Dawn Hopley demo evening

On 18/02/2016, Dawn Hopley came to the club to do a demo for us.

Dawn has a background in industrial design, and has designed many items that most of us will have seen in many places, such as streetlights and car parts. After many trials and tribulations, including a stint as a teacher, she ended up in woodworking and woodturning. In order to use our camera and lighting rig, we had to move her lathe onto the rig, which made work a little awkward for her, as the rig was made for average size people, and Dawn is a little shorter than most of us. She put on a brave face and managed to make it work for her.


This was also the first time we used our TV display, and although this worked well, we probably need to learn a little more about the cameras. The picture was good, and all present could clearly see her tool technique, but the work piece was generally overexposed and just showed as a white blur. Clearly there’s room for improvement.


Her demo on this evening covered primarily the making of wooden containers for small perfume bottles, which she sources from a company called Ampulla. Apparently, when bought in bulk, these can be as little as 20p per bottle with screw lid.

Most of her work is done in small diameters, usually branches of trees, of which she had a variety with her. She demonstrated the ease of using a steb drive centre mounted in a normal chuck and emphasis was given to using sharp tools.

Dawn started out with a piece of yew, about 2″ diameter and 8″ long. It was mounted between centres and rounded with a roughing gouge. Then she turned two tenons on the ends and parted it off about 1/3 from one end. The longer piece was then mounted in the jaws, and the face cleaned up with a spindle gouge. Next she used a 19mm drill to create the opening that will hold the perfume bottle. As these bottles vary slightly in diameter, this hole then has to be carefully widened a little to just accept the bottle, and it has to be deep enough so that only the shoulder of the bottle just protrudes (although it can also be hidden entirely in the container). For this, Dawn demonstrated the use of a box scraper and some simple wooden sticks with sand paper wrapped around them. Once the inside is finished, the outside is shaped with the spindle gouge to whatever shape is desired. Some accents were made by cutting small grooves with the pointy end of a skew chisel and then burning black lines with a cheese cutter (essentially a steel wire with two wooden handles on both ends).

The top is made in exactly the same way, with the main focus on remembering that there is a hole inside large enough to hold the screw lid for the bottle. When that hole is drilled and cleaned up, it is essential to ensure that the wooden parts will meet before the lid sets on the bottle, as otherwise an ungainly gap appears between bottom and top. In addition, Dawn usually adds some detail to the bottom of the lid, in order to hide the meeting place between the parts.

IMAG0055In order to finish the very top of the lid and the foot of the bottom, Dawn demonstrated the use of jam chucks. These are essentially pieces of scrap wood with a tenon on one side, so that they can be held in the jaws. The other side is turned so that it will provide a tight fit to the holes prepared in the bottle parts. When the fit is not quite tight enough to allow cutting, it can be improved with one or two layers of masking tape or tissue paper. In this way work pieces can be held without creating any jaw marks, and just sufficiently tight to allow small cuts, sanding and polishing.

Overall, a very enjoyable demo, especially for the visitors and less experienced members, who could see that even with very few tools and a small lathe very nice results can be achieved. Turn out on the evening was great, and it seems that our increased demo fees have not deterred anybody. If anything, we had more people show up than I ever remember before, including some visitors and new members.

There were not many pieces on display this evening, but a very nice apple clock and some sewing kits drew some attention.

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