Weekend Projects – Commemorative egg cup

Monday 9 July 2018

I was recently commissioned to make three of these egg cups to commemorate the births of three children. Making them I realised that the process uses almost every woodturning skill and would make an ideal project for all skill levels from beginner to established turner. The reason that I am using sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) is that I intend to burn an announcement on the rim of the bowl and the pyrography iron is less likely to move with the grain as when using other woods. This is a commemorative piece and will not be used – should you wish to use it as an egg cup, use beech (Fagus sylvatica) or similar so that it can be washed.

Tools used:

3mm parting tool

13mm skew chisel

10mm spindle gouge with double bevel

6mm spindle gouge with double bevel

6mm point tool

10mm bowl gouge

16mm bowl gouge

20mm skew chisel

Materials used:

Round blank of English sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus):

150 x 38mm

A length of matching timber: 125 x 50 x 50mm

'Egg sized' piece of your preferred timber – in this case English oak (Quercus robur)

Health and safety

Whatever timber you use will create dust so ensure that you wear your face mask and turn only at the speed at which you feel safe. You normally only need tiny spigots to attach the blank to your chuck jaws but always ensure that the diameter of the spigot is the optimum size for those jaws and the chuck manual will give you this measurement. Don't take risks!


Hold the round blank of sycamore on a screw chuck which itself is through a 150mm blank of MDF. You should keep this diameter wide as you eventually want a wide foot for the purpose of stability. 6mm from the MDF section, part down 13mm into the blank to form the underside of the rim


Using the 13mm bowl gouge, shape the underside of the bowl from the foot and to the inner base of the rim


Using a 10mm bowl gouge, use a push cut from the foot to the rim. Give the piece a light sanding at this point to ensure the surface is unblemished. You then need to reverse the piece and hold it in the chuck


Having finely cut and sanded the rim of the piece, using the 3mm parting tool, 22mm, the initial cut will be just inside the recess you are cutting and this will prevent the tool from sliding back over the rim. As the jaws I intended to reverse the piece onto were optimally 25mm in diameter, I marked a 25mm circle and hollowed the inside of that circle with a 10mm spindle gouge. If you only have the standard jaws, hollow out to the optimal expanded size of those – it just means that your spigot will be larger on the stem piece


Begin to hollow out with the 10mm bowl gouge, backing onto the previous recess – in with the cutting face parallel to the lathe bed and then twisting the flute slightly to the left so that you are cutting with the wood touching the blade at 11 o'clock. Keeping your forefinger in the same place, pivot the tool around so that the handle comes round towards you to make a perfect arc and cut


Cut also from the rim in the centre down and towards the outside and blend inwards and outward cuts carefully together. The red arrow shows that the cutting point is at 11 o'clock at the end of the tool and NOT at the top dead centre


Sand and shape the inside of the bowl going through the grits. If there are any blemishes, cut again with the bowl gouge rather than try to wear it down with abrasives. You will always get a better finish with the tool


Reverse the bowl onto the expanding jaws of your chuck. You need to ensure that the piece is as true as possible, hence my making that mark originally with the hollow-faced live centre. You can line a pin hole up with your centre if you do not have a hollow piece and this just means that you have to cut deeper to remove all traces of it


With the tailstock supporting now is the time to blend the outside of the bowl with the bowl gouge down to the foot, i.e. to remove the flat area that we used for chuck support


You now need to shape and sand the foot of the commemorative egg cup and add decorative embellishments with the point tool. This shaped foot will give plenty of stability


Here is the finished base of the commemorative egg cup


Round off the 50 x 50 x 125mm sycamore and mark the extent of the egg cup base and the bottom extremity of the beaded section. Try to mount the piece on the lathe with the grain going from right to left – if you are right-handed


The next step, using a skew chisel or a 3mm parting tool, is to cut down to 15mm at the intended base of the egg holding section


Making the egg cup section is the ideal time to practise your skew chisel work. The main work on this part is done with your right hand on the handle but use your left thumb for support


You now need to hollow out the egg holding section with your normal spindle gouge but give some support underneath with the aid of your left hand – again, if you are right-handed


The widest bead will be 35mm so check this next diameter. Looking carefully at the photo here, you will see a pattern around the inside rim of the egg cup. This was an accident through not supporting the revolving wood as I pulled the gouge out. I left it as it looked surprisingly good 'for an accident'. Now comes the hard part to explain. There is an easy way to cut beads. It just takes a little practise and you will be hooked. This is an Eli Avisera method. You have the square section that will become your bead. Put your gouge to the wood so that the cutting point is at 2 o'clock and your tool handle is facing out to 5 o'clock. Have your right forefinger along the top of the tool handle


As you begin to cut, twist your right hand round to the right and at the same time, in one movement, bring your tool handle in towards your body. Practise the move with no wood – it is a natural flick of the wrist. Continue to twist the tool face over and bring your handle towards your body


At the end of the move, your tool still won't be completely perpendicular to the piece but the cutting tip of the gouge will be. You have twisted your hand in one easy movement and the tool has cut perfectly. For the other side of the bead, start with the tool cutting at 10 o'clock and your finger running along the right side of the tool handle. Now you just twist your wrist to the left


Cutting the cove is just the same as cutting a bead but you will be going deeper. You need to put your gouge to the start of where you want the cove with the cutting edge at 2 o’clock and your handle at 5 o'clock. Your forefinger should be laid along the right side of the handle. Now with a scooping action, move the tool handle towards your body and your finger over to the top


Having completed the beads, coves and fillets, you can now carefully sand the piece


You then need to pare a 13mm section beneath the lower bead down to whatever size of hole you have put in your base, then you can part off


Here is the completed base; yours should look similar to this


Use a piece of oak for this step. Try shaping the egg just using your skew chisel with the convex grind. Cut to the same diameter as the inside of your egg cup. When shaped, drill down as far as you are going to hollow it and then do that just using your normal spindle gouge. You need this egg to be as thin as possible so ensure that you give support with your finger or it is going to split


Trim and part off with your skew chisel giving light support as you do so


Using a diamond blade in a multi-tool, cut the 'cracking of the egg'


All that remains now is to burn the announcement on the rim of the bowl. Using the free Serif program DrawPlus, I drew a 150mm diameter circle. I then added one set of words and set these to follow the circular text path. I then selected the whole image and rotated it by 90° and added the next piece of text and again getting it to follow the circular path. I did this twice more to get writing facing outwards, no matter which way the bowl is facing. You then need to 'select all' and 'flip horizontally' so that the text is back to front. Finally select the line around the circle and delete it so that you are just left with the text. Lastly, you need to print this out


Lay your laser print face down onto the rim and hold it in place with masking tape. Using a XYLENE pen, nail varnish remover or cellulose thinners, rub the paper with an old credit card and this will transfer the laser ink onto the rim of the piece. The text is unlikely to last long if you just leave the transferred words as they are. You could seal them onto the surface but I would recommend burning the letters with a pyrography pen. Once that is done, you just need to assemble, glue and finish the piece


For quickness, seal this piece with cellulose sanding sealer and then buff with a buffing system. You could also use Danish oil. Here is the finished egg cup