28 Nov 2023 – Online Demo by Les Thorne

 In Online Demos


This month saw us visiting the studio of Les Thorne, a production turner, demonstrator, teacher and much more. For his demonstration Les had chosen to make a small, urn shaped hollow form but in three pieces, the top, body and pedestal which meant that in this case two different woods would be used although in some instances Les will use three different woods. The other interesting aspect of this piece was that the lid was made in one piece and incorporated two finials thereby giving us a reversible lid. Les commented that this was not necessarily a complicated piece but during the demonstration the emphasis would be on the correct use of tools and techniques.

A piece of spalted beech three inches square by four inches long was mounted between centres and the process of reducing it to a circle began. The tool of choice was a spindle roughing gouge and Les showed the different cuts that could be done with the gouge and also the best cut to quickly remove wood and give a good surface to work with. That done and with a tenon created the wood was mounted in the chuck. A chamfer was created at the tailstock end and an indentation created at the centre as a prelude to drilling a hole down the centre to the required depth. At this point Les discussed drilling techniques using a bit held in a Jacobs chuck. Whereas the most common method is to drill the hole by winding the bit into the spinning wood using the tailstock, Les favours a method of simply pushing the bit into the wood without winding the quill. This prevents any run off of the hole that could be caused by any lateral movement of the screw mechanism and results in a hole that is genuinely down the centre of the wood.

Next came the hollowing. Initially using a spindle gouge Les hollowed a short distance into the wood and then established a recess that would accommodate the lid. The main hollowing was accomplished by using a Simon Hope hollowing tool which has a small carbide cutter; taking small cuts achieves the best finish. The hollowing was perfected by the use of a swan necked, freshly sharpened scraper. The main point in using this tool correctly was not to have the swan neck on the tool rest, move the tool rest away from the wood so that the straight part of the shaft was supported. This also required gentle cuts, as Les put it, “imagine you are simply scraping paint off the surface of the wood”. That done work on the outside shape began. Wood was removed at the base of the vase by creating a cove and Les talked through and demonstrated the technique for creating a narrow cove – dramatically drop the handle of the tool at the bottom of the cove in order to avoid a catch on the left hand side. The shape of the outside was completed ,using a skew chisel for the final cuts, and the piece parted off.

Now it was time to make the base. An oversized piece of sycamore was held between centres, turned to a cylinder and a chucking point formed, this also being oversized. The base was now turned during which Les showed how to turn very small beads and how to perfect the joint between the base and the body. The base was parted off and the reason for the oversized wood and chucking point was now revealed. The piece of wood remaining in the chuck would now be turned to form a jam chuck. A hole was created through the jam chuck so that the base could fit into it and protrude into the chuck itself. A recess was then turned to the same diameter of the base, it was pushed into the jam chuck, held secure using a piece of kitchen roll and the bottom was cleaned up. Les acknowledged that there were other ways of achieving the result but if the wood being used was not exotic then this was a simple way of utilising one piece of wood for both the required section of the piece and the jam chuck.

That only left the finial and this was created using the same method as for the base. Again an oversized piece of wood was mounted between centres, a cylinder plus chucking point created and then mounted onto the chuck. Les determined where on the wood he wanted the lid to be, and removed wood until the vase was able to slide onto it up to the position of the lid. He then formed the first finial to the right of the lid position. He created a long thin finial but pointed out that for a finial to be really long and thin then ideally a dense wood should be used, for example, Boxwood, Holly, or English Cherry. That done he ensured that the lid was a good fit before moving onto the second finial which was short in length and ended in a sphere, this design being based on a wardrobe doorknob. The finial was parted off and once again a jam chuck was turned from the wood remaining in the chuck. As for the base the finial(s) / lid was held in the jam chuck and the sphere finished off with some additional shaping and decorative lines. The project was complete, we had a small vase sitting on a pedestal with finial atop the lid; remove the lid invert it and we had the same top but with a different finial on show.

To finish off Les put a piece of Pine onto the lathe in order to demonstrate some basic techniques but using a skew and his own multipurpose tool instead of gouges. He started off by roughing down the wood using the skew in place of a spindle roughing gouge moving backwards and forwards along the wood just as the gouge would be used. He then created beads and coves with the skew using both the long and short points. His penultimate task was the creation of an egg shape using just the multipurpose tool and his final task was to create what he described as his favourite shape, a bead in the bottom of a cove.

Our thanks to Les for an interesting and informative demonstration enhanced by a clear commentary on what was being done and why. Our thanks also to Martin Saban Smith who was a constant presence in the background ensuring that we received excellent pictures from the seven cameras he was controlling.

Thank you Alan Selden for capturing the evening in words and pictures of which you can see the full set in the Gallery HERE.

We will be sending the link out via email to all eligible members to the recording of Les’s demo that Martin Saban Smith has kindly provided along with a discount code for items for sale on their website.


We will be opening the shop as usual on the 12 Dec 2023 on the Hands on Night, where it will be your last chance to stock up before Christmas.  We still have some special offers on clocks and projects kits, so how about making some for your friends and relatives that you can’t think what to get them for Christmas.  Unfortunately, as with most things recently, we will be putting up the prices next year on some Chestnut products as their prices have gone up, so from our next order, so will ours.  The same for Rhinogrip which from the next order we will need to put the prices up, but as it stands, its still £3 per metre for now.  Remember the shop door now opens from 7pm to 9pm, but plenty of time during the evening to stock up.  The Shop provides an excellent facility for all members that is run by Paul Tunmore, Dave Eason, Mel Henry and Rob Collin and we thank them all for their hard work.

And lastly,

As mentioned above, the next meeting is our Hands on Night and being near Christmas, Mick Close is very kindly providing sausage rolls and mince pies and hopefully they will be warm as well! Thanks Mick.

A printed copy of the 2024 programme will also be available to those requiring one or save paper and download one from HERE.

2024 Training Day dates have now been confirmed and they are: 17 Feb, 13 Apr, 15 Jun, 14 Sept and 16 Nov. For more details have a look HERE.  The booking system is not ready just yet but it will be soon so keep an eye out.  If interested in any dates please let Martin know and you will be given early access before the rest of the membership/public finds out.

The Workshop Night on the 19 Dec 23 is likely to be changed to an online Xmas social night as per previous years to give our turners the night off, plus its far too cold to be out in their workshops.

As the weather seems to be getting more wintery, please ensure you check your emails in case we have to cancel any meetings over the coming winter months at short notice.  Thanks

And if you are still reading this, don’t forget Committee meeting on 5 Dec, so any Agenda items you would like to raise please let Martin know asap.


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Showing 4 comments
  • Michael Close

    Excellent demo as normal by Les. He really does explain everything well and is very entertaining.
    Over the years I’ve seen him produce many projects and they are always easy to follow.

    Zac, another years of demo’s over, thank you for arranging a very varied programme.
    Get well soon!

  • Paul Tunmore

    Was late arriving so missed the first half hour . Detailed and clear instructio , not sure the benefit of having a lidded box that can’t be used as a box is though. Concentrated a little too much on tools he has for sale rather than the demo even at a 10% discount..

    I second second Mick’s comment about what an excellent job Zak had done with the varied program and already completed next year’s. Well done Zak

  • Chris Fisher

    Totally agree Mick.👏👏👏

  • Rob Smyth

    Further to the above comments, although his item was small and fairly straightforward, his explanation and presentation was very good. Take a pat on the back Zac for your hard work arranging the years demonstrators and booking 2024 well done. Maybe we can hope that next year some other members will comment on here. Thanks also to Martin for hosting all the online meetings/demos and Alan and Zac for the write ups.

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