Welcome to the website of the Black Country Wood Turners!

We are a friendly bunch of people , who have nothing better to do with their time than to reduce otherwise perfectly fine pieces of timber to piles of shavings and sawdust on our workshop floors. Oh, yes, and every now and then this also results in something mostly round and brown.

If this is your idea of having fun, then please joins us on one of our meetings or as a permanent member. If by now you are thinking “this is weird”, then you are missing out on the rituals of a tradition that is several thousand years old and you are definitely in the wrong place. We are having fun. Are you? Do you live in the UK near Dudley, West Bromwich, Oldbury, Halesowen, Stourbridge, Kidderminster? We meet usually every 3rd Thursday of the Month at 6pm at Dudley College, Mons Hill, and we would be more than happy to welcome you to our next meeting.

Our next club meeting, is a “hands-on” evening, on Thursday the 16th of February 2017. There will be several lathes running. For details look under the menu item events.

Important Notes:

Can all club members who have not already paid their annual AWGB fee (£18), please pay it at the February meeting.


February meeting

Our meet in February was a hands-on day, with 2 lathes in operation and 2 grinding stations. On one lathe, Mick Littlehales demonstrated turning a chunky bowl/dish from a piece of ash, with a mortice (to hold the piece on the chuck in expansion mode) and a variety of decorations around the rim. The other lathe was used by our chairmain, Roger, to give some newcomers a first chance to try their hand with a roughing gouge, bowl gouge and spindle gouge.

One of the sharpening stations was operated by Wolfgang, helping a few members getting their tools back into shape. And, of course, we also had a display table with quite a nice array of turned items.

January demo: Robert Till

In January, we had Robert as our demonstrator. He greets from Stafford and has been turning wood for a long time. His demo focused primarily on birds houses and bird feeders, both items that generally sell well at craft fairs, are fun to make for both the experienced and the less experienced, and do not require expensive materials or special tools.

Here’s the man himself:

The typical bird house can be made from many different types of wood, for this evening he had brought along some pieces of part seasoned sycamore, some with a little bit of spalting starting to develop, and in various stages of progress. The main body is about 4-5″ diameter and about 9″ tall (obviously this can be adjusted to available timber within reason), and a second piece is required for the lid, approx 1″ wider in diameter and 3.5″ tall. Depending on the method chosen for mounting the pieces, extra timber needs to be added to the length to account for tenons.

Robert started out with a piece that had been turned into a round cylinder, but nothing else. He put it between centres, skimmed it to ensure roundness and turned a tenon on one end, so he could it in the chuck. Once mounted in the chuck, a hole was drilled down the centre to approx. the depth required, and he started hollowing the cylinder, always taking time to explain the various cuts and tools used.

Since hollowing is not the most attractive work to demonstrate, this item was then swapped out for one that had been hollowed already. Robert made it very clear that the only chance of success with partly seasoned wood is by keeping the wall thickness even from the top right down to the bottom, otherwise one should expect cracks to develop during the final drying. He then turned a shoulder into the top of the bird house body, where the wall thickness is reduced from 6mm to 3mm, and finally proceeded to turn the foot of the body, where it gradually tapers into a point. A very important bit is the drain hole at the bottom, about 5mm in diameter, which ensures that any moisture can escape safely.

Robert did not do any sanding during the demo, but mentioned that the finish on these bird houses is very much left to the individual maker, but one should seek advice about suitable finishes from relevant organisations (clearly some lacquers or oils would be at the least an irritant to the future occupiers and at the worst a health hazard). The entry hols for the birds should be positioned at least 120mm above the foot (apparently that’s a safe distance where cats cannot reach inside), and its diameter has an influence on which birds can enter.

The lid was turned in similar fashion, with a lip protruding into the shoulder in the bottom part. This is where the two are eventually joined together with a few screws. Again, wall thickness has to be even to prevent cracking, and decoration is left to the individual.

Towards the end of the evening, a little bit of time was left, which was used to make a bird feeder to go along with the bird house. Made from a similar size piece of timber, the bird feeder has a domed roof, rounded bottom and a recess for the feed. Turning the recess is initially done with a standard spindle gouge, but in order to achieve substantial depth the use of a hollowing tools is required.

And finally a few pictures showing some more of Robert’s work:

October meeting: demo by Bob Mercer

Bob gave a really interesting and entertaining  series of short demonstrations.

The first demo was of a pewter turned pen, sorry no photo, which Bob turned using his own hand made pewter blanks mounted on a pen mandrel. Bob made the blanks by drilling a 12mm hole in a piece of dry wood 50mm deep and filling with molten pewter. He then drilled the blank and inserted a brass sleeve. Bob took time to explain the whole process to club members and answered numerous questions from those present. He also explained the need for a thorough sanding regime from 240 to 12000 grit and even using a metal polish to give the mirror finish he achieved. A really excellent demo.

Bob also demonstrated a slightly different way to finish off a 5” oak hand mirror.

During the evening he showed club members what can be done with what would be sometimes be classed as pieces of scrap wood. Bob made a standard bottle stopper then he turned a novelty off centre “ducks bottom” bottle stopper.

In a previous demo Bob was unable to finish a pendant due to a missing jig so he decided to finally complete that project in purple heart wood, and there was even time for an oak light pull.

Throughout the evening Bob gave members tips and advice on the use of tools and materials and the best sources for pen blanks etc.

Bob keep us all entertained with his story of building a coracle a few years back and the oak seat he had used for it, had been recycled, and part of that seat was now the 5” hand mirror he had turned earlier.

Bob delivered a packed programme and I can’t remember a demo with so many finished projects and so much sound advice.

And, of course, we also had a members work display table. Here are a few pictures from that:

oct-2016-bcw-047 oct-2016-bcw-046 oct-2016-bcw-045

oct-2016-bcw-048 oct-2016-bcw-050 bcw-oct-2016


September meeting

The September meeting was a demo by Steve Heeley from Cannock.

bcw-sept-2016-022He turned a small box with a winged lid and a finial. He showed us how to create a “lattice/lace” effect on the wings of the lid
using a Dremel type drill, and answered club member questions and gave tips and ideas on several
subjects including types of finish.

He had a recent health scare and strongly advised all present to have a really good dust extraction system and to always wear a mask. An entertaining and very informative evening was had by all.

It was a real shame we only had 15 members turn up for the demonstration.











Member's work on display.

Member’s work on display.

Ashwood: John’s Garden Open Day

John is the owner of Ashwood Nurseries, and has his private, landscaped garden right next to it. He holds open days 3 or 4 times a year, and usually with a good attendance from the general public. The Black Country Woodturners generally participate with a stall on the summer open day, and so we did again this year.

Ashwoods-1A large open tent was erected, with various stalls inside, including a small lathe for demonstrations, and a charity table right next to it. We had about 10 club members in attendance, so there was plenty of variety.

The weather threatened with rain all day long, but it never did actually rain, so were quite lucky in this regard. However, the garden is right on the banks of the river Stour, and in consequence there were plenty of tiny little midges around, not enough to drive people away, but certainly enough to be a nuisance for us at the stalls.

John’s garden has a huge variety of plant species that you would otherwise only find in a botanical garden, but let me tell you, we could almost match it with the variety of work on show!

Unfortunately, sales were quite low, only the charity table produced some good results. The author of this article didn’t sell anything, and it was very similar for most other club members.

Ashwoods-2On the other hand, our demonstrations on the little lathe gathered quite a bit of interest, and we may even see some new club members coming from this event.

Here you can see Melvin putting the finishing touches on a 8″ cherry bowl, and yours truly proceeded to make a yo-yo and a bud vase, which promptly sold from the charity table for £5.

All in all, a nice day out for the club, and well received by the attending public.




Sally Burnett

Sally came to see us on the 16th of June, for an evening demo. She hails from Stoke-on-Trent, and her website is well worth a visit.


Sally’s demo focused heavily on design and decoration.  During the first half, she turned a shallow bowl or wide-rimmed dish from a maple blank, and in the process stopped many times to show the various samples she had brought along, with the aim of pointing out how small differences in shape can dramatically alter the overall balance and appearance of a dish.

She then proceeded in the second half to move on to decorations. This was a session where many of the club members did get involved in trying out the various techniques shown by her. It started out with stippling, where a thin stick (could be anything from a knitting needle to a tooth pick or skewer) is used to produce small dots of acrylic paint on a surface. Once dry, these provide colour, but more importantly they also provide texture. The opposite texture can be achieved with a small Dremel or Proxxon tool and a rotating bit, making small dimples. Both the dimples and the stipples can be varied in size between 1mm and 10mm, depending on tool used and how they are applied.

IMAG0092Obviously the same tools and techniques can also produce other shapes.

As Sally has a strong background in design, it is not surprising that she normally will use some piece of waste material to try out various ideas, usually in the form of small squares sat next to each other.

Sally then went on to pyrography. She explained the use of various different tips for shading and lines. All in all the variety was high, too much to describe in all detail here. All the more reason to attend the demos in person. Overall, the motto was “anything goes”. Nothing is sacred, any colour, any tool can be useful, and people should just experiment to find out what they liked best.

Wizardry In Wood

Text taken directly from the WCT invite:

“The Worshipful Company of Turners would like to invite your members to enter
its 2016 competitions which this year will form part of the Wizardry in Wood
exhibition at Carpenters’ Hall, London. The competition day will be Tuesday
11th October, the exhibition will open to the public on Wednesday 12th
October, until Saturday 15th October. Competition items will remain on
display throughout the week, and can be put on sale if the maker so wishes.”

“Further information, the rules, entry forms, packing and shipping
instructions, are available to download from the company website http://turnersco.com/turning-competitions-2016/ or, from the Wizardry in
Wood Website, https://wizardryinwood.com/competitions/”

“The Company’s Wizardry in Wood exhibitions and the biennial turning
competitions play a significant role in promoting outstanding woodturning
and introducing individual turners to a wider public. Tickets are on sale
through Eventbrite, group bookings are being taken, and the website is
already attracting a large amount of followers. Your members are urged to
take advantage of this opportunity to be a part of what will be one of the
largest events of its kind in Europe.”

Well then, let’s get turning”

Paul Bellamy demo evening

Last Thursday we had Paul Bellamy as a demonstrator. Paul has been in woodworking and turning for a very long time, and brought his own lathe. His subject for the evening was “a bowl from a plank”. This is essentially a method where he cuts rings from a thin blank in such a manner that they can be glued together in reverse, thus forming a conical rough bowl. Once the glue has set, this can then be finish turned. A few minor variations in shape are possible, but obviously the basic shape is predetermined. He pointed out that for people who have access to cutoffs from furniture makers, and didn’t want to spend the time to dry their own wood or the money to pay for bowl blanks, this was a way to get by.


He showed us a few of his bowls, and then proceeded to draw a diagram to explain some of the basics. Essentially in each ring the bottom surface has to match up with the top surface of the ring underneath (see picture). For different thicknesses of planks (and desired height of the bowl) this then determines the cutting angle. He pointed out that despite best efforts one needs to allow for inaccuracies during the cut and also during the gluing stages, and therefore the rings should not be made any thinner than 3/4″.

He then made an actual drawing of the dimensions of the board he was using, which happened to be one inch thick. There is no need to determine the actual angle, all that is needed is to scale up the drawing. He did this on an A5 sheet of paper, simply multiplying both dimensions by a factor of 4, and then drawing a straight line from one corner of the rectangle to the opposite corner (the rectangle being 4″ high and 3″ wide).

He then turned his blank into the round (it was mounted on a screw chuck with the hole not drilled all the way through). The first thing after that was to turn a recess into the board, to create a chucking point for the assembled bowl. This recess was turned, sanded and finished completely.

Next the piece of paper was fixed to the banjo by way of a small magnet, with its long side aligned with the lathe bed. This allowed him to orient his parting tool along the diagonal line, and therefore give the exact angle at which he needed to cut. The first few cuts with a bowl gouge simply removed the waste on the outside, and he then used a 3mm parting tool to cut the rings. He explained that the best tool here is a 3mm tool with a relatively small width, as, especially on the smaller rings) the curvature of the ring does interfere with the blade cutting in, and therefore the cut had to be widened to allow for this.

bcwt-demo-2Here you can see him cutting the first ring. This obviously requires a degree of skill, since the tool will ultimately hang over the tool rest by quite some way, and therefore speed should not be too high, to prevent heavy catches. This cut needs to go almost all the way, and one must stop as soon as one can feel the wood giving slightly under the pressure. He used his finger for this, which he claims is the best feeler of all.

He then stopped the lathe and put several pieces of gaffa tape onto the outside of the blank, covering the slot. Due to size restrictions he then took the entire chuck off the lathe so he could move the banjo onto the inside, put the chuck back on, and then very carefully cut with the parting tool the remaining distance from the other side. The tape held the ring safely in place.

He pointed out that once the ring is removed, its edges, and also the edges of the remaining blank, tend to be very sharp and needed to be handled with care, if not trimmed off slightly.

This action goes on until all rings are cut, usually 3 or 4 depending on board thickness and diameter.

Once all rings are cut, they need to be glued together, but in reverse, i.e. stacked on top of each other such that the flat surfaces match up. He uses Titebond Polyurethane glue for this, the reason being that it expands slightly and fills any voids, thereby creating a better bond. He has made himself a little jig for this, consisting of two large square pieces of kitchen counter, with 4 long threaded rods and wing nuts. Glue is applied to each surface, the rings are carefully stacked, using the fingers to ensure they are centered as well as is possible and then the stack is moved gently into the jig. It is important to apply the pressure evenly from all 4 rods, and to check regularly that the rings are not “swimming” away during this process.


Paul then moved on to a previously glued stack. He used the screw chuck (the hole in the bottom ring is now on the inside of the bowl) to mount the bowl again, and then started to refine the outside shape of the bowl. This requires small cuts, as the screw chuck only has a little hold on the assembly. Once the outside is finish turned, with whatever variations in shape are desired and possible, it is sanded and finished. The assembly is then reversed and now mounted onto the recess, and the bowl is turned on the inside.

Paul prefers bowl gouges with only a short wing, almost a traditional grind, and explained that this is needed to get around the curve at the bottom of the bowl. With a carefully controlled cut no scraping is required.

He also explained his various little tricks, such as always keeping his sandpaper in the right order of grit, thus only allowing the roughest grit to acquire a dusting. He uses lots of little magnets everywhere to make sure his little helpers (such as rulers etc.) are to hand when needed, and not covered with shavings. He never uses large pieces of sandpaper, and recommends moving in a continuous action from one end of the bowl to the other, so as to avoid any burning or heavy sanding marks, pointing out that sand paper should not be used to define the shape of a piece, it should only ever be used to remove tool marks.

He recognises that many finishes are possible for these bowls, but for demonstrations always uses melamine lacquer, simply because it dries very rapidly and provides a very smooth finish with medium shine. This can then be improved on with a stick of carnauba wax, which is simply run across the surface several times, and burnished with a piece of paper.

All in all, a very enjoyable demo, with Paul paying good attention to the needs of safety and always making sure he brought his whole audience along, including any newcomers.