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4th March – Something Magical

22 March, 2019

63 members plus 3 guests attended this month’s meeting at the Railway Institute.


Our guest demonstrator this month was the irrepressible Stuart King, a well-known artist craftsman, demonstrator, international lecturer and photo-journalist. He was born in the Buckinghamshire village of Holmer Green in 1942 and played as a child in the local Beech woods. The countryside and the trades and traditions of those that shaped it over centuries have always fascinated him and influenced his work.

Stuart has spent a lifetime researching, recording and collecting anything about the rural past and today is still actively recording traditional crafts, local landscape and history via photography and video and still appears occasionally on TV.


Starting his demonstration cryptically named “something magical” he placed an Ash blank in the lathe and rounded it off with his trusty 14 year old roughing gouge somewhat shorter than the day he acquired it. At this point he took time to explain that although he had brought a case full of tools with him like the rest of us who have our workshop walls lined with vast amounts of woodturning tools, he only uses around half a dozen of these on a regular basis.

Turning then to his preferred round skew he cut a series of nine coves which he then lightly dusted explaining that he would sand more at home. Stuart then applied shellac friction polish and buffed it to a quick finish. He would later finish this off with an acrylic lacquer which he buys from Halfords (other motor accessory outlets are available locally)


At this point Stuart asked if the lathe would go any faster, which required quick action from Dave and Bob to adjust the drive belts, this took a little longer than at first anticipated so Stuart broke away and held a very early critique of the gallery. Generally he was very complimentary but did treat us to a few examples of his unique wit, and at one point managed to create a bit of controversy with Alan Baker over the history of Grecian vases.

With the lathe now running at the required faster speed, Stuart proceeded to reduce the rest of the blank down to a slight taper still working with the skew. He then explained the connection to “Something Magical” linking the freshly turned “wand” with Harry Potter. He then asked for a “young” lady to assist him, jokingly settling for Lynda, who graciously accepted the request and joined him at the front. He asked her to hold the end of the wand and pull it away from him, at which point the end came away followed by a long length of bunting, which he had created from a silk scarf, and on the end was a miniature wooden goblet, to which he then made a second Harry Potter reference “The Goblet of Fire” and with that he asked Lynda to cup her hands and then as if by magic poured glitter out of the open end into her hands.

Moving on Stuart introduced a piece of Australian Walnut with which he was going to make a stopper for the open-ended wand. Taking a Parting knife he had made from a mortice chisel he cut the blank down to half-length and then turned a stopper to fit the open end of the wand, demonstrating some very delicate work with the skew.


Tea Break minus critique


Returning to the lathe Stuart referred back to the Miniature Goblet of Fire that he had magically produced from the wand and proceeded to produce one from a piece of Box wood, which he reduced down to fit a small glass tube that will be inserted into wand to hold the glitter. Adding some more humour to the demonstration he resorted to one of his stock stories of how he always leaves a small pimple in the bottom of bowls and boxes as a bit of a trademark, although many people have tried to copy this over the years. You could say this is one of his “trademark” jokes.

He then finished off the stopper with a nice curved design, fitting nicely into one end of the glass tube and sealing the other end gluing a small cork stopper into it.


With time running a little short Stuart showed us a pendant he made from an Elm bell hanger rescued from St Pauls Cathedral when the bells had been refurbished, he had planned to demonstrate making one of these but didn’t have time so briefly explained how it was made.


Moving on at some speed he produced some Alternative Ivory, and quickly produced a circular flower design using a Bill Jones cutting tool, similar to a splitting saw which he cut down into a small disk size which could then be used as an insert in a box, lid.


On a similar ilk he then produced an Ebony blank, which he rounded off and then produced a pattern of the end using a Decorating Elf tool made by Henry Taylor, a clever tool that uses three different rotating bits with different cutting heads, which produce an array of patterns, which due to the angle and pressure of how it is applied to the wood is very difficult to replicate. Due to the darkness of the Ebony he then applied some gold coloured wax paste, which immediately highlighted the effect.


With time fast passing Stuart quickly gave us a five-minute skew masterclass, using a bit of B&Q’s finest 2”x2” pine turned a chess piece with his round skew including the requisite captive ring, ending to a warm round of applause. Sadly, this is probably the last time we will see this master woodturning demonstrator as he intends to retire at the end of the year, while he is still physically able to perform with the looming probability of a hip replacement on the cards.


Andi Saunders 

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