Allow Cookies

We use cookies to give the best user experience. If you continue to use our site, we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies that ensure the site works correctly. Remove this banner, by clicking "Allow Cookies".

home about diary news gallery contact hints & tips notice board items for sale club shop turning blanks club library club competitions club subscriptions the reg bailey cup

Hints & Tips

Woodturners in general are a very inventive and innovative bunch and as such have a large store of hints, tips and tricks devised or gleaned to make their turning easier, quicker or better, . The idea of these pages is to tease some of that knowledge out and share it with a wider audience to help us all to become a little bit better at our hobby. Please e-mail or ‘phone me to share your hints, tips, tricks, cost saving devices or links to useful websites on these pages. Do not think its limited to experienced or advanced turners; beginners very often pick up many tips in their first years, knowledge which perhaps has become so second nature to more experienced turners that they do not regard it as worthy of note. Hopefully we will over time develop this section of the website to provide a wealth of practical advice for woodturners of all abilities and experience. It will not work without your input!

John Austin


T: 07766 600266


In order to keep track of grades of abrasives draw four lines on the back of each strip with felt tip pen using a different colour for each grade. Keep a colour code list pinned on the wall. You will then always know the grade of abrasive you are using however you cut it.



To position clock face numerals insert the clock mechanism and attach the hands, identify the vertical line across the face from the 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock positions. Position the minute and hour hands at 12 o’clock, rotate the minute hand 3600 ; the hour hand will then point at the position for the 1 numeral. Carry on round the face marking the position of each hour.



Adjust working height of lahe.Have centre line of spindle at the centre line height of your elbow as your arm hangs straight down. Align the centres of your lathe using the KISS test between your headstock and tailstock.


Pen Turning

When drilling out pen blanks to accept the brass tube, avoid cracking or splitting when the drill exits the blank by stopping 3 or 4 mm short of the end; trim off to expose the hole.


Nigel Amor

After drilling your first pen blank for the brass tube touch the hot tip of the drill with a candle. A small bit of wax will melt on the end of the drill. Do this after each blank is drilled and you will find you rarely have to sharpen the drill bit as well as making its passage through the wood a lot smoother.


Phil Boulter

  • Make a template for cutting pen blanks to length as follows:
  • Cut a strip of thin wood or ply 20mm wide plus another piece 20mm square
  • Glue the square onto the strip the same distance from one end as the length of the nib tube + 5mm to allow for trimming the ends.
  • Cut the other end of the strip the same distance from the square as the length of both tubes + 10mm
  • Use the template by placing the pen blank on the longer end of the template to mark the overall length. Mark the nib end length by using the short end.
  • Make a template for each style of pen to get consistent, accurate sizes
  • A template for a Slimline pen



John Austin

PEN FINISHING WITH CA (Cyanoacrylate) GLUE – Superglue


I have been experimenting with finishing pens with CA glue recently. If you like a high gloss and very durable finish on your pens then it is worth giving this a try. There are literally dozens of articles and YouTube videos out there on this subject all slightly different. I do not pretend the method below is any better than others, it just worked for me – use it as a basic start point and develop it to suit your own way of working.


As ever use all PPE precautions and have some CA glue debonder handy!


  1. Turn the pen blank(s) as normal and sand to 600 grit or higher. As with all turning the finish will only be as good as the preparation.
  2. Fold a piece of kitchen towel to have a pad approximately 40mm x 120mm and consisting of about 16 thicknesses. This should be enough to prevent any glue seeping through onto your fingers.
  3. Set the lathe on a slow speed 400 - 600 rpm.
  4. Hold one end of the pad lightly against the underside of the pen blank and move it slowly from one end to the other whilst simultaneously dribbling 2 or 3 drops of medium CA glue on top of the blank following the moving pad with the glue pot. You will see a line of glue progress along the blank as you do this. If you have two blanks on the mandrel repeat the process for the second one.
  5. With the lathe still spinning spray a very small amount of accelerator onto the blank(s). Do not overdo this as it can cause a milky bloom on the finish.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 up to 16 times. I usually use 2 kitchen towel pads getting 2 passes from each end and each side then turning the pad inside out to use for another 4 passes. It sounds a lot but each pass only takes a few seconds and the 16 coats only takes a few minutes once you are into the swing of it.
  7. If you stop the lathe now you will see the beginnings of the high gloss finish. Sand the finish with Micromesh sanding pads starting at 1500 grit and working up through the 9 grades to 12000 grit. The lathe speed can be increased for this stage. Lubricate the Micromesh with water. You will find this creates a white slurry with the lower grits. You can wipe this off after each grit but I have found it makes no difference and read somewhere it can help with the finish.
  8. When you have sanded to 12000 grit dry off and admire the shine! You may well now be satisfied with the finish but I use 2 further polishes, firstly a quick polish with brasso followed by a car polish. I finish with a coat of microcrystalline wax.
  9. Before removing the pen blank(s) from the mandrel you need to score the joins between the bushes and the blanks as they are now glued together! Take extreme care when doing this - use a sharp craft knife or even a skew - and score lightly and accurately (err a hair’s breadth on the side of the bush) all the way round or you will damage the end finish. You will now find that the bushes should just snap off the end of the blanks when they are removed from the mandrel.
  10. Assemble the pen as normal taking special care not to damage the end of the tube.


If you use the above let me know how you got on – good or bad – and how you adapted it, if at all, to achieve the finish. Let’s try and evolve this together to get something which is useful for everyone. Any questions or comments please e-mail or ‘phone me.


John Austin


T: 07766 600266

Links :


  1. In a suitable container pour in 50% white vinegar and 50% water (quantities not overly critical). Place the item to be cleaned in the liquid so that the metal part is completely covered. Depending on the degree of rust leave for up to 24 hours.
  2. Remove the item from the solution, then using an old toothbrush, or similar, brush the rust residue away to reveal clean metal. Wash under running water.
  3. Now again using a suitable container fill with water and add a few teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda. Immerse item and leave for 15 – 30 mins. This will ensure that any acid residue left on the item is neutralised.
  4. Remove the item wash and dry.
  5. Depending on the metal the process may well leave the item looking quite dull. If you want a more polished look invest in a metal polishing kit from somewhere like ‘The Polishing Shop’ (Google it) which for a basic kit is about £10 and consists of 3 buffing mops and some polishing compounds together with full instructions.


After the visit as guest demonstrator in July 2012, Mark Raby very kindly allowed us to copy the following notes on wood finishing :


Hints and Tips on Finishing



Never jump grits by more than 100g at a time when sanding. Finish the work with a Webrax/Nyweb pad. The order for this is GREEN RED GREY WHITE White being non-abrasive. After sanding don't be tempted to touch your work use a Tack Cloth to remove any fine dust particles.



Always use an Application/Safety Cloth to apply the finish. Remember Kitchen Towel is designed to SOAK up NOT put on!!



The Stain MUST be applied to bare wood. DO NOT SEAL THE WOOD. Blend in the stains to create the effect you want. Remember the slower the lathe is turning the heavier the stain will take on the wood. Once the effect has been created you MUST seal the wood. This can be with a Cellulose Sanding Sealer or Acrylic Sanding Sealer either of these can be from a tin or aerosol. Once dry give a de-nib (a light sand with the grey Webrax) Then again clean with Tack Cloth Once the sealer is dry you can then finish with the top coat of your choice. Any of the following are suitable Melamine Lacquer, Acrylic Gloss (both from aerosol) also Carnauba Wax and Friction Polish. If using the Melamine or Gloss apply 3 or 4 coats, once totally dry you can apply Burnishing Cream for a deep shine and lasting lustre.



First you must decide what your project is going to be used for i.e. decorative, handled a lot or functional. Choose your finish accordingly. For something that is going to be handled a lot consider using Cellulose Sanding Sealer and Melamine (REMEMBER NEVER SHAKE MELAMINE) Melamine can then be Burnished or Friction Polish. Shellac Sanding Sealer is also a good base, de-nib then use Friction Polish and finish off with carnauba. Paste Wax this can be used either with a sealer or straight onto the wood (my preferred is the bare wood) When applying wax I tend to apply this with the Webrax. You can build up the wax finish to your desired gloss level. The bonus of Clear Paste Wax is that it can be tinted using the spirit stains Make sure you mix enough for your project!!!! Liming Wax is used to create effects on open grain woods, prepare your wood in the usual way stain if required then apply the Liming Wax. Once the wax has been applied wipe off the excess The result will be the Liming Wax will have stayed in the grain. To finish use either Clear wax or a light Oil. Again the Liming Wax can be tinted with the spirit stains to give different shades. You can also seal the wood prior to liming to form a barrier between stain and wax if required.



DON'T seal the wood prior to applying Oil. On your final sand apply the oil to a Webrax. Never apply the oil too heavily and between coats allow to dry. De-nib between the coats. Once fully dry the work can then be buffed or coated with Carnauba or Paste Wax if required.



DON'T press too hard when sanding or applying a finish HOT FINGER RULE!!!

ALWAYS clean your work with a Tack Cloth.

DON'T rush your finishing and choose the right finish for your project.

Remember if it all goes wrong you can sand back,( murmur curses and blame me)

We are only a phone call or email away for any help and advice

We can supply ALL your finishing products to your door and many other woodturning products. Please ask. Enjoy your Turning and Finishing Remember it's YOUR hobby And it's worth it in the end.


  1. Preparation of your work when sanding NEVER jump in more than 100 grit at a time.
  3. DON'T touch TACK
  4. Use APPLICATION/SAFETY CLOTH for applying finishes



  1. Cellulose Sanding Sealer is the most universal sealer use with Spirit Stains as a wash
  2. Acrylic Sanding Sealer is better if using an Acrylic top coat and for using with Jo Sonja products and Spirit Stains
  3. Shellac/Lacacote Sanding Sealer good for use with Friction Polish and Wax NOT suitable for Acrylics and Melamine



  1. The stain MUST go onto bare wood
  2. The stain then must be sealed
  3. The slower the lathe is turning the heavier the stain will be


LIMING (Over Stain)

  1. If the stain is not sealed the colour will turn pastel
  2. If you want the colour to remain vibrant seal prior to liming
  3. Let the wax dry before removing with a light oil mixture



  1. If using over Ebonising Lacquer or stain you MUST seal prior to applying the Gilt
  2. Let the Gilt dry before removing with a light oil blend


JO SONJA (Iridescent)

  1. These MUST go over a dark background (Unless you only want a hint of colour)
  2. Seal with Acrylic Sealer or Acrylic Satin Lacquer


JO SONJA (Metallic)

  1. Can be applied over bare wood
  2. These colours are NOT Translucent
  3. Water wash for random effect
  4. Once dry you can use a heat gun to make the colours bubble


REMEMBER - EXPERIMENT Push the boundaries use your wood as a blank canvas No disaster is more than a sand back or a skim away When all else fails curse, stamp your feet and blame your tutors for doing the course in the first place !!!!

Peter Childs Woodturning

The following article on turning green wood is reproduced here with the kind permission of Peter Childs Woodturning:


Using green or part seasoned wood from hedges, woodland, gardens etc for your woodturning projects.

Stable Wood Does not exist!

Many visitors to our wood store come looking for nice seasoned discs or chunks of wood 3" thick or more, preferably with the face machine-planed to show the grain. They ask "is it dry?". What they want is wood which can be turned straight away and delivered to the user immediately, without any risk of warping or splitting. You might think this a reasonable request but as you progress with your woodturning, you will learn one extremely important fact of life which is. . .


Seasoned wood 4" thick or more is virtually unobtainable

The reason is purely economic. It takes many years to fully air dry a 4" plank of wood or several expensive weeks in a kiln. The high wastage and the cost of the overheads are so high that most sawmills are reluctant to cut anything thicker than 2" for stock. Thicker timber is available but it is usually sold as "part seasoned" before it has a chance to dry fully. It is a sad fact that many sawmills, even reputable ones, will sell thick wood as "kiln dried" which is only dry on the outside skin. If you turn something out of it - say a bowl - you are asking for trouble. The stresses inside the timber are released when it is turned and it will soon warp or split. You might be lucky and find some timber which has been stored for years for some reason, but normally you can be sure that wood more than 3" thick will be only "part seasoned" and will not be suitable for turning immediately into a finished object. 

There are exceptions to this rule - I have found a supply of imported American cherry, ash, maple etc which is correctly kiln dried down to 12% moisture or so. If you do find really well seasoned wood you will have to pay a high price for it.


Using part seasoned wood 

One of the big advantages of being a woodturner is that you can use green or part seasoned wood without waiting years for it to dry - provided you know what you are doing. Instead of paying a sawmill to store wood for years, you can take any piece of fresh cut material, even from the firewood pile, and turn it. As green wood is very cheap if not free, woodturners who understand the green turning process can save a lot of money on material.


Useful sources of supply. . . .

Friends with large gardens or woodlands.

Firewood merchants

Tree surgeons, estate maintenance contractors, farmers etc.

Timber auctions

Old furniture


Offcuts from furniture makers

Specialist woodturning shop


Green Turning of Bowls

A hundred years ago, the woodturner was an important member of the village community - every bit as busy as the village blacksmith and employed to make furniture and household "treen", including lots of wooden bowls for the kitchen and dairy. All his material would have come from nearby woodland. If you could go back in time and ask the turner if he used dry or seasoned wood for his bowls he would surely look at you as if you were mad. Where could he get such a thing? Why should he use dry wood when it is much easier to turn wet wood?


The process of making a bowl from green or part seasoned wood is very straightforward.

(a) The bowl is roughly hollowed from wet wood to around 1" thickness - thinner on a small bowl. Allow say 10% of the bowl’s diameter.

(b) The roughed out bowl is stored for a few weeks (Not years!)

(c) The dry bowl is re-mounted on the lathe and finish turned.


The advantages of this process are many. . .

You can buy the wood cheaper and have a much better choice of material.

You can get material as thick as you like for nice deep bowls.

Wastage from the log due to end splits etc is eliminated.

You can use pieces with wild grain which would not dry properly if left in the plank.

Wet wood cuts easier and quicker Less dust is generated so that is healthier for your lungs

The disadvantage is you have to look some weeks ahead - you cannot buy wood as you need it, you have to maintain a stock.


Storing rough turned bowls

Once the bowl is roughed out it has to be stored in such a way that it dries out as quickly as possible without splitting. Drying can be accelerated by warmth but moisture has to be prevented from evaporating from the surface too fast or the bowl will surely split. With coarse grained quick drying wood such as elm and walnut you can dry a large bowl from green in about 6 weeks. Simply wrap it well in twenty or thirty layers of newspaper (open up a whole newspaper and use it to wrap the blank to make a parcel) and keep it in a warm room. Tape it up so that no gaps show. Write on what it is and date it. My father (Peter Child) use to rough turn hundreds of elm bowls and protect them with "paste wax" before drying them in the airing cupboard. Paste wax is a kind of cheap floor polish used commercially in factories, hospitals etc. End seal coating such as Mobil "C" would do just as well. I use newspaper because it works and I don’t have to pay for it.


With difficult fine grained slow drying wood, such as Cherry or Apple, more protection is required. The best method is to put the roughed out bowl in a cardboard carton full of dry shavings, again in a warm room. The process will take 3 months or so. You will lose a percentage of these especially if they have a lot of sapwood in them.


The Seasoning Process 

There is no such thing as a dry piece of wood. Every wood blank or finished turning will lose or absorb moisture from the air until it eventually reaches an equilibrium point with its surroundings. The equilibrium point in, for example, your living room depends mostly on the average value of the relative humidity from month to month. If the atmosphere is very dry due to the central heating, then all the furniture and wooden objects in the room will lose water to the air until the percentage of water inside the wood drops to the value corresponding to the conditions. The percentage of water in the wood may get as low as 5% but there always will be some water left in there. If you switch off the heating for a month or two and the air gets moister, then the wood will slowly gain water until the percentage water content achieves the value for an unheated room in a house which is typically 12%. The equilibrium value in our woodstore which is an unheated oak framed barn is 15%. I can prove this by using an electronic moisture meter to measure the water content of the oak beams which have been "seasoning" there for 300 years, maybe more. They never get drier than 15% of water. Any piece of wood I put in the barn, be it initially sopping wet or dry as dust, will lose or gain water from the air until it gets to the 15% value (more or less). Wood warps if its water content changes. It shrinks if it loses, and expands if it gains.


Seasoning wood is the process of drying out wood to achieve equilibrium with its intended final home. It can then be turned or made into furniture or whatever without fear of warping. It should be realized that wood does not season with time as the word suggests - it seasons with water loss. I am sure that if I was to cut a piece out of my oak beam and turn it into a bowl, it would warp if I took it into the house because it would change from 15% moisture content to about 8%. The fact that it has been "seasoned" for 300 years will not prevent it shrinking when it dries a bit. On the other hand I could dry out a piece of fresh green oak to 12% in a few weeks in a kiln, take it into the house, and expect it to absolutely stable in shape. To be safe, you should store wood blanks, before turning them, for as long as possible in an atmosphere close to the intended final environment of the finished turning. This will ensure the minimum movement or warping in the finished piece and prevent splits. You should allow about 4 weeks for 1" thick timber to achieve equilibrium. Less time is needed if the moisture content of the blank is already close to the final value. Fine grain wood takes longer than coarse grain to achieve equilibrium. Bowls should be rough turned to 1" thickness or so and stored before re-mounting and finish turning. Wax coating of end grain is essential to prevent splits in blanks which are suddenly exposed to a dry atmosphere or to direct sunlight. On sunny days cover any timber you take away in your car.


Commercial logging is wasteful

The commercial method of processing wood is as follows.

(1) The trunk is trimmed on site (lots of lovely wood is left behind to be burnt) and trucked to the sawmill.

(2) It is sawn through and through prior to seasoning. Any lumps and bumps together with the top and bottom planks are thrown away.

(3) The planks are then air dried in the traditional way or put in the kiln to speed things up. Even though all reasonable precautions are taken during seasoning, there is a great deal of wastage due to splits. Planks (especially thick ones) always split at the ends so a percentage is lost there. Planks with any thickness suffer from surface splits and split open around any features in the grain such as knots, crotches, wild or swirly grain - all the prettiest bits. This is because these parts of the trunk will simply refuse to dry evenly. All kinds of stresses will inevitable build up inside the wood until it splits open. What is left to sell is boring straight grained stuff ideal for furniture but of little interest to the turner. Discolouration due to fungus can cause a lot of waste - blue stain in sycamore can affect a percentage of the available material even though special precautions are taken. If the wastage due to all the above is 50% then the price is doubled. If you look at the costs all along the line including the cost of transport, sawing, storage and distribution you will find that the initial cost of the raw material - trees - makes up a tiny, almost negligable percentage of the cost of the finished material. Wood is expensive principally because of the wastage - so much of it is destroyed by the pressures of the commercial world which oblige large sawmills to operate this way. The situation is much worse in the tropical rain forests where millions of "non-commercial" species of trees are cut and wasted just to provide access to the loggers. All the most attractive portions of the tree - the part where the branches divide, the branches themselves, and the roots and burrs are nearly always discarded or destroyed. Sawmills do not "rescue" this wood because it is not profitable to do so.


If only a woodturner would intercept the process and cut the wood into discs and rough turn the material before it dries! Then all the pretty swirly grain pieces would be saved because rough turning relieves most of the stress. Bowl turning was always done this way in olden times.


How to process a small log

Visitors to our little shop often want to know how to make use of a small cherry tree or some such which has come their way. It is no good just keeping the log and hoping it will eventually dry to usable stock. You have to process it in some way. If you leave it in log form it is likely to split or rot or both and you will lose it. You might be lucky with fairly small logs however - anything under 5" diameter will often dry without degrade if you dry them very slowly over a period of two or three years.


It is important to realise that any piece of wood is liable to split open if the very centre of the log (the pith) is left contained within the piece. It is O.K. for the pith to show by running down one face but it is wrong to leave it inside the wood. One method is simply to cut or split the log straight down the middle into two halves and seal the end with wax, paint or end seal. This is fine for logs up to about 8" diameter. You could split them into four if you prefer. Heart shakes tend to get larger as the wood dries so it is best to remove any heart shakes or defects at the centre of the log by cutting either side of the defects to yield split-free pieces which are likely to dry without further loss.


Sealing the End Grain

It helps when seasoning or storing any piece of wood to seal the end grain against overfast evaporation of moisture. If you do not do this the end grain will split in hot weather. The best seal is candle wax or paraffin wax. Melt the wax in a shallow tray and dip the ends of the piece of wood in it. If it is a disc of wood for a bowl, roll the disc in the molten wax to coat the entire periphery of the disc. Take precautions against fire - as with a chip pan.


Turning Branches

Some of the prettiest turned objects are made from branches and small logs of Laburnum, yew or similar trees. These can be turned green or part seasoned. If they are well sealed after turning, perhaps with three or four coats of sanding sealer, they will be O.K. It is worth trying the following home grown timbers. . .

  • Laburnum
  • Yew
  • Boxwood
  • Oak
  • Strawberry tree (garden shrub)
  • Lilac Mulberry
  • Hawthorn and Blackthorn Plum,
  • Cherry,
  • Apple etc

Don't miss...


8th Jan 2019

Paul Howard Demonstration

Goblet with 1 Captive Ring (Novices), 2 Captive Rings (Intermediates), 3 Captive Rings (Advanced)


26th Jan 2019

Saturday Workshop 10am until 1pm

THEME : Square Edged Items