36" Hollow Form

Shop Made Tools


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36" Hollow Form (Large Hollow Form tool part 2)

When I started turning in 2003 I told Allen Hockenberry that I wanted to make vary large turnings.  His reply was to learn to make small things first.  Joe Dickey reinforced this with the wisdom of "you can learn more by making 3 small pieces than from making one large one".  I took this wisdom to heart and concentrated on small and medium sized pieces for a number of years. I recommend this strategy to all new turners as it is far less disheartening to scrap a small piece you have spent an hour or two on than a project that has taken days.


I 2007 I purchased a OneWay 2436 with a 60" bed extension and full outboard turning option.  This allows me the ability to turn up to 8' between centers and around 24" in diameter. When the workshop was added onto the house the builder had to install a beam to support the floor.  I worked with him to put the beam over where the lather would be going, and as there was already to be a hoist for rigging in equipment in another part of the shop, the builder sized the beam over the lathe 3 sizes larger than needed to support the house.  He had an idea what I would be up to.


This is the next progression in making a large hollow form.  As I am scaling up the turning I am learning more and having to develop additional tools.

Some of the things I have learned are:

  • When you start breaking tools it's past the time to call it a day and regroup.

  • It's all theory until you start cutting.

  • Its not fixed until it is tested.

I have had to be engineer, machinist as well as wood turner for this project.

      The tools that I have built or had built include a steady rest, a 5'6" gated hollower, and a 3' gated hollower.


Click on the pictures to enlarge.  

I started with a silver maple log about 22" in diameter 48” long.

It is very important that the end of the log be square to the axis of rotation as the log is around 500 pounds.

I rigged a load leveler to it with adjustable straps rated 1000 # each.

Here is a photo to give you some idea of scale. I attached the 10” face plate to the squared end of the log with 18 two inch long #12 screws.

My friend Lou Prugh came over and helped me get the log mounted on the lathe. We used the hoist attached to a beam over the lathe. Getting the log horizontal was a challenge. We used the hand truck, resting the top on a stack of small hollow form blanks.

We hoisted the log up and eased it over the bed of the lathe.

This is another view of the log just above the bed of the lathe. We used the load leveler to balance out the log so we can mount the 10” faceplate to the spindle.

It takes a combination of finesse and bullying to get the threads on the faceplate to line up with the threads on the spindle.

Here is another view of the log mated to the lathe. The log is still supported by the hoist.

Next the tale stock is set in the end of the log for support.

Head stock end of the lathe just before the straps are removed.

The whole log is now supported by the lathe.

The straps are removed.

The hoist is now clear of the log.

Now the lathe is started and SLOWELY brought up to speed, listening and looking for any problems.

I ran the speed up to 500 RPM and all is well.

Head stock view of the log at speed.

First cut on the log with a spindle ruffing gouge.

View of cutting from the back side. Something was not quite rite and I stopped the lathe to check.

The face plate was not seated firmly on the spindle. I needed a way to turn the log with the spindle locked. The can hook was a logical choice.

Another view of using the can hook to firmly seat the faceplate on the spindle.

Now that the face plate is seated, back to turning.

The chips pile up fast on the floor.

Turning the log into a cylinder is progressing.

And the chips pile up.

It took a couple of hours to turn the log into a cylinder with the bark cleared off.

It took a couple more hours to shape the top and bottom of the hollow form.

This is another view of the cylinder with the top formed and the bottom starting to take shape

After about 6 hours of turning I made the mistake of trying to form the bottom of the hollow form with the spindle ruffing gouge. I had a catch and the tool rest moved into the turning. 300# of log and a 3 HP motor won out over the tool rest. At this point I should have called it a night.

After the gouge and another tool rest bought it, I realized it was time to stop for the night. “When you start breaking thing it is past time to stop for the night.”

Here is a view of the chip pile after shaping the top and starting the bottom form.

After shaping the outside of the hollow form I cleaned up the chips. At this point I have about a dozen lawn and leaf bags full of chips.

The outside of the hollow form is turned.

Here is another view of the outside of the hollow form.

My first attempt supporting the hollow form with the bowl steadies. This did not work and I had to regroup.

My second attempt was with some square tubing and scoter wheels. The wheels could not take the weight and started to melt. Revision 3 was with the above rig with poly wheels over a steal wheel. I realized rather quickly that this was too rigid.

Revision 5 is a set of 8” pneumatic tires. I am waiting for more steel to be delivered to make a frame to support the 3rd wheel to go over the hollow form.

Here is another view of revision 5 of the steady rest.

The woodshop looks more like a machine shop at this point as I am having to create an affordable steady rest.

Another view of the woodshop / machine shop.

Another view of the hollow form and lower half of the steady rest Rev. 5

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