Weekend Projects – Tall end-grain vase

Monday 9 July 2018

For many years I have been fascinated by bowls and vases that incorporate feet. These often have character and attitude: they rarely seem to be produced in wood to the same degree as they are by ceramic and high-end glassmakers. This piece is surprisingly easy to create. I have deliberately kept it to a small scale to allow the use of basic tools along with a couple of hollowing tools. This article shows you a simple method to turn and create an open vessel with carved feet. It does, however, require a couple of tools that you may not have, but there are other alternatives that can be used. For this project I have used some part-seasoned English beech (Fagus sylvatica) measuring 125 x 125mm. There is no heart in this piece but it is mounted with the grain running parallel with the bed of the lathe. Sanding occurs as the piece progresses but no finish is applied until the very end. For this project you will also need a Long-Neck Proxxon Mini Grinder and a selection of coarse rasps or microplanes to shape the feet.

Tools used:

32mm spindle roughing gouge

6mm point tool

12mm round skew chisel

12mm fingernail spindle gouge

10mm fingernail spindle gouge

12mm round nose scraper

3mm parting tool

12mm twist drill mounted in a handle

A large shear scraper

A hollowing tool

Health and safety

1. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times, and work at a speed that allows you to feel comfortable and safe

2. Always reduce lathe rotation speed when using wood that is not round and using alternative chucking methods that you are not familiar with

3. Keep the toolrest between your hand and the work – NEVER let your fingers cross over to the other side

4. When power carving always protect your lungs and eyes, as the debris that flies around the workshop can be particularly nasty


Centre your blank and make it round to a diameter of 115mm then create a large diameter spigot for your chuck to grip onto. Alternatively, you could mount your blank onto a faceplate. Remember to true the end of the blank


Mark 125 and 150mm from the top face – this will define the area where you will create the feet and the bottom of the outside of your vessel


Create a small dimple in the centre and drill a hole 100mm deep. I use a 12mm drill bit mounted in a handle and push it straight into the end-grain, clearing the shavings at regular intervals


With the hollowing tool of your choice, excavate the internal shape of your vessel


Measure the wall thickness as you progress towards the finished wall thickness you desire. Aim for a consistent thickness throughout the piece


Refine the interior with a large scraper to remove any bumps you may have. Do this gently and sand the interior, taking care not to overheat the end-grain


Create the foot using a swept-back spindle gouge. Once you are happy with the shape, sand the piece


Part in at the very base – this will become the bottom of the feet. Ensure the parting tool is at right angles or the bottom of the feet will not be flat. When approximately 6mm remains, stop the lathe and remove the piece with a small saw


Using the waste wood create a tight fitting jam chuck. Fit your vessel and tape it on to the chuck for added security – the spigot must be very slightly tapered


With care and a gentle touch, remove the centre of the foot using a swept-back ground spindle gouge – the material left will become the carved feet. Try to line up the radius for the outside of the vessel with the radius created on the inside bottom


Using an indexing head divide the foot by 120° then one click in either direction. Transfer these marks down the outside of the foot


The chuck and vessel are mounted onto a carving clamp – or, alternatively, you could leave the piece on the lathe spindle. Begin to carve away the waste wood using a cutting disc mounted in a Proxxon Long-Neck Mini Grinder. The carving clamp allows you to get the work in exactly the right position


Using either coarse rasps or a selection of microplanes begin to refine the shape of the feet


When approaching the desired shape change to a finer cutting tool – this will improve the finish from the tool and reduce the amount of time spent at the final finishing stage


Sand the feet and the areas that need blending with care, as any fault will show. Use small strips of rolled abrasive wrapped around the leg used in a pulling action to sand the difficult areas. Work carefully through all the grades and blend the upright area into the carved area with final sanding


Apply a coat of finishing oil inside and out, then allow to dry


Here is the finished end-grain vase complete with carved feet