Weekend Projects – Painted vase

Monday 9 July 2018

Most of the time Liz and I make painted platters or bowls, so we thought it might be a good change to make a deeper vase shape that Liz could decorate. When you make pieces like this, you need to talk to the painter or person who is going to embellish the piece to see what shape is best for them. After talking to Liz, she wanted the painted section to be reasonably flat rather than a convex curve so it would be easier to paint. She also wanted two border lines to separate the painted section from the rest of the wood. Another request was for a darker timber rather than lighter. We chose Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata), which we had in stock and is a good timber to work with. When you are deciding on a design to paint, choose something that is simple and achievable. Circles are a good option. To create more interest, paint circles of varying sizes, colours and shades.

Tools used:

Spindle roughing gouge

10mm deep fluted gouge

Hollowing tools

Jacobs chuck and drills

Electric drill and soft sanding arbors for sanding

25mm masking tape

Paint palette

Cling film

Chalk pencil – white water soluble

PPE: facemask, respirator/dust mask and extraction

Brushes: flat 25mm&round No. 4, Liner 000

Paints: Jo Sonja’s acrylics; Pthalo blue, Pthalo green, Cobalt blue, Sapphire, Aqua, Rich gold, Gold oxide, Yellow oxide, Red oxide, Indian red oxide&Turquoise iridescent medium


The first step is to place your blank of choice between centres and round it off with a spindle roughing gouge. We realise not all of you will have easy access to Australian timbers, so you can just as well use a variety of your choosing instead. When turning, I find the best results are obtained when you point the gouge in the direction you are cutting, using the bottom half of the gouge and rubbing the bevel


Next, roughly turn the vase to the given shape and mark the intersection line between the top and bottom sections. You also need to mark where you want the base spigot


You can now use a skew chisel to turn the base spigot. I use a 10mm round skew chisel as it is easy to roll over on its side


The shape should now be looking like this, with a slight dovetail shape to suit your scroll chuck jaws


Mark lines at the top and bottom of the painted section. I have ground a worn-out old gouge to a tool that is about 1mm wide and 1mm thick and all I do is hold it flat and push it in about 1mm deep. It is a good idea to mark the lines with a pencil first while the piece is spinning, so that it looks in proportion to the rest of the piece


After the lines are cut, sand the outside surface to about 180 grit. You are now ready to hollow out the inside


Here you can see the finished profile of the vase after turning


Place the spigot of the vase in the scroll chuck and a Jacobs chuck in the tailstock spindle. Select a sawtooth drill bit that will drill out the majority of the waste in the top section, then a smaller diameter drill to drill out the base section. Make sure you leave enough thickness in the base for trimming the drilled hole


Using a normal deep fluted bowl gouge, turn in about one-third of the depth. If you point the flute towards the centre of the vase you will be cutting with the bottom half of the gouge, rubbing the bevel will help keep it tracking in a continuous line. When you cut down a certain depth you will find that the body of the gouge will rub against the right-hand side of the vase, so it is now time to change to another tool


I find that the Rolly Munro hollower is a good tool to turn out the rest of the inside – the shaft is firm enough so that it does not flex when you are cutting down deep into the vase. You can also adjust the cutter shield. Wall thickness should be around 5mm, with maybe 7mm in the base. If you do not have this specific tool, do not worry as any dedicated hollowing tool can be used instead


To sand the inside I like to use my homemade soft cylinder sander. It has a 6mm steel shaft with a 15mm diameter timber sleeve covered by soft foam and hook-and-loop. The shaft is held in an electric drill and you would have both the drill and the vase spinning. Wrap some 120 grit hook-and-loop-backed abrasive to start with to remove all the turning marks and then work down through the grits until you reach 600


The vase is now all sanded and ready to remove the spigot


To set up the vase to turn off the chuck spigot, turn a mandrel which the vase will fit over about two-thirds of the way to the bottom. Place some soft foam over the mandrel to protect the sanded inside surface and place the tailstock centre in the centre of the spigot. Turn off the waste leaving about a 10 or 12mm spigot in the middle, then sand the base


To remove the small spigot on the vase, use a fine-tooth pullsaw while you back off the tailstock pressure; this will avoid jamming the saw


The last process is to carve off the saw marks with a shallow carving gouge, then use the soft sanding pad on the drill or hand-sand the base. The vase is now ready for the decorating processes


You can now mask up around the top and bottom of the panel to be painted. Press the tape into the prepared groove, then tape up the remaining area you don’t wish to paint; this will save a lot of time and cleaning up later


Fold the tape over the top of the vase; this will allow you to pick it up easily without leaving any unwanted paint marks


Using a 25mm flat brush, paint a base coat of Pthalo Blue. If you fail to achieve a solid coat the first time, allow it to dry and apply a second coat


When working on any design, always consider an interesting background. To achieve this effect, apply a very watered-down coat of a lighter colour, here aqua has been used. Apply with a wide flat brush


Immediately press a layer of clean scrunched-up cling film over the entire painted surface. Press lightly into the creases to transfer the pattern into the paint, then lift off gently and allow to dry naturally. When completely dry, add a second lighter coat of watered down Turquoise iridescent medium. This is an optional layer


When completely dry, add the circular design. This can be drawn straight onto the painted surface using a chalk pencil – choose one that will wash off easily. If you don’t feel confident to hand sketch, enlarge the design provided and, using a light coloured craft carbon paper, trace the pattern onto the painted surface


Using a combination of blue and green shades, paint in the spots with a round No.4 brush


When the spot background colour is dry, start to add the detailed embellishment. Firstly, with the contrasting autumn tones add small paint strokes radiating out from the spots. A fine liner brush is ideal for this purpose – use a 000 liner or finer


When this is dry, add a second layer of radiating lines between the autumn-toned lines. Use a rich gold paint


The final layer to the embellishment is to highlight the circles with a series of smaller dots. A small metal stylus works well for this, but if you don’t have one a bamboo skewer will also do the job


To finish, sand off any unwanted paint marks and clean up the groove. You can use folded abrasive paper in the groove. Give a light rub over all the bare wood with 400 grit abrasive and then it is ready to oil. We used four coats of Livos Kunos over the paint as well as the wood. It was rubbed back between coats with ‘0000’ steel wool. The finished painted vase should look something like this

Handy hints

1. Choose stable timber so it will not warp when you deep hollow the inside

2. You could leave the chuck spigot on until after the painting is complete, just in case you need to sand it while attached and spinning on the lathe

3. You will need to make a long padded stick to wrap rags around when applying and wiping off the oil in the deep hollow

4. Talk to the decorator about what shaped vase they would prefer

5. Choose the best quality paintbrushes you can afford and always wash them well with soap after use

6. Test your paints with your preferred finish before starting the project to make sure they are compatible

7. Choose good quality paints with a high pigment content that won’t fade in time

8. Allow each coat to dry well between layers of paint; this will help prevent any smudging

9. Choose a painted colour scheme that complements your chosen timber colour – the blues work well with red cedar

10. This painted pattern could also be used successfully on a turned platter or bowl

11. Keeping the design simple will avoid disappointment

12. Always allow each layer of paint to dry before adding the next layer