The goal of our Critique Teams is to provide guidance to the participants whose work is being critiqued and also to provide a learning experience for all our viewers.  This unique approach is something that to the best of our knowledge is not offered anywhere else on the web. We hope the following critique offers suggestions that all our readers can build upon.

This Critique Team consists of following three members; Mike Stafford, Wally Dickerman and Mike Foster.  During the formulation of their critiques, each evaluator acts independently and without consulting the other evaluators.  Each completes a separate Evaluation Form based on their personal experience, style of turning and perception of the work presented.  The evaluations are then compiled and presented 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.




Keith Burns       (8-31-2013)


I consider myself to be an intermediate turner. I started turning furniture parts in the early 90’s and after finding the internet and joining our local club around 2005, I became seriously obsessed with turning as an art form although I don’t consider myself to be an artist. I have attended demonstrations by Clewes, Mahoney, Winton, Pho, Jordan, the Gibson’s, Radda, Fisher, Drozda, Costelle, Adkins and many more lesser known, but just as good turners at our club.


The majority of what I turn is hollow forms. There is something about them that just floats my boat.  My wife, Judi, asked me to do something different for a change and suggested I do a pedestal style piece. So I did a hollow form on a pedestal. The wood is black ash burl with Ebony and African Blackwood for the pedestal and finial. It measures 3-1/2” diameter x 10-1/2” tall. I typically power sand my pieces starting at whatever grit is needed through 600. It is finished with my 10 minute finish. I appreciate this web site and this “critique” section and am really looking forward to hearing what the esteemed and well respected team has to say.

Keith E. Burns







Mike Stafford


Getting asked to critique work such as the pedestal style piece submitted by Keith Burns makes my feeling of inadequacy for the task palpable.  I have known Keith for a number of years and have watched his development into an artist of the first order although he modestly states that he does not consider himself to be an artist.  Well, Mr. Burns, you are in the minority of opinion on this subject as I believe most of your peers consider you to be an artist.

Let me start my critique by identifying those items which I think are exceptionally well done. First of all I think the shape of the black ash burl hollow form is a near perfect hot air balloon shape which is much harder to get right without any flat spots or lack of curve continuity, i.e. a fair curve; than most people think until they try to do it.  I love the way that the hot air balloon shape is repeated on the pedestal and finial.  Not only are they repeated but they are sized proportionally for the two turnings.  That kind of attention to detail and execution is what separates the artist from the wood bludgeoner.  I know a wood bludgeoner when I see one in the mirror.

The delicate pedestal and finial are signature works for Mr. Burns.  Anyone who spends any time on the woodturning forums recognizes a Burns finial which he has successfully used for hollow forms, boxes and other turnings for several years.  I love the effect that is achieved by the return at the bottom of the pedestal where it joins the foot.  This little return adds so much to the appearance of the pedestal.  There is another return at the base of the hollow form where the pedestal joins it.  This return accomplishes the same thing as the return at the bottom and adds visual interest by highlighting the hollow form at its base.  Just beautiful little touches.

I also like the way the base of the finial rises from the top of the black ash form rather than sitting upon it.  Having it inset flush into the top of hollow form in a rabbet allows it to rise up to its finished height without a bump/lump as many finials do which are applied to the top of the finished piece almost as an afterthought rather than being incorporated into the design as Keith has done with this piece.

My first thought was that the finial was a bit too tall but after measuring the images of the pedestal and the finial it turns out that Keith made the finial almost exactly 2/3 the height of the pedestal.  This ratio accounts for the overall pleasing visual proportions.

I have a lot of respect for the work Keith did in two difficult materials.  This holey black ash burl must have given him some pause as it was turned but the result is just beautiful.  And until you have tried to turn delicate finials and pedestals in brittle African blackwood you cannot have an appreciation for the skill required.  The finish on all of the components appears to be flawless. Beautiful work! I would love to see this artistic treasure in person.

Now for my complaint...Keith, you did not describe the little leaf shape under the base of the finial.  Is it a little carved scrap of the black ash burl or something else entirely?  Regardless of what it is; it is a wonderful surprise for whoever removes the finial lid and finds that delicate little treasure hiding underneath.







Wally Dickerman


I have admired Keith’s hollow forms with his signature finials for some time. Now he has given us one with a pedestal. When it comes to discussing this piece it’s going to be close to an “attaboy” critique. Not much here that I would change.

The vessel form is well done and very attractive. Curves are continuous from top to bottom. I don’t know if Keith uses the “rule of thirds” when he designs his pieces. The widest part of the vessel appears to be above the one-third point. If it were a bit lower the curve to the bottom would have a more round appearance. That is just a comment and is not meant to be a criticism. The form is very attractive as it is 

The design of both the finial and pedestal is excellent. The finial, as I have said, is Keith’s signature and it’s a good one. The pedestal is a near mirror image of the finial. Getting the right proportions on a vessel with a finial and pedestal is a tough one. To me there is a problem with doing a critique from photos. There will usually be some distortions due to camera angles. It’s been my experience that finials often appear larger than life in a photo. With that in mind, I think that the balance would be improved if the finial were just a little bit shorter. I often apply the rule of thirds here. In this case the finial could be two-thirds the height of the pedestal. That is nit picking of course. 

I would like to see the top of the pedestal be a continuation of the size and the curve in the vessel. Being flush with the sides of the vessel would give a neater appearance to the piece. Turning a photo upside down really brought this out to me.

Getting the size of the base just right is important. Too narrow and the piece looks top-heavy and might tip over. I think that Keith got this one just right.

This piece represents the excellent work we have come to expect from Keith. He can be proud of this, his first pedestal piece.







Mike Foster


I knew that at some point I would really be challenged on a critique.  It is no surprise to me that this is the case with the piece that Keith has put forth.  On first look, my thought was that there is nothing to critique.  It’s beautiful.  But the challenge is to look beyond initial impressions.

Really, the only thing that I picked up on looking at the form of the main vessel was an ever so slight flattening of the curve towards the base.  I used my trick of matching the curve with a bezier curve in photoshop to see if this was the case, and indeed it is there, but it is really subtle.  This is a digital method similar to Terry Scott’s glue stick trick (I need to find a source for long glue sticks).

I am not a finial guy.  I have done a few, but do not consider myself even good at them, so hardly feel qualified to critique them.  The finial is a classic Burns, which I have a soft spot for and don’t think I would change a thing with.  The pedestal echoes the form of the finial well, but still has elements a bit different in line with its function.  I like the way the initial curve of the pedestal continues the curve of the vessel.  My initial impression when scrutinizing the piece was that the pedestal and finial were fairly close to the same length.  You can see from the red lines in my Photoshopped image that this is really not the case.  Still, I think that making the top finial a bit shorter yet may give the piece a bit better balance and a little less symmetry.  The only other thing I could suggest is perhaps a flare at the base of the pedestal similar to the one in the finial would give the piece a little more flow and less of an abrupt stance.

This is a beautiful piece of work by Keith that I would be proud to own.  Even though this is his first try at a “pedestal” piece, I’d say he nailed it.




Critique Submission Information


The Critique Program is open to all Woodturners Unlimited members; membership is free!  To become a member, click on the Forums link, upper right of page and register.

Any member wishing to apply for a critique may send their submission to:

critique @  (this is the 'send to' address. Please remove both spaces before using)

 Please understand that the team will not evaluate every entry.  Since they 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 membership is diverse, with varying skill levels and it is important to select a variety of works to meet those needs.

Members 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 everyone enjoyed the critique! 

Watch for our next critique, coming in two weeks!




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