Weekend Projects - Flame-inspired Open Form archive

Friday 9 January 2015

Nick Arnull uses a piece of English sycamore to create this flame-inspired open form which is then decorated using pyrography techniques and various acrylic paints


When creating pieces for decoration it is always best to turn a simple form; this will allow the decoration to sit easily upon the item. For many years I have been fascinated by the flames created in an open fire. Taking this as inspiration, I created this piece with an abstract pattern using a limited palette of three acrylic colours. This piece uses a simple form which can be left natural or decorated using simple shapes burnt into the surface using a high powered pyrography machine; the lines created form a barrier which helps when colouring these areas. When applying the decoration, this should be more intense towards the bottom and more spaced out towards the top of the form. For this project you will need a piece of English sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) measuring 180 x 100mm.


Firstly, take your blank and mount it between centres then make round using a 32mm spindle roughing gouge. Next, using a 6mm parting tool, create a spigot to fit into your chuck


With the blank mounted into the chuck, true the end using a 10mm swept-back bowl gouge


Mark and define the length of the vase and plunge into the wood at this point to a depth of around 25mm


Remove some of the waste timber to create the desired shape; this is best done using a a 32mm spindle roughing gouge as this tool removes the waste quickly. Do not turn the final outside shape at this stage


Using a 12mm fingernail-profile spindle gouge, refine the top radius/edge of the vase


Now you need to drill a hole at the centre to the required depth; this can be done using a drill bit mounted into a Jacobs chuck or with a spindle gouge


Using a dedicated end grain hollowing tool, remove the waste timber from the inside of the vase


Refine the inside using a large shear scraper to remove the slight bumps that may have occurred when hollowing


Sand the inside of the vessel using a shear/self-powered sander and work through all the grades. Avoid generating too much heat as this will damage the end grain. Seal the wood with acrylic sanding sealer, allow to dry then spray with acrylic satin lacquer


Re-mark and define the length of the vase and using a 6mm parting tool, plunge into the wood to a diameter of 40mm


Using a 12mm spindle gouge, create the bottom of the vase turning into the area that will become the foot


At this stage, you need to further reduce the outside of the vase, create a wall thickness of around 5mm and thin the vase wall slightly towards the top; this will give the edge a fine look and will avoid making it appear heavy


Turn and refine the bottom of the vase and create the foot detail. Turn the cove using a 12mm skewchigouge. You can now sand the outside of the vase - final sanding is best completed using a self-powered shear sander


Plunge into the timber at the bottom of the foot towards the headstock to a diameter of around 6mm, turn off the lathe then cut the finished vase from the waste using a fine-toothed saw


Reverse chuck the vase onto a shaped scrap wood chuck, and with the tailstock in place, gently turn a shallow cove into the bottom of the base, then sand to a good finish


The finished turned vase is now ready for the decoration to be applied


Sit comfortably at a bench and draw out your design; I use a watercolour pencil to avoid damaging the surface of the timber. This laying out is nothing more than a guide to help when burning in the design. Begin to burn the design taking care to avoid inhaling the fumes as they are extremely harmful


With the design complete the vase will need to be sanded as the pyrography will boil sap/moisture from the timber and leave a residue on the surface; this needs to be sanded from the surface to leave it clean, before colouring


Using a good quality artist's brush and an opaque ink, apply a base colour of bright yellow; this will make the following colours more vibrant


Select the areas you wish to colour red and apply this to these areas


Finally, apply the orange to more selected areas, remembering to leave some of the yellow showing which will help to lift the design and avoid making it appear too heavy/dark. With the colouring complete, apply a coat of spray acrylic sanding sealer and allow to dry. If needed, gently denib the surface and remove the dust then spray with acrylic satin lacquer - 2-3 light coats is best. It always amazes me how the colour becomes more intense when the finishes are applied


The flame-inspired open form is now complete

Briony Darnley

Tagged In:

Nick Arnull , Weekend Projects

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Diagrams Click an image to enlarge


Time taken: 5 hours
Cost: £5
Swan-neck hollowing tool
Shielded cutter hollowing tool
6mm spindle gouge
12mm skewchigouge/small round-nosed scraper
12mm fingernail-profile spindle gouge
10mm swept-back bowl gouge
6mm parting tool
32mm spindle roughing gouge
Acrylic spray sanding sealer
Acrylic satin lacquer
Opaque artist inks

Health & Safety

1. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times, and work at a speed that allows you to feel both comfortable and safe
2. Always reduce lathe rotation speed when using wood that is not round and when using alternative chucking methods that you are not familiar with
3. Keep the toolrest between you and the work - NEVER let your fingers cross over to the other side

Handy Hints

1. Use simple forms for decorated items
2. Keep decorated elements simple
3. Use a soft/watercolour pencil when marking out your designs
4. It is advisable to use a limited palette when adding colour to a decorated form
5. Ensure to use good quality colours
6. Use opaque colours for maximum effect
7. Sand to the best of your ability when applying colour
8. Complete every part of a decorated form to an equal standard
9. Avoid generating too much heat when sanding end grain
10. Sharpen your tools before taking a finishing cut
11. When using a pyrography machine, extract the fumes as they are carcinogenic/harmful
12. Take care when using a pyrography machine and avoid sparks floating away into the dust and debris around the work area
13. Work at a dedicated bench when decorating
14. Work in a clean environment; this will avoid contamination of the final finish
15. Only use good quality abrasives, if possible
16. Use a shear sander to eliminate sanding marks on the surface of the item then allow to dry and re-sand the finer grades
17. Keep the applied design simple
18. If decorating for long periods, ensure to take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
19. Always use good lighting when decorating