Three large wooden bowls turned by Mike Mahoney.

Mike Mahoney’s Woodturning Demonstration, 2024

On the sunny day of March 10th 2024, Mike Mahoney delivered an exceptionally informative and enjoyable woodturning demonstration by showcasing his woodturning expertise to the members of two woodturning clubs (SVW and WBW) at the Maker Nexus facility in Sunnyvale, CA. The event was well-received, with attendees thoroughly enjoying the experience. The room was packed with enthusiastic turners who had reserved their spots well in advance. Mike’s skills as a woodturning professional were evident, once again showcasing his excellence in the craft.

Mike Mahoney holding a large wood bowl during his woodturning demonstration in March 2024 at Maker Nexus in Sunnyvale, CA
Mike Mahoney’s Woodturning Demonstration

Mike shared details about wood species that can be harvested locally and explained the difference between white oak (his favorite) and red oak in detail. It was fascinating to learn about different woodcutting techniques that allow for achieving the desired grain orientation in woodturning projects.

Mike Mahoney Talks About Sourcing Wood During His Woodturning Demonstration
Mike Mahoney Talks About Sourcing Wood

There are many ways to skin a cat… to cut a log. Some ways are easier, some produce more waste, but it is important to know about various ways of log processing while sourcing wood from the urban forest and local lumberyards.

Mike also talked about bowl shapes and fair curves, ratios and proportions, the shape of a bowl bottom, and decorations (coves and beads) and how important those are in woodturning.

Mike Mahoney -- a woodturning demonstrator talks about his project to the woodturning club members
Mike Mahoney Woodturning Demonstration

Mike brought a wide variety of his woodturning projects for people to see. The examples included a set of platters and bowls as well as small items such as turned/carved cups (kuksa). Mike also brought a set of pepper and salt grinders from flame-figured maple, with a black finial for black pepper and a white finial for salt on top of each grinder.

Turning a Calabash Bowl

Mike brought his own freshly cut oak to be used during the demo. He cored a large white oak blank and turned a 10” calabash bowl. Mike explained the coring techniques and demonstrated the coring tool that he co-designed in collaboration with toolmakers.

Mike Mahoney Turns a Bowl. Chips Fly Everwhere!
Mike Mahoney Turns a Bowl. Chips Fly Everywhere!

We could see that shavings were flying everywhere while Mike skillfully hollowed out the bowl. Wood shavings were literally raining down on most of us.

The club provided a Powermatic 3420 lathe and a grinder with two CBN wheels for the demonstration. The lathe is heavy enough to handle the turning of 14+” of green heavy oak blanks with ease.

Turning Oak Platter

Mike turned a 14” platter from a quarter-sawn oak blank, giving it a small bead on the rim and an overall pleasing shape. After minimal sanding, he finished the project with walnut oil, which beautifully highlighted the straight grain of the wood.

Thoughts About Finishes

Speaking about the finish… Mike talked for quite a while about different types of finishes. He explained the difference between surface finishes (aka film finish) and penetrative finishes (oil based finish).

A bottle of Mahoney's Finishes with Mike Mahony demonstrating woodturning in the background

Mike compared the finishes from multiple points of view, such as durability, toxicity, repairability, look & feel, etc. He also talked about other chemicals that could be used to treat the wood to adjust color or texture. For example, he explained how ammonia fumes darken the wood; he even showed an example where two woodturned platters that were turned from the same tree looked different. The platters had a different shade as one piece was treated with ammonia and the other was not. Mike also makes his own walnut oil finish which he used during the day. Anyone who wanted to try his finish could buy a bottle of Mike’s oil during the demonstration. You could also order a wide verity of Mahoney’s Finish online from Mike Mahoney directly or from Woodcraft, CraftSupplies, etc.

Woodturning a Hollow Form

The next project was a demonstration of turning a hollow form. Mike turned an elegant, 5″ wide, oak vessel. A very small (1”) opening made it somewhat hard to remove shavings from the inside during the turning process. But the result is gorgeous!

Hollow Form by Mike Mahoney
Hollow Form by Mike Mahoney

Threading Woodturning Demonstration

Another quick yet highly educational project was turning matching threads. Mike provided detailed explanations on selecting the correct threading tools and demonstrated their proper usage. Additionally, he showed how to fit both threads for a perfect coupling. This information was particularly beneficial for attendees unfamiliar with threading techniques, adding significant value to the demo.

Paper-Thin Bowl

The final project of the day was turning a paper-thin bowl. Mike turned an 8” bowl from the live oak blank. The turned bowl was almost weightless; the bowl walls were so thin that the light could easily pass through the walls, showing how thin and how uniformly the bowl was turned.

Paper-thin bowl by Mike Mahoney
Paper-thin bowl by Mike Mahoney

On this picture, you may see that the bowl walls are so thin that the bowl edge flexes on the left under its own weight just when I held it with my fingers.

Woodturning Demonstration Summary

Overall, it was a great event where the club members could learn, ask questions, and enjoy a day of woodturning together. All the turnings completed that day were raffled out between the club members; the lucky few went home with prized additions to their woodturning collections. After the demo, I heard my friend say: “Mike is one of the best!” and I completely agree – it was very inspirational for me and my fellow woodturners to enjoy a day of woodturning with Mike Mahoney – a famous woodturning demonstrator. If you have never attended Mike’s events before, consider looking for his regular classes and future presentations. If you want to learn more about Mike’s woodturning skills consider exploring Mike Mahoney’s YouTube channel.

Mike Mahoney Demonstration to SVW and WBW club members
Mike Mahoney Demonstration to SVW and WBW club members

Big “thank you” to organizers

Thanks to Jerry Galli and to everyone who helped to organize the event and/or loaned equipment. Thanks, Dennis Lillis, for the nice grinder – it really helped Mike to keep his tools sharp during the day. The event was nicely organized, and lunch was provided for the group. It is unfortunate that only 50 places were available for the attendees at the facility that day. Hopefully, we could reserve a larger room next time as this type of event attracts a lot of attention from the club members.

Another thank you to Mark Koenig, James Craig, Greg Peck (our audio-video crew) for the excellent camera work. The extra lighting setup allowed the audience to see more details compared to using regular overhead lighting. The wall monitors showed the action from different angles, helping the audience enjoy every detail of the woodturning process. The club’s investment in the audio-visual equipment last year is definitely fruitful — it helps a lot to make our woodturning meetings better. It is especially beneficial for large events where not all attendees can sit close enough to a demonstrator.

Maker Nexus building at Sunnyvale, CA
Maker Nexus at Sunnyvale, CA

A special thank you goes to the Maker Nexus — a Silicon Valley’s Premier Makerspace facility for hosting the event and for organizing a guided tour for the attendees who could learn about different equipment at the site. Thank you to Declan — our tour guide that day. It is amazing how many different hobbies the facility supports and how many classes it organizes every month, from welding to 3D-printing, from sewing to robotics, from painting to laser cutting, etc. To learn more visit the Maker Nexus website.

About the author

Roman Chernikov is an avid enthusiast of chip carving, wood carving, and woodturning, with a passion for working with diverse wood species.

With 10 years of experience honing his craft, Roman has created a wide array of stunning projects that showcase his dedication and skill in the woodworking arts.

To explore more of Roman’s intricate and captivating works, visit his website at READ N

Please share what you think about Mike Mahoney’s demonstration or about this article by adding your comments below. Thank you and happy turning!


One response to “Mike Mahoney’s Woodturning Demonstration, 2024”

  1. […] an article written by Roman Chernikov — a detailed and engaging overview of Mike Mahoney’s woodturning demonstration, highlighting key techniques and projects. It effectively encourages readers to explore further […]

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