Article: Harvey Meyer Demonstrates For CMW March 18, 2017

March 20, 2017 11:56, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Jack Langdon, photos by TIna Collison)

Harvey Meyer demonstrates for CMW March 18, 2017

Harvey Meyer grew up interested in woodworking and became an accomplished furniture maker. He started woodturning in 2000 and soon added a pair of Powermatic lathes to his otherwise complete wood shop. This was his first demonstration for Carolina Mountain Woodturners.

He explored bowls, platters, ornaments, goblets, hats and lidded boxes before settling on hollow vessels as his preferred item to turn. He became skilled and productive to the point that hollow vessels were completed faster than he could find a home for them. He solved this problem by exploring basket illusion surface decoration to add interest and value to his pieces. This reduced his output from several pieces per week to about twenty pieces per year. He has developed his own processes and designs for the basket illusion and he demonstrated all the essential steps on a simple platter. He asked that his designs not be copied as they represent his creative effort. His beautiful work, helpful you tube videos and other useful information can be found on his web site:

The basic process is: turn a piece, turn beads on the surface, use a burning pen to create marks across the beads radiating from the center to the edge of the piece and then color-in chosen areas bounded by the bead and the burn marks to create a pattern.

The pattern is created on polar graph paper for platters and bowls; regular graph paper for hollow vessels. You can print graph paper from the web by downloading software at
and layout your pattern by hand. Harvey also uses a free program called Inkscape to speed up the design process. Typical patterns repeat around the piece and he has found patterns that repeat every 12 burn lines to be a good place to start.

His process for a platter and some explanation from his commentary follow.

Start with a good piece of kiln dried 8/4 maple or other suitable dense hardwood. Light colored wood is preferred. Dense and fine grained to allow high quality beads. Light color to not interfere with coloring later. He demonstrated with a maple blank cut into an approximately 7 inch circle.

Put a recess on one side of the blank and expand the chuck jaws into the recess. This allows you to work on the back side. Standard procedure: hold from the front and turn the back first.

With the blank held by the recess, put a tenon on the side that is now the back of the platter. Then shape the back of the platter to a nice gentle flowing curve. Finish with a light cut with a very sharp tool so the surface will support fine beading. He prefers not to sand because embedded abrasive might dull his beading tool.

With the beading tools, score the lines for a 3/16” bead at the rim, and then score lines for contiguous 1/8” beads all the way until the tenon is in the way. Then cut the beads using the beading tools. The scoring (marking) is done by lightly touching the beading tool to the work and then indexing to the next position and repeating the process. Leave a little space at the rim before the start of the 3/16” mark. If you completely cut a bead then it is hard to position the next bead because you will have cut away your reference point. He uses, recommends and sells beading tools by D-way.
Keep the tools very sharp and present them to the wood with the handle very low for a clean cut. When cutting rock the tool slightly from side to side so alternate tips cut. Be sure to stop as soon as the bead shape is established.

Using thinned Formica or heavy paper backed sandpaper. Burn the valleys between the beads by spinning the piece as fast as safely possible. Sand the Formica to about .015” thick, present the edge to the bottom of each valley and push and hold just long enough to form a well-defined burn line. Use maroon Scotchbrite and a light touch to remove any fuzz and complete the process on the back.

Reverse the piece so that the chuck is holding the back of the platter by the tenon. Beginning at the rim of the platter, thin the face side to final thickness of about ¼” for a distance of about ¼ to 1/3 of the radius. Then, using the beading tools score lines for the 3/16” bead at the rim, and the score lines for as many 1/8” beads as possible. Cut only the 3/16” bead with the beading tool. You only thin part of the way from the rim to prevent warping and allow uniform beads to be cut. Finish with a sharp tool and a light cut. Position the 3/16” bead score lines exactly opposite those on the back side by eye. Only cut the 3/16 inch bead now to maximize stability as you shape the rim to blend the front and back beads around the edge of the rim.

Using a negative rake scraper, round over the rim edge of the platter so that the 3/16” bead on the back meets the 3/16” bead you just cut on the front, This gives the platter an overall rounded rim.

Cut the remaining 1/8” beads that were scored. Then thin the face of the platter for the next ¼ to 1/3 of the radius to a final thickness of about ¼”. Score lines for 1/8” beads with the beading tool, then cut those beads. Always leave one score line with the bead not cut to provide a reference for the next set of score marks. Use this untouched area as a reference point for your gouge bevel so you can pick up the proper line and insure a continuous curve on the platter face as you progress down to the bottom section by section. If the piece vibrates during beading, support it from the back side with a hand held pad of folded paper towel.

Finish turning the face of the platter to final thickness and score and cut the remaining 1/8” beads. Normally you will end up with a small circle in the center. Carefully round the edges of this with a spindle gouge.

Burn the valleys between the beads using thinned Formica or heavy paper backed sandpaper. Use maroon Scotchbrite to remove any fuzz.

Using an index wheel, and a method (jig) for holding a pencil, where the pencil is on dead center, draw index lines on both sides of the platter for as many segments needed for your pattern. The index wheel can be your polar graph pattern design glued on a piece of 1/8” masonite or other suitable material. A correctly sized hole allows it to be sandwiched between the chuck and the headstock quill. Draw a radial line across the beads, index one increment and draw again until completely around the platter. Use a #2 pencil to allow erasing if needed without leaving indents in the wood.

Reverse the piece and remove the tenon. Add more beads to the backside if necessary to suit your pattern. You may need these extra beads because you reduced the diameter of the foot, or to provide room to complete your pattern in an attractive way.

The rest of the work is done off the lathe in your easy chair. With a wood burner and Optima 21AEF pen on both sides of the platter, burn the lines over the beads by following the index lines you penciled in. This is a is a simple plunge burn, straddling the bead with a U-shaped tip at each pencil line where it crosses a bead. Typically you can do about one burn per second. Recommended pens are: 1/8” 21AEF, 3/16” 21BEF, Available from Optima.

Burn a weave pattern over the rim of the platter (optional step for beginners). Look at pictures of his work to see how this pattern wraps around the rim. Use a medium skew (Optima #11)

Using India ink markers, color in the squares called for in your pattern. Do this on both sides. These “squares” are defined by the burn marks in the bead valleys and the burn marks burned in by the pen across the beads. Sharpie pens are not recommended because the colors are not as stable as India ink. He uses Faber Castell Pitt artist pens. Use both brush tip and super fine tips so you can go fast and keep good detail. If you make a mistake, shave the ink away with a very sharp scalpel.

After all dying is finished, spray both sides of the piece with Krylon Acrylic matte finish (#1311). Enjoy your basket illusion platter!!

Thanks to Harvey for a well-paced and very informative demonstration!

If you missed seeing Harvey Meyer demonstrate his fascinating illusion baskets you can learn more at

To view videos about Harvey Meyer making illusion baskets: Part 1

Part 2