Article: Nick Cook Demonstrates For CMW August 20, 2016

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August 21, 2016 16:12, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunter, photos by Tina Collison)

Nick Cook Demonstrates for CMW August 20, 2016

Learn more about Nick at:


Nick, an internationally known woodturner comes to CMW from Marietta, Georgia where he has his home and studio. It is the only full service woodturning studio in the metropolitan Atlanta area. He turns a variety of works including one-of-a-kind bowls and vessels along with his unique gift items such as wine stoppers, baby rattles, rolling pins, spinning tops and honey dippers. He also provides turned parts for local furniture makers and millwork shops. He is always in high demand as a teacher. He teaches and demonstrates at his studio, universities, craft schools and woodworking shows throughout the US, Australia and New Zealand. He has demonstrated in Ireland at their National Symposium. He last demonstrated and taught for CMW on March 15-16, 2014. Nick is a founding member of the American Association of Woodturners and has served six years on the board including one year as Vice President. He has always been active at John C. Campbell Folk School and was instrumental in updating the woodturning studio at that school. His work is marketed in gift shops and galleries from coast to coast and is included in numerous corporate and private collections.

Morning Session:

Nick began his demo showing the use of the skew. It should be gently held, not white knuckled, and the bevel must be utilized. It should be laid on the tool rest and then lowered to get the cutting edge on the wood thus achieving a peeling cut. Light cuts should be used to achieve the best surface. Most cutting is done using the center third of the cutting edge. To demonstrate the use of the skew Nick turned a garden dibble which is used to plant garden bulbs. A 2 x 2 x 12” blank was used. It was poplar but usually Nick uses maple. The blank was roughed into a cylinder and beads were turned at each end of the handle. The working end of the dibble was shaped in a tapered, dull point. One inch increments permit various planting depths to be achieved.

Nick then placed a 2 x 2 x 12” inch poplar blank between centers and used the skew to form a square shoulder that was very crisp with no tear-out compared to a parting tool. After that Nick turned a honey dipper. Nick then turned a snowman ornament. A 5/4 x 5/4 x 8” maple blank was roughed into a cylinder and made into an icicle shaped snowman. Details of the ornament were turned using a spindle gouge. A piece of tempered Masonite was used to burnish the hat band. Puff paint would be used to make the face and button details. Don’t use puff paint for the mouth – it will look weird. Next Nick made a double snowman ornament. An 8/4 x 8/4 x 8” maple blank was placed between centers and roughed into a cylinder. A cut was made with the parting tool in the center where the two ends would be separated. Details were turned on each side of the center depicting two identical snowmen. Their bottoms were on the center line and the heads at the live and drive centers. A round 3/8” skew was used for shaping. Once shaped the piece was parted into two halves at the previously cut center line. A piece of 2 x 2 x 5” walnut was placed in a chuck and roughed into a cylinder about 1” in diameter. A hat was shaped on the distal end. The band of the hat was burnished with tempered Masonite. It was parted off and another hat made. The two snowman blanks’ tops were sanded at an angle so the hats would sit at that angle.

A baby rattle was made next. Maple blanks were used. Two 1 x 2 x 5” blanks were routed out on one side and these were then glued together (dry beans were inserted into the void before gluing.) Titebond II glue was used. It is important to mark the outside of the glued up blank to know where the routed area is located as you don’t want to turn into that area and “spill the beans.” Mineral oil is used to finish the rattle followed by beeswax. The beeswax helps seal the mineral oil into the wood, otherwise the oil keeps seeping out.

Next a 5/4 x 5/4 x 12” piece of maple was used to make a spurtle (used for stirring hot cereal). It was roughed into a cylinder and details placed using a spindle gouge. The rounded stirring end was shaped using the roughing gouge. It was then parted off at both ends. A similar sized blank of maple can be placed between centers and turned into a muddler. This is similar to the spurtle except that the end is flattened so that fruit can be pulverized in the bottom of a drink.

Nick then prepared three cherry blanks, each 3 x 3 x 6”. They were placed between centers and roughed in cylinders. The first had tenons turned on each end. The second and third had tenons turned only on the headstock end.

A chuck was placed on the headstock spindle and the last blank turned was mounted in the jaws. It was tapered toward the tailstock and the distal end was shaped into an acorn. The remainder of the ring holder was shaped and parted off.

Next Nick turned a mystery salt shaker. The blank was placed in the chuck and the tailstock end trued up. A 1 5/8-inch hole was drilled about ¼ inch deep. Then a 1 3/8-inch hole was drilled 3 inches deep from the bottom of the 1 5/8-inch hole. A spindle gouge was placed in the pilot hole at the bottom of the 3-inch-deep, 1 3/8 inch hole and pivoted to create a ½ inch wide dimple. This area holds the salt. Then the shape of the mill was formed and parted off at the headstock end. Another piece of wood was placed in the chuck (maple) and turned to 1 5/8-inch diameter to fit into the body of the shaker. Next to the 1 5/8-inch diameter area a 1 3/8” diameter area was turned. Then a funnel was shaped into the piece with a spindle gouge. A 1/8-inch hole was drilled 2 inches deep. A 2-inch-long post was formed that was ½ inch in diameter and tapered to a blunt point where the 1/8 inch hole emerged. This piece was then inserted into the base of the shaker. It would be glued in place. Salt is poured into the bottom through the 1/8-inch hole .This completed the mystery salt shaker (urn).

Nick then showed briefly how to turn a spinning top and also turned a miniature top.

Nick then turned a box. He parted the blank in two. One half of one of the three blanks turned earlier was placed in the chuck. This piece was turned into the bottom part of the box. After shaping the outside be sure to leave enough wood at the base so that hollowing can be done. A shoulder was made to fit the top. It was then hollowed using a spindle gouge and a scraper. The base (bottom) was then further shaped and parted off. The other half of the piece was placed in the chuck and a tenon made to fit into the bottom half. The fit should be a loose one. The top was shaped and parted off. This completed the lidded box.

Afternoon Session:

Nick began the session making a 10-inch peppermill using a 3 x 3 x 12-inch blank of maple. The blank was placed between centers and roughed into a cylinder. Tenons were turned on both ends. Another tenon was turned 8 inches from the headstock. The two parts were parted and the longer 8 inch section with tenons at both ends was placed in the chuck. A 1 5/8-inch hole was drilled using a Colt Maxicut bit. Lathe speed should be about 400-600 rpm for drilling. The 1 5/8-inch hole needs to be at least 3/8” into the base of the body of the mill – not the end of the tenon. Then a 1 1/16-inch hole was drilled into the bottom of the 1 5/8-inch hole. First a short bit was used to begin the hole and make it more stable when the longer bit is used. Drilling was done about ¾ of the way through the 8-inch section – not all the way through. The piece was then reversed in the chuck and the distal tenon turned away to give a flat or slightly concave surface. This surface will butt up against the top portion of the mill. Then the 1 1/16-inch hole was drilled from this end to meet the one drilled from the other.

The top portion of the mill was placed in the chuck. The end was trued up. A tenon was turned to fit into the 11/16” hole in the bottom section. The tenon was made about ¼” long. A 7/8” hole was drilled about 3/16” deep in the tenon. This hole was expanded slightly to fit the stamped aluminum plate provided in the mill kit. Then a 17/64” hole was drilled through the length of the top. When using a twist drill one should drill an inch at a time. The helix of the bit needs to be cleaned at each step. This will prevent overheating and deviation of the bit off center.

The mill rod and the bottom mechanism was placed in the bottom of the mill and the top part placed against the rod. This will show how much of the top portion needs to be parted off. About ½ of the mill rod threads need to show through the top so that the knob can be screwed on and tension of the mill varied.

A mandrel was then made from a piece of maple. It was turned to 1 5/8”. This fits into the 1 5/8” opening in the bottom of the base of the mill. The end of the tenon rests against the shoulder where the 11/16” hole begins. The entire mill (both top and bottom) were placed between centers. The tenon that was on the base was turned away leaving only the mandrel holding that end between centers. The entire mill was then trued up to about 2 5/8” diameter. Shaping the mill was then begun. First the area at the joint between the top and bottom was shaped. If the line separating the two parts is hard to see one can place a piece of the cardboard in the joint to make it more visible. When turning one area of the joint one needs to leave enough wood so one doesn’t get into the 11/16” hole and the tenon on the top. Then the base or bottom of the mill is shaped with the narrowest part with a diameter of 1 ¾” to 1 7/8”. This gives a comfortable diameter to hold the mill. The entire mill would then be sanded to about 320 grit. For a finish Nick uses wipe-on poly Miniwax. This completed the pepper mill.

Nick then turned a coffee scoop. A 2 x 2 x 6-inch piece of walnut was placed in the jaws in preparation for making the scoop portion. First the scoop cup portion was turned and a ¼ inch hole drilled on a slight angle for the handle. The scoop portion was then hollowed with a spindle gouge and the interior surface cleaned up with a scraper. The scoop was then parted off. It was placed on a jam chuck to finish the bottom surface of the scoop. A piece of contrasting wood (maple) 1” x 1” x 8” was placed between centers to shape the handle of the scoop. This was made about 7” long. An open-end wrench was used to measure the 1/4” tenon that fits into the cup portion of the scoop. The length of the tenon was made to correspond to the cup’s wall thickness. The handle was parted off and fitted into the cup thus completing the coffee scoop.

Next a 5/4” thick, 9” diameter maple platter blank was placed on a screw chuck. A ¼” plywood shim was used so that the hole didn’t need to be too deep. The surface was trued up and a recess was turned to fit the expansion jaws of the chuck. The base of the blank was then shaped with a bowl gouge. A shear cut was used to give a final surface finish. The piece was reversed and the edge trued up. Then the top of the piece was shaped leaving a flat rim. A band about ½” wide and ½” in from the edge was textured with a Sorby texturing tool. A point tool was used to define each side of the textured area. The areas on each side of the textured area were turned deeper so that the textured area was raised or appeared to be so. The inner, deep turned area was done with the lathe in reverse so that a more controlled cut could be achieved. A piece of Cocobolo was used to burnish the raised, textured area giving it a golden brown color. The center area of the plate was hollowed. When 5/4” or 6/4” wood is used for a platter blank on a screw chuck one needs to be careful drilling the hole especially when a Brad point is used because the point of the bit is considerably deeper than the cutting edges.

Nick then placed a 6/4 inch thick 10” diameter piece of ash on a screw chuck. The surface was trued up and a recess was turned for expansion. The shape was turned in an ogee shape and the piece reversed. The edge was trued up and the flat rim of the platter was left higher than the edge. The platter was then burned with a propane torch. Before burning, shavings should be cleaned away from the lathe bed area so that a fire is not started. After burning the surface Scotch Brite pads are used to rub away the surface. Second and third burns can be done using the pads after each burn. At this point two coats of Matte Krylon Acrylic Spray were used to seal the burned areas. The center edge of the rim was turned away giving a defined edge to the burned area. The inner limit of the burned area can be undercut to further highlight the burned area.

This completed the burned rim platter and a very fast paced, information loaded demo. A DVD will be available in the club library along with prior demonstrations by Nick Cook.

Nick's previous demo in 2014