Ryedale Woodturners

Steve Fearnley


Thursday 7 April 2016

Snainton Woodturning Supplies

Steve worked through the evolution and creation of a trophy based on a simple disc design, including turning, pyrography and photography.

Disc trophy

Steve Fearnley

Steve demonstrated making a small, individual trophy. He started by explaining that he used to organise the annual prizegiving for Malton School as part of his role as deputy headteacher. Before becoming a woodturner he had cut and shaped trophies out of oak shelving from the old school library, which he had volunteered to store in his garage. On purchasing a lathe in 2009 he created a disc shaped trophy. Still needing a large flat surface to hold an enamel badge and an engraving plate, and still using 3/4 inch oak shelving, limited the design. It required a separate wire stand, awkward when handing the trophy over at a presentation where a handshake was the order of the day.

Wooden trophies

Steve removed the need for the engraving plate by embracing pyrography, where the lettering could be in any shape and size on any surface. The enamel badge still required a 40mm flat recess at the centre, but the rest of the trophy could now have curved surfaces.


A 130 mm diameter, 40 mm oak blank was turned to round, and a 45mm spigot was cut to hold it. The blank was reversed, the face trued, then marked out using dividers, with 3 circles to match a template previously printed out. The centre recess was 54 mm diameter, to suit the Nova chuck on the lathe.

Individual wooden trophy

Discs are usually made from oak or elm blanks. Malton School has a ready made badge to insert (enamel pin badges with the pin knocked off), but other customers often ask for coats of arms on the trophy, which can involve minute detail. Sycamore is a much better option for this, with its tighter grain. Steve turned a sycamore insert to fit in the centre of the disc.

Decal transfers

If the detail in a design is beyond what is possible with pyrography, decal paper can be bought. A printout is created on the computer on special paper, then a transfer is floated in a saucer of water until the backing comes off and a thin transparent decal is left to put on the wood.

Trophy coat of arms insert

He has learnt from experience always to leave the spigot on the blank whilst checking this insert fits, in order that minor adjustments may be made. Also to leave reasonable thickness in the insert until pyrographed - water and heat applied had badly warped one previously.

A small flat base for the disc to stand almost upright was created using a disc sander, actually at about 5 degrees, enough to avoid the dullness of vertical, but not too much that it would be off balance. This base is where Steve puts his oldfern.co.uk trademark, in the hope that recipients might look up his website and further orders might ensue. It has happened.

Wooden trophy with plinth

The basic disc design can be varied in style and in size. Customers who have asked for larger versions - say 200 - 225 mm diameter - seem to prefer to have a plinth attached to the small flat foot. These are usually square, with sides sanded to a 10 to 15 degree angle on the disc sander. They are usually glued to the disc, using two wire pins to locate and hold in place as well as the glued butt joint. A couple of dowels would be stronger still, but they are a little harder to locate accurately with the slope on the disc.


Snainton Woodturning Club

After the tea break, Steve demonstrated how he sets up a template on the computer, using WordArt in Microsoft Publisher. Word has the same facility, and there are lots of other simple, free or cheap graphics packages that would do the same thing. As well as being able to size and shape the text and and pictures, it is capable of producing a mirror image when printed out. (Also some printer drivers will actually do this for you.)

Pyrography template

An ordinary ink jet printer on ordinary copy paper then produces the template. The wood was dampened slightly to improve the ink transfer, then the image was cut out. stuck on with masking tape, and then rubbed with a pencil. (Subsequently Steve noted this was a little too high - at home he would have rubbed it off, with an ordinary eraser, reprinted the image and done it again in the correct place. Too much haste on the night.)

Pyrography nib

The writing was then pyrographed - just one word as watching pyrography is close to watching paint dry - but hopefully enough to show the technique: not too hot, light brushing strokes rather than a continuous handwriting style, turn the piece round to allow your hand to move comfortably. . The machine was from Peter Child, recently taken over by Robert Sorby, and now available through Snainton Woodworking Supplies. The nib wire was hammered flat, then filed to a skew point with a diamond file.

Wooden trophies

The insert was glued into place using Titebond Mitre glue. The disc was then polished using the Beall buffing wheel system - three different mops for Tripoli wax, white diamond, and then carnauba. The buffing machine was Steve's first lathe, with the bed bars cut down to about 12"

Photography lightbox

Because most of Steve's commisions come from his website, a decent photograph of completed work is important. He finished by showing a pop-up lightbox (which doubles up as a tent for grandchildren) with lights and backdrops - available on the internet for £25 - £55, dependent on size and quality. Search for photography lightbox.

Finally Steve gave a brief description of the techniques behind some of the trophies and commemorative items he had borrowed back as display pieces for the evening.

Hints and tips
  • Don't attach any metalwork to pieces that are going to be buffed. The abrasive waxes will react, take off any coating and put black marks on the wood.
  • Handwriting style fonts are more forgiving for pyrography than precise print fonts.
  • Print text or pictures the correct way round as well as in mirror image - it helps to check what you are doing when burning the final design on to the wood.
  • Keep the pyrography temperature dial down. It can be helpful to sand the blank before beginning and do a trial run to get an idea of how the wood will burn and what the best temperature will be. This experiment is then turned away one the piece is started.
  • You cannot really do any pyrography once any finish or sealer is applied. You need to be burning bare wood rather than wax or cellulose.
  • You may be able to sand away small errors, but anything significant requires the surface to be re-turned and the burning started again.

Gallery of work

You can see examples of Steve's trophies, including all those that were on display, on his website at www.oldfern.co.uk, together with a little more detail about each piece.