Learning the Art of Woodturning


Learning the Art of Woodturning


Woodturning is a unique and useful skill in the world of woodworking.

There will always be projects that call for shaped timber detailing – even if it’s something as simple, or low key as some feet for a grandfather clock, or hand turned fixings for an occasional table.

Woodturning is a challenge that some of our students choose to master, and as I write this, our student Henry is using some time in the workshop to turn some bowls.

Any beginner can learn the basics of the process - and in a couple of hours -  have something to show for their efforts. Henry learnt woodturning after a couple of sessions at the school with our tutor Jim; and student, Maurice learnt to wood turn fixings for his small glass table with our visiting tutor, Maria.

While woodturning isn’t a subject that we cover in great depth in our syllabus, a great advantage of our course is that our tutors are flexible and reactive to subjects that the students want to cover.

So if woodturning, or gold leafing (for example) are something you want to become skilled in - then we’ll go the extra mile in demonstrating that technique to you and helping you to learn about that subject in the depth that you’d like.

Henry’s growing woodturning experience is very beneficial to his current project. The grandfather clock requires a variety of shaped features in the form of feet, columns and mouldings – and Henry’s next challenge will be turning the columns that will be a decorative support for the face of the clock.

A few methods can be used to achieve the shape of these columns in woodturning. However, the one I’ve chosen to feature in today’s blog is a paper joint.

In woodwork, when we glue a project up it’s usually forever. However, in some applications it’s useful to eventually disassemble the joint - and this is where a paper joint comes in. Paper joints are a way of attaching a sacrificial piece of waste wood to a piece of work, often for the purpose of making it easier to turn or shape, or protecting a surface that you’d like to remain unmarked by screws.

A piece of porous paper, like brown craft paper, is glued between the waste wood and the work, clamped together and the glue allowed to dry. If the turning is thin, some woodworkers use thin 3mm craft card, which separates more easily than paper and puts less strain on your work. Then you work on your piece as you normally would.

When your work on the turned piece is complete, you can then separate the two halves by placing a chisel directly on the paper joint and gently tapping.

This causes the paper to split and the halves to separate, although it’s important not to pry the joint open, but use the chisel to drive a wedge between the sections. You can then discard the sacrificial piece of wood, leaving you with the required shaped piece for your project.

Henry’s grandfather clock columns, while appearing to be cylindrical, will need to have a rebate section cut out of the column to allow them to sit snugly against the clock face.

Henry could do this by cutting the rebate prior to turning the wood -  and paper gluing a sacrificial section of wood back into that rebate. Henry could then turn his column as he normally would. On finishing turning the column, he could then use the chisel to separate off the paper glue joint and ‘dummy’ wood, giving him a perfectly turned column with a clean rebate section to fit the clock face.

After separating a paper glue joint, the piece can then be finished off by simply sanding off any residual glue or paper.

Henry has got several columns and mouldings to turn, so keep an eye on Instagram to see his woodturning skills come together and the progress of his grandfather clock. Link here.