Carter Hollow Roller

At the wood show, looking around Carroll’s Woodcraft, and came across the Carter Hollow Roller. Complete with an overhead laser to demonstrate where the tip of the cutter is, so you can hollow out a bowl without being able to see where the cutter is contacting the wood, and so you can determine wall thickness.




A good use for the coffee bean

The Roving Reporter dropped in at the Ballarat Wood Show, and having already been playing with Solid Solutions 606 clear resin, he was inspired (again) by Brendan Stemp’s concepts and techniques and gave it a go.

Came up with the best use I’ve seen for a coffee bean. Some people burn them, grind them, soak them in boiling water and drink the result.

I prefer to see this alternate use!



Pretty cool! And definitely inspired by Brendan’s creations- the ring containing the beans is clear – you can see all the way through as it has been turned to the point the resin (originally sitting in a channel) has been turned from both sides leaving a clear ring with the embedded items trapped within.

Now I’m definitely wanting to try it for myself.

Workholding on the Lathe

It would come as no surprise that one of the absolutely critical aspects of woodturning, is to be able to adequately secure what you are turning to the lathe, so it doesn’t move, fly off, cause damage or injury.

There is a myriad of ways to secure the work, some of the decisions will be based on personal preference, and some are obviously specific to the size and shape of the item to be turned, and the intended product.

A small selection of timbers

Displayed here is just a small selection of the sorts of shapes that could be expected to be mounted.  There are bowl blanks on the left – one that was sold precut, with a waxed outer to discourage checking and cracks, the other was from a board that I cut square, then rounded off the corners on the bandsaw.

There are some lengths for various spindle turnings (pepper grinders or whatever), perhaps a small vase, and some raw (dry) timber from the branch of a tree.  Much of what is here is already pretty much lathe-ready – there is a whole extra layer to this when you take a round from a tree trunk and plot out the various bowl shapes before slicing with bandsaw or chainsaw.

It would go without saying, the bigger the blank, the more secure you really want it to be!

Nova Chucks and Jaws

To mount a wide variety of timber shapes, there is an equally elaborate range of chucks, jaws and drives. The range of Nova jaws can be found here (NovaJaws PDF)

Some that can be seen here are faceplate rings (for 50, 100 and 130mm jaws), small, medium and large jaws, a variety of drives and centres, Cole jaws and a faceplate.

Jaws fit onto chucks, which in turn screw to the thread of the driven end of the lathe.  Drives and centres have a morse taper which fit into a matching hole in the drive shaft and tail stock respectively.  As is true for so many products out there, it is hard to get any consistency between brands.  Fortunately the morse taper is a standard maintained across a wide range of brands.  They are termed MT1, MT2, MT3 etc depending on diameter & taper angle.  MT1 is used for very small lathes, MT2 (morse taper 2) is by far the most common. The same cannot be said for the threaded portion of the drive.  Different diameters, different pitches, no consistency.  Yet you want to not only be able to use some of the quality chucks out there, but also to be able to continue to use them if and when you upgrade to other lathes.

Chuck Inserts

How a number of chuck manufacturers get around the issue (and Teknatool is no different) is to make their chucks with a rather large female thread, with the intention that you then choose the insert that matches your specific lathe.  In the photo here is a Supernova2, and three different inserts – one for the DVR XP, one for the Jet Mini, and the third I have NO idea.  The total range of inserts available for the Nova range is something like 20 or so, and even then if you don’t have one that matches you particular lathe, there is also one that has not been machined so you can get a machine shop (fitter-turner) to make one that is specific to your unusual model.

Turning between centres

Pretty much every lathe sold comes with the ability to turn between centres – not because it is the most common method of turning, but it is the cheapest mounting option so the manufacturers don’t have to fork out for an expensive chuck.  It has a drive at one end (fitted with the morse taper) and a centre in the end stock which pushes the workpiece onto the drive.  The centre can either be dead (as in non-rotating), or live.  Live is typically a lot more preferable!

4 Blade Drive

Transferring the motor power to the timber with a drive – it has a centre pin, and a number of blades to turn the timber.  These blades can very easily become real blades – chiseling the timber rather than turn it.

I prefer a different sort of drive – the Steb drive.

Steb Drive

This has a spring-loaded centre pin, then lots of little teeth to bite into the work.  I currently only have a small diameter version, but will look to find a meatier version now I have the larger, more powerful lathe.

Turning Between Centres

The tailstock provides the pressure to push the work onto the drive.

Conical Live Centre

A basic live center pushes into the work, going as deep as the pressure and the material will allow.

Live Centre

An alternate version has a very sharp point to position the live centre – this will push easily into the endgrain until the outer ring also impacts on the work, and it is this ring that transfers significant amount of force onto the end of the work without digging in anywhere near as much as the more basic cone centre.

For a very flexible, versatile system, the Nova Live Centre system is definitely worth considering.

Nova Live Centre System

With all sorts of options to suit a wide variety of turning requirements. Their latest addition to the range is the tailstock chuck adapter.

Chuck Adapter

This fits into the Nova tailstock and has a thread to match the Nova chuck.  Once you have turned the base of your bowl and want to rotate it to turn the inside, this adapter allows you to very accurately mount the chuck before releasing the bowl, meaning the workpiece can be flipped end-for-end without finding it is slightly out-of centre requiring some rework.

Accurately reversing a bowl

Jaw/Chuck Mounting

If not turning between centres, you can use jaws, with or without the tailstock supporting the work.  Even very thin work can be mounted this way, it is a matter of choosing jaws that match the workpiece.

Pin Jaws

These pin jaws are ideal for small pieces, with a large grip area and a dovetailed tip.  That dovetail means the jaws are also useable in the expansion mode, gripping a workpiece from the inside of a cavity machined into the bottom.

Thin Stock

The tail stock is still used to support the workpiece.  A great setup for dollshouse furniture!

Larger pieces just need larger jaws 🙂

45mm Spigot Jaw

Gripping work like this is still using the jaws in the contracting mode.  It doesn’t matter that the work isn’t round in the jaw- they will bite in significantly to hold the work tight.  These jaws have a lot of bulk, so can offer a powerful grip.

Even if you want to grip a whole branch, there are jaws with sufficient capacity to do this easily.  The Powerjaws are a powerful addition to the Supernova2 chuck.


These have a stack of gripping capacity, matching that of the Supernova2 chuck.

Measuring the Jaws

To mount up the lump of Cyprus Pine, I first measured the maximum jaw opening, using the offset fingers of the new Woodpeckers Story Stick Caliper Arm Set. These seem rather interesting in their application for wood turners, as well as the concept they were originally designed for.  By setting the internal diameter of the jaw, the other side of the arms can be used to check the external diameter of the timber.

External width check

In this case, the timber was too large to be fitted directly into the jaws while square so it had to be first mounted between centres to turn a tenon to grip in the Powerjaws.

Between Centres

Ready for turning the tenon

Roughing down

With the amount of force the roughing gouge imparts on the work, I didn’t want to rough down any more than was necessary – between centres causes enough slippage with the lack of grip the 4 blade drive actually has.

Turning the Tenon

Other than turning to round, there was very little that had to be removed from the diameter to fit the jaws.

Confirming the fit

With the Story Stick again, the size of the tenon is confirmed as fitting the jaws.


Even roughing a small amount, this timber is pretty hard and the drive finds it very difficult to grip.  This is rather evident in the amount the blades have chiseled out – indicating significant slippage.


With the tenon cut, the Powerjaws can then come in and grab the workpiece with significant power.  The rest of the roughing down then becomes very easy – no chance of slippage now!


Once round, the real work can begin, but that is a job for another day.

Bowl Mounting.

Like mounting a length of timber, mounting a bowl takes a little preparation.  By starting with a temporary mount, the base can be turned and the method by which the bowl will be mounted for turning the inside.

Bowl Mounts

One method for starting a bowl is by using a screw drive. Here are two versions – the Nova version which is then gripped in the chuck jaws, and one that fits directly into the morse taper.  A small pilot hole is drilled in the centre then the screw drive is attached.

Screw Drives

The Nova is significantly more substantial, and although morse tapers typically don’t slip (when coupled with the use of the tailstock), the Nova one is positively gripped and with the significant thread can really hold a piece hard.

Another popular method is the use of a faceplate.  This one is the Nova version which came with the DVR XP


It attaches by screwing directly onto the drive thread of the lathe.  Now an interesting method is the use of a faceplate ring, which I particularly like.

Faceplate Rings

Here is a 50mm ring about to be attached, and in the foreground a 100mm and 130mm ring.  These sizes match that size jaw.  The 130mm ring is significant indeed, with provision for 12 screws to grip the work.

Bowl blank mounted

With the faceplate ring fitted, it is then gripped with the jaws in expansion mode and the base can be turned.

Preparing base

I’ve switched blanks here if you are wondering how the camphor laurel suddenly became mahogany!  With a pencil and the lathe spinning, the diameter of the jaws is marked onto the base.

Dovetail Scraper

A dovetail scraper is used to cut a recess with a taper, so that when the bowl is flipped around, the jaws can expand and grip the base without it being likely to slip off.  This is one method for bowl mounting.  The other is to turn a tenon which can be gripped by the jaws contracting onto it.


You’d normally finish the base before rotating and remounting the bowl, but for the sake of this article, I’ve reversed it already.  The cole jaws are not being used here at all, it is the 50mm jaws gripping the base.  At this stage the faceplate ring would be removed, then the hollowing can begin.

130mm Jaw Mount

In this case, I actually want to mount the bowl in the 130mm jaws, so I have reversed the bowl again and now cut a very large diameter dovetailed opening in the base.


And just to demonstrate this, I’ve mounted the 130mm jaws and chuck into this opening.  You don’t normally do this (although with the new tailstock adapter, this will become more common, but with the chuck mounted in the tailstock to ensure a very accurate alignment.

So a bit of a look at workpiece mounting, and it has been a quick gloss over the subject.  There are whole books dedicated to the subject!

However, hopefully it has provided some ideas and insights, particularly into the Nova chucks and jaws.  The interchangeability of the G3 and Supernova2 and all the jaws that are available demonstrates just how comprehensive their system is.

Miniature Real Estate

And so it begins- hopefully it can be completed before my daughter’s birthday, this one or the next….. and not have it take so long that she will learn to read, let alone read this blog! Better be finished before she gets too old to play with it, let alone turn 16, 21 etc!

It will be a long, drawn out affair, with much construction required, including many turnings. Dolls houses can be quite complex things when done properly!

As a bit of a test, I made this vase (Huon Pine) using typical techniques, just on a small scale.

The flower was something whipped up with Jessie out of pipecleaners until I can make something suitable.


It is about 20mm high. (Sorry for the image quality- taken on a mobile phone)

Thread Chasing

I’ve always been interested in the mechanical uses of timber – using timber where it is more traditional for metal (or plastic) to be the material of choice.  (None of these are my creations of course…yet!) Things like cars

Wooden Car

Wooden Interior

iPods / iPhones & Steampunked items

Wooden iPod

Wooden Apple Computer

(Although in Apple’s case, that is actually where the case came from – the original Apple 1 was a kitset computer, and you either made your own wooden case, or bought one from Apple!)

Homemade Apple 1 Case

Commercial Apple 1 Case

One of these sold for over $200,000 in an auction, so not a bad investment of $500 back in 1976!

I may not be up to making anything like this (although a wood iPad storage case is tempting, especially when I get my metric Hingecrafter from PWS), but the idea of wooden devices and mechanics is certainly interesting.  Hinges, gears, threads.

I have just gotten a set of thread chasing turning gouges from Carbatec, and have been researching how it is done.  Fascinating to see how fast the project is spun while cutting the thread.  I thought it would be dead slow, but 250RPM, although not high compared to turning speeds is still a lot faster than I was expecting to see.

Researching how it is done found me the following three videos on YouTube.

Some interesting techniques demonstrated (even if the first also includes how to drink a cup of tea at the start!)

Whispering Timbers

More often than not, probably 9 times out of 10, when I head out to the shed, I have no pre-conceived ideas of what I am going to do out there. Some times I may be doing a bit of clean up, some times a re-organisation,  some times nothing more than a beer, listening to some music or watching an episode of “The Wire”, and some times, occasionally, some woodworking!

Even when I discover that I will be woodworking, I still then listen to the timbers to find out what I am going to do.  Today was no different.  I found myself picking up a square of, well I still am no good at working out the different timber types, and mounting it on the lathe.  The timber whispered, and it was to be a square bowl, with a scooped out round section from the middle.

To start, a mounting ring was screwed to one side, which mounts in the jaws of my Nova chuck.  Once finished shaping the base of the bowl and cutting a recess for the jaws, the bowl is reversed, remounted, and the ring removed.

I didn’t take any more progress photos after this one – combination of getting too absorbed in what I was doing, and no idea if there would be a result anyway!

However, a result there was, and so to the Roving Reporter, I see your salad bowl, and I raise you:

The finish was achieved first with the Ubeaut Rotary Sander from Carbatec, then Ubeaut EEE followed by Shellawax.  I tried some of the Ubeaut Glow, but on this timber it was hard to pick the difference between the Shellawax and the Glow finish.  Both looked good!

All these finishes are available from Carbatec, and Carrolls, and a number of resellers overseas (the products are now exported to the USA and Canada, not sure about the UK but wouldn’t be surprised!)

I got the base pretty thin in the end, perhaps a little thinner than I was expecting!  In a dark room, you can actually see torchlight through it!

I’m rather pleased with the result.  I’m sure it is still pretty amateurish, but then I still have a long way to go on the woodworking journey.  I still like it!

Guess the timber was talking today 🙂

Richard Raffan Turning

Been watching my woodworking DVDs again recently (makes a good distraction while cooking!), and have been looking again at the Richard Raffan DVD from Taunton on Turning Boxes.

Damn, but he makes it look easy.  I was trying (without first reading any instructions, or reviewing videos etc) roughing out a bowl recently, and found it took a significant amount of force to get the tool to hollow out the centre, so decided very quickly than rather risk some catastrophic kickback, to review the how to materials first.

Seeing how Richard was doing it showed I was somewhat on the right track, but it should have been a lot easier than I was experiencing.

Perhaps I need to go on one of these Woodturning Cruises!  Puttering around the fiords of Norway, in a floating shop/training facility for wood turners.

One of the guys in the video has a T-shirt- you just catch a glimpse of the logo “When I die, bury me….in my shavings”

Did a quick Google of that, and found at Peachtree that they have a few others as well, including “Happiness is being covered in sawdust”,

“I love the smell of sawdust in the morning” and one I can definitely sympathise with:

Wonder if they have one “When I’m turning, DUCK!” Or “Blood is a woodturner’s patina” or “You know when you’ve had a kickback when your hands are ringing like they’ve just been to a rock concert”.  No – no accidents recently, although I have experienced all the above at one time or another.

One thing I really like from Richard’s video, and as was at the start of one of Mark Duginske’s videos – the woodworker in the forest, sourcing his raw materials.  These guys don’t start a project wandering around aisles of crapiata at Bunnings.  They get out there and harvest their own.

Keep on Turnin’

Once again in the shed late at night, feeling productive and not wanting to make an excess of noise, so another couple of pens got churned out.

Top one is a Sierra with a brown acrylic blank, lower one an Elegant Beauty with a new purple acrylic I found in Carbatec.

Don’t forget, this Saturday is the last of the month, so it is Demo day at Carbatec, Melbourne, and I will be demonstrating how easy pen turning is, even if you are a beginner.  I am certainly not an expert turner, so don’t expect some amazing technique with a skew or something – it will be basic, yet comprehensive, and if you have never made one before you may go away from the demo wanting to give it a try for yourself.

Warning: Pen Turning is an Addictive Hobby

The Camera is Mightier than the Pen

With the upcoming Carbatec pen demo (31 July), I have been giving some thought to the whole pen-turning process, and just what equipment I use these days when making a pen.

Before I start (and you may have already glanced ahead at the collection of photos), remember that pen turning is a good beginner exercise, and as such you do not need such a collection of tools to produce a pen.  They help obviously, but are not mandatory.

Even the lathe is optional. You can turn a pen using other means, the primary alternative being the humble drill press.  You don’t even need turning chisels – many a pen has been made using a sharpened screwdriver.

Mini Lathe

A lathe makes life a lot easier of course.  I haven’t used a dedicated pen lathe, but my feeling is they would be too underpowered to really be effective.  You can use a belt-driven one or variable speed – I tend to run it flat out for pen turning, so that makes the decision rather moot.  I have a mini lathe, but it would be no issue using a larger lathe as well.  So long as the lathe is accurate (the two ends (head and tail stock being directly in line).

Variable Speed Mini Lathe

A variable lathe does have the advantage when dealing with larger, or more out-of-round blanks – being able to change speed easily without having to move belts between pulleys.

Drill Press

A drill press can substitute as mentioned – turning the pen vertically rather than horizontally. It also is particularly useful for drilling the centre of the blank to insert the brass tube core. This drill press has the laser attachment for centering the bit on the blank.


A bandsaw is useful for easily trimming the blanks and can also be used to knock the corners off before turning if the blank material is prone to chipping/splitting during the initial turning to round.

It also has a major advantage in preparing blanks – scavenging materials from offcuts, resawing dried branches/logs etc.  You can take a lump of timber full of defects and still extract plenty of material for pens.  If you ever get into segmented turning (and yes, you can do segmented pens), then the bandsaw becomes critical. Not sure where the photos of my harlequin pen have gone…

Harlequin Pen

…..found a poor version back from about 2006.  Made from Red-gum, Pittosperum and Purpleheart. I only made the bottom half of the pen in harlequin – wasn’t happy with the result to justify continuing this experiment, but the principle is valid.

I also made this slimline for an informal pen comp where the theme was cross.

Cross Pen

I went with a traditional cross, with the obvious religious overtones. So I decided to take the photo on the woodworker’s bible (no insult intended).

Disk Sander

I find I use a disk sander for some jobs as well – trimming the ends of a blank down close to the length of the brass insert ready for the pen mill.  It isn’t particularly critical – I use it because it is available, and convenient.

Spindle Gouge

As far as turning tools, you can go the whole hog – roughing gouges, skews, gouges.  For a long time this was the only one I needed – a basic spindle gouge.  Used it for roughing and finishing, and details.

Detailed Pen

Captive Ring Pen

Even with a pen, you are only limited by imagination.  The captive ring was made by taking a very cheap skew and sharpening it to a much longer point so it could reach right under the ring as it was forming.  You can buy dedicated captive ring chisels – never tried one (yet), but the basic tool still achieved a perfectly good ring.

Hamlet Mini Turning Chisels

For very fine detail, a set of mini turning chisels can be quite effective, but again not critical – I got these more for dollhouse furniture than pen turning.

Wood Pen Blanks

The blanks themselves can be either timber, acrylic, bone, horn, metal (cartridge) etc etc.

Acrylic Blanks

Acrylics are interesting to work with, producing some quite colourful results, but I never feel like the pen is fully my own, and it won’t until I get into producing my own acrylic blanks.  This isn’t too difficult, but I need to learn how it is done so I can really feel like some of  these pens are really fully my own creation.

Laser Cut Blank

You can get very elaborate with blanks.  This for example is a laser cut kit from Rockler, and is a development of the segmented turning concept.  Pens made from these sorts of kits are also very interesting, but you are nervous the entire construction because of the cost of the ‘blank’ (around $US50 for this one, and the one below).

Fire Pen

Pen Tools

The Stu’s Shed demos are still happening at Carbatec – on the last Saturday of the month.  This month (26th June) will be looking at MagSwitch, including tablesaw safety, and resawing on the bandsaw.  In July, I will be doing some pen turning (31 July).  I definitely do not profess to being a pen turning expert, but what I want to demonstrate is even someone with little turning experience can produce a decent pen.

To aid my production, I will also be demonstrating these two new products in the Carbatec range:

The Blank Drilling Vice and

Blank Drilling Vice

The Pen Press.

Pen Press

The vice in particular is some very nice engineering – simple, clever, holds tightly with a presettable holding pressure.  The  notch works equally as well on square pen blanks as well as round.  It really makes that step very easy – the blank is well held and perfectly upright – something I have long struggled with, eyeballing the blank from one side then the other to get it as upright as possible.  No longer.

And repeatable – blank after blank without struggle.  I had tried a different pen vice in the past, and it is chalk and cheese the difference between them.  This one is excellent.

I’ll reserve my opinion of the pen press.  It looks like it will do the job, and is significantly more convenient than having to set up a SuperJaws which is how I’ve done it in the past.  But until I actually use it, I cannot say if it is living up to expectations.

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