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Project by Stephen Mines posted 04-29-2011 05:05 PM 6041 views 4 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Hi All,

I just saw the spurtle project that HAIRY posted…it moved me to document (as a LJ project) the spurtles going through my shop right now.

My brother Mike and sister-in-law Mary have a little tea shop in the lakeside (Lake Michigan) resort town of Montague, MI called PAISLEY PLACE. A few years ago they asked me to produce some spurtles for sale in the shop…this is the second batch I’ve made for them. The ones I’m making now are in Cherry Wood, but I also make ‘cauldron’ size (18”-24”) in Hickory Wood.

Here is a little incidental knowledge: food utensils/implements, if they are to actually be used with food, should only be made of human-compatible woods; a rule of thumb: fruit woods and any wood that produces edible berries, nuts, etc., are generally safe for food contact.

Spurtles that I make suffer a 48 hour immersion in mineral oil as a finish. Though this does make them look good and have a ‘velvety’ feel, it is primarily an actual preservative, protecting the wood from hot foods and daily cleaning in dish washers.

The finish on food utensils like this, in my opinion after a LOT of research, should be simply mineral oil…not just any vegetable oil (they’ll likely go rancid on the utensil if not used/washed every day). Even with constant, daily use, mineral oil treated wood utensils only need attention once or twice a year…and then just one hour immersion or even just wiping with a basting brush will sufice. Though mineral oil is comparitively expensive (it IS a petroleum by-product!) it is the best bet for this application…it is what most restaurants and butcher shops use to treat food-contact wood.

In addition to PAISLEY PLACE I sell spurkles individually in my eBay store (Studio Wood Products) as small (8”) medium (11”) and large (14”). I’m just now making up an eBay listing to sell all three sizes as a set. An excuse to turn wood (I love it!) into green (I need it!).

I actually run both lathes at the same time; the Hapfo is where I turn and sand the parts, and the Imperial is where I put the 18 1/8” X 5/8” flutes on the thistle top end. The thistle is, of course, Scotlands national flower. The Imperial is set on automatic; I just have to glance up to see the indexer…when it needs another part I stroll about 15’ and feed it. The IMPERIAL LATHE by the way, is a pattern maker’s lathe that I rescued from the metal scrap yard. It is a 1909, Aaron Machinery (out of Chicago) machine…think about that, over a hundred years old! It only had one on-off switch when I got it. After I taught it to do tricks it has the roll around control panel you see in the background. IDEA: you turners that want to kick it up to the next (affordable) level, keep your eyes peeled for an old pattern makers lathe…snatch it if you find it! Even if you don’t plan to enhance it the heavy-duty, industrial-strength build of a pattern makers lathe is a great asset. This IMPERIAL LATHE weighs in at just under 2500 lbs. (I know because I saw it on the scale at the scrap yard…I paid $1.00 a pound for it…cheaper than hamburger!). Feel free to contact me for advice if you need it.

The next to the last picture shows some hiking sticks (middle-ground) I’m doing a run of for WHISKY RIDGE TRAIL GEAR. These particular sticks are named BRAVEHEART and also feature the Scottish Thistle top end flutes as well as spiral cross hatching on the ball shape and hand hold below that.

Stephen Mines

-- Stephen Mines ([email protected])

8 comments so far

View hairy's profile


2887 posts in 3987 days

#1 posted 04-29-2011 05:14 PM

Now I understand 200. I thought you were having a party! Nice work.

Way to go, saving the old tools from the scrap yard.

-- My reality check bounced...

View devann's profile


2250 posts in 3147 days

#2 posted 04-29-2011 09:33 PM

Cool Man. I had to go look at hairy’s projects to see what a spurtle is. That’s cool I like that idea. It’s aways interesting to see what you’re doing with those lathes Stephen.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View jm82435's profile


1285 posts in 4196 days

#3 posted 04-29-2011 09:49 PM

What are the extra spindles on the Hapfo for? I had never heard of a spurtle before. looks like a great product. I am so jealous of all the cool industrial machines in your shop. Certainly an advantage to living in a well established industrial area. I wish that kind of machinery was being disposed of around here. Is your Imperial set up to do CNC work? What kind of control does it use to control the spindle and milling axis when milling the flutes?

-- A thing of beauty is a joy forever...

View Stephen Mines's profile

Stephen Mines

226 posts in 3145 days

#4 posted 04-30-2011 05:38 AM


On the HAPFO, the spindles above the primary are an addition I added to the machine. I have a three motor cutterhead that mounts where the tool holder is; a model turns in sync with the 4 spindles…the cutters (four) are 7” diameter, turning at 5400 RPM, and the whole cutter head moves in and out by hydraulic tracer (a 7” diameter ‘stylus’ matches the cutters for a one to one duplication).makes, for instance, 4 cabriole legs in about 8 minutes, air bag sanding required after. I bought this Hapfo with the intention of adding copy moulding capability (because I couldn’t afford a dedicated copy moulder!) to keep more of the shop income IN the shop instead of outsourcing. The work I’m talking about are things like cabriole legs (think Queen Anne), gunstocks and anything 3-d. It has worked so well that for many years I took that kind of work from other furniture makers into my shop. Absolutely run of the mill for the machine to gross $1,000 a day, COM and prep, with one operator. Like having a secret weapon in the ongoing war against the giants of industry!

The IMPERIAL is not a CNC machine. I added a hydraulic tracer on the carraige, infinite lead length capability for twists, left and right, and auto indexing. Mostly the controls are old school (relays, limit switches air solinoids, reversing modules, Variable Frequency Drive with ramp up and down speed control, predetermining counter, and a couple of micro processors). For fluting (as well as spiral work) I’ve added a DC, variable speed drive motor that moves the carraige; for spiral work, it is timed to the main spindle by sproket and chain drive (change the sprokets and I can make a helix from 3/8” to 36’, and anything in between. Left or right is a simple one minute changeover, two switches and transmission from forwar/reverse to reverse/forward. I’ve had a wild ride enhancing this machine, and it gives me the capability to be running two machines at a time = double production. Another not so secret weapon!

No, I had no expertise in machinery upgrades, just worked it out.


-- Stephen Mines ([email protected])

View Stephen Mines's profile

Stephen Mines

226 posts in 3145 days

#5 posted 04-30-2011 05:49 AM

Hey, thanks Darrell, I’m having fun! Hope you are too!

-- Stephen Mines ([email protected])

View devann's profile


2250 posts in 3147 days

#6 posted 04-30-2011 11:23 AM

Yes Stephen, still having fun cutting big pieces into little pieces and making whole pieces out of them! Tiny barns this last week. Hoping to be back on the stair pyle at an apartment job in Tulsa in a couple weeks. Nice time for another road trip.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View peteg's profile


4435 posts in 3277 days

#7 posted 05-01-2011 11:42 PM

You have some useful information there Stephen which I am sure will be of interest to all who read it. :)

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View exelectrician's profile


2339 posts in 2882 days

#8 posted 02-02-2012 05:53 AM

Whoo-hoo! for Stephen!

Taking back one product at a time by using true blue American smarts.

You are a leader and someone to emulate.

If only all those guys would get off there butts, put down the iPhone games, and get to real Work like what you are doing, The unemployment numbers would be a thing of the past.

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

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