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1st October – Les Thorne

19 October, 2018

As one would expect there was a large crowd in attendance for the next episode of our annual event “Showtime with Les Thorne”

Les Thorne has been on the Register for Professional Turners since 2001 after spending most of his life involved with wood in some capacity. From his workshop in Old Alresford in Hampshire, Les is primarily a production turner and works on a huge variety of jobs and with many different clients.

Les offers a range of woodturning courses from his workshop and also has a small range of instructional videos and his own designed turning tools.

Les offered us an Interactive demonstration in preparation for a major event at the weekend, he was going to ask at various points of the demonstration “how would you do this bit?” he would then tell us what he was going to do anyway whilst explaining why.


“Oh my God, It’s another bowl! Or is it? Is how he introduced us to the subject of the evening a lidded box, the top of which was like a side grain bowl. Using a hexagonal kiln dried European Oak blank, left over from a large commission for McDonalds restaurants in London.

He started by attaching the blank to a screw chuck

Tip Les uses a small amount of paste wax to lubricate the threads on his screw chucks, it stops them binding and rusting when using wet wood.


Discussing which tool to use Les opts for the one that gives the best optimum cut.

He removed the corners and rounded the six corners, and then very quickly turned the outer shape initially with a spindle gouge and then a bowl gouge. Then cutting a small spigot for the Nova chuck.

Once fitted to the chuck, Les then a drilled hole through the centre of the “bowl” with a drill bit in the tail stock chuck. This will accommodate the handle/knob. Then using pull cuts he improved the outer shape.

“No way is perfect for every project”


Reversed into the Nova chuck and hollowed out with ¼” bowl gouge

“No way is perfect for every project”

Les then gave us a short masterclass in hollowing out a bowl, explaining the need to change position and possibly tools at various points, and allowing for differing angles and a lower peripheral speed nearer the centre of the bowl

He then created a small step inside top edge of bowl (that will match the base)

Using his multipurpose tool i.e. a round skew he finished of the inside off the bowl with a larger gouge to counter the additional vibration.

Once turned he moved onto adding a decorative finish, using his preferred Lemon Oil which gives a matt finish and doesn’t go off

Placing the bowl in a pine jam chuck to hold in place with tail stock centre, in his workshop (Les favours using a flat jam chuck, with 360 grit abrasive for grip).


He also recommends using paper inside the jam chuck to reduce noise

Then selecting the parting tool from his Sorby small tool set to cut a series of grooves on the outer surface for decoration.

He then went over these with brass brush in a drill, followed by a quick sand and then liming brush to emphasise the beads. Les the applied an acrylic sanding sealer followed with black ebonising lacquer


We then had a brief Q&A before the tea break

Returning to the lathe Liming wax was applied with liming brush. Les then worked it into the grooves with his ‘“Wife’s” toothbrush promising that he always washes it before returning it. He then broke a cardinal turning rule by buffing it up with small piece of rag not paper, warning the novices in the audience of its inherent danger.


Les then turned a thin base from Ash attached to a blank in the chuck by hot glue gun, this was then supported with his “One Way” Ring & Point Live Centre in the tail stock


Les then used signature spindle gouge to cut the smallest spigot possible (as he didn’t want to remove it later) disguised with a small decorative bead. Then used a round skew to produce a smooth surface.

Reversed on lathe, having removed the base from the blank using a standard chisel to prise it apart, cleaned up any glue residue from the surface. He then measured and turned a lip for the upturned bowl to fit onto, it does not require a very tight fit. Les managed this at his second attempt, quickly finished of the surface and then moved onto a simple top hat shaped finial. This was of course met with a loud round of applause.

Les then moved to the gallery table for the critique, taking his time to mention every exhibit, giving the occasional constructive critique but as is becoming the norm at HWA gave a strong vote of appreciation for the quality of exhibits.

With time running past the usual Ten O’clock finish time, the final event of the evening was the ever-popular raffle with its usual range of quality prizes.

We now look forward to the third of our in house demonstrators with the next episode of Mike Hasleden’s mystery turns at our November meeting

Andi Saunders

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