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Turning Action Photos

I'll be developing these pictures into tutorials (and videos if I buy the iMac I want), but for now, as they say, a picture is worth a 1000 words. Pictures below on hollowing, measuring wall thickness, turning a finial, reverse turning and jam/vacuum chucking. I've learned various tips and tricks from a few people along the way - like Kim Blatt, Myron Curtis, David Ellsworth and Cindy Drozda - and developed a few of my own, but ultimately, as my father has always said, "the skill to do, comes of doing".

Shaping the neck with a 3/16 fingernail gouge prior to hollowing

Hollowing below the neck, undercutting

Deeper Hollowing


Measuring side and bottom wall thickness

Parting after hollowing for reverse turning


Custom made jam/vacuum chuck for reverse turning this piece. It's attached to a face plate. All I need to do is modify the shape of the jam chuck to custom fit the next piece.  A profile gauge is useful, but it need not be perfectly accurate. Note that I use sawdust  to get a better seal when I vacuum chuck . . . Actually in the picture at right, I am using my vacuum system, but brought the tail stock up for safety (of the piece).

Reverse Turning

Making the foot. At this stage I'm using the vacuum system soley to hold the piece.





I'm doing so here with a 3/32" allen wrench homemade tool. Note the difference in how I'm holding the pieces. I rough shaped and hollowed, then kiln dried both pieces for a month. To maximize the size of the final piece at left, I used Baltic Birch 4/4 plywood, cut a custom hole roughly 3/16" deep for the tenon on this small Amboyna Burl piece, then epoxied and centered it prior to final turning the outside, then final hollowed as I'm doing here. I like the method of the Baltic Birch tenon better than the small jaws I'm using to grip the small tenon on the Red Morrel Burl piece at right.  There are lots of ways to get the job done . . . don't let anyone tell you "there's only one way to do it" . . . sound familiar?

Hollowing Mid Sized Pieces

I use a variety of tools, mostly homemade these days. Here I'm using an Ellsworth small hollowing tool to get to the side of this Black Ash Burl piece.

Turning a Finial

I turn finials in 4 stages. The first major stage, has 3 sub-stages, and one that frequently takes me the most time is the very top portion - what I call the onion. The shape and size are imperative to me and ultimately go a long way toward dictating whether the finial is successful or not in the end. The second sub-stage is the "saucer" or thin disk I use to separate the elements of the onion and top section of the finial where it flares out from its thinnest diameter.  I try to get this as thin or thinner than a sheet of paper and crisp corners are crucial - that's why the long gring on the 3/16" fingernail gouge I'm using (and why I sometimes use a single edge razor blade). The third sub-stage is from the flared top portion of the finial to the thinnest diameter as I'm in the process of doing above.

Note the subtle lines marking the sections of the finial. Here I'm still on the last part of Stage 1 and defining the point of minimum thickness.

Defining the mid section of the finial. From the point of minimum diameter to the bottom of the mid section, I define as stage 2.

Further defining the bottom of the mid section of the finial

Using a single edge razor blade to get a crisp corner. I also do so on the top portion when difining the disk.

Stage 3 is the bottom portion of the finial. I sand each stage using 400-1200 grit using the natural curve of the sanding disc to my advantage.

Stage 4 - the last stage - making the stem the proper thickness to snugly fit the hole in the insert of the hollow vessel - easier (and far quicker) said than done . . . lots of stopping and measuring.

Almost done . . . hope it fits and the curve of the bottom section follows the curve of the vessel and the insert so that they look like one.


It fits well and the distinction between insert and finial curve is virtually imperceptible

More Finial Pictures

Turning a smaller finial

Starting on the bottom section

This is the start of what I consider the most crucial portion - perhaps the most challenging part - getting the curve of the bottom of the finial to match the curve of the insert.  I want the point of the finial and insert intersection to be imperceptible. Even a thousandth shows and I usually wind up turning a new finial. A profile gauge can help, but is not precise enough. I spend a lot of time on this portion and frequently use what I consider to be failed finials to assist in matching the curves . . . see below. A good match, but bad photograph . . . my camera was a shade to high and not properly focused.

Small Finials

Being over 40, the strain on my eyes has become a bit too much, so this past month I've starting using a magnifying glass.  The optics and light I consider poor, and take quite a bit of getting used to, but have helped reduce the strain on my eyes. It is very helpful when turning a 1" or small finial as I am here. The smallest I've done is 3/4" . . . but loving a challenge, I image I'll try to go smaller just to see if I can. 

Starting to define the disk

Getting a crisp corner

Note the thickness of the disk

Stage 1 complete . . . this is a Desert Ironwood Burl Finial

Stage 2

Near the end of Stage 2

Starting Stage 3


Starting and Finishing Stage 3

Stage 4 and getting ready to part the finial