Hollowing a Vase

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Blog entry by trifern posted 01-05-2009 05:04 AM 11444 reads 11 times favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have had several people ask me how I turn a hollow form. I documented, the best I could, the process I go through when making a hollow form vase. I found it difficult stopping and photographing the process. Documenting the process became a process all in itself.

The first step is selecting the wood and marking the centers. I then mount the blank on the lathe between the spur drive and the live center.

The piece is then turned round.

A tenon is then made for mounting into the chuck jaws.

The piece is then mounted into the jaws of my chuck. At this point, I am still using my live center in the tail stock for stability.

The shaping begins, always trying to cut downhill when possible.

When the majority of the outside shaping is complete, I sand the piece to 180 grit. Notice I have not done the final shaping on the base. I will leave some bulk down there for stability while hollowing the inside. While the live center is still in place, I will begin to open the vase with my bowl gouge.

The tail stock is then removed from the piece and the lathe and the tenon nub is removed.

Next, I drill a 3/8” hole through the center to the proper depth.

The first step is to hollow the center core all the way to the bottom, stopping frequently to blow out the shavings with compressed air. Every time I stop, I also view my progress by use an LED pin light for illumination. I also finish the opening to the proper thickness.

I then keep hollowing the inside, taking a little at a time starting with the thickest parts first. I methodically hollow and shape the inside until it mimics the outside with my desired thickness.

Once the hollowing is done, I sand the opening down as far as I can reach. The base is then turned to the final shape.

I do the final sanding and then part the piece until it begins to wobble. I stop the lathe and cut the piece of with a coping saw. I remove the remaining tenon with my reciprocating carver and power sander. I finish hand sanding the entire piece.

The finish is then applied. Since this piece was a demonstration piece and I was not too thrilled with the foot. I decided to experiment with mine new airbrush and aniline dyes. The final finish is satin lacquer sprayed on.

You can view the project here.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

17 comments so far

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3871 days

#1 posted 01-05-2009 05:40 AM

Thanks for the how-to. I don’t get to do much turning, so when I have the chance I’ve mostly done spindle work. I’ve been thinking about turning some bowls or something, but not sure where to start. Maybe this will get me going.

The base looks okay to me, and the color is funky and fun. Way to go!

Thanks again.

-- -- --

View Woodhacker's profile


1139 posts in 3720 days

#2 posted 01-05-2009 05:59 AM

Joe, this is very cool! Thanks for all the pictures. They’re great, and helpful in seeing your process. I’m just starting to make some turnings (beyond pens) with the lathe I acquired this fall. One day, I’d like to try hollow turning, but still have a huge amount of basics to learn.

Thanks again.

-- Martin, Kansas

View savannah505's profile


1813 posts in 3583 days

#3 posted 01-05-2009 06:20 AM

Great job with lots of info, I was wondering why you wouldn’t drill out a large majority with say a forstner bit or similiar? before using a hollowing tool. Or is this a dumb question? I haven’t turned wood on a lathe since high school days.

-- Dan Wiggins

View mmh's profile


3676 posts in 3719 days

#4 posted 01-05-2009 06:26 AM

I love your documentation. It’s so neat to see how a block of wood becomes an art object. I may have to venture into turning. The lathe we have has not been used much and we have a couple of tons of maple to use up. If you would like a log, come on over.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3959 days

#5 posted 01-05-2009 06:54 AM

It’s always fun to see the process as well as the finished work. Thanks for taking the time to share.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View lew's profile


12056 posts in 3752 days

#6 posted 01-05-2009 07:31 AM

Thanks, Joe!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4243 days

#7 posted 01-05-2009 08:17 AM

Very nicely done Joe, now I have your secrets, mmmmhhhaaa.! Don’t worry, your still the man. You need a bandsaw to take those square edges off your block before you put it on your lathe. Saves a lot on the old lathe. You know after looking again, I do like that bottom on the piece. It does give it lift. What do you care huh? You could put a twig up there and it would look good. lol Just kiddin pal

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View woodworm's profile


14468 posts in 3587 days

#8 posted 01-05-2009 12:44 PM

I’m learning here Trifern.

Thanks a lot.

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3818 days

#9 posted 01-05-2009 03:25 PM

This is a nice tutorial, especially for those of us who are lathe deprived and to whom turning is still a mystery. :)

I appreciate the time and effort that you put into this. I know that stopping and starting in the middle of a project gets tedious and the break makes it difficult to maintain your concentration.

Thanks for the post.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Grumpy's profile


23916 posts in 3848 days

#10 posted 01-05-2009 10:41 PM

Great blog Joe. Thanks for sharing.

-- Grumpy - "Always look on the bright side of life"- Monty Python

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 3871 days

#11 posted 01-05-2009 11:28 PM

So do you primarily use the curved or the straight hollowing tool for most of the hollowing. Thanks, this was very informative.

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3764 days

#12 posted 01-06-2009 01:41 AM

rikkor, it depends on the shape. I used the straight hollowing tool about 80% of the time on this piece. I only use the curved tool where I can’t reach it with the straight tool. One thing to remember about the curved tool; even though it is curved, the tip is in a straight line with the shaft. This is helpful trying to figure out where the tool tip is when you can’t see it.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View a1Jim's profile (online now)


117091 posts in 3574 days

#13 posted 04-25-2009 06:19 PM

Hey Joe
I guess I answered my own question and found this blog .Since I’m only a turner of legs for furniture I’m still wondering what kind of tool is used in the tight opening for small vessels. It seems I saw on one project someone say they sharpened a allen wrench to turn inside small spaces. I feel like I have visited a fine gallery when I look at your projects page.


-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View peruturner's profile


317 posts in 3359 days

#14 posted 05-20-2009 04:07 PM

Hi I follow the same thing ,only I use a 1-1/2”forsner bit all the way to the bottom so I dont have to hollow more than needed

View GaryBuck's profile


268 posts in 3223 days

#15 posted 08-08-2009 07:56 PM

I see said the blind man. L.O.L. I was wondering how you hollowed it out, thanks for all the detail. I don’t have a lathe and never really gave it much thought about trying my hand at it since the last time was in wood shop in the 7th grade, dissaster so never tried again went down other roads but after seeing your work and how beautiful they turn out and it looks like it MIGHT be fun, L.O.L. I just might start putting some coins back to get a lathe, if I do I’ll blame you to the ol lady and say it’s your fault L.O.L. Thanks again for taking the time to explain

showing 1 through 15 of 17 comments

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