Shaving and Make Up Brushes archive

Wednesday 7 January 2009

Paul Loseby brings us this easy and fun project


I consider myself to be a lucky chap having been taught to chase threads by John Berkeley, Allan Batty and Doris Day. "Doris Day?" you say but my problem was always getting the rhythm and lathe speed right and she has always managed to get my rhythm right. Hopefully she will do the same for you!

You can buy the shaving or make-up brushes from the webmaster of the AAW (American Association of Woodturners) Ed Davidson through his website Ed is the expert on these brushes although he uses a different method. His website gives free video tutorials and lots of ideas. The shaving brush heads are made from badger hair and from personal experience, I can tell you that they are superb to shave with. They are the most expensive of the brushes and at the time of writing (July 2008) are $10.95 plus shipping. The brushes aren't available on the website but if you email Ed your requirements he will readily ship some out to you. E-mail:

The make-up brushes are pink dyed sable, natural sable or the synthetic and very nice Dior black and white brushes. For the shaving brushes, you do need to have a wood and finish that will withstand being soaked every day.

1 We have the blank in the chuck jaws and need to measure the diameter of the brush head and depth so that we know how far to drill into the blank. The diameter of this makes it an easy job to drill with a 25mm (1in) Forstner bit. The depth is just over 19mm (3/4in) but a small exposed section of the pink brush head looks good

2 Drill down 19mm. To ensure that I go to the right depth, as always I mark my drill bit with white ink correction fluid

3 At this point I want the brush head to just be a fraction too big so that it won't quite allow you to push it into the blank

4 This is where Doris Day comes into her own. With thread chasing, I have never been able to master the armrest that John and Allan use. Holding a tool in each hand and moving them is too much for my mind to cope with. I first get the lathe spinning at approximately 450rpm. I have the toolrest at an angle and about 50mm (2in) from the opening - it is slightly higher than centre. My biggest problem was moving the chaser at the correct speed

5 Do you remember the song Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)? Try humming it and then, near but not touching the wood, move the end of your chaser in clockwise circles about 1.5in diameter, in time with the music. Do that for a few seconds until you are comfortable with it and then move into the hole. Now as you are going into the box, touching with the 3rd or 4th tooth, let the chaser whisper over the wood in time with the music. Continue to do that for as long as necessary until you feel the wood carrying the chaser along. This will probably only take seconds. If it is taking longer, put just a fraction more pressure on the tool against the wood

6 You should now have the start of a thread on the diagonal into the box. In the picture you can see the lines where the thread chaser has continued into the hole. We now carry on in the same way as before but now just easing the tool round into the hole as we go in. You should eventually be letting the tool pull itself into the hole parallel to the lathe bars. If I were threading a lidded box, I would use a recess tool and make a groove where I intended the thread to finish but this thread is just to hold onto a spigot to allow you to turn the other end so that recess is not required here.

Keep chasing the threads until the brush head base can be squeezed into the threaded hole. If you need to widen the hole, sand your threads down but only to take the points off. You can then continue until you reach the exact diameter. In time, experience will make you much quicker at judging the right sizes

7 On the outside of your blank, mark how far the base will protrude into your blank. This is important as you need to leave sufficient thickness at that point so that the blank is not too thin and likely to break

8 Shape your make-up brush to suit your own design. The only 'must' is not to leave that area where the hole finishes too thin

9 Working on the shape. Refine as necessary until you're happy

10 Here you can see that I have brought the tailstock up into the threaded hole and this allows me to turn using only a very small section in the chuck. This in turn allows me to shape as much as possible with maximum support available

11 Sand and finish that end and you are now in a position to turn the blank around and shape the other end

12 You now need to chase a threaded spigot on a scrap piece of suitable wood - this is box which is ideal. It is the same process as before only this time you are using the other thread chaser. You are moving right to left with the tool and the lathe speed is again about 450rpm. You should still be humming and now on the 134th chorus of Que Sera Sera. Again you can see that I am starting to pass the chaser over the spigot touching with the 3rd or 4th tooth and not the 1st.

13 You now just gently bring the tool round, with the rhythm, so that you are now going down the spigot

14 As you get to the end of the spigot, as you reach the recess, lift the chaser off the work as otherwise you will ruin the threads that you have made. Go back to the start and keep riding the threads until the tops are reasonably crisp

15 Screw the hole of your brush base onto the threaded spigot and ensure that it is safe. If you are worried, wrap masking tape around the join. You can now finish the bottom with the tool of your choice. Here I am using a point tool

16 Using the same point tool I can decorate the base. You could also use an insert of a different wood, or wood alternative such as alternative ivory

17 Paul with a finished make-up brush

David Preece

Tagged In:

Homeware , Thread Chasing , Paul Loseby , Brushes

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"You should eventually be letting the tool pull itself into the hole parallel to the lathe bars"


Materials Used

For this project I have used a small piece of Tanzanian tulipwood and a pink dyed sable brush head. This is a beautiful pink striped wood and is available from Mo Mead who visits many of the woodturning clubs around the UK. Whatever wood you use, if you are going to thread it, it will help considerably if it is a close-grained dense wood such as box (Buxus sempervirens) or African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon). If you use a softer wood, when you have drilled the hole, coat the sides with thin superglue and allow to dry. This will harden the wood and hopefully make it easier to chase the threads

Top Tips

- The shaving brushes look spectacular in exotic timbers but many of these woods can affect your breathing. Ensure that you wear suitable protection for your lungs and eyes
- If you do chase a thread where you do need an 'end', make a small groove with a recess tool (which can be homemade with an old Allen key) and as you get to this groove, twist your wrist clockwise so that the threads on the tool disengage with those in the wood. If you don't do this and your thread chaser hits the bottom of the hole, you will most likely strip the threads that you have just chased

Alternative Methods

You can make this project without chasing threads. Make the hole for the brush head in the top as normal and when it comes to turning the bottom, hold the 'hole' with either pin jaws on the inside and gently opened out, or make a spigot for the bottom of the hole to sit against. This needs to be a friction fit against the bottom because if you try to use it like a jam chuck, you are likely to split the timber. The same applies to the use of the pin jaws - opening them too wide can have the same effect

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge