25 Oct 2022 – Colwin Way Demo

 In Online Demos


This month we welcomed back to our virtual workshop Colin Way joining us online from his actual workshop in Lyme Regis. Colwin is a professional woodturner who also teaches the craft, demonstrates it and also manages to fit in ambassadorial work both here and abroad for Axminster tools.

Colwin started the evening with what he described as a warm up piece. He mounted a joinery grade piece of softwood between centres and told us that this would be transformed into a table leg almost exclusively by the use of a skew chisel. At this point he showed us the range of skew chisels that he uses all having a 25 degree bevel angle and a skew angle of 15 degrees. The turning then began and in what seemed a very short time the pommel for the top of the leg had taken shape along with beads, coves and other refinements that formed the finished article. As he was turning Colwin demonstrated the correct use of the chisel and what happens when the rules aren’t followed by deliberately incurring catches. A masterclass of how to use the skew.

That done the main event followed, this time a Christmas carousel, very popular in German Christmas celebrations and therefore based on a German design. This project is made up of many different elements and requires general woodworking skills as well as turning. The carousel has four tea lights that sit outside of a rotating centrepiece at the top of which are twelve impellers. These are angled to catch the rising hot air generated by the tea lights and rotation occurs. Colwin stressed that while this project may look complicated it should be within the skill set of all turners and throughout, he also explained the various pieces of equipment he uses to complete the task.

The first was a sanding table made from a piece of timber and mounted on a shaft that fitted into the banjo which allowed the small pieces that formed the feet to be presented to a homemade sanding disc held on a faceplate.

The tealight holders had been predrilled with a 42mm forstner bit with a 6mm hole in the bottom to allow then to be mounted onto the feet. Each one was then held on a jam chuck for shaping. Next came the base plate which required some holes to be accurately drilled on both sides including one in the middle that would take the bearing for the spindle. That was then held by the tailstock engaging it onto a jam chuck and the edge was shaped. A baseplate for the central column was similarly produced.

The central column itself was formed from a piece of oak through which a 3mm hole had been very carefully drilled so as to ensure the hole ran true through the length of the column. Once complete the metal spindle was pushed through the hole and the fit onto the bearing checked. Next came the two outer columns that support the arch, the object here was to produce two identical columns although Colwin stressed that nearly identical is usually good enough!

The central hub that holds the impellers required the use of another aid, again a piece of wood that fitted into the banjo with a hole drilled through. The jig was set in the tool rest so that a drill bit could pass through it and engage onto the hub exactly onto a centre line that had been drawn onto it. This coupled with the use of the lathe’s indexing system facilitated the drilling of 12 holes in exactly the correct place. The impeller holders had been produced by cutting slots into them to hold the blades and the ends turned to the correct diameter to fit into the holes just drilled. The wood for the blades themselves was prepared on a planer/thicknesser, cut into rectangles and then sanded to shape using the sanding table and disc mounted on the lathe. The final piece was the arch which was marked onto a piece of wood using a template and cut out. This can be done by using a bandsaw or scroll saw.  All the elements being made assembly is quite straightforward.

Having done all that Colwin was onto his next project, a small Christmas tree using a piece of Lime. Using only a skew, Colwin turned the wood into a basic Christmas tree shape and then made a series of cuts which left the ends of the cut fibres standing up all with a feathery appearance. Once painted using an air brush the tree would be complete. Excluding the painting the job took six minutes.

Next! We were then given the choice of seeing either a small vase or a pendant being turned. The vase won the vote, so Colwin declared he would not use a chuck but make it entirely between centres and only resort to a jam chuck for the final operations. It would be made from a piece of Thuya Burr, an exotic hard wood that has a high oil content.

As promised the wood was mounted between centres and the outside shaped. Sanding followed but because of the oil content Colwin used wax on his abrasive in order to stop it clogging up. Once sanded a coat of cellulose sanding sealer was applied. He then proceeded to make a jam chuck which enabled him to hold the vase for the final shaping and cleaning up of the bottom. The bottom sorted It was reversed in the chuck so that a hole could be drilled down the centre and the inside of the neck blended into the hole. All that was left was polishing and this was achieved on the buffing wheel which resulted in a high gloss wax finish.

In a little under three hours we had seen the production of a chair leg, a carousel, a Christmas tree and a vase. At no time did the demonstration feel rushed and throughout Colwin gave tips and advice. We thank both Colwin and his wife Vicky, who did a splendid job of managing the cameras, for a memorable evening.

Thank you Alan Selden for another great write up of what I think will go down as one of the best demo’s we have seen for a long time.

For all the screenshots taken during the demo with kind permission from Colwin please check out the Gallery HERE.


This Saturday, 29 Oct 2022 from 10am to midday, Mick will be opening up the Club Shop for you to stock up on your woodturning supplies.  A new large stock of timber has just gone on display. If you can, please come along to make it worth the effort of opening up.

And lastly,

What is up next?

8 Nov 2022 – Next Hands on Night in the Village Hall.

11 – 13 Nov 2022 – North of England Woodworking and Power Shop Show Harrogate Show Ground.

15 Nov 2022 – Online Workshop Night.

22 Nov 2022 – Online Demo by Richard Findley.

26 Nov 2022 – Training Day – Still some spaces left, so lets get them booked up asap.

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Showing 7 comments
  • John Mitchell

    Another great evening with a talented turner & teacher. Colwin made everything look so straightforward and easy! By breaking the carousel project into a series of easy steps it doesn’t seem so daunting as it first appears. None of the individual components are that difficult to make and are not too expensive to remake if an unintended “design change” occurs. If skew practice gets too much then set about a small piece of timber and abuse it to make a Christmas tree! With a Thuya burr vase to finish there was something for everyone. His tips for sanding oily timber will be useful but I don’t think with the price of Thuya blanks I will be using too much of it anytime soon!

    • Paul Tunmore

      Another amazing demo from Colwin a natural wood turner and communicator. Held our interest the whole evening . If you , like me, have listened to woodturners shunning and condemning the skew watch Colwin at work and it looks amazingly easy. I’ll try again using the skew more in future but if/when I fail I expect the “told you so ” comments from certain members ofthe club. All joking aside I find it amazing how quality turners have racks of chisels they rarely use and use their favourite one that they can work miracles with be it Chris Fisher and his gouge or Colwin and John Illes and with the skew. The truth is I’m in total awe of the expertise they demonstrate.

      Best demo I think I’ve seen with the club and hopefully we’ll see him again

  • Chris Fisher

    A great Demo enjoyed by all.

  • Zak

    Looks like you all had a great evenings entertainment, well done to Alan for booking Colwin again. Brilliant write up from Alan S and together with screen grabs a concise description of what went on. Only sorry I missed it. Colwin is staying on our must see again list.

  • Gary Gray

    A brilliant demo by a very skilled turner and gifted communicator. So many techniques demonstrated. Looking forward to next month too with another of the UK’s top turners – Richard Findlay.

  • Rob Smyth

    A really useful online demo from start to finish, well presented and explained. Covering several items using a number of different tools. Invoking food for though on how to fully utilise your lathe for numerous tasks. Such a competent turner who makes it look easy. What a great evenings entertainment enjoyed by all !!

  • Dai Crawford

    A really good demo showing various techniques. Thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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