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Ellsworth Style Hollow Form

Master Woodturner, David Ellsworth invented the Ellsworth Style Hollow Form for woodturning. Previously it was a form that glass blowers and ceramists practiced. David, a student of ceramics thought it would be possible to make this shape with wood. The challenge is that woodturning is a process that removes material. Ceramics and glass adds material and can be manipulated by moving the material around. With a block of wood the turner cannot make the block larger or make it fluid. David invented tools to enter a small hole and then remove material from the inside. The turner cannot see the cutting progress. To master this technique takes practice and patience.

What is a Hollow Form?

The bowl in the above photo is an Ellsworth Style Hollow Form. The opening at the top is smaller than the diameter of the piece. I made this piece during a two day workshop with David Ellsworth. The goal is to make an opening as small as possible. Hook shape tools enter a small hole and the maker directs the tool towards the side walls. The carving process takes place as the wood revolves at high speed. The artist cannot see what is happening. It takes practice and experience not to break through the wall. With constant measuring and a specific sound the maker is aware of progress. The goal is to finish the piece with a thin and evenly thick walls.

From Utility to Art Form

This process credited to David is revolutionary and changed woodturning which was producing utilitarian items like bowls. Suddenly there was a shift to create wood art and sculpture on a lathe. Ellsworth openly shares this technique and it is a known fact that if you ask a woodturner how they make something they will share their knowledge with you. This is not true in many other crafts. Ask a jeweler how they make their piece and chances are they will not share their technique.

Here is a link to another hollow form piece.


I design and produce all my items in my studio in Montvale, New Jersey.


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