Article: Beth Ireland Demonstrates For CMW On Sept. 23, 2017

September 26, 2017 16:32, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Ross Lynch, photos by Tina Collison)

Beth Ireland demonstrates for CMW Sept. 23, 2017

Today our demonstrator is Beth Ireland from Boston, soon to be relocating to Florida. Beth started her career as an illustrator and has done everything from architectural woodturning, furniture making, artistic woodturning, teaching, and has now embarked on stringed instrument design and making. Learn more about Beth Ireland at

The morning session was mostly a biographical power point presentation of how she began and the journey she has taken that is sending her to Florida. It is a very interesting tale and described the growth of a truly innovative artist. Learn more about Beth Ireland at Unfortunately, due to technical problem, there is no Demonstration DVD, Ed.

Beth Ireland will also be a demonstrator at the NC Woodturning Symposium in Greensboro, NC November 3-5, 2017. More information can be found at Beth will make four presentations including Making Stringed Instruments on The Lathe: Teaching the basic elements of scale and how to utilize the lathe to create stringed instruments, Covering use of segmenting, and demonstrating off set turning to create Mandolin and guitar necks.

In answer to a member of the audience, Beth discussed her technique for addling epoxy with inlays to her turnings. This was a big part of her development as an artist. She described how she would glue waste wood to her good wood blank and then create a groove up to 2 inches deep and generally 3/4” wide for the epoxy and whatever she put in it. She used wooden pieces, polymer clay, flowers, etc. into the epoxy. Before pouring the epoxy, she would wrap the blank in duct tape so the liquid did not leak. After it was cured she would turn the piece within a week because epoxy will become brittle if sitting too long. To turn the epoxy, you should “rub” the bevel. This warms the epoxy and it will cut better. Once the piece is done finish the wood and then use liquid car polish on the epoxy.

At this point Beth passed out an information sheet on the basics of making string instruments-i.e. mandolins, banjos, ukuleles, and guitars. This information sheet is available for download at

She discussed the parts. The head, neck, and body. She explained how from the 12th fret to the bridge and the 12th fret to the nut had to be equal distant for proper setting of the scale.

She showed how she would attach the neck to the body, and described grain orientation for counteracting the pull of the strings.

Beth showed her technique of gluing wood so she could turn two head-neck pieces at the same time. She used Tight Bond II glue and the paper between the pieces of wood is the paper (from Staples) for a manual calculator. At this point the morning session ended.

The afternoon session began with a demonstration of some basics of spindle turning. She sets the tool rest so the cutting edge of the tool is just a hair above center. The tool is always anchored to her side and she cuts with a body sway not hand motion. The tool rest is filed smooth, flat and waxed every day.

Beth also uses a spring-loaded steb center to hold the wood in the drive center and a cup center in the tailstock. In offset turning you should always use the cup center. She now turned a cylinder and showed how to create an angle on this cylinder by realigning the tool rest and cutting so the distance between the wood and the tool rest became equal. Using these turning techniques Beth now turned the head-neck piece of a string instrument making an elliptical shape thru offset turning.

After each side is done she cleans up the cuts with a rasp if necessary and used Klingspor gold rolled sandpaper like a shoe shine rag to sand thru the grits. She now used a chisel to carefully split the two pieces thru the paper bond.

Beth then discussed how to create the angled head, various techniques for making the instrument bodies (cigar boxes, segmented, fully turned blanks), and how to enhance sound with curved verses flat boxes.

Beth showed her homemade jam chuck used for shaping the top and bottoms of the box. You can buy pre-made fret boards but Beth also showed how to make your own. Finally, the bridge is made of hard wood.

These techniques need to be seen to be understood. Beth has given references on her information sheet and also has information on her web sites.

Submitted by Ross D Lynch