Article: Molly Winton Demonstrates For CMW August 16, 2014

August 29, 2014 12:35, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunther, photos by Tina Collison)


Click here to view Molly Winton's Bibliography of Reference Material, Equipment & Supply Recommendations


Molly comes to us from Edmonds, Washington. She was introduced to woodturning while in high school but it was another 22 years before she again stepped in front of a lathe. In 1998 she sold her Vocational Rehabilitation business so that she could be home with her growing family. At that time her husband presented her with a lathe but she did not work with it on a regular basis until her children reached school age. Since childhood Molly has been fascinated by the creative expression of Native North American cultures, petroglyphs of the Columbian Plateau of the Northwest, as well as the cave art of Lascaux, France and Altamira, Spain. Her artworks reflect their influences.

A brief exploration in pottery introduced her to the importance of form and design; the foundation to any embellishment of her turnings, be it branding, pyrography, coloring, texturing, or carving. She endeavors to make wood pieces that pursue excellence of form and beg to be picked up and caressed.

Molly has demonstrated and taught throughout the USA, Canada, and New Zealand. She demonstrated at the North Carolina Woodturning Symposium in 2013. Her signature pyrography is instantly recognizable. For more information contact her at

Morning Session:

Molly began her demo with a short slide presentation depicting her home area, family and examples of her work. She has always been interested in primitive art. She showed a series of her miniature hollow forms that which would be the central theme of today’s demo.

She began the hands-on portion of her demo with the turning of a miniature hollow form. The wood used was cherry. When turning miniatures one must have a good form. Surface enhancement of any type and amount will not improve the form. When Molly began turning she concentrated on Grecian form vessels with primitive design enhancements. Ultimately these two themes did not mesh. She then changed to primitive forms with primitive design enhancements. She found that these complimented each other. This, thus, began her signature career design patterns or motif. With miniatures one needs the shape of the vessel to be as true as possible. Even finite flaws will show and all the branding, coloring and burning will not cover them up.

Molly placed a 2x2x5 inch piece of cherry in the Talon chuck jaws and turned a tenon on the tailstock end. The piece was then reversed and the tenon placed in the jaws. The cylinder was turned. The tailstock was kept in place. Molly wears protective over-the-counter bifocals that are available from Rockler, and Woodcraft stores. She began shaping the piece at the tailstock end which would be the top of the vessel. She then shaped the outside of the vessel being sure to leave enough bulk at the base area to give stability to the piece. Once shaped, minor improvements were made. A small divot was made in the top of the vessel so that a pilot hole could be drilled. The pilot hole does two things: It permits one to mark the depth of the interior of the vessel and it opens up the center so that one’s hollowing tools can be inserted. Molly used a spindle gouge as a drill to make the pilot hole. Using the same spindle gouge, with a pull cut, the pilot hole was opened up. Chips and shavings need to be cleared frequently. If not, the chips will build up and trap the gouge. Once the hole was opened up she turned to her hollowing tools.

Molly makes many of her own hollowing tools using various sizes of right angled Allen wrenches. She shortens the shorter arm of the wrench so that the cutting area is closer to the central axis of the tool and thus minimizes the torqueing of the tool when turning. She uses about 5/32 inch thick wrenches but smaller ones can be used for vessels with narrow openings. Molly can also change the Allen wrench angles by heating and bending using MAP gas. Instead of a right angled cutter it can be changed to 45 degrees to more efficiently removing wood deeper into the vessel and toward the bottom.

Molly then hollowed from the rim out to the shoulder. After that the wood in the base of the vessel was removed. This left a lump of wood between the shoulder and the bottom (along the interior side of the vessel). The interior wall under this lump is where people most usually perforate the vessel wall when hollowing. By slowly removing the lump this perforation can be avoided. Molly marked her hollowing tool handle to show the position of the cutting edge inside the vessel. A straw was used to clean dust and chips out during the hollowing process. This was done with the lathe stopped. The lump left above was then slowly whittled away until the wall thickness was uniform. Calipers were then used to check wall thickness. For the miniature vessels wall thickness is not critical because of the small amount of wood being used. Wall thickness cannot be real thin when burning is used for enhancement. This completed the hollowing process.

The exterior base of the vessel was then turned. Molly left a lot of wood from the chuck to the base. This provided plenty of room to turn and shape the base. By having all that space now to work one is not forced to alter one’s designed shape because the chuck is in the way. The waste wood was removed so that the initial curve of the vessel could be continued toward the bottom or base. This was a continuous curve with no flat spots. At this point sanding would be done. The piece was then parted off at an angle so that the foot of the vessel became concave. Wall thickness is determined by what wood one is using and what type of embellishment one chooses. For the very hard woods 1/8 inch to 3/16 inch is enough. For softer woods like Spanish cedar or Mahogany ¼ inch maybe needed. The small nib left on the base was carved away so that the piece could sit flat on its concave base.

Molly then designed the details of the vessel opening. She decided on a three sided opening. The round opening left from turning was divided into three segments. Where each division was marked on the rim the line was extended away from the opening about 5mm. The end of each line was connected to form a three sided design. A Dremel was used to carve the opening. A straight bit was used beginning at one of the three lines drawn above. Then wood was removed around the periphery creating the three sided opening. Once the general shape of the opening was made it would be cleaned up with sanding sticks. Besides the triangular opening other shapes such as a square can be made. An opening made with steps can also be done which gives the rim a Southwestern Style design. This completed the morning session.

Afternoon Session:

Molly began the session with texturing. First she showed four Flexcut cutters to be used in a reciprocating carver. The first was a flat curved cutter. When using it to texture a surface area one must be sure to overlap the cuts so that all the surface has been covered otherwise the final finish will show any missed spots. This shallow cutter creates almost a hammered design. A second cutter with a somewhat deeper curve was used. It is best to cut side grain and not with the grain. Using it with the grain may cause splits or unwanted extensions of the cut. One also has much less control. The third cutter was a deep U-shaped cutter that made narrower but deeper cuts thus giving a different pattern. With this cutter one can do random cuts and not just cross grain or with the grain. One cannot cover the entire area as could be done with numbers 1 & 2. Thus one needs to sand the entire surface of the piece before using the cutter. The fourth was a V-shaped cutter. Here again one needs to sand the entire area before carving.

Next Molly showed the use of the Dremel engraver. She uses it to sign her pieces. The signature is very subtle in appearance and not as bold as signatures done using pyrography. Molly wants her presence on her piece but not part of it. The tip she uses is straight out of the box. It is also used as a texturing tool. It can be used on dry wood but not on wet or green wood. Different patterns can be made depending on how the tool is used (pressure, angle and concentrated use).

Branding and burning were then discussed. Because of her admitted lack of drawing ability Molly decided that her drawings needed to be more symbolic than realistic. Her signature horse pattern simply needs to look like a horse. This Molly does in steps so that the end result is what she wanted it to look like. By drawing the horse in steps each one looked almost exactly like the others. She simply kept it simple. All the lines can be burned or carved. Once formed one can use dyed tile grout to fill all the lines and wipe the excess away. This highlights the lines. It should then be top coated with a sealer. Molly showed examples of these techniques such as a sand dollar and others.

Molly then turned her focus to burning. She uses a Burnmaster burner. She showed various ways to make burn lines. It is a good idea to practice on a spare piece of wood that is the same as the piece that will be enhanced. When one purchases tips that have sharp burning edges one should sharpen them because when burning one is also cutting the wood. Diamond hones or stones can be used to sharpen the tips. Sharpen them before annealing. Once sharpened do not repeat the process. Instead strop the tip with a leather strop.

When burning lines it is important to keep the tip moving. Do not hesitate or the line will vary in darkness and width. When Molly burns she anchors her hand with her small finger against the piece. She does not put the piece on a bench top. She holds it in her lap which permits her being able to move the piece when needed during the burning process. It also lets her make better, pleasing curves. When burning a line the intensity of the burn will decrease because the wood is taking the heat out of the tip. One needs to stop, lift the tip off of the wood, let the tip heat up, and then continue the line. This will produce an evenly burned line.

Molly then discussed the various burners available for pyrography. (Razor tip, Detail Master, Colwood and Burnmaster). She also discussed various handles and tips. Homemade tips can be made with Nichrome wire. A source of this wire is At this source any gauge wire and amount can be ordered. Molly uses almost exclusively 20 and 22 gauge (20 being the thicker). She showed how to make her basket weave tip. A 5 inch piece of 20 gauge wire was used. One end (about 1 inch) of the wire piece was attached parallel to the side of a hex sided drill bit using vise-grips. Then the long end of the wire extending out from the vise grips was wound 5 times around the 1/8” drill bit. The end of the 5th coil should be on the same plane as where the 1st coil began. The wire was removed from the grips and the two ends trimmed to about ¾ inch and made parallel so that they can be placed into the burn handle and secured with set screws. Molly wants the tip to be twice as wide as the diameter. This permits burning the weave pattern. Alternating rows of vertical and horizontal burns were made. [Note the bright red hot coils in her homemade handle in the photos below.]

Using the same tip one can make a herringbone pattern. Simply hold the tip at 45 degrees for the first row and then for the 2nd row at the opposite 45 degrees, making right angles. Molly cleans up the burned areas using a horsehair brush. For a final finish almost any finish can be used. Krylon satin gives a nice effect. It is not a good idea to use a high build up gloss finish.

Next Molly used a “writing” tip (6A) to make the mottled background for her negative space areas between the horse patterns. This technique was done in a random pattern.

She next showed how to make Graeme Priddle’s fern brand tip. The wire is held with approximately 1” of the wire held parallel within the vise grip jaws, and about 4” protruding out of the jaws. The long end of the wire is then bent perpendicular to the jaws, and held in the right hand. The wire is held in the right hand and the vise-grips are spun in a circle creating the flattened coil. All the coils need to be on the same plane. Once they are on the same plane they are held in that position with needle nose pliers and then the 2nd arm of the tip is bend parallel to the 1st so that the tip can be attached to the burn handle.

This completed an enjoyable and informative demo. A DVD will be available in the club library in October, 2014

Submitted by Bob Gunther

Click here to view Molly Winton's Bibliography of Reference Material, Equipment & Supply Recommendations