Article: Graeme Priddle And Melissa Engler Demonstrate For CMW, April 9, 2016.

April 11, 2016 09:43, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Alan Wasserman, Photos by Tina Collison)

Graeme Priddle and Melissa Engler Demonstrate for CMW, April 9, 2016.

CMW had the great pleasure to receive a great demonstration by Graeme Priddle and Melissa Engler on April 9, 2016. First and foremost, Graeme and Melissa have been recently married and now live in Asheville, NC. We all extend our congratulations! Now down to the demonstration.

The first lesson that we learned was to try new ideas and put passion into your creativity. Illustrated in this teaching was the recent collaborative effort of our demonstrators and resulting creation of the split spindle pod form. As Graeme expressed, his influences on design ideas come from the sea, however, "just looking down" is all one needs. Melissa is inspired by wild places and creatures and joked that she expresses her creative process by thinking of a design and telling Graeme to make it.

The split spindle pod begins with a dry piece of wood with approximate dimensions of 4x4x14(+-) inches. The main reason for using dry wood is to prevent cracking and warping. Although one can use uncured wood, it must be cautioned that the warping occurring in the drying process must be considered in your design, along with the risk of cracking.

Before beginning your turning, remain aware of safety. Use eye/ear/lung protection and follow safe practices, fasten your piece center to center, continually check the piece is tightly secured on your lathe, adjust your tool rest, start at slow speed and your body out of the line of "fire". Increase speed as high as your toleration will allow and of course before vibration occurs. Position your piece with the grain parallel to the bed. This positioning will be helpful with tear-out and latter with carving.

Begin the shaping (roughing out) of your piece in a pod form (you can elect other forms as your creativity and passion lead you.) Graeme uses a 5/8 bowl gouge with a very long side grind for the initial stages of shaping the form (of course, if you prefer, you can use your spindle roughing gouge). His cut is a pull cut with the flute facing almost vertical and towards the rotating piece, riding the bevel at all times. Always maintain sharp edges on your gouges, roughing out in the direction from largest to smallest diameter, short fibers to longer fibers. As you cut with any tool, tuck your arms to your sides, brace the tool handle to your hip and use your body (knees and hips) to move and direct your tool on the wood. As you shape, keep your eye on the top of the form where you can see the curve developing..

Once roughed out, Graeme then changes his tool to a shallow fluted detail gouge to refine the curve and eliminate tear out from roughing. He uses a push cut with the more customary flute position at about 45 degrees in the direction of the cut, and rubbing the bevel behind the cut. You could also use a bowl gouge, standard spindle gouge or a skew for this cut. Another alternative, not discussed is to master the use of a furniture scraper and scrape the form from center, downhill and you will experience the elimination of all tear-outs. To create and recreate a particular form, one can draw upon experience or a template.

Once you are satisfied with your form, mark out with pencil your anticipated coves. Start your marking from the center of the piece to each end. Graeme calls upon his experience, but of course you can use your flexible ruler for even spacing of the coves.

Create your coves between your pencil markings, without touching your markings. This way the high spots will remain of even height. Graeme uses his shallow fluted spindle gouge to create the coves, "working" the coves from the top to center on one side and repeat from the other side, feathering in a smooth cove meeting in the middle. One can also use a small round nose scraper; however, that process may create additional tear-out.

Now for splitting the pod: Mark the pod with a straight line from end to end in the center. This is done by use of your tool rest as a straight line. You can also use a flexible ruler. Make sure you are in center. Graeme does this by eye. Take your piece off the lathe and go to your band saw. He typically uses a ½” or a 3/8", 3 tpi bandsaw blade. Rest the piece on the band saw table so when cutting, the bottom of the piece is always weighted on the table. Do not have the area being cut up off the table at any time. Keep your hands to the side of the piece so you are not pushing in the line of the cut where possible. Once you cut half through the piece, reposition your hand in the back of the piece so, instead of pushing into the cut you are now pulling from the back. While the band saw is in use, also trim the ends of each half pod as close to smooth points as you are comfortable with. Depending on the cut affect, you may want to pass the newly cut edges over a sanding belt at a 320 or so grit to smooth out and flatten the cut edges. Editor Note: An AAW article is attached on how to make a jig for cutting round objects on the bandsaw.

Melissa now shows us her stuff! First she scorches the coved outsides of the pod with a propane torch. She turns the piece in one hand as she burns the other side, until the surface is completely charred. Do not maintain the flame in one position for long for it may result in a nice barn fire. After the burn, brush the carbon burn off with a jeweler’s brass burnishing brush or stiff nylon brush. Now apply black acrylic paint, using a toothbrush (try not to re purpose the brush for your next morning tooth maintenance). Rub the paint along the entire pod, lightly loading the toothbrush, working the paint into the wood.

To highlight the high points of the coves, Melissa now lightly sands back these high spots with 180 grit (or higher) sandpaper. It appeared as a gentle brush over the high spots, not trying to sand away the burnt area...just create a lightening from the black burn. She then applied red color acrylic paint to these high spots with a folded cotton (tee shirt type) rag. Lightly load some paint on the rag and then lightly brush over the high spots, keeping away from the coves. Let the paint dry (20 minutes or so) and then buff the entire surface with KIWI black shoe polish.

We now have to hollow the insides of each side of the pod. The demonstration suggested using a bench vise but if that is not available, one can fasten the pod half to your lathe bed with a Jorgensen-style wood clamp and 2 Quick Release clamps. Once fastened, begin your hollowing carving. Graeme used a 4" Saburrtooth brand extra-course grinding disc on an angle grinder or you could also use a Proxon 2" grinder, using either a Saburrtooth brand or other similar type carving discs. Before starting the hollowing, mark a desired thickness around the edges, trying to keep its thickness uniform. After you feel you have a consistent thickness, use a hand chisel (they use the 9/7 Pfiel brand chisel.) Cut with the grain from the end of the pod to the center. Then turn the piece around and do the same on the other side. Use a pushing motion with the both hands on the tool. Never put a hand in front of the sharp end, as your intent is not to also carve that hand! The chisel use will smooth out the interior.

A question was asked as to how to keep your chisel sharp. Besides getting professional sharpening, Graeme suggested one use a hard grade wood, cut it with the face grain as the polishing surface, use white diamond as the abrasive, rub on the face grain, secure the "jig" in a vise, set the outside bevel of your chisel flush with the polishing surface and give it just a few pull swipes across the primed face grain.

There are alternatives to this enhancement process. Also suggested would be the use of a rotary tool and experiment with different bits of your choice.

Next step is painting the hollowed/carved interior. Melissa used a toothbrush again to cover the carved area with red acrylic paint. Wait until dry and then, with very light strokes of 600 grit sandpaper, brush over the high spots of the recently painted interior service. Next apply black Kiwi boot polish with a folded rag, using light strokes, touching only the high spots of the carved texture. After the polish is dry, buff with a clean rag.

Now to create the insert for the pod: Obtain another dry piece of wood, say 3x3x14". Draw a form of your choice. Melissa used what looked like a seed sprout or an elongated "guppy" fish type form. Cut out with the band saw and then place this form in your vise and to use the angle grinder with the Saburrtooth brand disc to refine the form. Further refine the form with a palm or spindle sander. Understand that this shape will be fitting inside the two pod halves so plan your shape so that when this form is inside the pod, the halves will partially close in its finished state.

At your choice, you can now color and/or embellish the insert form. Graeme usually uses a chip carved surface on this interior form, which lends itself well to the painting technique that Melissa chose. Melissa first painted the entire form black, then let it dry well. After, she blended a bright red, to dark orange to yellow over the length of the form. Before the topcoat of paint was dry, she gently pulled paint off the high spots using a slightly damp folded cotton rag, revealing the black paint underneath, only in the high spots.

You can also use pyrography or many other embellishment techniques to personalize your piece, so have a go at experimenting and expanding your design horizons.

The pod is put together with a four screws using temporary cork wedges to position the insert to your desired location. Countersink two drill holes, which will be used to fasten the insert to the pod halves. Once you have secured the center piece in one half of the pod, remove the temporary cork wedges and drill and screw on the other half. Once fastened together, sand a flat on the backside of the pod (where the split appears) so it sits flat against the wall. Drill two (2) small holes in the center piece between the split at the back to put the ends of a small loop of thread into and fasten with two cooper nails. The loop then hooks over a standard picture hanger.

They then expanded their demonstration by illustrating various methods to create and utilize various burning tips when applying pyrography designs to your object. They have designed their own versatile burning handpiece that the tips they make screw into. The wire they use is mostly 16/18/20 gauge nickel chromium.

Using needle nose pliers hold one end of a piece of this wire and begin to twist and turn to your desired burn design. The possibilities are limitless. They use masking tape and different tip designs to create some of their motifs. They create a fine knife blade tip design for finer burning and a ball bit to stipple.

Graeme and Melissa sell high powered battery charger woodburners, handpieces to suit any commercial woodburners, nichrome wire and branding tips. They are also local agents for Saburrtooth carbide discs and burrs. And they are available for private tuition in your workshop or theirs. For further information email Graeme at

We should all be very thankful for the hard work, preparation and demonstration that Graeme and Mellissa shared with us on Saturday and on behalf of the CMW we thank them for their knowledge sharing.

Submitted by Alan Wasserman

To see more of their work: Graeme Priddle or Melissa Engler

Or read about Graeme Priddle's demonstration for CMW in 2006

Also there are DVDs of Graeme's 2006 demonstration available to members in the CMW Library.