Article: Jim Duxbury Demonstration, January 2012

May 24, 2012 16:01, submitted by Tucker Garrison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Tina Collison)

James N. Duxbury, Woodturning Demonstration, January 21, 2012


Jim was born in Cleveland, Ohio. He moved to a rural suburb as a young child where his father, a finish carpenter by trade, built the house Jim resided in until relocating to North Carolina. He had an inquisitive mind, and throughout his youth Jim’s interests always turned to mechanical and building projects. He pursued a trade in sheet metal and was a HVAC Contractor. Ironically, a Presbyterian, like Sir David Brewster, the founder of Kaleidoscopes, his desire to serve God and his own congregation while using his technical and creative abilities drew him to a position as properties manager of the Old Stone Church, a historic church on Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio.

Jim now resides in Graham, N.C. with his delightful wife, Rita, where he works in his shop making all sorts of fine turnings ranging from small bottle stoppers to bowls, bud vases, trays, furniture, kaleidoscopes, turned wood hats and even a working Foucault pendulum. On an amusing note, he even turned a full-sized pair of jockey shorts. He has two U.S. patents and has a third one in progress. His company, DUXTERITY LLC, markets both the Resp-O-Rator™ and Elegant Creations, his gallery of fine wood objects. Both are available on his website

Jim is a member of CMW, Piedmont Woodturners, Woodturners Guild of NC in Raleigh, an honorary life member of Northcoast Woodturners in OH, and the AAW. He demonstrated at the 2007 NC Woodturning Symposium, 2008 AAW Symposium in Richmond, VA, 2011, Woodturning Symposium in Provo, Utah, and will demonstrate in 2012 at the AAW Symposium in San Jose, California. Jim says he never had a boring day in his life – NEVER!

Morning Session:

Jim began his demo with a PowerPoint presentation showing some of his work fashioned after the works of others. He showed examples of combining his own knowledge and ideas with what other demonstrators knew and taking it to a new direction or level. He showed various examples of his signature kaleidoscopes and photographs taken through kaleidoscopes with different mirror configurations. He showed a semicircular pencil and how to turn it and an amusing full size pair of men’s jockey shorts. I’m certain that their artistic appearance far exceeds their potential comfort rating.

Next Jim turned to his signature traditional model kaleidoscope (scopes). Sir David Brewster first made them in England in 1816. During the early 1870’s Charles Green Bush developed kaleidoscopes in the United States. His parlor type scopes of 1873 were the trend setters of that era and were very profitable for Bush. Collectors value these items even today. Cozy Baker, “First Lady of Kaleidoscopes” founded the Brewster Society in 1986 to provide communications among artists, designers, retailers, collectors, and lovers of kaleidoscopes throughout the world. In recent years, kaleidoscopes regained popularity as objects of interest to collectors and to those who simply appreciate their beauty and variety.

The mirrors in a kaleidoscope have the silvered surface on the front of the glass and are called first-surface mirrors. A scope has three parts: The object box at the distal end; the barrel in the center containing the mirrors, and the eyepiece at the proximal end. Scopes can have different numbers of mirrors set at various angles. Each provides a different image when viewing. These mirrors run the entire length of the scope barrel. The object box can contain glycerin, mineral oil, or even water. Each slows the movement of the particles in the box when rotating the object box.

First, Jim made the “scope” body. He made it from three pieces of wood forming an equilateral triangle (cuts made at 30 degrees), forming a hollow triangle in the middle. This eliminates drilling a hole in a foot long piece which can prove difficult in certain woods. To achieve accurate angles when cutting the three boards for the scope barrel use a magnetic angle gauge. The cut boards are glued up using yellow glue. To hold the pieces after gluing Jim uses rubber bands. After achieving a good fit, he applied three hose clamps for the remainder of the gluing process. Once the glue sets, the blank is ready for turning into a cylinder.

To center the piece (barrel) between centers Jim made a jam chuck for each end. He placed a solid block about 2 1/2 x 4” long between centers and turned a tenon on the headstock end. He formed a V-shape in the center of the piece and then parted the piece off. Jim placed the half with the tenon in the jaws and the other half on the tailstock. Then he placed the barrel piece between the two halves on center. The cone shape on each half assures that the pieces will be centered. He turned it into a cylinder about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. The cylinder was sanded with an electric belt sander. Jim used a Resp-O-Rator™ for dust protection. It protects down to 0.3 micron particles. When the lathe is off, keep the respirator on because the fine particles remain floating in the air.

He turned a tenon on both ends using a parting tool (1/4 inch wide – 1/4 inch deep, 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Jim made two marks on the tail-end of the piece so that he differentiated the ends. This is the eyepiece end. This completed the barrel.

Jim then put a disc with a tenon on it in the chuck, and drilled a 5/8 inch hole through it. This hole will become the opening in the eye piece. He cleaned up and shaped the piece using a spindle gouge and a skew. Jim sanded the inner walls of the hole using a Dremel tool. Now the surfaces inside the hole will receive their final finish application.

Then Jim turned the piece around in the jaws and trued up the face. He used calipers to mark the dimension for a recess to be made the diameter of the scopes barrel (2 1/2 inches). Then Jim made the length of the tenon on the eye piece the same as that on the body. This will give a good glue joint when he will joint the eye piece and the barrel. Before taking it out of the chuck, he formed a shallow recess (see photo). This will accept the glass eye piece he will insert. Jim measured the diameter of the recess and transferred this dimension to a piece of glass. He used an oil charged glass cutter to trim the glass to fit into the recess. He glued it in place with 5-minute epoxy. Then he glued the eye piece end to the barrel, and placed the unit back between centers. Jim shaped the exterior of the eye piece. The joint between the eye piece and the barrel (glue line) is burnt using a wire but not directly on the line – just immediately next to it. This will blend into the line itself and hide it.

You can also burn additional lines for decorative purposes and eye appeal. It is essential to have the piece of glass in the eye piece. It does not add to the views appreciated though the scope. It is a safety feature should the mirrors in the barrel break. The glass prevents the shards from coming out of the barrel, and possibly causing eye injuries should someone be looking with the barrel tilted upward.

Next the rotating barrel (which will contain the object box) needs to be made. It is glued up just like the body or barrel was. Then Jim turned it round to a diameter of 2 3/4 inches. It was then chucked up on this diameter, and trued up the end grain. Then he turned a groove to the size of the tenon on the scope body. It should be a “sloppy” fit because it needs to be rotated on the completed kaleidoscope. Adjusted the tenon depth to fit the barrel. Then Jim cut a small notch just below the tenon depth. This will accept several washers that will be screwed in place to prevent the object box from becoming detached from the barrel when someone rotates it. He used a special tool to cut the notch (1/8 inch). To attach the washers it is necessary to remove a small section of the groove wall to access the screw holding the washer.

Then Jim reversed the piece on the chuck. He expanded the chuck into the recess that he just formed. Don’t tighten the jaws too much or the wood may split. Then Jim opened the interior to accept the object box he will insert. It is possible to finish this piece and insert it into the distal end of the barrel. This completed the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

At this point the object box end, eye piece end, and the barrel are finished. Jim usually applies lacquer to give it a hard finish.

Now the object box has to be fitted. It is necessary to make a retainer ring. Jim rounded a 1 inch thick disc on the band saw and placed it in the chuck. He trued up the surface and then turned it to the correct diameter to fit in the distal end of the scope after insertion of the object box. Jim used a parting tool to form the ring. Then he used a gouge to hollow out the ring. For the final shaping, Jim used a skew (as a scraper). It will then be sanded and parted off to the required depth of the recess where it will be glued.

Now he makes the object box itself using a PVC coupler. The distal end of the object box is fitted with semi opaque Plexiglas such as a piece of ceiling light fixture cover. The other side of the box is a clear piece of Plexiglas. Jim placed the PVC coupler in the chuck and cut a small recess in it to hold one of the two Plexiglas discs. The PVC is then parted and reversed. He cut another recess to hold the other disc.

To make the two Plexiglas discs, Jim placed squares of Plexiglas somewhat larger than the required discs between two wooden jam chucks with rubber inner tube material to aid holding them in place. He brought up the tailstock and cut the discs to size using a small 1/4 inch skew. He fitted these into the two PVC recesses. Jim used 5-minute epoxy to secure them in place. Use System 3, a 5-minute epoxy from Woodworker’s Supply.

Jim drilled a hole into the PVC cavity between the lenses. Before gluing the second disc in place, Jim filled the object box cavity 1/3 to 1/2 full of objects such as small beads, glass pieces, etc – do not use porous or dyed items. After placing objects in the recess, Jim attached the second disc. He filled the cavity with glycerin or mineral oil using a hypodermic needle and syringe. Before injecting, Jim microwaved the fluid for 15-20 seconds so that it becomes more viscous. He filled the object box to about 3/16” from the top. This permits expansion. Once filled, Jim countersunk the hole previously drilled and used a drop of the 5 minute epoxy to seal it.

Mirrors: It is necessary to cut the mirrors to fit your kaleidoscope. Use a hard, flat surface. The mirrors are first-surface mirrors. They are available at stained glass shops. For the scope made during the demo, Jim used three mirrors. These mirrors come in 12x16 inch pieces. He cut three strips to form an equilateral triangle and made this to fit as closely as possible into the triangular interior of the barrel of the scope.

Jim used a jig to lay the mirror on to scribe it with the cutter and then to break it at the scribed line. He placed the three strips blue side down and taped them to form a triangle. Once the mirrors fit the barrel, open the triangle (undo masking tape) and take off the blue film. In doing so, avoid getting fingerprints or dirt on the glass. It is difficult to remove, and the scope will vastly multiply the image (of fingerprints or dirt). Then tape the three strips back into a triangle with three pieces of masking tape. Once the shape is secure replace the masking tape with five bands of duct tape. Build the duct tape up to give the mirrors a snug fit in the barrel.

Next Jim placed the washers into the notch or groove he cut earlier in the object box. As stated these keep the box secure when it rotates. Then he placed E-6000 Sealer(available at fabric stores) on the ends of the mirror triangle and put the object box in place. Jim placed more E-6000 on the object box and put the retainer ring in place. This completed the traditional model kaleidoscope.

Next it is necessary to make a cradle to hold the scope when not in use. It is comprised of two end pieces with a spindle support between them. It is possible to cut the shape of the end pieces from 3/4 inch lumber of choice. Be sure that it is possible to sand the curves of the end pieces with your drum sander. Then turn a spindle that attaches the two ends. The wood for the spindle can be layered to give pleasing effects.

Hints/Tips: When turning long, thin objects you can use two chucks. Headstock and Tailstock. It is necessary to slow the lathe before stopping because the tailstock chuck has momentum and may snap the pieces if the lathe is not running slowly.

You can make your own chucks from wood by tapping a proper size hole for the spindle on the headstock. This process has many uses including vacuum chucks.

Drill a 5/8 inch hole in a golf ball and fit it on a one-way tailstock (without cone). It is possible to use the undrilled rounded portion as a jam chuck.

This completed a great demo. Besides this writeup, Jim’s handout, his kaleidoscope plans and the Club DVD will help if you decide to try your hand making a scope. The Club DVD will be available in March 2012. Jim also has his own DVD which is available from him.

Bob Gunther