• Measuring thickness

  • Sacraficial vacuum chuck

Hollow Form Tips

My Goals

I love turning hollow forms because I really enjoy a good challenge. First and foremost, my goal is to showcase the natural beauty of the burl or hardwood in an aesthetically pleasing form, a task easier said than done if one pays close attention to detail. I believe contrasting heartwood and sapwood, and occasional incorporation of the natural burl exterior, best showcase the simply beauty of burl that so fascinates me. My goals in producing a well executed form include smooth flowing curves absent any flat spots, singular points of inflection, and having the finished form appear as though it is sitting on a single point. The finials I turn, if successful, should complement and finish the piece (rather than being the focal point) as a hand carved gilded frame completes/finishes a fine oil painting.


I turn the majority of my hollow forms using a faceplate and waste block of wood. Having selected a burl or cutoff, I trim it or orient it so as to achieve maximum contrast in the envisioned final form. After roughing both the surface of the waste block and the surface of the piece of burl I'll be turning, I mix Loctite Epoxy Gel, wait until it begins to thicken, then apply to both the waste block and burl. I find the Epoxy Gel to be superior to other epoxies I've used because it does not run. A note of caution though. The shelf-life is 2 years. Unfortunately, Loctite does not list a born on or expiration date (except in code form that only they know). After that time, you'll have great difficulty getting the product out of the tubes. On multiple occasions, Loctite Epoxy Gel I purchased from Home Depot was unusable. Being the great company they are, Home Depot always refunded my money, but it was inconvenient and frankly, annoying. After much effort and complaining to the manufacturer, the product manager call me personally. We spoke at length and he was kind enough to send a box of product that more than made up for the problems I had experienced. Hopefully in the future, there will be an easily identifiable expiration date. It is a GREAT product.

If a particular burl or cutoff has caught my attention, I usually know immediately what I would like to do. But I will rarely spend more than 20-30 minutes rough turning and rough hollowing pieces up to 6-8" in diameter as I usually like to rough 6-8 pieces per session before putting them in my homemade kiln for drying/stress relieving. Because movement is inevitable, I find spending much more time rather pointless. If I can produce a nice form with roughly even thickness, from which I can re-turn what I originally envisioned, I'm satisfied. One of the ways I like to be efficient in my turning is by using a fingernail gouge with long grind (as seen in the slideshow above) to do much of the hollowing. It precludes me from having to stop my lathe to remove wood chips/dust.

Slideshow Tutorial

Added 7/26/2020 . . . Let me know what you think and what else you'd like to see. I'll add the reverse turning segment using a custom vacuum chuck when I final turn these pieces.

  • When I do turn small and/or mini hollow forms, I try to rough out at least 10-12 pieces in a session. Because pieces will go in my kiln after roughing, and my focus less intense, I try to spend no more than 20-30 minutes per piece rough shaping and hollowing.

  • I like faceplate turning. Fortunately, my machinst friend Tom manufactered a bunch of 2-1/4" faceplates for me. To maximize burl usage, I prefer to use a waste block with Loctite Epoxy Gel (rather than the thinner 5 minute epoxy). It is a great product.

  • As great a product as Loctite Epoxy Gel is, you should be aware of some limitations. It has a 2 year shelf life, after which you'll have great difficulty get it out of the tubes. I had a discussion with the Product Manager at Henkel about making the code understandable to the average user.

  • To maximize surface area, and therefore adhesion, I rough the surface of both the waste block and the bottom of hollow form blank.

  • When the epoxy gel starts to tack up, I fit the faceplate/waste block to the blank, not applying pressure, but moving back and forth modestly to evenly spread the epoxty gel between surfaces.

  • Cure time for the epoxy gel is 24 hours. I'm rarely that patient.

  • Have a plan and stop frequently to reasses your plan. This is Gummy Brown Mallee that went unsold for a few years.

  • Hickory Burl , , , Tough to find. Fortunately, I have a cue maker friend who saved me a cutoff.

  • One of my favorite burls to turn. Note the tiny shavings.

  • Perspective

  • I learned the trick of using a spindle gouge to hollow from Kim Blatt. I created the long grind on this tool to meet my holowing and finial needs. I polish the back side on a Shopmaster 1" beltsander.

  • Depending on how green the burl is, I can extract a great amount of the interior without ever stoppng the lathe, inserting and removing the tool while using my thumb to remove the shavings.

  • I leave sufficient material to allow for burl movement while drying/stress relieving in my kiln. That includes allowing for material at the bottom to achieve the envisioned final shape.

  • My kiln is nothing more than an old refrigeration with 1/2" holes drilled 6" on center top and bottom to allow for air flow, a fan, and a light bulb to keep the temperature around 100-110 F deg. How long I leave pieces in depends on size and thickness. Even a miniature stays in for at lease 1 month. I generally do not apply Anchor Seal 2. If concerned, I'll wrap in stretchwrap and cut small slits allowing mosture to escape, the objective being to slow the process.

  • Gummy Brown Mallee

  • Corrugata

  • Here I'm demonstrating that i don't even need to move the tool to extract th shavings

  • Elm Burl , , , Doesn't look like much, right?

  • I remove minimal material to see where the burl starts

  • Because there is a bit of trunk I don't minfd losing, I chose to mount the blank directly to the faceplate using 1-1/4" sheet metal screws.

  • Now that's much more appealing , , ,

  • Another homemade tool that helps me get to the side and a good portion of the bottom. Among my most used tools.

I remove minimal material to see where the burl starts