The Woodturners Unlimited Critique Team has completed their first critique!!  Several days ago, we announced the development of a system by which work may be submitted for an honest and constructive critique.  That article outlined the ideas behind the program and promised to publish the upcoming critiques. 

The goal of the Critique Team is to provide guidance to not only the participants that submit work for critique, but also to provide a learning experience for all our viewers.  This is a unique approach and something that to the best of our knowledge is not offered anywhere else on the web. This is just one example of how listening to our members takes us closer to our ultimate goal of becoming everyone’s premier woodturning destination!  We are glad you have decided to join us as we begin this new adventure.


The initial critique board consists of Terry Scott, Keith Burns, and John Keeton.  Most of the present members of WTU are familiar with these folks.  We expect the composition of the board to rotate over time so that we avoid a stagnant approach and give our evaluators a break.  New and fresh viewpoints are always a good thing!

During the formulation of their critiques, each evaluator acted independently and without consulting the other evaluators.  Each completed a separate Evaluation Form based on their personal experience, style of turning and perception of the work presented.  The evaluations are in narrative form.         

In most instances, the opinions of the three evaluators will differ, and in some cases, perhaps even seem to be in conflict.  As one might realize, that is exactly what happens when the public views your work!  Some may love it - some may hate it.  In this case, however, the result should be taken collectively in an effort to offer genuine guidance on how you might improve your work.

A good critique should “enlighten and inspire” and that is the team goal in this effort.  Simply stated, the evaluators want you to succeed!  In providing an honest and constructive critique, the evaluators may point out features of the work they find in need of improvement, but do so in a manner that will provide guidance for you to avoid repeating less desirable features.

Four members of WTU have agreed to participate in the initial evaluations.  We want you to feel comfortable with the process and the only way that will happen is for someone to jump first! we go!!  It is only fitting that one of our Advisory Board Members be first, so the first "martyr" is Bob Rotche.

Bob Rotche   (pub Feb 16, 2013)


The body is ambrosia maple and the collar is ebony. It is 5” wide and 7” tall. It is turned to about 3/16” thick. The finish is Antique Oil which was buffed with Tripoli and then Renaissance Wax.


I have been turning for about 3 years and have been exploring hollow forms for about 1 year. This started out among several that I roughed out early on and then threw on a shelf. I stared at it periodically for the next 6 months as I realized that the opening was too big and I didn’t leave enough wood for a nice upturn at the mouth, which I have come to like. Ultimately, I decided to solve both of these problems with a collar.

Self Critique

Overall, I feel I achieved my goals with this piece. I am pleased with the curve and I like the contrast of the ebony to the maple. I am satisfied with the shape of the collar and I think the beads add some interest. My biggest concern is whether or not I should have added a finial. While traditional finials are very attractive, I have been struggling with trying to come up with something more out of the ordinary. Having failed to do so, I went without.

Terry Scott Critique

I have selected this work to go into the Level Three Woodturner category, which should be regarded as a complement on its own.

Some may say what gives me the right to critique others works.  I have learnt much from others doing the same to myself and hopefully can now pass on some of the knowledge learnt.

This judging or critique is based on how I would judge for example the Royal Easter Show Wood Crafters Exhibition.  Meaning that not only will the piece be judged on its own, but also against others that would be entered in the hollow forms category.

The Royal Easter Show Wood Crafters Exhibition is regarded as one of the most prestigious wood events in New Zealand.  Without pushing my barrow, I have featured in the hollow form category for the last ten years. Two years running taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Why? I think I have undertaken correct form with a passion; every work must be an improvement from the last.

Class 35: Hollow forms /Vases

Hollow forms are wooden items which may be decorated with other materials, which have been hollowed while turning on a lathe through a hole which is significantly smaller than the diameter of the finished work. Vases are wooden items which may be decorated with other materials which are at least twice as high as they are wide and have been hollowed while turning on a lathe through the main opening.

Finish:  I would normally start with visual impact; however, what caught my eye instantly about this work was the quality of finish.  9 out of 10, close to perfect.

Question:  Has the turner enhanced the grain or texture with the finish?  Yes, top marks.

Too often I see works that the finish is not appropriate for the piece.

Lovely if someone has coated with 35 coats of lacquer but if you are blinded by the gloss how can one appreciate the effort and the underlying beauty.

Too dull and some timbers look blah, no life. We have to bring the wood to life, not kill it.

One problem with this work that needs to be considered are the bug holes. Would it have looked better filled or carved to highlight the effect?  Re -sale may be seen as a problem to a gallery or customer as you cannot send work into many countries with evidence of bugs or bark. Here in New Zealand, to get into the country, the work would go through a process where it is taken to 100 per cent humidity at 60 degrees. Best case, Formaldehyde injected.

If this were a show piece, the inside would be inspected to see that the finish is equal to the outside. In many cases this determines the winner. Maybe taking to an extreme, however, I recently was a Judge for the Australian nationals. Two other Judges that are gods of turning had lights with magnifying viewers. Every piece was also measured with callipers for even wall thickness.  

Another consideration with finish is contrast; do colours match and tie in together. This applies to added colour as well as natural timber colours.

Here we have an ebony insert with a timber that has some darkened spalting. Further down I discuss the insert.  

Form/Line elements

Seating: Does the vessel sit well and is it balanced?  In this case, yes, very well. With the slight kick under at the foot, the vessel appears light and has lift.

Crispness to detail:  Many failings are in that a turner has added detail then sanded out all that skill he had in creating the shape.

Obviously I cannot pick this vessel up, but if I could, I would expect the feel to be mid weight, not heavy and not feather light. If it’s not, it’s like walking down stars when you don’t expect another.  That feeling is not a nice one but the same applies here.  Visual and feel are related. If a customer picks up my work and its light looking and it feels light, the expression of feeling sells the piece.

So far we have a work that is in the place getters, next step are proportions.

Although it shouldn’t be, if a judge walks into a room and a work says look at me, that work will often be on the podium. So, visual impact is probably the most important content of any work.

Visually, this piece is what I call attractive yet on the Masculine side. This is caused by the position of the widest part of the vessel or shoulder. By lifting the widest part of the vessel an inch would improve what is already a beauty to look at.

The Ebony cap /insert in my opinion is well out of proportion which is drawing the eye. What do I mean by this? When you look at the vessel, the first thing you see is the ebony lid /cap. By reducing the overall size diameter to just under one third of the vessel while still continuing the flow of the curve would then mean the vessel becomes one piece and not a hollow form with an obvious lid. The Maker mentioned he had thought about a finial. This would open up a whole new can of worms   as the proportions would also need to be altered on the vessel to bring the shoulder even higher.

My bent on finials is if you cannot turn nice finials don’t (that’s why you don’t see many on my Works) this is another big learning curve.

Technical difficulty in the making:  The turner shows a high skill level.

Summary of Comments

This Hollow form has the makings of a prize winner at any show because the timber has been highlighted to its best advantage not only with form but finish.

It wouldn’t have been beneficial to texture, carve, highlight, colour or stain.

With a bit more attention to the magic mean I’d have to mark this work with a total points of 85 out of a hundred.

Would I be happy if I made this, you bet!!


Keith Burns Critique

The ambrosia maple is absolutely beautiful and your finish couldn’t be any better. It is very smooth and inviting. I like the fact that you didn’t throw this away and waited for whatever your inspiration was to use the collar. The form is perfect and well proportioned. A finial is not always necessary and in this case it is not needed. The beads in the collar add enough visual interest that a finial might actually be a distraction.

As much as I like the collar and the beads, the one thing that bothers me is that it breaks the flow. If you had used a concave curve upward instead of a convex curve it would not break the flow. All in all this is a very well done work.

John Keeton Critique

First, this is a beautiful piece of wood, and the contrast of the ebony and the Ambrosia maple adds interest.  My personal favorite compliment to Ambrosia is walnut as it ages to a tone very similar to the dark Ambrosia stain.  However, the ebony works very well.

Without being physically able to hold the piece, evaluating the surface preparation and the final finish is difficult.  However, you seem to have achieved a very nice satin finish on this piece.  The submitted photographs do have some raking light and I see no evidence of bruising, tool marks, or sanding patterns.

The overall proportions of the main form are excellent.  The curvature of the vase is smooth, without apparent flat spots, and it creates a pleasing flow upward to the shoulder and returning toward the collar.  However, that flow is somewhat interrupted by the intersection with the ogee curve created by the ebony collar.  I find it very difficult to combine three different curvatures and retain flow.

The abrupt intersection of the form against the mass of the dark ebony collar seems to draw one's eye immediately to the top of the form.  As a result, the collar becomes the focal point, instead of a complimentary embellishment.  This beautiful piece of Ambrosia deserves the initial attention of the viewer, with the upward flow of the form eventually taking the eye to the collar.  The beadwork is well done.  The rolled edge of the collar rim might look better with a corresponding "tuck" at the base of the vase form.  However, I do not particularly care for the exaggerated "tuck" often seen on forms, and would prefer simply to have a bit more hard line at the rim of the collar.

I have taken the liberty of modifying the left portion of a profile view to illustrate a possible option.  Reducing the height of the collar, and providing a less abrupt intersection between the collar and form, with a simple reversing of the shoulder curvature seems to resolve the only distractions I find with this piece.

All elements of this piece are very well executed, and the result is a beautiful vase form.  The rich Ambrosia colors of this piece demand the attention of the viewer, and while I really like a well done finial, I think in this instance, it might detract from the beauty of the wood and form.

Critique Submission Information

As you can see, the evaluators have taken the time to provide constructive comment and encouragement on how the piece might be improved.  We have three more pieces that will be featured in upcoming articles over the next 2-3 weeks, but then the real fun begins!!!  The volunteers will have served their time as "guinea pigs" and we must then rely on you to participate if this feature is going to remain an ongoing and growing part of WTU.

So, this is the plan.  We have established an email address for members to send their critique submissions to:

critique @ (remove spaces)

We are presently accepting entries for the next round of critiques until March 8, 2013, at 12 noon, Eastern Time zone, USA.  Any submissions received after the cutoff will be considered in the next round of critiques.

That said; please understand that the team will not evaluate every entry.  Since we have the dual goal of helping the individual turner and providing guidance to the general viewing public, chosen works will provide an avenue for general audience appeal.  Our members are diverse, with varying skill levels and it is important that we select a variety of works to meet those needs.

Those desiring a critique will need to provide the following:

  1. One photograph (1024 px, 125 kb max file size) showing a direct frontal view.  The initial determination will be made using this one photograph.  If chosen for critique, you will then be asked to submit additional photographs; details of which will be included with the notification of acceptance.
  2. A brief statement of the surface preparation and the actual finishing process used.
  3. A brief statement of the artistic goals, if any, in doing the work.  What did you wish to accomplish?
  4. Your experience level, including how long you have been turning and whether you have enjoyed any level of instruction.

We hope you are as excited about this venture as are we!!  It is rare that folks have the opportunity to get honest and constructive feedback, and we look forward to your participation.  

Start working on your submissions!!

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