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Harvey Meyer Demonstrates for CMW, April 17, 2021

Submitted by Jo Miller

Harvey Meyer comes to us from the Atlanta, Ga area.  A previous telecommunications engineer, he began woodturning in 2000 and focuses his work on hollow vessels that he embellishes in a variety of ways.  Several of us have learned the basket illusion technique from Harvey.  This demonstration was on how to turn a pedestal-lidded box.

The pedestal box is different from most boxes in that the box body forms the mortis and the lid forms the tenon that fits inside the body of the box.  He presents a different process for shaping the lid that is jam-fitted into the body of the box during shaping.  There is a hole in the lid to facilitate removing the lid from the body of the box.  This hole is then fit with a knob and plug using a tenon.  The box shape is like a tulip (or a bell if turned upside down).

Preparing the blank:

The wood blank is 3”square x 4” long of aired dried wood.  Never use green wood for boxes since they will warp as they dry so the top and bottom will no longer fit as designed.  For this demo, Harvey used Bradford pear.  The blank is then cut – approximate ¾” (or ½”) from the top.  Harvey prefers using a band saw for this since it uses up less wood and help match a grain pattern you want to carry up from the bottom to the top of the box.  You can also use a parting tool.  The two pieces are put back together and placed between centers on the lathe.  At a low speed, he cuts off the corners with a roughing gouge, then at higher speed turns the blank into a cylinder of approximately 2 ¾” or 2-5/8” in diameter.  A tenon is then placed on each end of the blank.

Body of the box – step 1

  • Mount the body of the box on the lathe and true up the face using a detail gouge – minimize wood removal. 
  • Begin to shape the top of the box taking a little off the top diameter (~ ½”)
  • Establish a mortis by cutting straight into the top edge.  Begin at ~1/8” inside the edge and go ~ 1/8” deep across the face of the body.  The lid will fit into this space. 
  • Measure the diameter with calipers – this will be ~ 2 3/8” to 2 ½” in diameter.

Move to the lid – Step 1

  • Mount lid in the chuck and true up the face
  • Transfer diameter of mortis in body to the face of the lid using the calipers.  Harvey puts the caliper on the tool rest and the first point of the caliper nearest you on the wood to transfer the mark.  Be careful to keep the second point in the air so that the calipers don’t catch and flip. Mark the line with a pencil for easy viewing
  • Use a parting tool to go to the pencil line.  You want a jam chuck, so begin with ½ the width of the parting tool and check as you go.  If it’s too loose, go in with 1/3 the parting tool width to a little less than before and taper to the first cut.  Check again for a tight fit.  Then go in again using ~ 1/8th the width of the parting tool just to the beginning of the taper.  You may have to take some off the bottom if you had to go to deep to get the jam fit right.
  • Hollow out the inside of the lid.  Leave a flat surface at the edge to fit into the base of the box.  Harvey uses a round nose scrapper to create a concave surface.  The lid is thin, so you can’t go too deep.
  • Drill a hole all through the lid.  This will hold the tenons from the knob and plug that will be turned later.  Harvey prefers a brad point drill bit because he feels there is less “wandering” off center compared to a twist bit.  You can also use a forstner bit.  Make a ¼” or 17/64” hole. 
  • Sand

Body of the box – step 2

  • Remount the body of the box in the chuck
  • Jam fit the lid into the box – pound it in if necessary – and bring up tail stock
  • Shape the top of the box to get the ogee shape you want.  Harvey uses a parting tool to remove wood and then a detailed gouge for shaping.  You will be cutting through the box and lid at the same time.  Be careful, the lid is pretty thin already.  This will produce a smooth curve between box and lid. 
  • Remove top by using an air hose in the hole in the top to “blow” the top off the base.  You can wiggle it off with a rod if necessary.
  • Relax the fit by slightly adjusting the edge of the mortise on the bottom of the box and smoothing the top edge.  Harvey has a special negative rake scrapper for this
  • Shape the box down to about 3/4th the length of the box to the neck area.  This will provide some support for the box as its hollowed down to this point.  Again Harvey gets rid of a lot of wood using a parting tool then shapes with a spindle gouge – making a smooth cove at the top section.  The base is ready for hollowing
  • Hollowing will begin with a drill hole to the appropriate depth.  Mark the depth you want (~2”) to the bottom of the box.  Use at least a ¼” drill hole.
  • Hollow using any method you like – here are some examples:
    • A Spindle gouge going from the center out to the edge
    • F-hollowing tool
    • Hunter tool – carbide tip with a round end- to use place the cutter at 9:00 and twist up to cut
    • 1-way termite ring tool.  This has 1 side with a smaller ring, the other side with a larger ring. Begin at a 9:00 position and twist up to cut.  This provides a good surface quality
    • John Jordon scrapper – this finish isn’t as smooth as a cutter
    • Kelton hollowing tool.  This is a  scraper that comes in a set with a straight, medium and large bend.  These are usually used for larger pieces. 
    • Round nosed scraper – Harvey used these most of the time. To use place the cutting edge on center and raise up the handle. He finishes with a negative rake scraper in which the tip is ground off 5-10 degrees.  Negative rake scrapers are used on center without raising the handle – these leave a nicer surface. 
  • Hollow to a wall thickness of ~ 3/8”
  • Sand beginning at 220 grip and going up

Continue shaping the box bottom – step 3

  • Check for the depth of the bottom and mark with a pencil so you always know where the inside bottom is
  • Cut down into the bottom to establish where the bead would be at the top of the pedestal
  • When shaping the bottom, you want the diameter smaller then the diameter of the top – i.e. the bottom would be ~ 2 1/4” in this example. 
  • Cut a “V”  to begin the top of the bead
  • Shape the bead – Harvey uses the ¼” beading tool from D-way tools – turning the bottom of the bead with a spindle gouge would be difficult since the bottom of the box would be in the way.  To use the beading tool, move the tool rest close to the work, put the points of the tool on center with the handle down at ~ 45 degrees and move the tool left to right until the top of the bead is round. 
  • Shape a “V” at the bottom of the bead.
  • Ogee the base up to the bead
  • Add a camphor on the base to give the impression that the box is lifted slightly off the table
  • Remove the base from the chuck and use a jam chuck against the top edge of the bottom.  Bring up the live center and slightly concave the bottom
  • Embellish the bottom if desired – Harvey puts 5 concentric rings on the bottom, very close together, using a point tool.
  • Sand

Making knobs/plugs

  • Harvey uses 1” diameter x 1 ½” long Ebony dowel
  • Turn the diameter down a little
  • Shape as desired – Harvey prefers the “tear drop” shape
  • Sand
  • Create a small tenon to match the drill size – using calipers to accurately measure the hole
  • Part off the tenon to ~ ½ the thickness of the lid – i.e ~ 1/8”
  • For the plug, turn a round plug from remaining dowel and make a tenon as above,  cut off ~ 1/8”.  Other ideas for the plug could be a rhinestone or other jewel, button, etc.  Harvey showed us a Rose engine turned flower that he used as a plug  and demonstrated how this is done using the rose engine “maching”.
  • Glue in both the knob and plug


Harvey prefers min-wax Antique Oil

To use, flood surface, then wipe off or just wipe on with a rag

He uses 3 coats waiting 24 hr  between applications: more coats will pop the shine, 2-3 coats will produce a satin finish, 4-5 coats will produce a glossy finish

Buff with buffing wheels after 2 weeks. 

Other hints:

Making wooden chuck jaws to help with jam chucking:

  • Cut a 5” disk and cut in quarter
  • Use an existing chuck, drill holes deep enough to sink screws where the chuck screws normally go.
  • Create grooves in the center that can be used to jam chuck the top of boxes
  • Create larger grooves at the edges that can be expanded for hollow vessels.

To sharpen the D-way beading tool:

  • Drag the bevel straight down a honing stone 4-5 times:  this is done most of the time
  • On Grinder, after honing multiple times isnt enough, rest the tool on shelf to the bevel angle, turn on the grinder at full speed, turn the grinder off and hold the tool on the grinder until the wheel stops. 

There are many demos on Harveys website: