Slice it like Pye – FineWoodworking

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Jeff Miller is known for his furniture, but his earliest explorations in woodworking revolved around repairing and building historic woodwind instruments. With no prior training and no mentor, he worked from books and experimentation to build Baroque flutes, crumhorns, and cornettos, often making his own specialized tools along the way. The experience left him with a “mechanical confidence” that followed him into furniture. He needed that when he found himself enamored of the lovely fluted bowls made by the English craftsman and theorist David Pye and decided to build his own version of Pye’s “fluting engine.” Studying photos of Pye’s machine, Miller readily built the framework. But perfecting the cutting action, and especially the cutter itself, was much more challenging. Miller’s first cutter, ground from a tool steel rod, tore out terribly. Next, he tried mounting the head of an adze on an aluminum rod. Much better. But real success came when he cold-bent and ground a bar of tool steel to a shape like a spoon carver’s hook knife. After many months of trial and error, Miller says, “the first time I got great results was unbelievably exciting.” He’s been happily immersed in using the fluting engine ever since, producing a variety of vessels, and “exploring the quirks of the machine.”

making fluted bowls carving fluted bowls

—Jonathan Binzen

Photos: Jeff Miller

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