Article: Mark St. Leger Demonstrates For CMW July 16, 2016

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July 31, 2016 09:42, submitted by Tina Collison (author: Bob Gunter, photos by Tina Collison)

Mark St. Leger Demonstrates for CMW July 16, 2016


Mark comes to CMW from his home in Pearisburg, VA where he has lived and worked since moving there in 1992. He has been working with wood since he was a young boy, helping his father who is a cabinetmaker and turner. Mark took woodshop for a year in high school where he first turned on a lathe. After high school Mark served a four-year apprenticeship and became a Journeyman Carpenter. Over time his interests moved towards the finer aspects of building which enabled him to be an accomplished cabinetmaker as well.

After working years in the field of building, Mark was asked if he would consider teaching woodworking to high school students. For 24 years he taught at a rural high school and enjoyed it. Through the years, with the help of very caring contributors, Mark and his students built up a virtually empty shop into a fine woodworking facility. It is set up for a full range of carpentry, cabinetmaking, woodturning and carving. He is now retired from teaching at the school.

Mark’s interest in woodturning began when he was visited by his father who brought a weed pot and tagua nut vessel which he had turned. Thirty years later Mark still enjoys exploring the endless possibilities of woodturning with enthusiasm and creativity.

Mark is an Honorary Lifetime Member of the Blue Ridge Woodturners Club in Virginia. He has served that club as president, vice-president and activities coordinator. He has also hosted their club meetings at the high school shop on a monthly basis. He is also a member of the American Association of Woodturners where he has served as a member of the Board of Directors.

Mark has been an active demonstrator and workshop leader for turning clubs, along with demonstrating at many regional and national symposia including our North Carolina Woodturning Symposium. He has demonstrated for CMW in 2000, 2003, 2009, 2012 and 2016. In 2009 and 2012 he taught one-day hands-on classes for CMW. Mark is currently on the faculty of Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in TN, Appalachian Center for Crafts in TN, Peters Valley Craft Center in NJ and the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC. He also teaches woodturning courses for a local college.

Learn more about Mark at:

Mark's previous demo in 2012:

Following this demo Mark will be doing a hands-on class for CMW on Sunday, July 17, 2016.

Morning Session:

Mark’s demo consisted of multiple small projects which develop turning skills. The first was the turning of an egg. The blank was 1 ¾ x 1 ¾ x 4” long. A 5/8” skew was used. The blank was placed between centers. The skew was used as a roughing gouge to convert the blank into a cylinder. A ¾” long tenon was turned on the headstock end. It was tapered into a #2 Morse Taper shape. It was removed from between centers and the tenon placed in the spindle of the headstock and the tailstock removed. The piece was driven into the spindle with a wooden mallet. The tailstock was brought up. The piece was rounded on the tailstock end using a slicing cut with the skew. Then the headstock end was rounded forming the other end of the egg. Once rounded the tailstock end was completed and parted off. The end was finished and sanded. The headstock end was turned, finished and parted off. When sanding Mark goes from 150 to 600 grit. The small nub left on the headstock end was carved away and then the end was sanded. This completed the turned egg.

The next project was a “Rock-A-Bye Box,” which is a three-sided box with a spherical base and an off-center finial lid. The point of the live center was removed leaving just the cup. The blank used was a 2 ½” cube. One corner of the cube was placed in the headstock spindle. The opposing corner of the cube was placed in the tailstock cup center. The cup tailstock was brought up so that the three revolving corners lined up equally with the tool rest. This was important in order to get the three-point box. It was also important to have a perfect cube for a blank. A spindle gouge was used doing light, shallow cuts on the tailstock side. The piece was marked 3/8” to the tailstock side of the three points. Then more wood was removed on the tailstock side approaching just shy of the 3/8” marks. The headstock side was turned into a sphere shape (bottom of the box). First the back three corners were removed and the sphere shape refined. A tenon was then turned on the headstock end. Once the tenon was made the outside shape was finalized. Then the three points near the 3/8” line were approached from the tailstock side and wood removed so that the points were realized.

The piece was removed from between centers and the tenon placed in the jaws. Before this the nub was parted off from the base of the tenon (which was in the headstock spindle). Once in the chuck the nub left on the tailstock side was parted off. The spindle gouge was used to further turn and clean up the triangular area that will be the top of the box. The point that had been removed from the live center was replaced. A drill chuck was placed in the tailstock and a 5/8” Forstner bit was used to drill out the center of the box leaving about ¼” in the bottom. The interior was hollowed through the 5/8” hole. Three tools were used to do the hollowing: one straight tool and two hooked or angled tools. First the straight tool was used to take out as much wood as possible. The dimple in the bottom was cut away. Then the first angled tool was used. This removed wood from the interior sides. The third tool was even more angled to remove material from just inside the opening. The straight tool was used to clean up the transition area between the straight and angled tools’ previously turned areas. A ¼” round skew was used to clean up the sides of the previously drilled hole in the top. The top was then sanded. One cannot sand the three point areas with the lathe running. They need to be sanded by hand so that the three points will not be rounded over and lose their crispness. A jam chuck was turned so that the opening of the box could fit on it and thus permit the bottom of the box to be turned. One needs a snug fit between the tenon and the box. The live center holding a drilled golf ball was brought up to the base of the piece. Because the golf ball is round it permits the round shape of the bottom of the box to be completely turned. It was then sanded – again not going near the three points. These areas need to be hand sanded up to 600 grit. This completed the base of the box.

Next Mark needed to make the lid to fit into the 5/8” hole in the top of the base and make the finial to fit into the lid. A blank of Blackwood was placed in the chuck and a tenon turned to fit into the base. The lid was then parted off with a thin parting tool. The parting tool was held so that the top of the lid would be dome-shaped. Parting was completed. After parting a flat disc of wood (1/4” thick”) was placed in the chuck on a tenon and a small hole made in it with the small skew. The lid was placed in the hole and the chuck tightened. Because the disc had a small saw kerf cut so that when it was tightened it held the lid quite securely. Once the lid was held in place the skew was used to clean up the top. A small dimple was turned in the center so that a 1/8" hole could be drilled to accept the finial. Sanding was done with 600 grit.

The finial was then turned using curly ash held in the chuck. A ½” tenon was turned so that it could be held in a shop made eccentric chuck. A tight fit was needed. The off center chuck had two tenons – one on true center and the other 1/8” off center. The off center one was used first. A 5/8” roughing gouge was used to shape a half cove into the finial into a tapered point. Then the true center tenon was used. A spindle gouge was used to shape a half bead in the finial. A 1/8” tenon was turned to fit into the hole in the lid. It was parted off. The tip of the finial was burned using a lighter. This completed all the pieces of the “Rock-A-Bye Box.”

Afternoon Session:

Mark began the session making a thin stem spin top. Curly ash was used for the disc and Blackwood for the stem. A 2MT jig was made from maple. It was placed in the headstock and trimmed to be sure it ran true. The disc had a ¼” hole drilled through the center and the 2MT jig had a ¼” tenon on the end. The small curly ash disc was placed firmly on the tenon and shaped into a thin dome. It was sanded. Then the disc was reversed on the tenon and again dome-shaped to about 1/8” thick. This completed the disc for the long stem spin top. For the stem Mark used a 2 ½” long x 9/16” thick piece that he carved the corners off so it would fit into the headstock spindle. It was turned into a cylinder with the roughing gouge. The distal end was turned to less than 1/16” thick. Mark continued to turn the stem toward the headstock in a continuous thin taper. A tenon was made to fit into the ¼” hole in the disc. It was sanded. The skew was used to shape the point which was the bottom of the top (lower end of the stem). It was parted off and lightly sanded. The disc would be placed on the stem and glued in place. This completed the thin stem spin top.

Next Mark put the Talon chuck back on the spindle and began to make an acorn box. A piece of maple was glued end grain to end grain with a piece of Zircote. The longer maple end of the piece was placed in the jaws and the piece roughed into a cylinder. The distal, Zircote end was shaped into the top of the acorn with the spindle gouge. The end which was the bottom of the acorn top was hollowed to about 3/8” deep. The edges of the hole were undercut so when the Zircote lid was placed on the maple bottom only the edges of the opening made contact. Then the top part of the acorn lid was shaped, sanded and parted off. Calipers were used to measure the opening in the top. A tenon was turned on the remaining maple piece which fit snugly into the lid. The top was then finished, sanded and removed. The base was turned and partially shaped. A ½” hole was drilled into the base and hollowed with the straight cutter. It was undercut so it could be later placed on a jam chuck. The remainder of the outside was shaped, finished and parted off. A tenon was turned on the wood remaining in the chuck and the base fitted to it so that the bottom could be finished. The fit should not be too snug or the base might split. Once fitted, the bottom was completed and the acorn box finished.

Mark then turned a sphere. A standard drive center and live center were used. A 3 ¾” x 3 ¾” x 4 ¾” piece of wood was used. It was placed between centers and turned into a 3 ½” thick cylinder – 4 ¾” long. The center of the piece was marked. Additional marks 1 ¾” from the center line were made to each side. A parting tool was then used to turn away wood on both ends up to the 1 ¾” lines. Now the length and diameter were the same. A spindle gouge was used to cut wood away from both ends of the piece at 45 degree angles – thus beginning the eventual sphere shape. Further shaping was done. The previously drawn center line was left in place. A 1 ½” PVC pipe section (ring) was placed on the surface of the piece on the center line. If it seats on the surface so no light shines between the ring and the wood, then the surface is round. Once round the piece was removed from between centers – leaving nubs on each side where the centers were. A cup chuck made of maple was placed in the headstock and trued up. Another cup was placed on the live center and the piece trapped between them. At this point the two nubs were pointing up and down and the previous center line ran parallel to the lathe bed. The nubs were turned away so that the ghost shapes disappeared. Further shaping was done and a new center line drawn. The piece was then rotated to the third axis which was where the two previously drawn lines intersected. Further shaping was done using the PVC ring as a guide. Sanding was done on all three axes. This completed the sphere, which rolled straight!

Mark then discussed his tool handles. They were PVC pipe with aluminum noses at both ends. The ends were epoxied in. Before putting the ends in the PVC was placed between centers and sanded with 80 grit paper. That removed the writing on the PVC and also roughened up the surface for a better grip.

This completed a very fast paced, fun and interesting demo. A DVD will be available in the club library later in 2016.

Submitted by Bob Gunther