Andrew Hall 14 October 2010

Andrew made a welcome return to Sheffield this week; his popularity was See Andrew's Photosreflected by the record number of people who turned out to watch his demo. (See photos AH_21 & 22). This project was certainly different to anything we’ve seen at the club before – he turned one of his ‘Corinthian’ helmets mounted on a stand. In addition to our usual audio visual presentation of the evening Andrew had brought along a television which he connected to a laptop computer to give a slide show presentation of his work, with step by step slides as he progressed through the evening. He certainly has a very slick and professional set up.

He started by explaining that he got the idea of the helmet from a course he did with Nick Agar, where they turned a helmet based on the one worn by Leonidas. Nick also inspired his use of colouring and texturing techniques.

He then went on to show us a selection of small helmets he has turned, describing them as a ‘sort of progression from hat turning’.


Andrew mounted a large log of recently cut silver birch between centres, using steb centres at both ends. He explained that he likes using steb centres as they make it very easy to re-mount the work if you take it off the lathe. (See photos AH_01 & 02). Before starting to turn he gave us a couple of safety tips:

  1. When cutting logs on a bandsaw you should rest the log on a couple of ‘v’ blocks to keep it steady and stop it being ‘grabbed’ into the saw.
  2. You should never use a spindle roughing gouge when turning a bowl however, you can use a bowl gouge to turn a spindle.

With the lathe running at 600rpm he used a spindle roughing gouge to turn the log to a cylinder. During this process he also demonstrated how quickly you can remove the outside timber with a bowl gouge. Once it was round he increased the speed to 850rpm and turned it down to slightly bigger than the desired size. This size was decided before mounting it on the lathe – he put the back of the chuck onto the end of the log and drew a circle round it, then pushed the pen through the middle of the chuck to mark the centre. He then repeated this process on the other end. Using a ⅜” beading/parting tool he squared up the end and cut a tenon to fit the chuck on its optimum circle. (See photos AH_03 & 04).

Next he removed it from the lathe, mounted it in his ‘Goliath’ chuck and held the other end with the steb centre whilst he straightened up the end and cut a 50mm chucking point. He marked the length of the helmet on the timber then cut into this line with a thin parting tool to about 25mm thickness then cut it off with a Japanese saw. He used a spindle gouge to tidy the end then marked the centre with a parting tool. He then drilled into the centre point to a depth of approx. 3”, using a bullet drill held in an old Jacob’s chuck which he had fixed into a handle. (See photos AH_05 & 06). Using a spindle roughing gouge he finished turning the cylinder down to the correct diameter then he hollowed it out using a swept back bowl gouge with the flute turned to about 9 o’clock. (See photo AH_07). Once he had got it to the correct depth he used a Len Grantham hollowing tool from Ashley Isles to finish hollowing it and get a nice smooth finish at the bottom and up the sides.

In order to finish turning the outside he mounted a light in the tailstock – this was a long-life bulb mounted into a light fitting which, in turn, was mounted on a post which fitted into the tailstock. He wound the light into the cylinder then turned the outside to the desired shape, approx. 5mm thick; working to get an even glow coming through the timber which indicated that the wall was of an even thickness. The light was brighter at the inner end; Andrew explained that this was because it was coming through end grain. Once he was happy that he had an even thickness, Andrew used a ⅜” spindle gouge to do his final cut and what he had on the lathe was, effectively a goblet. Before cutting it off the lathe, close to the chuck, with the Japanese saw, he turned a piece approx. 1”-1½” long which would later become the decoration on the top of the helmet. (See photo AH_08).

To finish the outside Andrew mounted it on the outside of the jaws of the Super Nova Chuck and used a ⅜” bowl gouge to turn a cone on the top of the helmet, with a bead underneath it. (See photos AH_09 & 10). He then took it off the lathe and used templates to mark the shape of the eyes and the cheeks, taking care to ensure the two sides were parallel with each other, then he marked a neck guard on the back. Finally he used a Proxxon model maker’s jigsaw to shape the face. Once the helmet is completed Andrew leaves it for 2-3 days to dry out before finishing it either by texturing it or by leaving it plain and treating it with oil. He also decorates some of them with upholstery studs. (See photos AH_11, 12 & 13).


Andrew made the stand from walnut. First he mounted a square blank measuring approx. 5” square by 1” thick on the chuck using a recessed chucking point. Using a bowl gouge he turned it to a disc then he used a draw cut to flatten off the bottom. He used a parting tool to cut another recessed chucking point which he decorated with a bead. At this point he would normally sand it to 600 grit then treat it with diluted sanding sealer, sand again to 800 or 1200 grit and buff it. (See photos AH_14 & 15).

He turned it round on the lathe and turned away the first chucking point, slightly undercutting it. After truing up the edge he turned a little chamfer on the bottom edge and a bigger one on the top edge. Using a texturing tool he turned a pattern on the edge and used a spindle gouge to turn a tiny v-cut either side of it to make it stand out. Next he mounted a Jacob’s chuck in the tailstock with a 25mm forstner bit and cut a 10mm deep hole in the centre. He then repeated the texturing pattern on the top. (See photos AH_16 & 17).

To turn the post he mounted a 1½” square by 8” long piece of walnut between steb centres and turned it to a cylinder then turned a 25mm tenon at the headstock end to fit into the base. He then turned a series of beads, coves and v-cuts to decorate it. (See photos AH_18 & 19). When he had finished turning the shapes on the spindle he took it off the lathe to check its fit in the base – it was too big, but as he had turned it between steb centres he was easily able to remount it on the lathe and turn a fraction more off the tenon. He used a Japanese saw to cut the end of it and finished it off on a sanding disc mounted in the lathe. Finally he buffed it using the Beall wood buff system and fixed the two pieces together with superglue.

As always with Andrew this was a fascinating project and it could be easily achievable at home. So thank you Andrew for another truly inspiring evening.

Lorrie FlanneryTop of Page

SWC club member