chat transcript
Cindy Drozda
a Special Guest Chat with

Woodturner, Instructor

with host Ellis Walentine

Finial Design and Execution

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Click here for Cindy's PDF file of Finial Design illustrations that we referred to in the chat, her Finial Turning Guidelines, a brief biography, and directions to her website.

Cindy arrived early for the chat and had an informal discussion with some of the other visitors...

Wally_DickermanCindy, I have that pointy tool that you put out but I haven't tried it yet.
cindy_drozdaWally, the pointy tool is called Vortex. It is good for getting into tight deep vee grooves. I use it as a skew point or as a gouge. The longest flat is the "flute".
Wally_DickermanI'm gonna try it soon...Thanks
Lan_BCindy, do you sharpen both sides of the vortex tool?
Wally_DickermanCindy I watched you use the vortex at the Packard booth in Albuquerque.....You made it look like a tool that I should have
cindy_drozdaLanB, I sharpen the vortex by honing the long flat. You can see it on my youtube channel
cindy_drozdaWally, the vortex is very good for a few things. As long as you don't use it as a scraper, it is less catchy than either a gouge or skew.
Don_OrrCindy-thanks for being here tonight. I have seen several of your amazing pieces in person and hope to some day maybe get close to that level of skill. My question is about you delicate finials and pedestals. Are they turned from single pieces of wood or made up of several elements?
cindy_drozdaDon, my finials and pedestals are usually one piece, but not always. Sometimes they are threaded together with tapped and chased threads, to save material.
Don_OrrThanks Cindy. That is exactly what I was interested in. As some of the wider parts are so much bigger than the thinner sections it makes sense to conserve wood that way.
cindy_drozdaYes, Don, long pieces of 4" blackwood are very expensive!
EllisGreat. Don't answer all the questions ahead of time. :)
cindy_drozdaI don't think any serious questions have been answered yet
Wally_DickermanCindy you've said that you don't use ebony...why?
cindy_drozdaWally, that is a very good question. I don't use ebony because blackwood is more resilient, less prone to cracking, dries easier.
DickWCindy, do you use special jaws or jigs to turn finials
cindy_drozdaDickW, I use different jaws for different size projects, but not specifically for finials. Haven't tried string steadies yet, but that's coming
Wally_DickermanCindy, I bought one of your elongated points for the Oneway live center....I use it a lot
cindy_drozdaWally, glad you like the mini point. Very handy
Don_OrrWhere does one get the elongated point mentioned ?
DickWCindy, are all your finials dry or do you also turn green?
cindy_drozdaDickW, all of my finials are dry. Don't want any distortion or movement
Dave_PeeblesI have not seen that, Is it on the Oneway site?
Wally_DickermanI bought it from Cindy at one of her demos Dave
cindy_drozdaDave, Don, I sell those points, contact me by email
BillTwhat does this point do for us?
cindy_drozdaBillT, the point allows for working in closer to the tailstock, and making a smaller imprint into the wood. Works only with the OneWay or Jet/Powermatic center.
DickWCindy, what is the biggest piece you have turned?
cindy_drozdaDickW, I have turned a couple of 24" dia natural edged pieces. Tallest is 28", I think
JorgeThat's big enough!
DickWCindy, would like to have seen them because all your work I have seen looks to be 14" inches or so
Don_OrrCindy-are you coming to Saratoga in the Spring with David for Totally Turning? You were here several years ago when it was still in Albany. My wife and I sat with you and David at the banquet. Had a great time and laughed a lot.
cindy_drozdaDickW, I usually bring big pieces to the AAW symposium. Don't fly to other demos with them because of baggage limits.
cindy_drozdaDon, I won't be at Saratoga. I'll be in Australia (or flying home) at that time. Turnfest in Australia is having their 10th anniversary, and all of the past presenters will be there. Quite a cast of characters
cindy_drozdaDon, that symposium in Albany was great fun! I hear now it is even better
EllisWelcome to all the newcomers. Cindy got here early and has been regaling everyone with her expertise. It's now 9:30 and time to officially welcome our esteemed guest, Cindy Drozda, of Boulder, CO. She's here to share her wisdom about finial design and execution, of which she is an acknowledged master. Welcome, Cindy!
cindy_drozdaThank you, Ellis!
DickWHere Here
cindy_drozdaThank you everyone!
EllisOur pleasure, I'm sure. Everyone wants to know how you do what you do so well.
Ellis I'd like to know how you got interested in finials to begin with.
Dave_PeeblesCindy, When did you first begin turning?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I started with finials after making lots of bottlestoppers. One day, a bottlestopper attached itself to a box, and I had a new direction
EllisLeave it to serendipity
cindy_drozdaDave Peebles, I began turning in 1984, full time by 1996
EllisI don't know that I'm familiar with your early work.
cindy_drozdaEllis, my early work was bottlestoppers, hair ornaments, pens. sold at craft shops locally
Dave_PeeblesCindy, who would you say were your biggest influences in the turning world?
StuartCindy, did you style of elegent finials just develop over time or did you make an effort to go that route?
cindy_drozdaStuart, I didn't conciously set a goal, but in search of a better look, it just developed over time.
CaroleVCindy what alternative materials do you work with besides wood, if any?
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, I've tried stabilized wood, and plan to do more with those cool looking plastic pen blanks, and laminated colored wood. The answer is: not really. I'm a wood gal
CaroleVYeah, wood rules. You could maybe glue up some cat hair...I thought of trying to make a blank out of dog and cat hair! LOL
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, I gotta see that!!
CaroleVLOL I will ket you know if it works!
John_LucasCindy I'm going to ask something really different. Knowing you're a runner do you think fitness is important to turning.
EllisI love the look that finials (and pedestals) give to a piece, but I'm still trying to come up with the design formula. Do you start with the piece and make the finial to complement it? If so, how do you base the finial design on the shape of the main form?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I usually start with a vessel. There are more variables in a burl than in Blackwood. When the vessel is complete, I design finial and pedestal to fit visually. Also, I often have a completed piece in mind before I cut the vessel blank out.
Wally_DickermanCindy, you're from Colo....ever turn alabaster?...and with a finial?
mfosterCindy, what are your favorite tools for the small detailed work you do, detail gouge?
Mike_HunterCindy ... do you layout each finial porportion?
cindy_drozdaMike, Yes I layout each finial proportion. Diameters and heights. Usually on paper to scale
JorgeCindy, what are your favorite woods for finials?
Mike_HunterCindy ... your worksheet is a useful resource
cindy_drozdaMike, do you have any questions about the ppt slides? kind of confusing, meant to be part of a talk.
Mike_HunterCindy ... actually they are laid out very well. It took a little study, but they are great and a most useful design resource
cindy_drozdaJorge, my fav wood for finials is African Blackwood. A lot of woods work, though. Anything hard and tight grain. Maple, Cherry, etc
Jeff_WCindy, who would you say were your biggest influences in the turning world?
cindy_drozdaMy biggest influences include Richard Raffan, Ray Key, Chris Stott for boxes, David Ellsworth for form, Ted Knight for form, too, lots too numerous to list...
StuartCindy, In you Elegant Finials DVD you turned a cone that encompassed the finial. When you are actually working do you turn the cone or was that more of a teaching aid?
cindy_drozdaStuart, I don't usually get to turn the cone because the finial would lose support. I draw it on paper, though
EllisCindy, I'm interested to know how you decide on the height of the finial relative to the piece. Is the golden mean involved there as well as in the finial itself?
cindy_drozdaEllis, My golden rule is: no two dimensions the same. That being said, look at the ppt show [PDF file] and you will see how the elements of the finial contact the implied line of the finial. Similar concept to design the vessel plus finial.
cindy_drozdaEllis, this is more of the answer: If you look at the powerpoint slides, you'll see how I show an outline of the space that the finial takes up. I call this the "Implied line" of the design. You can see how the elements in the finial touch the implied line at certain points. Those contact points, in my opinion, represent the keys to pleasing proportions.
EllisFolks, Cindy is referring to her PowerPoint show that I have saved as a PDF file. If you haven't looked at it yet, please go to the announcement and click to download it.
cindy_drozdaA disclaimer: My goal is to share with you the design principles that I use in my work. I'm using my own work as examples to illustrate the points I'm making. I'm showing you a philosophy, some principles, and sort of a formula I am not trying to suggest that the lines, forms, elements, and proportions that I use in my work are the only, or even the best. I encourage you to find your own implied lines for your work, to use your own choice of elements, and develop your own sense of balance to find your own style.
Marshall_GorrowCindy, when you turn pedestal/finial boxes is there a rule for proportions that you follow?
cindy_drozdaMarshall, my main rule is "no two the same." Usually, I like taller pedestal than finial, and the entire composition approximates the golden mean, d/ht.
Ellisd/ht? Diameter:height ratio, 1.618:1, right?
cindy_drozdaEllis, d/ht yes. Golden mean is 1:1.618, or 2/5:3/5, or loosely 1/3:2/3 (the Rule of thirds that we hear about)
Marshall_GorrowThanks, Cindy.
Wally_DickermanCindy do you have a rule regarding the pedestal height vs the finial height?
cindy_drozdaWally, Finial height and pedestal height might be in golden mean proportions, but not always. Often I just like a pedestal that lifts the vessel's line up, allowing it to complete at the base.
Lan_BDo you use the golden ratio as a rule or a guide?
cindy_drozdaLan B, I use the golden mean as a starting point, or a suggestion, but it's not always what I end up with.
Lan_Bthat makes me feel better! thanks
EllisThere is still a great deal of subjectivity involved.
cindy_drozdaEllis, yes, subjectivity. And lots of different porportions work equally well. The differences give different "feel" or "emotion" to the piece
EllisHave you found that your eye tells you when a form or proportions are right? Without measuring and agonizing?
JorgeI think that is the only way, forget the tape measure.
cindy_drozdaEllis, I have found that the eye is the final deciding factor. I have tried to design something with a calculator, and drove myself nuts.
cindy_drozdaDrawing to scale on an engineering pad is very helpful
StuartA golden mean caliper is very easy to make out and helps as a starting point. I'll post a copy of a how to on the board if I can find it.
cindy_drozdaStuart, I have one of those calipers, and Lee Valley sells rulers with golden mean, too. A calculator gets me there, too. And I did up a list on paper to refer to when designing stuff
EllisI just reviewed your Finial Star video and it was excellent.
cindy_drozdaEllis, the Finial Star DVD has that "implied line" philosophy explained
Don_OrrThanks for letting us use the PPT presentation you made. It is well done and helpful. Makes a lot of sense.
EllisIt's good to start with a pretty accurate sketch of the form and proportions you're after, right?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I usually start with a vague sketch, until the vessel is done, then I do an exact sketch to scale.
EllisDon, if you have any questions about any of the pages of the PDF file, you may reference the page by number and ask away.
EllisCindy, I was mainly talking about the overall form, not the finial details. -- the shape of the vessel and the rough space that the finial will occupy.
cindy_drozdaEllis, yes, the same applies to overall. That was what I was referring to -- shape of vessel and rough space of finial/pedestal/foot. Then fill in the details when I decide on exact proportions. Then change my mind when I see it to scale.....
EllisRight -- the artistic license.
EllisOkay, so when you've developed the concept and you're ready to make the finial, how do you decide the composition of elements in the finial itself -- beads, coves, v-grooves, etc.?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I have some finial combos that I have found that I like, but in a nutshell, I use a philosophy like the implied line thing in the ppt show.
EllisThat was very instructive.
cindy_drozdaEllis, also I like to choose shapes in the finial that resonate with the shape of the vessel.
EllisWhat are the rules of thumb that you use to decide on those resonances?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I like to repeat, or mirror image, shapes. Also the negative space is a shape.
Marshall_GorrowCindy, do you sketch and measure and then turn or do you use drawings that are done to scale?
cindy_drozdaMarshall, I usually draw to scale, on an engineering pad, graph paper. I then use a ruler and calipers to make what I drew.
Marshall_GorrowThanks, Cindy.
StuartCindy, do you take into account how or where you envision the piece being displayed? For example a piece up on a mantle might not look the same if it was lower on a bookcase shelf.
cindy_drozdaStuart, I usually make what I want to make and then decide how/where it should be displayed (height). Also, I try to design pieces that will display at a height that people would like to display at in their home. This falls under the category of "trying to make a living" the other way was "being an artist"
StuartWe all have to eat, some of too much.
cindy_drozdaStuart, the pieces that I make because I want to usually are the best ones and sell the best......
StuartCindy, that is probably because when you are enjoying what you are doing you are at your best whether woodturning or polka dancing.
cindy_drozdaStuart, I should try polka dancing. It probably would inspire my woodturning!
JorgeDo you design with the drawing horizontally, the wa that it looks in the lathe?
cindy_drozdaJorge, I do the drawing vertically if it will be that way when completed. That is why I need calipers. My eyes don't see horizontal and vertical the same way.
JorgeI know Cindy that is why I did ask
EllisI would imagine that people who buy your work would display it very carefully... covered vitrines and all?
cindy_drozdaEllis, yes, some are scared of my work. That's one reason why I make things that are not so fragile, like bowls.
EllisOkay, back to the design of the elements. You most often have a sharp point at the top, and usually a bulb 3/5 of the way down, with what amounts to a shorter pedestal under the bulb. Would that seem to be an accurate characterization of your preferred finial form?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I describe that as a finial consisting of two elements: an onion bulb element and a support pedestal. Usually, the onion is longer than the pedestal. Sometimes a lot longer.
cindy_drozdaIn finial-to-vessel proportion, usually I like the finial either to relate to the diameter or the height of the vessel, either one.
Don_OrrThis has been a great chat session. Wish I could stay but it's getting late and I have to go. Thanks very much Cindy for sharing your thoughts and insights. And thanks Ellis for putting this together. Good night folks and happy turning!
cindy_drozdaEllis, more on my favorite finial design: please don't take it as this being the best finial design!! far from it. It is only my choice. And I tend to discuss and demo the same thing because it makes explanations easier.
EllisHow do you deal with complexity? Do you make more complex finials to complement more complicated pieces, or is there any other rationale you use?
cindy_drozdaGood night, Don! It's been fun
cindy_drozdaEllis, I like a simple shape to a busy form, and a detailed form with plain wood. Complexity is complicated. The more elements, diameters, heights, are entered into the mix, the more difficult the balance is. If I want to make something challenging, I add complexity. Demos are usually simple
EllisGreat answer. Thanks.
StuartDo you find the general public preferring one style of final and the woodturning public another?
cindy_drozdaStuart, I haven't found any correlation between woodturners' preferrences vs collectors'.
Marshall_GorrowCindy, I often find that simple is better. I notice that you also use a limited number of elements. Is this a fair statement.
cindy_drozdaMarshall, you got it! Simple is usually better. Busy becomes a difficult juggling act
EllisI noticed from your video that you use your spindle gouge and vortex tool for most of the actual turning. Wanna elaborate a bit on that?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I do 95% of my finial turning with a 3/8 spindle gouge, ground specifically. On the very fine details, such as the tip, I use a 1/4" version of that spindle gouge. The vortex cleans things up. When I use the 1/4" gouge, or the vortex, I need a magnifying headset. That spindle gouge grind has a tiny spindle gouge on its end, and 2 skews for wings, with the strength of a 3/8" steel shaft
EllisYou need the heavier shaft to dampen vibration?
cindy_drozdaEllis, yes, a 3/8 gouge shaft will be less chattery than a smaller one. Particularly if I was using a 1/8 gouge
EllisThe grind angle looks pretty steep.
cindy_drozdaEllis, the bevel angle on the 3/8 gouge is 40 degrees at the cutting edge. The 1/4 is 35 deg. What you see as steep is how the heel material is removed to facilitate getting into tight places
cindy_drozdaI use a fine grit wheel to sharpen, and balanced wheels, to get a fine edge and precise shape to the tip of the gouge.
EllisI almost hate to ask, but is there one particular brand of spindle gouge that suits you best, and why?
cindy_drozdaEllis, great question! I like some flute shapes more than others. The Sorby, Henry Taylor (but not their Kryo), Hamlet. ASP 2060 is my favorite steel alloy. I do not like the "detail gouge" style of flute shape. The flute is shallow, and there is a lot of heel material to remove.
EllisAh. So just a regular spindle gouge...
cindy_drozdaEllis, just a regular spindle gouge. With a specific grind, that's all
Mike_HunterCindy ... and a brand of grinding wheel and grit
cindy_drozdaMike, I like a 120 grit 3X wheel, Norton. I just got a CBN wheel from D-Way, so far so good. Balancing is the biggest "key" to success. If I am going to use powdermetal alloys, I want to use ceramic, CBN, or diamond for the best edge.
Lan_Bbest flute shape? U, V, Parabolic?
cindy_drozdaLan, best flute shape for spindle gouge is symmetrical. The difference in brands is just the depth. Bowl gouge, my preference is for parabolic, and deep. Like the Hamlet or Sorby.
DickWCindy, I found your chainsaw oil and brush grinding interesting
cindy_drozdaDickW, diamonds and CBN don't like to run dry. It helps my diamond hone cut faster, too. Any cutting oil will work. I've now tried several.
EllisI need to balance my wheels. Is the OneWay balancing rig the one to buy?
CaroleVBe sure you can use it on your grinder Ellis. I just bought a new Dayton and can't use them on it.
cindy_drozdaEllis, I like the OneWay balancing system. That's what I have. Don't know of any other. Buy a D-Way CBN. It has a steel core, same with the WoodRiver diamond. Those don't need balancing.
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, The D-Way wheels need to have the guards removed. Which is ok because a solid steel wheel won't shatter like a stone wheel could.
EllisGettin' my Christmas list together here... :)
cindy_drozdaAs for grinder motors, I say, get a cheap motor and spend for the wheels. They make all the difference
Marshall_GorrowCindy, I haven't heard you mention skew chisels. I use a 3/4" oval skew, a 3/8" round skew and even a 3/16" skew made from a engine lathe bit. I also use 3/8" detail and a 1/4" spindle gouge for coves. I really like Doug Thompson's steel.
cindy_drozdaMarshall, I don't use a skew much, sorry..... I do agree about Doug Thompson's steel. CPM10V is great stuff! Really needs to be sharpened with ceramic, CBN, or diamond to get the performance out of it. I have much better results from Doug's steel with my diamond/CBN than the 3X. If you don't have diamond or CBN, fine grit is better than coarse.
Marshall_GorrowCindy, I only use diamond hones on my skews.
cindy_drozdaMarshall, I also hone my skews with a diamond. Unless I'm using them as scrapers
CaroleVCindy is there a particular reason why you don't ever use a skew?
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, I guess I just didn't pick up a skew and learn to do everything with it..... A more practical reason might be the amount of coves that I like in my designs. And the gouge can remove material faster if it has to. To each his/her own..... No right or wrong way
DickWI have a finial to turn in the morning and I am inspired ::biggrin Thanks a lot Cindy......really enjoyed the chat........turn safe
cindy_drozdaDickW, best of success on your finial! post pics!
cindy_drozdaI'm not going anywhere until all the questions are done. It's only 8:30 here, and I'm a "night person"
CaroleVWell I am sorry I didn't have time to read your PDF before coming in here...I will read it tomorrow though...after the fact! LOL
Mike_HunterNite all. Thank you to Ellis and Cindy
cindy_drozdaG'night all who are leaving! It's been fun!
EllisAre there historical examples of finials that we could look up?
cindy_drozdaEllis, what do you mean by historical examples? like the books on archetecture?
EllisAnything. Church spires that influenced you. Architecture?
cindy_drozdaEllis, church spires, stair finials, etc. shapes can be found everywhere. If I see one I either sketch it (last century), or take a pic with my phone (today)
EllisI have books on molding profiles that show a lot of great combinations of quirks and beads and ogees and all that. Something visual to mine for inspiration...
cindy_drozdaFence finials, bottles, chair spindle sections, balusters, shapes are everywhere
StuartEllis, a lot of old furniture will have finials but I don't recall seeing anything delicate.
CaroleVSome of the English and French stuff has pretty delicate work Stuart. Not so much AMerican
EllisNo, it could be from outside my normal sphere, like jewelry or something.
cindy_drozdaEllis, Stuart - right on, jewelry, too
Wally_DickermanThanks for coming Cindy...Most enjoyable and instructive
cindy_drozdaEllis, yes! that book sounds great! There's a book that we have called woodturning - a sourcebook of shapes
EllisI actually don't have that one. How did I miss it?
cindy_drozdaEllis, it's an old book, by John Hunnex. I also recommend Richard Raffan's Turned Bowl Design book. Good form information in there with diagrams
Lan_BThere is a pine rosin drip in my yard that is about the prettiest finial I have seen.
cindy_drozdaAnd the shape that my cat's tail makes, the leaves on the aloe vera plant, sea shells, rocks, water erosion patterns,
EllisNow we're talking.
Marshall_GorrowStuart, furniture is made to be handled, sometimes roughly. Delicate on furniture won't last.
cindy_drozdaMarshall, the details on furniture might be robust, but the combinations of forms can be inspiring as finial possibilities
Marshall_GorrowCindy, I agree.
EllisCindy, do you glue your finials in?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I usually turn the finial and lid in one piece, it's not glued into the vessel. If the finial is made in two or more pieces, they are threaded together and glued, or tenoned and glued with a jewel setting on the bottom as a fastener (like in the Finial Star DVD).
EllisWhat about if the finial is on just a hollow form, without a lid?
cindy_drozdaEllis, what do you mean just on a hollow form? A lid that is not removable?
EllisRight, just a finial on a pot.
EllisCindy, perhaps you're referring to the wider part at the base of the finial assembly as the lid.
cindy_drozdaEllis, I am referring to the black bit at the top of the picture as being a "lid with a finial". It would be one piece, usually. I do not make hollow vessels with the finial not removable as a lid. It could be done, but I don't. Except, that is what I did for the table decoration that I made for the RMWT symposium this year..... If I attach a pedestal to a hollow vessel, there is a tenon on the bottom of the vessel, and maybe even a threaded stud inside as a fastener. Epoxy is my preferrence for glue. Sanding Glove has a very strong archival epoxy that I like. Don't buy the hardware store brand.
EllisBetter than West System or System Three?
cindy_drozdaEllis, maybe better than West System or System 3, but both of those are what I mean by "not hardware store brand". Those are both very good quality epoxy.
CaroleVCIndy, what tools do you prefer for your holllowing?
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, I use the Jamieson system, captured bar, for hollowing, with numerous various different ends and cutters. I like the Hunter carbide.
CaroleVOK, thanks
StuartCindy, do you occasionally turn a finial without a vessel in mind just to see if you like the design?
cindy_drozdaStuart, I practice new finial designs by making ornaments. Usually a finial by itself is not the goal, though.
EllisDo you make a lot of Christmas ornaments, too?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I make some ornaments, but I can't make them fast enough to call them "Christmas" and sell them "for the tree". They are a way to practice finials, have some fun, and make something that I can sell to folks who don't have the money for my vessels.
cindy_drozdaMy ornaments are usually too fragile to be handled. I think they are bought as display items. Tale of woe: I went to San Diego with 5 very delicate new ornaments, practicing some new shape combos, and all 5 ended up broken.....
StuartI've got to go so I'll have to read the rest later. Cindy thank you for the very informative chat, I hope we see you back here again. See everyone next week.
cindy_drozdaStuart, thanks for asking some great questions
EllisOof. Sorry to hear that, Cindy.
CaroleVIn transit or by people handling them?
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, two in transit, three by people handling them. (the broom dropped on them)
CaroleVOuch! I had the owner of a gallery drop one of my forms and break it. She claimed it was defective...that it was too thin and should not have broken.
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, Ha, ha! That takes the cake!
Marshall_GorrowCindy, I find that some of my most delicate pieces are often broken by realitives handling them. I always say, "Don't worry. I know someone who can make another one. What else can we do?
cindy_drozdaMarshall, I have very few of my pieces returned for new finials. I don't make any guarantees. What we can do is recommend that they be displayed behind glass, give them some Museum Wax, and charge a lot of money so they will show some respect!
Marshall_GorrowCindy, I love that approach.
cindy_drozdaBTW, I'm having fun with sea urchins for ornaments!
EllisI can only imagine.
cindy_drozdaI also like to make ornaments from banksia pods. Don't have to clear the chips, don't need calipers!
Doc_GreenCindy, how many hours per day do you spend either turning or doing turning-related stuff?
cindy_drozdaDoc, you are going to be disappointed. I am lucky to get two or three hours per day in the shop. Most of my work day is on the computer (like right now).
Doc_GreenI'm not disappointed, but surprised.
Lan_BI'm not disappointed, but surprised.
cindy_drozdaLan, you are talking to someone who is in business, that's a sad fact of self employment. If I had a job, the boss could do all of the PR and stuff!
Lan_BI still thought you would turn for 6-8 hrs and the paperwork would be your down time at night. Notice I will always be an amateur!
cindy_drozdaDon, Lan, I also need to mention that a very large part of my business is teaching and demonstrating, plus making DVDs and having a line of tools. Unfortunately, all of that takes me out of the shop. Time to make a few changes, I think.
cindy_drozdaLan, some types of turners might find that the production is more of the time spent, like when I was making bottlestoppers and pens to send to craft shops. Much less marketing for that than for high end "art"
EllisDo you think it would be possible to have a finial making contest, Cindy?
cindy_drozdaEllis, a finial contest would probably want to be a sculpture-with-finial contest, because the finial by itself is only part of the picture, well, usually..... Sounds like a good WoodCentral contest is brewing!
EllisWell, anything is possible.
EllisWe'd want to level the playing field and give people an exact form to make a finial for. Would that work?
CaroleVWhy limit creativity by specifying a form?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I like that idea. Give some design challenges and make the judging easier. It would level the playing field.
EllisIt's an old design contest philosophy. Isolate the contest element you are interested in.
cindy_drozdaMore creativity might come from fewer limitations, see what interpretations different artists bring to the theme.
EllisIt would definitely be all about finials.
CaroleVWhat sort of parameters would you use, Ellis?
EllisI don't know, Carole. Usually we develop contest parameters in conjunction with the judging team.
RayTOne thing you could do is use sea urchin as the base element.
cindy_drozdaRay, that is an excellent idea!
CaroleVugh...I hate working with those things! LOL Don't know why. The ones I have bought are all so lopsided! LOL Tey are pretty little things though.
Marshall_GorrowEllis, due to the season of the year, maybe Christmas tree ornament with the accent on finials would work for you.
cindy_drozdaOrnaments are always a good contest subject.
EllisI talked to Bob Rosand about three years ago about an ornament contest, and we never made it happen.
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, have you seen Kurt Hertzog's egg ornaments???
CaroleVYes. Very nice!
EllisAre they still finials when they're upside down?
cindy_drozdaEllis, now we have to define "finial", don't we?
EllisNothing like waiting until the last minute. :)
Marshall_GorrowIcicles are finials.
cindy_drozdaI think they are still finials when they are upside down. And like David Ellsworth says: if it is a good form it will look good either way
CaroleVYeah, is something like the brass bonsai Dick Hines does considered finials?
cindy_drozdaWould there be a size limitation for an ornament?
Lan_Bthose are cool Carole
EllisNo size limitation.
cindy_drozdaEllis, I think it's like anything else, a good guideline. Seems more true than not in my experience.
cindy_drozdaIf there's no size limitation, I'm going to make one with the globe 12" in diameter and take a digital image and let them guess at the size!
EllisMaybe now is a good time to launch an ornament contest. Let me put it on my list to ponder.
RayTAfter the contest everyone could send them to me to decorate next years fund raiser tree
CaroleVI suppose if you used some sort of predefined natural form like the urchin, it would let the spindle turners have a go at it if they don't do hollow forms.
EllisThat's going to look great on your tree.
RichThanks Cindy
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, that is a good point. Is it a hollow form contest, or a finial contest? And, for that matter, does it have to be hollow, even?
Rich left.
EllisCarole, they can just turn round spheres if they are just going for the visual effect. We can't handle all the entries personally.
cindy_drozdaEllis, maybe the tree is the 50' cottonwood out front
EllisYou are diabolical.
CaroleVI would say just a shape. No need to be hollow though I can't imagine putting a lot of work into a pretty finial to stick it on a solid vessesl (wait that's an oxymoron isn't it?)
EllisOkay, we'll have some fun one way or the other.
cindy_drozdaUsing a solid shape for the globe, no one could tell if it were hollow from a picture.
CaroleVI have a an ornament that I got in and exchange that is solid...need a strong tree branch! LOL
EllisThe gears are turning here. More on this later.
cindy_drozdaI think a finial by itself is often incomplete. I have a plan, though, to make a 2-ft-tall finial, where the "bead" in the middle is hollow..... cool would that be!
cindy_drozdaJust give me some time in the shop - the ideas are chasing me down the street
EllisYou must see finials in your dreams.
Marshall_GorrowCindy, that would make a great finial box.
cindy_drozdaI definitely see new designs and possibilities in my dreams. And they run through my head, so to speak, when I'm out running.
Lan_BCindy, any new projects in the near future that you have never tried before?
cindy_drozdaLan, My thoughts for the near future are on items that might sell at the upcoming holiday art market here locally. But, new and exciting, scary and hard to imagine: Jewelry
cindy_drozdaHow about this: finial earrings cast in gold from a wooden one? That sounds exciting!
cindy_drozdaI'm hoping the casting of finials will save me some time. Those detailed ones are time consuming
EllisHow often do you turn your finials out of holly and then blacken them?
cindy_drozdaEllis, I have made holly finials, and then blackened them, but don't any more. If I want black, the black finishing is too much work and doesn't look as good as a blackwood finial. If I want an exciting color, like green or blue, that's when I'll use holly and color it. If I wanted to blacken, I'd use maple.
EllisInteresting. Why maple?
cindy_drozdaEllis, why maple is: it's an excellent material for making a finial, it's cheap, and it's going to be colored anyway. Holly is expensive, and valued for its bright white color, so making it black seems like a waste
Marshall_GorrowEllis, I often use walnut or cherry and ebonize with steel wool and vinegar.
EllisYes, I've blackened many close-grained woods. To me the pore structure needs to be very fine. Have you ever tried Euonymus?
CaroleVMaybe there could be a "lost wood" lost wax for sculptures?
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, Lost wood is ok, but then I can't make multiples. I need to make a mould and make waxes from the mould to do lost wax
cindy_drozdaEllis, what is Euonymus????
EllisI'll send you a piece.
EllisIt's about the finest grain stuff I've ever turned.
CaroleVWell tell the rest of us what it is, Ellis! LOL
Lan_Bis that a real wood?
Marshall_GorrowNo, it doesn't grow in Northern New York State. I use mostly local woods.
EllisIt's that burning bush that is bright red around here lately.
EllisSquarebark or finned euonymus.
CaroleVOh! That stuff! Who would have thought!
EllisIt is as creamy as can be.
CaroleVDon't get much size from it though do you?
EllisCindy, I will send you a piece. I cut some 3" stock today in our woods.
cindy_drozdaCan't wait to try it!
CaroleVMy favorite wood for detail work is Boxwood.
cindy_drozdaMountain Laurel is surprisingly good. Dogwood, too
CaroleVGot some BIG bowood last year...200 year old bush that was more like a tree. Have boxwood logs 7" in diam.
Marshall_GorrowEllis, the nicest wood that I have used for finials is Ancient Kanokoo (sp?) Ken Wraight sent me some from Australia.
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, does that boxwood grow where you live?
CaroleVYes, but it is a planted thing, not native. Ours is American Boxwood as opposed to English, but texture and working quality is the same.
EllisCindy, now that finials are your defining element, or at least a major defining element for you, is your future work likely to continue in this vein, or are you interested in other things as well? I notice you enjoy working with colors...
cindy_drozdaEllis, sometimes I feel a bit stuck with finials. Everyone expects them. I turned a plain pine bowl for our club raffle this xmas. Give them something unrecognizable!
cindy_drozdaSeriously, I do like color, and plan to use it more. Still making things that need finials....
EllisWell, I've looked at a lot of your work, Cindy, and I am astounded by the pleasing proportions you come up with. You could apply that gift to just about any form you turn.
cindy_drozdaGold leafing is something of interest, with more possibilities, too.
cindy_drozdaI'd use beads, but someone else already has that niche.....
EllisI really feel it is a gift, and that you are a virtuoso. I'm trying to learn it, but it'll take years of trying and probably a third eye to see the shapes you see.
CaroleVI was talking with someone the other day who said I should develop a "signature" piece. I said I did not know if I really wanted to go down that road and be expected to produce a specific type of work.
cindy_drozdaEllis, any perceived gifts that I have are totally the result of hard focused work. I was not born with good designs. My early woodturnings are just as awful as the next person's. Design can be learned, just like technique.
cindy_drozdaI'm excited to see how much focus there is nowadays on learning and teaching design. And the sharing among turners is fantastic for this growth.
EllisI tend not to do much decoration. To me, the pleasure is all in seeing and realizing a nice shape.
CaroleVGold leafing is something I have been learning. I have been carving delicate little leaves, gold leaving them with 23k and putting them in the bottom of carved hollow forms. Mac Ray is an expert at leafing. He helped me a lot.
cindy_drozdaCaroleV, developing a signature work is what happens when you focus. If you force it, it'll look forced. Don't rush it, just make lots of what you like to make and some day you'll say "that's my signature". Too many new turners are in too much of a hurry to be "there" before they get there.
EllisWell, it seems that the main element of world-class finial design is a refined eye for proportion and shape.
cindy_drozdaEllis, shape is all of it. Color, texture, everything else (even wood grain) is nothing with out good form.
cindy_drozdaEllis, the main element of that is lots of focused practice!
EllisAgreed. But learning to produce good shape is like learning to dance with footprints painted on the floor.
CaroleV Sort of stilted at first , Ellis? LOL
EllisAt some point, there's an epiphany where you start to just dance instead of thinking about each step.
cindy_drozdaEllis, yes, and we all have to start where we are. Even if it's footprints on the floor.
cindy_drozdaAfter focused practice, you dance!
Lan_BCindy, thanks for sharing your time. It has been a great experience. Good nite all!
EllisAnd that's what you're trying to teach, constructs, with the implied lines and such, and they're excellent formulas. They rule out a million rookie mistakes, but only practice gets you to the next level.
cindy_drozdaSeriously, I would like to stress that merely making a lot of chips is not going to get you there. Focused practice is what it takes.
cindy_drozdaI am trying to share my observations, and others add to them, teaching me more than I knew at first. That's part of the focus.
cindy_drozdaAnother one is: make 10 of something, look at them, and observe what you see. Comparison is key.
cindy_drozdaThose who never make the same thing twice are missing out on refinement
CaroleVNite all. Thanks a lot Cindy and Ellis. Enjoyed it.
Marshall_GorrowThanks for your time. Cindy. I enjoyed the chat.
RayTLots of great info tonight, thanks Cindy and Ellis for putting it together.
EllisCindy, this has been wonderful. Thanks so much.
cindy_drozdaG'night all! It's been lots of fun! Thank you, Ellis, and everyone!
EllisGoodnight, Cindy. Thanks again.

Cindy's Finial Reference Sheet
You may download this sheet in advance of the chat or keep it open in another window during the chat...
  • PDF File (1.6MB)

  • 4 Guidelines to Successful Finials

    1 - Take away the tailstock.
    Removing the "nub" at the tailstock end was a major cause of breaking finials for me. Without the tailstock, I rarely break one on the lathe. The extra support that the tailstock gives is not worth the price to pay!

    2 - Balance the cutting forces on the piece.
    Equal pressure on either side of center - from the tool that's doing the cutting, and a finger, will support the piece much better than the tailstock would have. I also feel that my finger does more than oppose the cutting forces. It also gives me feedback about how my cuts are going.

    3 - Always work on well supported material.
    This means to complete each detail before moving on to the next one, working from the tailstock end toward the headstock. It does require more planning of the shape of the finial, because it doesn't really work well to go back to the very tip and "just shave off a little more" after the finial is thin.

    4 - Use a light touch and a careful aim.
    Probably the most important ingredient in your formula for success! Also perhaps the most difficult to learn. It doesn't pay to get in a hurry. Being able to make a very light cut allows you to fine tune the form, as well as putting less cutting force into the workpiece. And fine details are created by accurate placement of the tool (combined with those "very light cuts").

    About Cindy Drozda:

         Cindy Drozda, Boulder Colorado, has worked with wood professionally since her first "real" job with a player piano factory at age 19. She is currently a full-time wood artist who has been turning since 1985. Her elegant lidded vessels with delicate finials bring a contemporary flair to classic forms. Her work can be seen at the finest juried shows and exhibitions in the USA, as well as published in several books. Cindy shares her woodturning knowledge and passion as an international demonstrator, teacher, writer, and producer of instructional DVDs. She has been invited to teach in Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, and at symposia and clubs across the US. She is a member of the American Association of Woodturners, the American Craft Council, and four AAW chapters. Before choosing woodturning as a career Cindy worked as a cabinet maker, rebuilt airplanes, and made hang gliding equipment. In 1988, she participated in a six-month long crossing of the entire US by non-powered hang glider. Woodturning is her latest exciting adventure!

    Visit Cindy's website for a more extensive tour of her remarkable work
    and to purchase copies of her DVD videos!