Wight Woodturners

25th February 2016

Robert Sorby Tools Demonstration

Wight Woodturners were pleased to welcome Chris Pouncy of Robert Sorby Ltd to their February meeting. Whilst planning to visit Andy Fortune of the Mulberry Tree Wood Turnery, Chris had offered to demonstrate various specialized turning tools from the extensive Sorby range at our monthly meeting. Gladly accepting, we were treated to an interesting and entertaining evening.

A few photos below capture the essence of Chris’s presentation and the capability of some of the Sorby woodturning tools.

Just click on any of the small images to bring up the bigger picture

Our Chairman, Mike, opens the evening by warmly welcoming Chris Pouncy of Robert Sorby Tools. Turning tools are only part of Sorby’s vast range but this evening Chris will demonstrate some of the specialized decorating tools as well as a few general tips thrown in for good measure.

As an introduction Chris tells us a little about his background and the history of the company. Based in Sheffield, Sorby had its roots in the cutlery business and emerged as an entity in the 1820’s producing saws, scythes and edge tools for a rapidly expanding world market. Today, manufacturing is still based in Sheffield with the well-known names of Spear & Jackson, Eclipse and Moore & Wright incorporated into the larger group.

Chris explains that he won’t be producing any finished items during the evening but will demonstrate on typical shapes the capability of some of the specialized decorating tools. However, he does start by stressing the importance of PPE. He considers impact resistant face shields are essential as is protection from dust inhalation. Although not practical at a demo, he would normally wear a powered respirator with a face shield.

Chris starts by turning the cross-grain blank into a bowl shape ready for decorating. Here he advocates the use of a long grind bowl gouge as it cuts well on both push and pull cuts and the long edge can also be used to finish with a shear scraping action. He is using the 10mm bowl gouge blade (842GLH) in a Sovereign handle.

Of course, the final finish can also be obtained with conventional round nosed or the bowl scraper wooden handled tool, (8013H or 8012H). A heavy duty or thick scraper will vibrate less and produce a better finish. He tells us to keep the scraper moving constantly across the surface with light pressure to produce the finest of shavings.

Here Chris shows us another finishing tool – a TurnMaster with a cutter fitted to the patented Head (RSTM-H). The cutters come in a variety of shapes with both straight and curved edges. When used in shear scraping mode, at an angle, these can produce a fine finish. The simple shaped cutters can be Tungsten Carbide, HSS, or HSS with Titanium Nitride coating. The TurnMaster can come wooden handled or Shank only to fit the Sovereign handle.





After the finishing cuts the surface will require sanding. What better to use than the Sorby SandMaster!(410) This sander uses the rotation of the work piece to rotate the head in the same direction of rotation and so produces less dust than power sanding. The standard SandMaster discs are 2” & 3” diameter. For miniature work there is the Micro SandMaster with a 1” disc.  This is intended to be used with the Micro Modular aluminium handle.

Now that Chris has sanded the outside of the “workpiece” it is reversed on the chuck so the inside can be hollowed out.  So, it’s back to the long grind bowl gouge he used previously. As with many Sorby tools, the gouges can be plain HSS or HSS with a Tit-Nit coating AND wooden handled OR unhandled OR shanked to fit the range of Sovereign Handles. A range of special collets ensure any blade will fit almost any Sorby handle. (All of the colours in all of the sizes! as they say) 

Here’s Chris hollowing with a TurnMaster with “hooked” cutter (RSTM-GT7) fitted to the TurnMaster head (RSTM-H). This enables undercutting the rim in closed vessels. The head and cutter are shown in the photo inset. These larger shaped cutters are only available in HSS & Tit-Nit coated HSS. 

Now we come to the interesting bit, Texturing. The surface to be worked needs to have a smooth regular curve with a fine sanded finish so that the indentations all have a similar depth in the same textured pattern. Chris explains the process is simply pushing a sharp toothed wheel into the wood. However, the combination of wheel angle, the pressure and the sideways movement all give a myriad of different patterns.

These are the tools Chris uses. The lower tool is fitted with a texturing wheel which has a bevel on both sides of the wheel so it can be moved back and forth if necessary. The upper tool, the Spiralling Tool is shown with various pitch cutters and a fitted with a toolrest. The spiralling cutters, which only have a bevel on one side, can also be used for texturing but only in the direction of the bevel. Both tools are available handled or in shank form.

With the lathe set to about 500rpm Chris pushes the texturing cutter into the revolving wood. The cutter rotates at high speed cutting indents into the surface. Chris tells us to listen for a clear cutting sound to indicate a successful cut. The pressure required and the vibrations are also indicators of a good cut. All this is beautifully explained by Nick Agar in his “must-watch” video.  See the “Resources” below.

Here are the various textures on the sample surface. You can clearly see the effects of the different angles of the cutter and the pressure used. When combined with colouring, dramatic effects can be obtained. See Nick Agar’s video.

Now for the Spiralling! Chris demonstrates this using boxwood which can hold a fine detail. He has a plentiful supply of this as Sorby import tonnes of French boxwood for the box handles on their traditional bench chisels. (Lucky chap!)

The spiralling cutter is used with the bevel uppermost and presented horizontally. The flat toolrest is fitted to the tools’ shank and clamped in position so that the teeth of the cutter are a small angle off the vertical. There are graduations on the toolrest to allow the angle to be repeatedly set.

This is the effect Chris produces with the cutter teeth set to the right then to the left. Where the left/right spiralling overlaps an attractive knurled effect is produced. All the spiralling effects can be cleaned up by applying a stiff hogs hair brush to the rotating wood. (But not a synthetic brush!)

Here’s a selection of the Sorby Tools Chris used during the course of his evening demo. Also, on the far right is the unique Sorby ProEdge which didn’t even get a mention during the demo although a good selection of belts was on offer for members to purchase.

Here’s some of the Sorby wares Chris brought along to entice members!



Many thanks to Sorby and Chris Pouncy for taking the time to enlighten our members on the delights of decorating our turnings using some of the Sorby specialized tools.

Don’t forget that Andy of the Mulberry Tree Wood Turnery is now a retail agent for Sorby Tools and will order any item you wish. If you didn’t pick up a catalogue Andy should still have some left.

As a nfp Club, Wight Woodturners were pleased to welcome Sorby and Chris pounce but the Club do not make any particular endorsement or recommendation of any of the tools demonstrated and remind members that Sorby is but one of a range of suppliers that members may choose to select their equipment from.


A few leads you may wish to follow up related to the Sorby Demo

  • If you haven’t discovered it yet the Robert Sorby website is here
  • A direct link to the Texturing & Spiralling tools is here
  • A detailed description of setting up and using the tools is here
  • Nick Agar’s page and “Must-See” video is here – scroll down the page to get to the video
  • For a range of professional promotional Sorby Videos see here
  • If you have got any time after all that you can read the history of the Sorby Company here


Please note that the above links to external websites are valid at the time of writing
but may well change or disappear in the course of time

March Meetings

  • Saturday 12th March  9:00 to 16:30– Spring Professional Demonstration
    with Pete Moncrief-Jury at 1st Newport Scout Hall, Woodbine Close, Newport PO30 1AN
  • Thursday 24th March – Monthly Meeting at 19:30

  • Open Competition
  • “Two Turners Turning” - a lidded box of their own design
  • Show-and-Tell-and-Sell – ever popular
  • Website Advice from our Webmaster
  • Wight Woodturners Library


Peter Smart

1st March 2016