How I Do It - Vases

Step 1 

It starts with a carefully selected birch log weighing approximately 600 pounds. This massive log requires the use of a hand fork lift to maneuver onto the lathe.

how to turn a vase

Step 2

On the lathe, I first trim it for size, square the ends and fasten it to a custom built face plate made out of 3/4 inch solid steel, weighing 70 pounds. Even with 32 #14-4 inch screws, there still is 1 inch of sag on the outboard end.


Step 3

Here the rough exterior shape of the vase has been made. Note the tail stock is still in place to bear the brunt of the weight which is now approximately 400 pounds. Next comes the removal of the interior.


Step 4

With a steady rest in place, the tail stock has been removed and the hollowing is progressing. At this point the piece weighs approximately 200 pounds [400 pounds of shavings have been removed]

Step 5

To hollow the vase, I use a boring bar 11 feet long of 2 inch solid steel weighing approximately 100 pounds. A 12 volt light is attached to the end of the boring bar so the inside work is visible and the translucence is used to gage the thickness from the outside.

Step 6

The 51 inch vase has been hollowed to 48 inches on the inside. This is a complex process because of the depth and the curvature of the sides. Now, I've reversed the vase on the lathe recentering the bottom with the live center and I am hollowing the base.

Step 7

Here's the vase fresh off the lathe ready for sanding and a finishing process. The curved walls of the vase is approximately 1/16 inch in thickness and the vase now weighs approximately 12 pounds. Remember that these vases started at about 600 pounds.

Whoops! And, here's one that I didn't plan on. I'm selling it at a bargain price! As you can see, the whole process can be over in a minute with one minor misadjustment on the lathe when you're working at dimensions like 60 inches long and 1/16 inch thick

The size of the finished vase is shown by Katy, one of our friends. The vase has now been airbrushed with acrylic paint, carved, and lacquered.

Applying the finish is often as complicated as shaping the vase on the lathe. Here are three examples of the finishes that I apply to the turned vases. The left piece after carving was finished with 22 k gold leaf and lacquer. The middle piece is acrylic and laquer. An Inukshuk motif was carved onto the right vase which was left natural and finished with laquer. No two vases are the same. Each is made as a one only collector's piece.