Curtis Turner

Aug 292017

In the August 2017 issue of The Highland Woodturner, Curtis addresses a regular topic of discussion among his woodturning students: What kind of finish should they use?

As a new woodturner, I gravitated to products marketed to turners. These were generally shellac and wax based products blended with other chemicals to aid with application and drying. These were very easy to apply with almost instant results. The sheen or polish was dazzling to my eye. I soon learned these were not the best finishes for everything.

Click to read more of Curtis’s thoughts on finishing options for woodturners.

Jul 262017

Off center turning can be fun and exciting but it can also be a bit wild or scary. The principles in this article can be used to turn off centered goblets, candle sticks, handles and other items.

Click here to read how to use the technique of off center turning to turn a replacement handle for a small tack hammer.

Click here to read the rest of the July issue of The Highland Woodturner.

Jun 212017

The technique of split turning is most commonly associated with furniture from the 16th and 17th centuries but can be used for any project that requires a half round column. Curtis Turner recently used split turning to turn a curved sanding block, and he wrote about it in the June issue of The Highland Woodturner. This is a great project for practicing this technique while also creating a useful tool for your sanding needs.

Click here to read how to use split turning to make a curved sanding block

May 252017

In the May 2017 issue of The Highland Woodturner, Curtis Turner answers a question many new woodturners ask – what types of turning tools should I buy?

My students often ask what type of tools they should buy. Specifically, should they buy inexpensive tools or go straight for the expensive ones? I think this question deserves a bit of discussion and does not have a single best answer that fits everyone, but this does not mean one should sink into analysis paralysis.

Click to read Curtis’s thoughts on the tools a woodturner should purchase for their own woodturning shop.

Dec 292016

I wanted to start my resolutions first with a review of 2016 goals.

One of my resolutions was to work more with milk paint and build a Dutch Tool Chest. I am happy to report both of those objectives were achieved. It was tremendous experience to work with my 10 year old son to complete his tool chest. I am proud of his involvement and dedication to complete this project.

My intentions were to use milk paint on more turnings. I am bit behind on that component. In addition, I have yet to incorporate any metal into my turnings. However, I did learn to MIG weld. I recently completed welding a metal base for a small table that will receive a natural edge slab of spalted pecan.

My resolutions for next year are as follows:

1. Add a metal component to a turning. This could be wire, flat stock and/or welding. I do not have anything specific in mind.

2. Turn a large diameter bowl. I would like this bowl to be in 14-16” range. This bowl should be large but not massive. The intention will be to make something that can be passed down through the family.

curtis1sm3. Make a few more lidded boxes. I completed one recently and it reminded me how much fun they can be to turn.

4. Finish the Windsor stool that keeps staring at me every time I walk by!

5. I have a few handsaws that need to be sharpened. I tend to sharpen my chainsaw frequently. However, it been awhile since I needed to sharpen a handsaw. This will be an opportunity to brush up on that skill.

I wish the best to you and your family in the coming year. Please remember to be safe while at the lathe.

Oct 212016


I actually got a jump on the holidays this year! I recently completed this 9″ bowl. I wanted this gift to be somewhat unique. I considered various embellishments but ultimately decided to use milk paint. I tested various samples before settling on Barn Red over Black. I applied 3 coats of red with a sponge brush. I then used medium and fine Scotch Brite pads to smooth the surface. Then, I applied two coats of spray shellac followed by coat of wax. I am very pleased with the deep red color. I actually hate to give this one up.


I enjoy working with different materials and embellishments. I would offer a word of advice on milk paint, or any new technique; practice first. I make an effort to test samples when I am trying something new. I have used milk paint on several turnings and a Dutch Tool Chest. Milk paint is not like other types of paint you may have used. The initial applications are typically splotchy, rough and chalky. It takes several coats of the paint and sanding between coats before the beauty of milk paint becomes apparent. Also, I would encourage new users to mix the paint close to the recommended mix. The paint spreads much further than one expects. The concept of thinning the mix to stretch the paint is a false economy. It quickly becomes apparent many more coats will be required to end up with the same appearance as 2-3 coats of properly mixed paint.

In addition, I recommend a finish be applied. The topcoat can be an oil, shellac, lacquer or wax. The topcoat will slightly change the appearance so a sample board of finishes is also recommend.

I would encourage you to give milk paint a try. It is available in small packages and has almost an indefinite shelf life if stored as directed.

Curtis was the 2012 President of Central Texas Woodturners, a member of the American Association of Woodturners, and a member of Fine Woodworkers of Austin. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives and works in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at

Dec 282015

Welcome to our 2016 Woodworking Resolutions blogger series. Every year we invite our bloggers to share their resolutions specific to their woodworking goals for the new year. Click each link below to read our bloggers’ resolutions!

First, I want to wish you good health and happiness for the New Year.

The act of writing out my objectives, as it relates to my craft, forces me to distill all the things I would like to do into to a short list of priorities.

1. Consistently post high quality content on Instagram. If you have not already noticed, Instagram has experienced exponential growth in the woodworking and woodturning community. One can find amazing photographs, helpful tips and inspiration. An IG account is free to set up and maintain. Search on #woodturning, #woodworking and of course #highlandwoodworking. You can follow someone by searching on their name like @highlandwoodworking or @tx_planes(that’s me). Give it a try.

2. Finish a few projects that are underway. A Windsor stool is my most interesting but incomplete project. I also have many partially turned “demonstration” bowls leftover from classes. These bowls need to be completed so they can find new homes.

3. I hope to use more Milk Paint on turnings. I have enjoyed experimenting with milk paint. This is a good solution for spicing up an average looking bowl. Now, I need to add a few more colors!

4. Build a Dutch tool chest with my son. I am looking forward to this project, as it will be his first major woodworking project.

5. I would like to find ways to include metal as a decorative element into my turnings. I do not have anything specific in mind. This is more of a self-challenge to think outside the box.

After reflecting on 2015, I am comfortable with my achievements towards my resolutions, however, I know I can do better. In 2015, I gave metal spinning an honest try. The process lacks the feel of wood.

It just does not captivate me like turning wood. I did turn a few projects just for the fun of it for example, turned beads, rebuilt a favorite screwdriver and made a guiro. I did use the sandblaster for a few projects but not on a turned box as planned. Also, I have yet to try using a vacuum to refine a turned sphere. I did make good on my commitment to donate a few pieces. Also, I am keeping a cleaner shop!

Curtis was the 2012 President of Central Texas Woodturners, a member of the American Association of Woodturners, and a member of Fine Woodworkers of Austin. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives and works in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at