this it is necessary to have a long mating spigot and overlapping lid. The disadvantage is that the grain match at the join will be poor if the grain pattern is not straight.


When parting off, Les leaves a small witness line on the lid corresponding with the mating spigot. This allows the lid to be hollowed to the correct internal diameter without constantly checking for size.

Having parted off the lid is hollowed as much as possible with a gouge then with a scraper at the mating face. Les favours a round skew type tool for this. The same tool can perform a number of other scraping, parting planning, beading operations. As luck would have it he sells such a tool!

The size of the lid is checked using the parted off base. Although the finished fit will be looser, it is left tight at this stage to allow the lid to be jammed on to finish the outside.


The lid is removed and replaced in the chuck by the base which is shaped on the outside and hollowed. The lid is then jammed on and the outside finished including drilling a blind hole for the brass finial.

The next stage is texturing with the lid still jammed on. Les used a Savur rotating burr cutter to make a random pattern over box as far as grooves made either side of the join. The frayed edges can be burnt off or removed with a sanding wheel before colouring. Without the lathe running, Les first applied sanding sealer and cut back before spraying with black acrylic. Finally copper gilt cream was applied sparingly with a dry brush.

 Les texturing box

Having removed the lid (not easy as it was jammed on tight) the mating spigot was gently sanded to achieve that desirable suction fit. That just left the base of the box to be reversed onto a jam chuck for the bottom to be finished.


Finally, though there wasn’t time to finish, Les turned a brass finial for the top of the box from a small cylinder. Purists would say that a metal lathe should be used to turn brass but with some trial and error you can get a small scraper or pointed tool to remove metal smoothly before sanding and polishing with burnishing cream.

 Les's box

Les did well to squeeze all this into the evening and also managed to do a helpful critique of the gallery. As usual, pictures of all the gallery items can be seen on the website.


Another great show, Les, and we hope to see you at our Christmas quiz.

Dave Gibbard

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