In Shop Blog, Techniques

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Ornamental turning is one of the fascinating corners of the woodworking craft. Once it was a craft reserved for kings, dukes and the obscenely wealthy. I’ve seen photos of turnings that required more than 18 months to complete (so don’t feel bad about being slow in your shop).

The machine at the center of the ornamental turning world is what is called a “Rose Engine,” which is part lathe, part milling machine and part pattern router. The geometric patterns produced by a rose engine are nothing less than mesmerizing.

I’ve always been fascinated by ornamental turning, but I’ve never had a chance to watch it in action.

This weekend at the Northeastern Woodworkers Association “Showcase” event, I spent a fair amount of time transfixed by the Lindow-White rose engine that was being operated by David Lindow (you might know him from his dang nice clock movements and faces).

The Lindow-White Machine Works has been making rose engines since Spring 2007, and they are designed to be affordable – the basic machine starts at $4,350. You can read all about the machines at the company’s web site.

Attendees at the show in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., were mesmerized by the machines, and I shot this short video of Lindow making part of a bottle stopper on the rose engine. Oh, and I purchased a small bowl that Lindow had made on the lathe. It is beautiful work.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • Elmer

    CS, I just saw a Rose engine at the Natioal Clock Museum yesterday . Amazing. It was used to decorate watch cases. Elmer

  • chris k.

    You thought woodworking and Handtools are addictive, Oramental Turning (OT) is like heroin. The LW is an excellent machine. I started with an MDF that I made and then stepped up to the LW. I have upgraded its several times with all the goodies that David comes up with to offer more capabilities. But be warned its a VERY slipperly slope, but a really fun one!

    David also puts on excellent demos and owners symposiums to teach techniques. They are an excellent two day experiance.

    Chris K.
    Lindow White Owner Serial #26

  • Steve_OH

    I’ve always been fascinated by Holtzapffel lathes and their relatives, ever since I played with a Spirograph as a kid, and looked at the engraving on dollar bills under a microscope.

    But the writing is on the wall: These days, a CNC mill can do everything that a rose engine can do, and much, much more. A good CNC mill still costs quite a bit more, but the differential is decreasing steadily.

    By the way, the second hyperlink in the blog post is broken (the right parenthesis shouldn’t be part of the URL).


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