"Swirly Tool" for Engine Turning

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Project by tyvekboy posted 06-11-2012 11:13 PM 6912 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 ………….. one can never be too organized

10 comments so far

View gfadvm's profile


13944 posts in 1780 days

#1 posted 06-12-2012 12:42 AM

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

456 posts in 2606 days

#2 posted 06-12-2012 12:50 AM

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


1310 posts in 2076 days

#3 posted 06-12-2012 01:43 AM


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

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View Woodwrecker's profile


3769 posts in 2666 days

#4 posted 06-12-2012 03:49 AM

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

-- Eric down in sunny Florida.

View eddie's profile


7744 posts in 1704 days

#5 posted 06-12-2012 05:56 AM

very cool

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View nomercadies's profile


534 posts in 1429 days

#6 posted 06-12-2012 01:23 PM

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

5363 posts in 1419 days

#7 posted 06-12-2012 05:58 PM

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


335 posts in 2093 days

#8 posted 06-12-2012 07:06 PM

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


971 posts in 2103 days

#9 posted 06-12-2012 08:18 PM

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 ………….. one can never be too organized

View kiefer's profile


4224 posts in 1757 days

#10 posted 06-13-2012 03:24 AM

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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