00 trembleur intro




Turning a trembleur challenges one’s skill and one’s nerves. One wrong move and you can spoil hours of work. But that’s nothing new for a woodturner. A trembleur is certainly within range of any woodturner. And it is easier than most new projects, as there is only one special tool that you probably don’t already have in your shop – the string steady rest. 

There are two different steady rests that are used for turning the trembleur. The steady rest that supports your stock as you turn beyond it; and the string steady that supports the finished turning. The Escoulen School normally uses a homemade steady rest with three rollers, and cut away in the front. It is a good design as you often need that gap in the steady rest to get your tool rest in there. The lathe bed gets crowded and you need any space you can get.


01 steady rest thumb


The competition trembleur is 1.2 meters long and the thin stems must be no more than 1.8 mm thick. But you don’t have to take that challenge on, at least not at first. Go for a 12 – 16 inch freestanding trembler – it will ‘tremble’ nicely for you.

02 16incher thumb


To make a trembleur, start with straight fine grained wood like maple or sycamore. Take a lot of time, care, and precision turning your stock down to a round cylinder. That would be my most important piece of advice from my little experience. You want your cylinder to run perfectly true. Cut your tendon with precision, mount it firmly in the chuck. Use the tailstock to be sure it is running true, and add your steady rest very close to the end.

I say all of that because I had a vibration problem as I started mine. First we tried adding a second steady rest. That didn’t seem to make a lot of difference. Then we tried a metal steady rest, the Oneway steady rest which is quite sturdy. That helped a bit, and by the time I had managed to make my way through about 1/3 of the length, it was running true and I was able to experience how it was supposed to run and cut - which was a joy and delight, even with the stress of turning those thin stems.

A trembleur has a series of traditional forms/objects/large decorations separated by a very thin stem. The idea as Jean-François explained it, is for the stems to disappear as you step back, and so see only the decorative objects. So turning a stem down to 2.5 mm is pretty good, 2 mm is better, and 1.8 is the true goal. Jean-François had a set of laminated cards with some of the traditional designs on them for us. You could then design your trembleur by shuffling the card into the order you want for a pleasant design.

02a objectcards thumb


You can also decide if you want your trembleur to stand or hang. Traditionally, the trembleur was made to stand (and tremble) but because many woods compress, it was found to be better in the long run to let the trembleur hang. You can do either perhaps depending on the wood you use.

The French use the bedan, a tool that the rest of the world isn’t too familiar with, but with practice you can get great control for taking super light cuts on those thin stems and getting it quite even. The bedan is used much like the skew, rubbing the bevel and only cutting in the center of the edge.

So with your steady rest in place and your spindle running true, you begin your first decorative object on the end of your cylinder.

03 starting thumb


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