May 27, 2014 10:25, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Scot Roberge)



Avelino was born and raised in Coral Bay, St. John, Virgin Islands. He earned a Master of Science degree in Industrial Education from East Michigan University. After attaining his degree he returned to St. John where he taught industrial arts at a local primary school for thirty years. His first experience with actually turning wood was in 1977 when he was taking a class in the USA. He created a small scalloped edge candy bowl. In 1985 he bought a multipurpose woodworking machine and using the instructions that came with the machine he began turning out small bowls and table legs, using this machine into the 1990’s. During this time, he occasionally used a friend’s “real” lathe. In 2000, a friend recognized his talent and encouraged him to attend a woodturning symposium in The States. He attended several demonstrations at the symposium and about a month after he returned to his St. John home he was turning quality vessels on his friend’s borrowed lathe.

Avelino mentioned that he borrowed a video (VHS) by Richard Raffan from my friend and it was the major force in his becoming a good wood turner. He purchased his own lathe in the mid 1990’s and ever since he has been turning out beautiful wood pieces from the studio at his Coral Bay home. He has demonstrated all over the USA and other places around the world. He demonstrated for Turners Without Borders in Tanzania, Africa. He demonstrated for the North Carolina Woodturning Symposium in 2013. He specializes in carved hollow form vessels. His work can be found at Bajo el Sol Gallery in St. John and Gallery St. Thomas in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. For more information about Avelino, email him at

Morning Session:

Avelino began his demo with a slide presentation depicting his work including his carved hollow forms and his coloring techniques. In 2013 he did a series of 23 burned, spiral hollow forms. Frequently he will do a series of one type of vessel using different techniques so that he can determine which he likes the most and also which his customers are more likely to purchase. Many of his hollow forms have detailed, delicate finials on the lids (shown above.)

He then turned to the hands-on portion. He began by showing a carved bowl that was fluted with two sizes of flutes. One is a bead and the other a cove. One must make the concave flutes narrower than the convex ones. If the concave ones are too wide one may very well cut into the interior of the bowl when removing wood. This vessel will be the topic of the following demonstration.

An eight inch diameter, four inch thick piece of side grained Sycamore was placed on a screw chuck. An aluminum shim or spacer was used on the screw chuck between the piece and the chuck so that the hole for the screw chuck can be shallower. This is not too important when turning a bowl but it can be when turning a thin platter or plate. Once on the screw chuck the tail stock was brought up. Lathe speed was turned down prior to starting, and then increased to the desired, safe speed depending on the size, weight and balance of the piece. First the exterior of the piece was turned and a two inch wide straight walled tenon was formed. The tailstock was taken away and the exterior refined. A finish cut was done using a smaller, sharper gouge. Then the rim area was sloped upward from the exterior using a shear cut. The piece was removed from the screw chuck and the tenon placed in the jaws. If the piece does not run true there could be a wood chip on the tenon or debris in the jaws because it should run true if a satisfactory tenon was shaped.

Hollowing was begun. One should not be too aggressive when hollowing or the piece may be popped off the lathe. After some depth of hollowing was achieved the tool rest was moved so that a portion of it was in the interior of the piece. Thus the cutting edge of the tool was closer to the rest and less chatter occurred. Avelino left about 3/8 inch of wall thickness so that the piece could be carved. When hollowing, the tool needs to contact the wood on the center line. Otherwise, when entering the wood the tool may skip. Wall thickness was measured with calipers. To turn the bottom areas of the bowl Avelino uses a bowl gouge with a flatter grind (60 degrees). This permits shaping the area of the interior wall approaching into the bottom. He uses a negative rake scraper to further refine the bottom if necessary. Once the bottom was completed he sanded the sloped rim.

Avelino then began the layout for the carving process. A line was scribed around the top of the rim (sloped portion). It was 3/16 inch from the inside of the vessel. Then the vessel was divided into ten equal pie shaped areas. To do this he used a platform in his tool rest that was lined up with the center height. This was achieved using the tailstock live center point. A carpenters (yellow) pencil is used because the flat sides of the pencil make it easier to lay on the platform and draws a more accurate center height line on the piece. A circular piece of poster board that had ten segments was used to divide up the piece. It was placed on the spindle. When dividing the piece and drawing the lines one wants to be sure to take advantage of any prominent grain patterns. Small marks were made on the rim at each of the ten stops.

Then, when satisfied that the marks are where one wants them one scribes lines from each mark to the bottom of the vessel. Then marks were made 1/8 inch next to the already scribed lines. These determine the width of the ¼ inch narrower coves. Small V’s were drawn on the edge to show where the cuts are to be made. The V’s only extend down to the line that had previously been scribed 3/16 inch in from the vessel interior. The beads and coves would be alternated in the carving process.

Leaving the piece on the lathe an Auto Mach power carver was used to form the V-cuts. The cuts were started at the edge and went downhill. The bottoms of the V-cuts are at the line drawn around the edge 3/16 inch in from the interior (as noted above). The V grooves are deepest at the rim and progressively get shallower. At this point the V-cuts only extend part of the distance to the base. The remainder would be carved when the piece is removed from the chuck, reversed and the bottom finished.

The coves are formed using a micro plane. One trick is to use a rigid back tenon saw to cut lines in the center line of the V-cuts. This makes the carving easier. All the coves were done before taking the piece off the lathe. Be sure to have thin CA glue and accelerator available to repair any cuts that are made too large or not quite in the correct place.

The piece was then reversed. A pad was placed over the chuck to protect the piece and the tailstock brought up. The tenon was turned away and two shallow rings were formed on the bottom. This provided an area to sign the piece and the outer ring used as an end for the V groove cuts. The ten lines were extended to the outer ring. The piece was removed from between centers and the small nub in the bottom carved away. This completed the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

The bowl partially carved in the morning session was further worked on:

The Arbor Tech power carver was used to further cut the grooves. This was done just to show another example of power carving. Avelino extended the grooves from the bottom outer ring line toward the top of the vessel. He then returned to the Auto Mach carver to refine and deepen the grooves. He completed about half of the grooves so that the next stages could be done.

Next, a nearly straight chisel which is used to remove the corners off of the sections to be rounded was placed in the Auto Mach. This cutter was made by flattening a slightly curved one. This was used to widen the V-cuts that had previously been carved. Avelino keeps his left thumb on the edge of the chisel to help steady and control it. When carving one needs to pay attention to the wood grain because one is dealing with end grain and side grain and everything in between. One may have to change carving directions if there seem to be carving problems.

Next the shoulder plane was used to further curve the convex surfaces. To check the shape of the coves and beads check the profile from the top to the bottom. When shaping one basically cuts off corners with straight line cuts. Cuts progressively become smaller until the final shape has been achieved. The concave portions were further shaped with the microplane. Next a small gouge was used in the Auto Mach to extend the concave areas to the bottom ring. It is important to check the wall thickness of the concave areas to be sure one doesn’t make it too thin or go through the wall of the vessel. Calipers can be of help at this point.

Once power carving and shaping were completed, sanding was begun. Avelino started using 120 grit but 80 grit maybe needed. He folds the paper around a wood tapered cone. Different parts of the cone diameter can be used at varying diameters along the grooves. The bottom ends of the grooves are tapered into the bottom of the piece. The convex parts were sanded using an angled block of wood wrapped with sand paper. To get rid of bumps use the paper over a flat block of wood. Once the bumps are removed then regular sanding without the block can be done.

Next Avelino turned to his burning techniques. When burning, the surfaces are only sanded to shape. He does not worry about scratches. He uses a Razor Tip tool. If he is burning a groove area (cove) he starts at the edge. Then he does the opposite edge and he then fills in between to complete the burning of the entire cove. When burning the large areas of coves he flips the burner over between each burn. He usually leaves a matte finish using oil on burned areas. Most times he uses MINWAX Oil because it works well and is available in St. John. (Photos of finished pieces below)

In addition to the above burning technique Avelino also uses a dash pattern. The burner tip is shaped like a small skew. In this technique he starts in the center of the groove and works outward. Different patterns can be made with shorter or longer dashes and how they are arranged. After burning, the entire vessel can be stained.

This completed an excellent, interesting and informative demo.

Submitted by Bob Gunther, Photos by Scot Roberge, Assembled by Tina Collison