An Audience with Gary Rance 10 July 2010


Gary started the day by giving a brief history of his woodturning career. Unlike any demonstrator who has visited the club before, he has made his living entirely as a professional wood turner, whereas many other turners have come to woodturning following a change of career. He started as an apprentice with a small woodturning company at the age of sixteen and after 18 months was put on piece work, turning mainly peppermills; it was as a result of this that he became one of the fastest and most accurate production turners in the UK. In 1987 he became self employed and since then has built up a base of approximately 345 customers, some of whom supply companies such as Harrods and Liberty’s.

Before turning his first project Gary demonstrated basic cutting techniques. First he demonstrated a square pummel and a round pummel, using a skew chisel he has designed himself. Unlike the usual skews you see it is made from a round bar which he says gives you much greater control on the tool rest. Next he used a roughing out gouge to turn the timber to a cylinder and to demonstrate a planning cut. Then he showed the planning cut done with the skew chisel; his tip for this is to always move your body and not the tool and don’t stop the cut part way through, even if it’s not cutting in the right place. He also says you should hold the tool with your hand on top of it, not underneath, to avoid injury from a kickback. He went on to demonstrate beads and v cuts with the skew chisel and coves with a ?” spindle gouge. (See photo GR_01)

Knowing Gary’s reputation for fast turning we were expecting him to turn several projects during the day and we were not disappointed. Once he had demonstrated the basic cuts he went on to turn eight different projects then finished by giving a brief demonstration of tool sharpening.

This was a memorable day; the projects were excellent and Gary’s turning was very fast and accurate. In addition to this Gary’s lively patter and interaction with the audience kept us entertained all day. I heard many people comment on what an excellent day it had been.

Please Note:

Because of the number of items Gary turned, I have not been able to go into quite as much detail in my report as I would normally do but I hope you will still find the information useful and informative. To read about each individual item please click on the links above.

Project 1 - Salt BellTop of Page

Gary mounted a 2½” long yew log between centres, with a steb centre in the headstock and a cone in the tailstock. He turned a spigot then remounted it in the jaws and turned the end to a funnel shape; he drilled a 3mm hole through it then parted it off. (See photos GR_02, 03 & 04).

Using a ?” spindle gouge Gary hollowed the piece of timber left on the lathe to a bell shape, making it a little deeper than the funnel insert, then drilled a 12mm hole all the way through it for the handle to screw into. He cut a thread in the hole using a tap. Next he

cut the inner edge with a skew chisel so the funnel would fit into it and then glued in the funnel insert. (See photo GR_05). He tidied the base with a ¼” spindle gouge, curving it into the hole so the salt can be poured in through the hole. Finally he turned a couple of lines on the join to disguise it then sanded the bottom and applied finishing oil to it using a brush and a piece of paper. (See photo GR_06).

Gary’s Top Tip:-To ensure you don’t have a dig in when tidying the bottom, start with the tool a little way in from the edge, with the bevel rubbing then draw it back to the edge and start the cut.

Gary started to turn the outside then mounted it in a jam chuck and held it in place with the tailstock in the hole in the bottom. He then finished turning the outside to a bell shape and sanded and finished it. (See photos GR_07 & 08).

Another Top Tip:- When sanding between centres always hold the sandpaper at the back of the work so you can see how you are progressing and to ensure you don’t apply too much pressure and remove the fine detail you have just put in.

For the handle Gary mounted a short piece of ebony between centres and used a skew chisel to turn some beads then used a combination of the skew chisel, roughing out gouge and spindle gouge to turn the rest of the shape. Finally he used a thread chaser to turn a thread at the end to screw into the base. (See photos GR_09, 10, 11 & 12).

Project 2 - Idiot Stick Number 1Top of Page

This is a piece of wood with a hole drilled down through it and another, smaller stick, which fits inside it. There is a small hole drilled right the way through the side of the bigger stick with and elastic band pulled through it. When Gary pulled the small stick out of the bigger one it sprung straight back in again however, when he passed it round the room most of us were able to pull it all the way out and couldn’t get the elastic band to hold it in!

Gary started with a piece of wood measuring approximately 1” square by 4”-5” long which had a 2mm hole through it about half way along. He drilled a 7mm hole part of the way down its length, making sure he had gone a little way past the first hole. He mounted it between centres with the running centre in the drilled hole and rounded each end. He turned a bead and a couple of grooves at each end and a groove either side of the little hole, then parted it off at each end. (See photo GR_13).

He mounted a second piece of wood, a similar size to the first and turned a knob at one end with a flat edge under it, then turned the rest to a 6mm cylinder to fit inside the first piece. He filed a groove in it which would be just past where the small hole is when it is inserted into the first part. Finally he rounded off the end and parted it off at each end. (See photo GR_14).

If you weren’t at the demo and want to know how this works you will have to wait until one of our members has turned one to show you.

Project 3 - Barley Twist CandlestickTop of Page

Gary mounted a piece of pine measuring 1½” square by 9” long between centres, using a steb centre in the headstock. He turned it to a cylinder then marked it out with a pencil by first dividing it into three 3” sections, then divided each of these in half then each of these in half again to give twelve equal sized sections. He used the indexing on the lathe to draw four equally spaced lines along its length then drew a line from the end of line 1, diagonally across the first section to line 2, then from line 2 to 3 in the next section and so on along its length, until he had drawn a spiral along the whole length of the timber. He then drew a second spiral, starting at line 3, to run parallel with the first. This sounds complicated but photo GR_15 illustrates it quite well.

Using a microplane shaping rasp and starting half way along the first section on the first spiral line, Gary carved a groove gradually working along two thirds of the length of the timber. He then repeated this on the second spiral line. Next he changed to a bigger microplane and continued carving out the grooves. When the grooves were the right depth he took longer strokes, turning the lathe by hand to smooth out any flat spots. He used a small hand plane to take off the sharp edges, working along each edge with the grain. He then used a flat plane to smooth the curves. Gary demonstrated a variety of ways to sand it then turned a bead and cove at the tailstock end, in front of the start of the spiral, and a variety of beads and coves on the section where he hadn’t turned the twist. Finally he turned a spigot which he would later use to mount it in the base. (See photos GR_16 & 17).

For the base Gary mounted a disc measuring approximately 1” thick by 6”-7” diameter in a screw chuck. He turned it down to the desired diameter, marked where he needed a hole to take the spigot on the top, turned it to shape then used a thread chaser to turn a pattern of narrow lines on the surface. Next he turned the hole for the top, taking care to avoid catching the screw chuck. He deliberately cut the hole oversized so he could demonstrate how to increase the size of the spigot on the top – he re-mounted the top between centres and turned two grooves in the spigot, this lifts the grain and the fibres and gives a tight fit. If you do this you need to glue it into the base immediately. (See photos GR_18, 19 & 20).

Project 4 - Box with Corian on-layTop of Page

Gary mounted a small cylinder of timber approximately 3”-4” long between centres and marked where to cut for the lid. He turned away some of the timber for the lid, then mounted it in the jaws and continued with the shaping of the lid. (See photo GR_21). Next he took a small block of corian with a hole drilled through it and pushed this onto the lid to mark where it would fit, then turned a flat base and side to fit the corian into. He glued the corian in place then cut off the surplus with a thin parting tool. He continued turning the lid, blending the corian in, turned a finial and parted the lid off, leaving a small ‘witness mark’ on the base so he would know where the lid would fit into it. (See photos GR_22, 23 & 24).

Gary turned the bottom of the box to a ‘potty’ shape, using a spindle gouge to hollow it out and he turned a lip for the lid to sit on. Once he had sanded and finished it he used a jam chuck to finish the underneath. (See photos GR_25, 26 & 27).

Project 5 - Idiot Stick Number 2Top of Page

This is made up of two pieces of wood joined in the shape of a cross with a ring across the join. (See photo GR_28). The test is to try and get the ring off the crossed pieces of wood. Gary just turned the ring for the demonstration but he did show us how it worked; if you weren’t at the demonstration and want to know how to do it you will have to see if one of our members makes one.

To make the ring he mounted a disk of wood on a screw chuck and turned it to the right diameter. He marked the inner diameter then turned away some of the spare timber from the middle. He used a spindle gouge to turn the curve on the inside edge, starting with the tip of the tool and working away from himself. He turned the outside curve in two parts, working from the outside into the middle. He parted it off, cutting at an angle towards the centre to avoid it flying off, then remounted it in a cup chuck and turned the last quarter of the ring. (See photos GR_29, 30, 31 & 32).

Project 6 - AppleTop of Page

Gary turns a lot of apples for the various outlets where his work is sold and he usually turns about a hundred a day! To avoid excessive wastage of timber he starts with a block of wood (on this occasion it was yew) measuring 3” square by 2?” long, with the edges cut off and mounts it in a screw chuck. He turned it down to 2¾” diameter then used a spindle gouge to turn the shape, leaving a flat piece an inch across on the bottom. He drilled a hole in the base, using a hand drill then turned a deep dimple in the base; this is so it is difficult to damage the clove once it has been put in. He sanded and finished it then reversed it on the chuck, putting a piece of card between the apple and the chuck to protect it. (See photos GR_33, 34 & 35).

He turned a cove in the top then finished shaping the top half of the apple. After sanding and finishing it he buffed it, on a buffing wheel, using buffing compound to give it a nice shine. Finally he glued a clove in the bottom with super glue and a piece of hazel twig he had dyed black into the top, using Tite Bond. (See photo GR_36).

Project 7 - Light PullTop of Page

Gary says "if you are going to spend more than three minutes turning a light pull then you are not going to make any money on them!"

He used a special cutter tool, mounted in the headstock, to cut the hole. He did this by bringing in the tail stock to push it onto the cutter. The cutter tool is something Gary had designed some years ago but which is no longer available to buy as the companies he has approached say it is too expensive for them to produce. In his allotted three minutes he went on to turn the light pull with a selection, of beads, coves and v cuts. (See photos GR_37 & 38).

Lorrie Flannery

SWC club member