Ryedale Woodturners

John WHiteley


Thursday 5 February2015

Snainton Woodturning Supplies

John stepped in to the slot originally advertised as Dave Lowe's, who in turn had stepped in for Mark Raby back in November.

Something different

Matchstick bowl

John said he had been asked to do something different, so he started by showing a few of the forms he has been experimenting with. Three were based around the idea of a bowl with a base and a rim, joined in two examples by basket-like staves, and one by craft shop multi-coloured matchsticks.

burr bowl

He had also brought along a large burr which had cracks at its centre, and another showing how he had cut out the cracked centre, replacing it with a healthier piece of wood.

Burr bowl with replacement centre

For his demonstration, John started with a block of spalted beech, rectangular rather than square - it could be a piece of 4 by 2. This was first turned between two steb centres, to get the shorter sides rounded. Then two new centres were marked about 3/8 inch from the sides. The centres were changed to ring centres - narrower, but also less likely to split the grain so close to the edge, and the other two sides were turned round. The end result was a pointed-oval shape.

Turned spiral

Lamp stands

John expanded the off-centre idea with a tapered conical piece, which he marked out with three lines, and 3 centres at each end, again about 3/8 inch from the rim. He also cut spigots at each end, to act as depth gauges.

The piece was then mounted between ring centres, with centre 1 at one end and centre 2 at the other, creating some excitement in the front row given the large and obvious eccentricity. Gradually one side of the spiral developed, the centres were moved on - 2 to 3, and 3 to 1 - and the other two spirals were turned.


Having rough-turned the spiral by way of showing it can be done, John then suggested it might make a good lamp stand, so presented his version of long-hole boring with his shell auger. He suggested always start with the lamp end - if anything goes wrong at the bottom when lining up, it is easier to cover up, possibly using a Forstner bit if the auger doesn't quite do it.

John finished by showing how to set up, mark out and start cutting a spiral on a conical form.

Hints and tips
  • If you have problems with your eyesight, look out for the yellow tinted safety specs - John finds them much better than the plain ones.
  • Ring centres are less likely to split grain than ordinary points, especially near the edge of endgrain work.
  • Take great care when marking out off centre turning lines - make sure they are labelled and matched up.
Samples of work brought in by John. Staves, and a square box
Another view of John's handiwork
An impressive picture of John with one of his bowls, taken by Gordon Malan
John likes to use brass filings for filling cracks in wood. This piece is purple heart
Brass filling in turning cracks
A square box turned using off-centre methods. (Photo by GMalan)
Square box
A finished version of a spiralled vase, showing the end product of the technique John went through at the end of the demonstration.
A square box turned off centre, with centres marked out as shown on the square slice.
It was a cold night, but aren't there usually just three brass monkeys?
John setting up his off-centre spiral turning