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  • How I Make Spiral or Twisted Finials



    From the first time I saw pictures of Stuart Mortimers signature twist work, I knew I wanted to try one myself, but I feared it was too difficult and time consuming. Stuarts book, Techniques of Spiral Work- A Practical Guide to the Craft of Making Twists by Hand, and an article in the May 2006 issue of Woodturning were the sources of inspiration and also great learning tools. It was when Mark Hubl showed his first spiral piece that I finally decided I would give it a try.There are many ways this work can be done, but here is the way I make twisted finials. As with any woodturning project, if something doesn't feel right to you, don't do it!!


    Here's how I do it:

    I would suggest using a piece of wood with straight grain and no knots. I have used Sycamore, Walnut, Holly, Ebony, White Pear, and Hormigo Negro. For this tutorial I am using Holly so the pencil lines can be easily seen.




    I have turned this piece to the shape I want, which is usually an elongated pear shape. Iím gradually trying to make these skinnier as I make more. The area to be cut out for the spiral is finish turned, the beads and teardrop are just roughed at this point. Itís important to leave a little ďmeatĒ on the top portion at the tailstock end for now because of the stresses caused by sanding. You want to leave this between centers for the entire job, the disc on the end will eventually get turned away.



    The layout consists of four evenly spaced horizontal lines called start lines. The index feature on most lathes makes this easy. The three vertical lines are pitch lines. These are easily done with the lathe running. On this example, the spokes, or bines as they are called, will make a Ĺ twist, This means when looking at the completed finial a bine will start at the bottom and stop half way around from where it began. You could also layout four vertical pitch lines, which would produce a ĺ twist. The spacing of these lines can be adjusted to change the pitch of the bines.




    Here is where a decision needs to be made. Do you want a right or left hand twist? For this example I chose a right hand twist, but being a southpaw, a left hand is easier for me. Using a pencil I have started at the intersection of a pitch line and start line and draw diagonally to the next start/pitch line intersection. These are called the cut lines. At this time, for safety sake, you should unplug the lathe. It will be used for holding the piece in a still position only.




    Using brad point bits, I have drilled holes on the cut lines. Itís important that each hole be drilled toward the center of the piece. I used a 4mm bit for the four holes at the top of the finial. All the others are 5mm. The reason for the 4mm holes at the top is to insure I have left enough wood where the diameter is smaller. You can always remove wood where necessary, but I havenít figured out how to add it! I used Bosch bits that have a nice sharp point. This helps to stick the bit where you want and not run the risk of having the bit ďskateĒ.One other thing to include is the importance of spacing the holes well apart. Iíve had more than one occasion where I drilled a hole too close to another and the chip out was bad enough to scrap the piece.




    The next thing I do is to route a shallow trough connecting the holes. Here is a close-up of the bit I use in a Dremel tool. It looks like a Roto-Zip bit, Iím not sure, but it was included with the Dremel. A 1/8Ē drill bit could also be used. The reason for the trough is to help prevent the bit from jumping out and skating across the surface. I hold the Dremel on a low angle and gently route a channel from hole to hole.




    Here, the shallow channels are completed and Iím ready to open things up between the holes using the same Roto-zip type bit. This bit cuts aggressively, so a light touch is best.




    All opened and ready for refining the shape of what will become the bines. The inside will be cleaned up also.

    A tungsten carbide burr works good for cleaning up the bines. I also use a needle rasp and some coarse rifflers to reach the inside of each bine. A microplane is handy to round over the tops of the bines, it will lay between two bines and round both.




    The bines are starting to take shape and almost ready for sanding, but not yet. You want to be careful
    to keep the bines equal in size. The tools used can be seen (although blurry) sitting on the lathe bed.




    Sanding has begun starting with 80 grit cloth backed sanding strips. I tear the strips to about 1/4" or
    3/8" in width. Continue through the grits removing scratches from the previous grit.



    The sanding is finished. On this piece I sanded to 1200 grit, then I buffed each bine with 2,000 and
    4,000 grit Abralon.



    The next step is to refine the beads and teardrop. A vortex tool or small skew is needed to finish off the beads. As the point is formed on the teardrop the disc will eventually fall off.




    A little sanding on the beads and teardrop, and it's done! The base can now be shaped to suit, or a tenon
    can be turned beneath the bead if it's to be used on a different lid. That about does it. Hope you enjoyed,
    and if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.
    Comments 46 Comments
    1. Jon Lanier's Avatar
      Jon Lanier -
      Thank you!!!!
    1. Edward Moomey's Avatar
      Edward Moomey -
      I keep telling myself to buy that book I have seen excerpts, from it, guess I should get one.
      I have made quite a few hollow spiral pieces on a Legacy Ornamental Mill.
      That’s some nice work ,you have done there, Richard
    1. Josh Bowman's Avatar
      Josh Bowman -
      Richard,
      Your photo's and write-up was done very well. Thanks
    1. Hank Wangford's Avatar
      Hank Wangford -
      What a fantastic tutorial!
      Such a thing of beauty you've created.

    1. Norman Gallaher's Avatar
      Norman Gallaher -
      That makes it very simple to try and have a chance at it working out. Thanks
    1. Bill Wyko's Avatar
      Bill Wyko -
      Well my confidence may get the best of me but I just picked up a piece of 10/4 Gabon Ebony. I'm going to try again in a few days.
    1. Bill Wyko's Avatar
      Bill Wyko -
      Almost done with mine. I chickened out and used Bubinga instead of my block of Ebony. I actually really like the results though. It has been fun so far. Not as difficult as I thought it was going to be.
    1. Bill Wyko's Avatar
      Bill Wyko -
      Success!!! some tiny bits of sanding and it's finished. Unfortunately I can't post picks until September. I'm in a contest and one of the rules is that it has to be posted for the contest before anywhere else. Rick, I can't thank you enough for this article. I'm going to put this to use in as many ways as I can. Love this technique.
    1. Richard Madden's Avatar
      Richard Madden -
      Quote Originally Posted by Bill Wyko View Post
      Success!!! some tiny bits of sanding and it's finished. Unfortunately I can't post picks until September. I'm in a contest and one of the rules is that it has to be posted for the contest before anywhere else. Rick, I can't thank you enough for this article. I'm going to put this to use in as many ways as I can. Love this technique.
      Bill,
      I'm glad it worked out for you and I look forward to seeing the finished product. Good luck in the contest!
    1. Primvs Aebvtivs's Avatar
      Primvs Aebvtivs -
      I am amazed at how easy you made it look. lovely clear photo's of the piece in action, just wondering if I dare go in the shop now (9p.m. Saturday night) to 'have a play' as the wife calls it... Or should I wait till shop opens in the morning... I think I'll wait, and see what I can find to practice on! Probably a cheap piece of pine to start with (I hate wastinf hardwood). Thanks for posting this, I may have to embellish some stuff I've got in the pipeline!'Bvt
    1. Bill Wyko's Avatar
      Bill Wyko -
      Everyone should give these a shot. What fun. Take your time and enjoy yourself. Now for a twisted bowl. 8-)[/IMG]
    1. Josh Brower's Avatar
      Josh Brower -
      I have an old router crafter from sears that makes these a breeze. You should look around ebay...if you can find a picture you can make one.
    1. salim nirjhor's Avatar
      salim nirjhor -
      yes u uploaded very cute , informative tutorial. tnx
    1. james hepp's Avatar
      james hepp -
      Nice tutorial. thanks for taking the time to write this.
      I own a 6ft Legacy Mill, and for milling just a couple one off parts, you can bet I'll be trying THIS next time, as opposed to setting up the Legacy, placing ANOTHER order to Magnate and all the other associated expense and delay.
    1. Melissa Messick's Avatar
      Melissa Messick -
      Thanks so much for taking the time to share your fAwesome work.
    1. Lance Granum's Avatar
      Lance Granum -
      this was covered in a deltagram from the 1930s so the credit of the design should not go to the modern artist. when this was clearly a common art form ion the 1930s I have the delta gram it was shown in zI will have to look to see who the artist who posted the information was but it is hardly fair to site someone as the inventor of the form or to call it his form when it was simply copied from the Deltagram magazine. That said you did an exelent job in re creating it I will look for the issue and will give you the information on it
    1. Harvey Ghesser's Avatar
      Harvey Ghesser -
      Lance,

      Richard Madden gave credit to his sources of information:

      "From the first time I saw pictures of Stuart Mortimers signature twist work, I knew I wanted to try one myself, but I feared it was too difficult and time consuming. Stuarts book, Techniques of Spiral Work- A Practical Guide to the Craft of Making Twists by Hand, and an article in the May 2006 issue of Woodturning were the sources of inspiration and also great learning tools."

      It has been nearly a week since your post. Are you still searching for that Deltagram?
    1. Lance Granum's Avatar
      Lance Granum -
      Yes I have found one of the spiral projects. I have not found the finial but i did find a large candel stick. Iwill continue to search for them. I have had 2 links to the delta gram project removed from this site as they dont aprove of links to sources here. However if you simply google Deltagram we will be at or near the top of the links and you will see other links on lumberjocks that point to the deltagram project. I will try to get this one scanned and put up so you all can see how they were doing this in the 1930s.
    1. Ken Fitzgerald's Avatar
      Ken Fitzgerald -
      Richard, you are mistaken. We allow and even encourage links here. You just can't link to another forum, to a website for the sole purpose to direct traffic to that website for monetary gain or to your own commercial website.
    1. Richard Madden's Avatar
      Richard Madden -
      Quote Originally Posted by Lance Granum View Post
      this was covered in a deltagram from the 1930s so the credit of the design should not go to the modern artist. when this was clearly a common art form ion the 1930s I have the delta gram it was shown in zI will have to look to see who the artist who posted the information was but it is hardly fair to site someone as the inventor of the form or to call it his form when it was simply copied from the Deltagram magazine. That said you did an exelent job in re creating it I will look for the issue and will give you the information on it
      Lance,
      Did I site anyone as the "inventor of this form", or did I call it "his form'??? Read it again Lance. I give all credit for this kind of work to Stuart Mortimer, because it was his book and his magazine article that inspired me. Had I been inspired by this delta gram you refer to, I'd certainly have given credit to that source. And by all means give me the information on this delta gram, but if you think twisted or spiral work was "invented" by this mystery person in the 1930's that you are mentioning, I would wager you are wrong about that. This style of work, meaning twist or spiral, dates back much further than the 1930's. It dates back at least 400 to 500 years ago. Google Jacobean style furniture, as an example, and you will see what I'm talking about.
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