Turning Archive 2006

Turning Hollow Form Vessels...Long.

Wally Dickerman in Arizona
>Way back in the 70's (was that before some of you kids were born? in Fine Woodworking magazine there were a couple of articles about David Ellsworth, with lots of photos of the amazing hollow form vessels that he was turning. At that time, no one else was doing anything close to that. I looked at those pics and decided that I wanted to turn something like that. It was several years later that I made a boring bar hollowing tool and got started. That was over 20 years ago. Since then I've scarcely turned anything else.

I teach classes in beginning hollow forms and I have a how-to handout for the students. I occurred to me that for those of you who are just getting started in hollow forms, that some of the tips from that handout might prove helpful. (Icould have used some help when I was getting started)

Set the tool rest height so that the cutter on your hollowing tool is cutting on the centerline, or better yet, a little above center. Cutting below center invites a catch.

Use your hollowing tool with the cutter tipped down slightly. This will give sort of a shearing cut. This is especially true when using a rounded scraper on your tool.

Never allow the tool to touch the rim when cutting. A sure way to break the vessel if a catch occurs.

If you plan to apply decorative beads or grooves, or other turned adornments, do it before final hollowing of the roughed-out inside. The vessel will distort a little as you turn the walls thin.

If you use a glue block on an end-grain piece, you'll get a stronger glue joint if you cut a small tenon on the blank. Cut a matching opening in the glue block. I don't recommend using a glue block on deep end-grain pieces.

A vessel often warps a little as you turn the walls thin. To avoid problems later, you should complete all turning and sanding of the area around the rim before proceeding on to final hollowing.

Do final hollowing a section at a time, working your way down so that you're always cutting against thicker wood.

Measure wall thickness frequently. That's especially true when you're deep inside the vessel. Calipers, such as double ended calipers are a must.

Some turners completely turn and finish hollow vessels while the wood is still wet, and that's okay. I prefer to allow the rough turned vessel to dry. When adding a collar or other rim treatment I don't want any later distortion of the wood as it dries.

For deeper pieces, a steadyrest is really a necessity. One can be shop-built, using plywood and in-line skate wheels.

There is, of course a lot more to hollow form turning, but these some of the basics. The ultimate success of a vessel is determined by it's form.


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