Colour Lidded Pot


Colour Lidded Pot:
Andy Coates turns a lidded pot and uses pyrography and colour techniques to decorate

Andy Coates turns a lidded pot and uses pyrography and colour techniques to decorate

Often people struggle with forming shapes. This can be an issue as it is fundamental to what we as turners
do. Poor shape invariably stems from one or two areas: poor understanding of form in the basic sense, or a lack of understanding of how we make shapes using the tools. The first point is relatively easy to address; we need to know what shapes we like and why. If you see a piece of turnery, or vessels from other disciplines, and you like the shape, try to define what appeals to you and the reason for this. The same approach should be taken with pieces that you don’t like. Ask yourself why they don’t appeal, and take notes, maybe even make sketches. How often do you hear people say they like a piece of turnery? Well I do frequently. On a number of occasions I have asked the question, ‘Why?’ The answers are rarely worth noting: ‘Because I do… ’ is the usual response, which may be enough for the maker, but is useless as a tool
to improve your own work.
Let us assume that you’ve found a shape that pleases you, and your reasons for liking it might be as basic as the flow of the curves and that the object looks in proportion. How might you replicate those aspects in your own work? Firstly we need to make an assumption: your tools are sharp and the bevels are consistent. Do not be too hidebound about angles of bevels at this stage; the likelihood is that your bevels are pretty much as the factory provided them so they will not be too far out.
The next step is to consider how we hold the tool, how we address it to the wood and how we move the tool. In most cases, we need to hold the tool into the body for the fullest control. With the tool on the rest, supported with one hand and the handle held into the body with the other hand, practise employing your body to move the tool, rather than using your arms/wrist. It may feel odd at first, but once your movements become fluid, your shapes will flow. The trick is to learn how to feed the tool through your fingers to provide extra length as the cut moves further away from the toolrest, and at what speed to lift the handle in order to make cuts around a curve that is moving away from the toolrest. All of these movements need to be relative to each other, smooth and uninterrupted. While doing all this, you also need to ensure that the bevel is rubbing against the wood and that the flute of the tool is pointing in the correct direction to effect the cut. These points are key. The bevel supports the cutting edge and directs it. If you have full bevel control and your body describes the shape you want on the wood, the bevel will follow and direct the cutting edge. Think of your body as the tracing pin on a pantograph and the cutting edge as the pen at the end. Let’s try and put some of this into practice and see where we get.

Information and Plans
Equipment used
• Kiln dried oak (Quercus spp.) 100 x 100 x 180mm
• 10mm bowl gouge
• 10mm spindle gouge
• 10mm parting and beading tool
• 2mm parting tool
• Deep hollowing tool
• 10mm twist bit in 2MT holder
• Abrasives 180–400 grits
• Pyrography machine and wire tips
• Stains and varnish
• Thick sack or full newspaper in which to break bulb (dispose of glass appropriately)
• PPE: facemask, gloves, dust mask/respirator

The pyrographic technique I use here is more accurately called ‘branding’ rather than ‘pyrography’. Pyrography is generally accepted as painting pictures with shading, whereas branding is the deep burning of repetitive patterns. For this reason, a high-powered machine is required. A low-powered machine will struggle to make a sufficiently deep burn and the recovery period between each burn can be tedious.


Pyrography tips
These can be bought pre-formed in a variety of shapes, or can be fashioned from ni-chrome wire. A simple home-made bending jig can be an advantage. A brass brush is also required to de-coke the tips while working. Remember to take regular rest breaks to avoid repetitive strain injury in the fingers and wrist. Use a small extractor fan designed for wood smoke if possible. Avoid working in confined spaces as sensitivity
to wood smoke can be an issue.

Pyrography tips

Colour techniques
Colouring can be carried out with a range of different media: alcohol and spirit stains, acrylic inks and transparent paints. A very pleasing effect can be achieved by putting down a foundation layer of alcohol or spirit stain and then a top coat of a transparent paint of the same colour. Once these are fully dry, use an Artists’ varnish to seal the whole vessel and make the colours brighter and more vivid.

Colouring techniques

1. Mount your blank between centres and rough down to a cylinder. Turn a tenon to suit your chuck jaws. Remount the blank on the tenon and bring the tailstock up for support

2. Mark a line 50mm back from the tailstock end and turn a tenon to suit your jaws. At the 50mm mark, make a parting cut 5mm wide and cut to the same diameter as the tenon on the end of the blank. Part off the 50mm section at the headstock end and when the wood is stationary saw it off. Put this section to one side. Mark pencil lines at 33 and 100mm back from the new end face

3. Scribe a 60mm circle on the new end of the blank. Working from the corner, begin removing waste until you have a lip about 5mm deep (the 60mm will be reduced later). Note the position of the flute on the tool. Rub the bevel and slowly raise the handle, feeding the tool out as it moves towards the pencil line

4. To form the upper shape to the right of the 33mm line, begin at the corner, working towards the lip. Each cut should be progressively longer as you remove waste and work back towards the line. Ideally, your last cut will be from just at the pencil line to the base of the lip. Throughout this section, position the flute as in step 3. Don’t cut away the pencil line. To form the lower section, make shaping cuts with the flute pointing to the left as shown

5. Rub the bevel and feed the tool through your fingers, slowly raising the handle as the curve progresses. Work from just to the left of the 33mm pencil line, rubbing the bevel and raising the handle until the cut picks up. This will ensure a natural curve on the transition. When the cut becomes too heavy, reverse the tool’s flute and use a pushing cut to remove waste to just shy of the ultimate surface. Return to the shaping cut position and move down the blank

6. Work down to close to the 90mm mark. We need some waste to support the hollowing process later. The final section of shape will be completed after hollowing. Clean up by using a sheer cut on the wing of the tool as shown. Take this lightly, with just the weight of the tool on the wood and do not push into the cut

7. Reduce the diameter of the 5mm lip so it is in proportion to your anticipated final shape. Rub the bevel on the completed shape and push the tool forward, raising the handle until it picks up the cut naturally. Raise the handle so that it is practically horizontal as the cutting edge meets the base of the lip. My lip is 40mm diameter

8. The outer shape is not yet fully formed, so draw in the approximate final shape ending at the 100mm mark. This is a visual reference for forming the interior shape as you will not be able to gauge wall thickness in this last section

9. Using a 10mm twist bit in the Jacobs chuck, drill down to 90mm depth. Remove and clean the twist drill frequently to prevent jamming and overheating. Vacuum or blow out the shavings in the central bore. Make a finishing cut across the first 10mm of the end face and then make a pencil mark at 5mm in from the edge of the lip

10. Use a 10mm spindle gouge to remove some of the central waste towards the pencil mark. Cut on the left-hand wing of the tool, pivoting the tool on the toolrest; the handle is pushed away from you. Now take a parting and beading tool and make a parallel cut down to 10mm depth

11. Mark the 10mm base of this parallel inner lip. This is a useful habit if you are new to deep hollowing. By cutting the inner wall to this mark, you can ensure a 5mm overall wall thickness at the top of the form. Continue matching this thickness throughout your form to achieve even walls. NB: The other 5mm of the 10mm accounts for the lip

12. Removing the internal waste can be done with any deep hollowing tool of your preference. All the popular tools will work. Take gentle cuts, working from the edge of the central bore out towards the wall of the form. Stop the lathe frequently and remove the shavings or they will snag the tool and cause a catch. Setting the wall thickness to the pencil line at the top of the form helps you gauge the thickness under the shoulder. Stop the lathe regularly and check the thickness

13. Work down the form in progressive steps, setting the wall thickness, removing waste and cleaning the wall surface as you go. Here you can see the step at just below the equator. This step also helps as a reference for where to pick up the next cut. Continue hollowing, mimicking the external curve, until you reach the point at which the exterior shape ends

14. Once the last section of central bore is turned away, complete the hollowing. You may wish to use a cranked scraper to clean the tool marks off the inner wall. Sand the interior using a hollow form abrasive holder. Once sanded, check that the finished depth is 90mm

15. Now complete the exterior shaping using a long-ground 10mm spindle gouge. Take light cuts with full bevel support, and work down and aim to end at the 100mm mark. The final base diameter should be 30mm

16. Now sand the form. As I intend to pyrograph and colour this vessel, I have sanded to 240 grit. Make a shallow cut with a 2mm parting tool at the 100mm mark to enable the whole surface to be sanded evenly

17. Make a 2mm cut, 2mm deep, at the base of the lip on the top of the form. This creates a shadow line at the lip of the vessel

18. Now mount the parted off section from earlier on. Turn a 5mm tenon to fit the neck of the vessel and gently push the hollow form onto the tenon. Bring the tailstock up for support. The marks from the drive spur ensure an accurate mating. Turn down the waste on the remounted section to a cylinder, the same diameter as the lip, then reduce this by 3mm and remove the vessel from the tenon

19. Form a shallow concave on the face of the resulting cylinder and sand to a finish. Next, place the toolrest around the side and form the lid and finial taking small cuts…

20. … to achieve the shape you wish. If you are going to pyrograph (brand) the vessel, make the shape accessible to the tip you will be using. Once shaped, part the finial off, remount the vessel and fit the lid to complete it

21. Next, turn a tenon on the remaining waste (or secondary waste block if you don’t have enough left), 10mm deep to fit snugly in the inner neck of the vessel. Wrap with tape to secure, and taking light and gentle cuts, form a 5mm deep recess in the base. Sand to a finish

22. I like to use oak (Quercus spp.) for these vessels because the grain usually helps to determine where I will brand or colour. There was a prominent area of grain that I chose, and here I pencilled in two lines following the grain around the form and over the lid section (the grain matched due to the production method)

23. Choosing your pyrography brand shape, begin to mark out your pencil lines, working closely to the line. I chose a simple ‘ball’ shape brand for this vessel and continued the branding, working back from the initial lines. This takes time and patience, but you can always complete this section over a few hours or even days. Continue branding until you are left with only the band of natural wood running around the vessel. This can be a long process, but branding can help here as it is quicker to fill large spaces with a brand rather than a simple wire tip. I made a second form and branded it using a simple ‘coiled wire’ brand. The finished effect is markedly different

24. You could leave the natural band of wood plain, but as ever, I chose to colour it. What medium you use is entirely up to you. There are some options in the info panel below the drawing. Prior to colouring, use a bronze brush to gently remove the carbon residue from burning, and carefully oil the branded surface to help reduce stains from splashes. I coloured mine with red alcohol stain then a red transparent paint


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