Wight Woodturners


Les Thorne Demo

Saturday 8th October 2016


Mike welcomed Les Thorne, our demonstrator for the day. Les described himself as a jobbing turner. He had a reputation for large work and could turn pieces up to 10ft long or 4ft in diameter. He spends a lot of his time turning discs for table lamps, lampstands etc. He liked to work on commissions because the work was sold and the cash would follow when the work was finished whereas if he made items to sell he had to market them. He found that if he was making things to sell it was better to make things to be used rather than just ornamental. He also had to be mindful of the price he could get and make sure he could make a reasonable rate. He could churn out 8x2 plates with a coloured rim all day but liked to look for something that he could make that was more individual.

A lively and interesting day’s demonstration followed.

Pepper Mill

Les was using a 170mm Crush grind mechanism which would enable him to make a bottle sized peppermill. He started with a 175mm base and a 95mm top in sycamore. He had taken the blanks down to octagons and drilled them. Three different diameter holes are required and using saw tooth bits it is necessary to start with the largest. To fit the mechanism it is necessary to cut a groove for which Les had a homemade tool. (He said you could use epoxy as an alternative.)

Tip: the top mechanism is fitted before turning because there is more wood at this stage and a split is less likely,

A pentagonal peppermill drive is then used. Holding the taper at each end, he then used the roughing gouge, held into his side, to turn to a cylinder and then taper to the shape required. He advised to turn at a speed which is comfortable. He roughed in both directions, i.e. uphill as well as downhill but made the last pass downhill to get the best finish. Les felt that the top at 60-65mm diameter was “handy”. A small bead was cut at the top/bottom join.

Les then went on to finish the peppermill. An Arbortech with a rotary rasp was used to produce a random texture down the sides and across the top. He then used a rotary sander to smooth off before applying an ebonising lacquer. Again he sanded on the lathe but stopped the lathe for a final sand with the grain. Then on to the spirit stain which was applied with an airbrush. He applied red then green then yellow stains. (dark to light). He then sprayed on a sanding sealer which when dry he rubbed down with his hand. Finally he would apply 10 coats of lacquer over the course of a week.

Tip: when spraying keep to the distance on the can. If a thicker coat is required spray twice rather than getting closer.

There is a useful article in the November 2016 Woodturning magazine describing turning the peppermill and fitting the Crushgrind mechanism. However there is an error in the dimensions. The correct dimensions are given in the January 2017 issue.





Les sets up

Members and visitors watch the show



A sectioned peppermill with Crushgrind mechanism

Diagram of the peppermill for the Crushgrind mechanism



Les starts the tapers with the roughing gouge cutting both up and downhill until the last pass.

Part of the Crushgrind mechanism and drive



With top and bottom together the profile is completed

Les holds the Arbortech in his right and with his left well away turning the handwheel



A flapwheel for sanding

Smoothing the rough edges before spraying.



On with the ebonising spray. Hold the can at the recommended distance. Note the expensive masking for the lathe.

Sanding the raised wood.



Leaving the raised wood bare, with the textured hollows ebonised.

The stain is applied with an air brush


Textured and shaped box. (fishtail on lid)

Next came the box. Normally a hard, dense material would be used but Les was using a piece of Ash because of the texturing and staining. When roughing down the whole width of the tool was used, the centre to start and the wings to finish. Les had decided to have the lid in the chuck having considered the best way round to have the wood. Make sure there are no faults in the area of the spigot. Skim, especially the spigot area, to make sure it is running true. Mark two lines for the lid and turn the spigot. Les used a one sixteenth parting tool. He had ground a second bevel on this as it was easier to use and dissipated heat better.The male part was in the lid and a witness mark left on the body. To hollow out the lid start in the middle and work out. The gouge is riskiest at 12 o’clock. Start with the gouge at 11 o’clock and finish at 9:30.

Tip: to avoid a pimple in the middle advance the tool rather than push. 

Reduce the cut as you finish. Then scrape using a negative rake French curve scraper which leaves a large margin for error. To improve the finish spray a light coat of lacquer. Then sand at 180 grit. A foam back gives a better sand on the curved inside.

Next the bottom of the box with a flat base and straight sides. Hollow out in the same way. To take out the curved bottom start in fresh air and arc the tool in. Aim for a tight fit for the lid whilst working on the box, it can be eased later if required. Use wax when sanding inside.

The lid has a fishtail which requires that the lid is tapered in towards the top and then tapered out again. The fishtail is then produced by carving off the excess on three sides. Les used a Proxxon with a cup shaped rotary rasp but thought this could be done with a surform type of tool. It was then necessary to mark the untextured areas either side of the join and also at the base. A Proxxon with a decorating elf burr was then used to texture the box using the lathe to hold the work with the hand on the toolrest. Next the texturing was sanded with a flapwheel. Add a coat of sanding sealer to make the fluffy bits britalised. Then sand again. Ebonise and then sand again. Blow off the dust. As above apply spirit stain in three colours, green, red, yellow. Use gloves to protect hands against the spirit stain during this application.  Fit the lid using 240grit and finish at 400.

Tip: Use a softer material for the jam chuck and tape up as extra security.




A cylinder of Ash  is roughed and spigots cut at each end

The lid is parted off.



The tool at 11 o’clock as shown by the pencil

A ‘bendy’ light helps to illuminate the inside of the box.



The overhand grip helps to control the tool

Working on the lid



Carving the excess away for the offset top and texturing the lid using a Proxxon.

Sanding it smooth.



On with the ebonising spray.

Applying the blue stain



….and now the yellow

A jam chuck for the base.



 Base on the jam chuck

Finishing off



Didn’t I do well?

The finished box


. Beaded ‘Rope’ Bowl

Les started the bowl using an Ash blank fixed to a screw chuck, with tail centre support. He started with a pull cut with right hand down and worked round the corner, then switched to a push cut to true up the side. He switched back to a pull cut to remove stock but changed again to a push cut to finish. A beading tool was used next to cut beads in the base and the side. Les described this as a rope bowl. Next he reversed it into a chuck and used a pull cut across the rim. This was followed by four beads, the outside one being done with a gouge as it rapped round the edge. Using the bowl gouge again he cut into the inside flowing the cut to the centre. The tool can be kept fairly horizontal. The outside of the curve was flat (vertical). Beads were then cut on the inside of the bowl leaving the centre plain.

If you want to follow Les turning a bowl, his DVD which is in the library, includes a project to turn a textured bowl.

At this point we banished Les to the car park to apply his blow torch. This takes off any burrs. On return he used a liming brush to take off the carbon. He then [painted with ebonising lacquer. This was followed by liming wax all over. Les used a no frills rag ball.

Caution Using a woven material on a spinning lathe can result in a loose thread catching on the work or chuck and unravelling leading to a deep cut faster than you can reach the stop button. Les was careful to fold all the edges inside the rag ball and held it from the back. It is still safer to use a non-woven material.

 He then cleaned up the inside of the bowl using the swept grind gouge. Keeping the gouge horizontal results in losing bevel contact around the corner and so the right hand must be dropped. He defined the edge of the grooves and then cleaned up the rest of the inside. Because of the geometry of the bowl he changed to a 60 degree bevel gouge so the bevel rubbing could be maintained without hitting the outside rim.

The inside was then sanded and oiled. Les used lemon oil which he favoured. The bowl was then reversed and the bottom cleaned up.




Truing up the outer edge of the blank.

Using the grooving tool.



Now for the inside

Les has a fair amount of tackle.



On with the liming wax.

Texturing in progress



Completing the inside of the bowl

That pencil is pressed into service again to show the flute angle



The grind on the deep fluted gouge

Power sanding with the drill at 3 to 4 o’clock



A coating of Lemon Oil from a well-known supplier. If you didn’t get it from Les you can from Andy.

Sharpening on the bench grinder with the Sorby jig.



Finishing the foot with tail centre support for as long as possible

And there we are.


Les finished off his demo with a few minutes on the skew chisel. Using a 2 inch square by 8 inch blank he went full speed into a pommel. He demonstrated his (Ashley Iles) half inch round skew on beads and spigots. He showed home made skews from a single sided chisel and a screwdriver.


Tip: The long point of the skew is easiest to use followed by the short point. The middle between about a quarter of the way up was the most difficult.

Tip: When using the skew keep moving forward into the wood.If you move your body round without moving into the wood the result will be a catch.

Caution: If making a skew from another tool do not use a material such as a file as it is too brittle and liable to shatter.


See Les’s website at: http://www.noturningback.co.uk

Borrow Les’s DVD from the Club library.







David Burden

March 2017