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Choirmaster & Boys – Dave Gibbard

Here’s a bit of fun for a Christmas decoration.

A straightforward and quick turning project to make a Choirmaster and choirboys. They sell well individually and make a delightful group. The only tricky bit to master is making the neck collar ruff by rolling up the shavings with a skew chisel without breaking them off.

You’ll need some pale close grained wood turned to a cylinder about 1 ½ “ diameter or some branch wood of a similar size. (Holly works well and seems appropriate for a Christmas project.)

Pictures 1, 2 & 3

Cut a spigot on the end for your chuck (Pic 1) and then shape a cone with a ball on top with a spindle gouge. (Pics 2 and 3). Sand the head at this stage.


Now for the tricky bit. With a small skew (I used a round one) start a planing cut from the wide part of the cylinder towards the neck. As you approach the neck, bring the lower point of the skew into contact with the cylinder, keep the pressure on and keep going. (Pic 4)

The aim is to get a thicker shaving which curls up in front of the tool (Pic 5) but stays attached. Stop just before the neck when the shaving roll forms a ruff or collar. You can have several attempts before the neck gets too thin. It is a good idea to start with the neck thicker than you really want it.

Pictures 4 & 5

You can sand the body now but be careful not to break the collar off. If your skew work is good sanding won’t be necessary. I don’t normally use a finish. (You can’t apply a finish to the collar anyway.) Now you can part off and sand the bottom with a belt or disc sander.


All that’s left to do is to score and fold a thin sheet of wood for the hymn book and attach it. In the spirit of re-cycling, I use material from the rim of the wooden boxes in which Camembert is packed. Card will do but I like the wood as well as cheese. Grooves are cut in the cone body with a craft knife and the hymn book glued on with superglue.

Pictures 6 & 7




This is part 2 of the Choirboy project and is not so much a turning challenge as an exercise in wiring up a few electronic components for the LED lantern. Of course you can just make the figure for the choir group without the LED but it really comes to life in the dark if the lantern lights up.

I’ll tell you what components you’ll need and you will have to solder them together with a soldering iron. It works off just 3Volts (two AAA batteries) so there is no electrical risk involved but soldering wires is something you’ll need to get the hang of if it’s new to you.

First the turning.

The choirmaster is a larger version of the choirboy but with a big hole underneath to house the battery holder. Turn a cylinder about 2 ½ “ diameter with a spigot on 1 end to suit your chuck. With it mounted in the chuck, make a hole in the other end about 65 mm depth with a gouge or a 35 mm Forstner bit in a Jacob’s chuck. Cut a recess in the end for a disc to cover up the wiring. This also serves as a chuck mounting point. Reverse onto the recess and shape the outside with a spindle gouge. Unlike the choir boys, I left a solid neck ruff because I thought the curled shavings would be too delicate for all the subsequent handling. You might be braver.

Drill a hole for the lantern pole at a suitable angle. I used a piece of brass tube 0.1” OD for the pole from a local model shop. You have to be careful bending it as it is likely to collapse. I turned a wooden cylinder with a groove around it to suit the tube and bent it by hand in the groove which supported it to stop it collapsing. Cut the tube to length, de-burr the ends and tin the outside of both ends with solder for attachment of wires. A wire inside the tube conducts current to the LED, the tube itself is the return conductor.

You could be really creative with the lantern but I just made a small hollow cone topped with a ball. Make enough room inside to take the LED leads and wires. The cone needs a rebate at the end to accept a mounting washer through which the LED protrudes. You will have to make the washer from wood with a hole for the LED lens but smaller than the flange on the LED end so it will not pass right through.


Underneath the choirmaster, left and the lantern, right.


Now the wiring

You will need an LED, battery holder for 2 x AAA batteries, 100 ohm resistor, a small slider switch (unless the battery holder has one at the end). I got all this from RS components in Hedge End except for the slider switches which I ordered from Amazon for 60p for a pack. They come direct from China and the price includes delivery! How???

Rough up the lens of the LED with sandpaper to scatter the light.

You will need solder with flux core and a soldering iron, some thin single core stranded wire (I stripped some from an old telephone cable) and cable sleeves.

The components are wired in series (apart from the batteries which are in parallel in the holder giving a 3V supply). It doesn’t matter which order they are connected but the LED has to be the right way round. It is worth tacking the components together on the bench first to make sure it all works before unsoldering them for installing in the body of the choirmaster.

Strip the ends of a short length of say, black wire. Poke the bent end of the brass tube through the lantern so that it protrudes from the cone and solder the wire to the tinned end of the tube. Cut the LED leads to a few mm, solder the cathode to the other end of the short black wire.

Solder a longer piece of black wire to the other (straight) end of the tube.

Poke a length of different colour wire (say red) up the tube and out of the lantern. Slip over a sleeve and solder to the LED anode. Slide the sleeve down and shrink. Pull the tube back so that just the end few mm remains inside the lantern and pull the red wire back through the tube, feeding the LED into the lantern at the same time. Push your mounting washer over the lens end of the LED and pop it into the rebate. You might need a few spots of superglue to hold the washer in place and to secure the tube in the top of the lantern.

Poke the brass tube with the wires sticking out of the end through the hole in the choirmaster so that it comes out of the bottom for ease of wiring. The tube needs to be pulled back later.

Fix the switch to the base cover with slider sticking through a hole. Now solder the battery holder leads, resistor and switch in series with sleeves to cover the joints. Put batteries in to check it works.

Shrink the sleeves. I just dabbed the soldering iron on the sleeves to shrink them. Pull the tube back to its final position and stick in place, poke all the wiring into the cavity and pop the cover into position.


Now assemble the choir and, when it gets dark, switch on and be ready to take a bow.


Now here’s a group of choirboys complete with choirmaster with a lantern. The next project will be how to make the choirmaster including wiring of the batteries and LED.

Dave Gibbard


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