"Swirly Tool" for Engine Turning

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Project by tyvekboy posted 811 days ago 4532 views 5 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

June 12, 2012

In a previous post I had questions on the decorative finish I applied to a metal shroud that was part of my project. Engine turning seems to be the most common term used for this technique.


The tool that i made for this starts with a dowel about 1-1/4 inch in diameter and about 1-1/2 inch long. I chose this diameter because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life making tiny swirls on the steel shroud.

I then drilled a hole for a 5/16 inch steel threaded insert. I did this on my lathe with a drill chuck and drill bit.

I then cut off the head of a 5/16 inch bolt (about 2-1/2 inch long) and attached the bolt-stud to the threaded insert with a washer and nut.


On the opposite end of the wooden dowel I used double-stick carpet tape to attach a disk of foam the size of the dowel. The foam I used is the same type you would use on the ground when you go camping. Instead of foam, you could stick some cork on the end of the dowel. I then attached a disc of 60 grit 3X sandpaper also cut to the size of the dowel and foam.

I then chucked this tool in a hand drill and started decorating.


This is the result of this FREE HAND effort. I was not out to win any prizes with this project so i didn’t get too picky with the placement of the swirls.

However, to do this “engine turning” properly, each swirl should be evenly spaced and overlapped. It would have been better if this was done BEFORE the steel shroud was shaped. Putting swirls on a flat piece of metal is a lot easier.

Instead of using 60 grit sandpaper as i did, you could also use valve grinding compound.

There are other ways to accomplish this and can be found on the internet with a google search of ENGINE TURNING for those that are interested.

Hope this answered the question in my previous post.

All comments welcomed. Thanks for looking.

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA

10 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


10755 posts in 1326 days

#1 posted 811 days ago

I have always wondered how people did that. Thanks for the explanation.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View John Stegall's profile

John Stegall

405 posts in 2152 days

#2 posted 811 days ago

Thanks for the post. I saw where a guy used a pencil eraser but like you, the rest of my life is what it would take with a pencile eraser.

-- jstegall

View tyskkvinna's profile


1308 posts in 1622 days

#3 posted 811 days ago


I do it with just a wooden dowl with some grinding compound.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Woodwrecker's profile


3590 posts in 2211 days

#4 posted 811 days ago

Neat trick for a cool effect.
Thanks for showing us how you do it.

-- Having fun...Eric

View eddie's profile


7286 posts in 1250 days

#5 posted 811 days ago

very cool

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View nomercadies's profile


502 posts in 974 days

#6 posted 810 days ago

It has a 3D effect. I thought it was a special strip of metal you bought when I first saw it.

-- Chance Four "Not Just a Second Chance"

View Mainiac Matt 's profile

Mainiac Matt

3902 posts in 964 days

#7 posted 810 days ago

when applied to firearms parts, it’s often referred to as a “jeweled” finish…. often applied to the bolt on higher price bolt action rifles.

-- Pine is fine, but Oak's no joke!

View 308Gap's profile


332 posts in 1639 days

#8 posted 810 days ago

You made a roloc ….cool. When I started wrenching decades ago I found these and have used them ever since. There for a die grinder but work in a drill also. gasket removal, polishing, paint stripping, metal prep, and they last forever.

-- Thank You Veterans!

View tyvekboy's profile


540 posts in 1649 days

#9 posted 810 days ago

Since we’re talking about “jeweled” finishes, check out these images that I found on the internet. Kind of extreme don’t you think … but pretty:

-- Tyvekboy -- Marietta, GA

View kiefer's profile


3042 posts in 1303 days

#10 posted 810 days ago

Love that finish and the great mod for your band saw dust collection .
That plane is a real show piece and I would like that on my table saw top.

-- Kiefer 松

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