Jordan Hollowers Review (long)

Jordan Hollowers Review (long)

Post by Lyn J. Mangiamel » Fri, 03 Oct 2003 04:49:23

As usual, this is the final draft of an article that will be appearing
along with photos in Fred Holder's periodical More Woodturning.

We as woodturners have been lucky to have many of our tools designed and
made by persons who are active woodturners, and personally understand
our needs. Nowhere is this more apparent, than in the area of hollowing
tools. David Ellsworth and  Lyle Jamieson, as just two examples, are
persons whose names are associated with the hollowing tools they have
designed as well as the hollow forms they make. Usually, such tools in
some way come into being because existing tools did not satisfy the
creative requirements of the turner. Thus we find that David introduced
some of the first tools suitable for the then new techniques of blind
hollowing through a small mouth, and Lyle introduced one of the first
commercially available rotationally restrained boring systems suitable
for the larger forms he makes.

The most recent entrant into the famous-turner-turned-hollowing
tool-designer/manufacturer club is John Jordan. For most, John needs no
introduction, as his works are on display at such places as the White
House and Renwick Museum in Washington, and are well represented in art
books displaying the collections of serious collectors. Many of us have
expanded our skills after having observed him at a demonstration, or
having viewed one of Johns videos on bowl making, or hollow forms or
sharpening (and soon he will have a new video out, Woodturning: The
Aesthetics and Properties of Wood). Though John has long been known as
favoring the Stewart System for his hollowing work, many of us have been
aware that he had custom versions of the *** shafts made to his
specifications. Wishing to make similar tools available to his students
and the larger woodturning community, John has tried for several years
to have his custom designs manufactured by others. After several
frustrations, but retaining a belief that his designs are significantly
superior, John made the commitment of obtaining metal working equipment
and is finally manufacturing his own hollowing tools. Having followed
this progress, I leapt at the opportunity to obtain some of the first
tools coming out of his shop.

The new hollowing tools from John Jordan are reminiscent of a number of
other newer hollowing tools in that they appear to represent
evolutionary advancements on previously available tools. Anyone who has
experience with Don Pencil or Dennis Stewart tools will find Johns new
hollowers to be instantly familiar. At first glance, John offers:
- a 3/4 in diameter, 20 inch straight shaft tool with a replaceable
cutting tip that appears much the same as the traditional Stewart
Omnitool or Don Pencil straight boring tool
- a smaller straight tool with a thinner 1/2 inch diameter and shorter,
12 inch shaft
- a large 20 inch curved ***/Scorpion-style tool
- a medium 16 inch curved ***/Scorpion-style tool
- a small curved ***/Scorpion-style tool with a 1/2 inch diameter, 12
inch shaft

The similarities are quite apparent, but closer inspection and use
reveal a lot of differences from their predecessors. Johns tools show
the refinements that just arent apt to be obtained from someone who
hasnt personally encountered all the little frustrations common to many
existing tools and then sought to overcome them. More personally, I find
the Jordan tools to be exquisitely designed for the types of hollow
forms I most often make, that is, gourd or onion shaped medium sized
vessels with small mouths, and tall hollow vases that also have a mouth
as small as I can get by with. In some respects, these forms are not
much different in general shape from many of those made by John, and not
much different from what a lot of hollow turners make or aspire to
create. So for me, these tools seem custom designed for my purposes.

So what is it that makes these tools special? The first thing that
captured my attention is that the replaceable tips on all the tools fit
directly into the working end of the tool. This is standard practice for
most straight shafted tools, but generally not found on curved shaft
tools. Mounting like this allows for more solid support of the cutting
tip, and more consistent and precise positioning. The ends of the tool
shafts are tapered, the inside  of the curved shafts are greatly
relieved (much more so than the ***), and the tip locking set***
sits flush on the larger three tools (unfortunately it protrudes
slightly on his two small hollowers), allowing the entire working end of
the tool to be fitted through a mouth just barely larger than the root
diameter of the shaft. This is just what one wants in a hollowing tool,
if the goal is to maintain as small a mouth as possible. Unfortunately,
some hollowing tools fail in this respect, for example, the articulating
head version of the Munro Hollower where the bulk of the cutting head
requires an opening almost twice the size of the tool shaft. The Stewart
Bottom *** with its bottom mounted tip carrier provides a similar

Along these same lines, when dealing with what are often the long
overhangs required during hollowing, one wants to be able to locate the
tool rest as close to the mouth of the vessel as possible. Yet when
dealing with narrow mouths, bulky cutting heads and protruding lock
screws/bolts will catch on the tool rest, thus requiring the tool rest
to be set further back or deliberately moved back each time the tool is
withdrawn. The Jordan Hollowers make it easy to locate the tool rest
very close, yet still allow the shafts to enter and be withdrawn from
the form without changing the position of the tool rest. These things
may not seem like a big deal to those making more open mouthed work, but
for those of us who seek the challenge of working through mouths less
than 1/8 inch larger than our tools, Johns design is a godsend.

Another little advantage associated with tip locking set screw, is that
by being bottom mounted, it is much less apt to clog with packed
shavings. Few of us have not spent some time digging with a pin to clear
the socket of the more typically top mounted set screws. I also
appreciate that the set***socket is large enough to take a wrench
size that wont easily strip with the forces of tightening.

I have always liked the Kelton Hollowers for the way they come in sets
of curvatures that allowed for excellent transition from straight to
very curved shafts. The Jordan Hollowers offer a similar transition in
curves between the different shafts, but allow one to purchase only
those meeting ones specific or immediate needs. Rather than mixing and
matching between tools of various manufacture in order to be able to
probe into all areas of a variety of hollow form shapes, manufacturers
like Kelton and Jordan have already thought through the best transitions
and overlaps, which for most turners will allow for the purchase of
fewer tools rather than more.

Equally appealing about these tools is that they tend to fill useful
niches that existing tools dont extend into. The great amount of side
relief on Jordans larger curved shafts, as well as the well thought out
curvatures, allow the tools to work over a larger range of positions,
and thus snake into more internal areas, than would be expected of tools
of similar root shaft diameter. Both the large straight shaft and the
large curved shaft are significantly longer than their counterparts in
the Stewart/Sorby/Pencil lines. I suspect that I am not alone in
sometimes wishing I could get a little deeper with my Stewart ***.
Well, now we can with the Jordan large 20 inch curved shaft (a typical
*** is about 15). Similarly, the straight shaft is 20 inches compared
to the 16 inch Omnitool, again providing a little more reach for those
deep vases. Despite the added length, I find the 3/4 inch shafts to be
adequately rigid when used to take advantage of the  longer extension
capability. When used with a traditional steel handle of sufficient bore
(Kelton and Hamlet both offer one), or the Kelton Hollowing Rig, one can
seat the shafts more deeply to reduce this overall length if less shaft
extension is desired. If for some reason  you would want Johns
curvatures in a tool with a shorter overall shaft length (say for use in
a socketed boring bar), they can be obtained upon request.

John offers a relatively traditional steel handle that will work with
his 1/2 inch hollowing tools (I shall be reviewing it next month along
with his new bowl gouge), but John notes that he usually uses his
hollowing  tools in an armbrace. This is the way that I used them and I
concur that for many turners this will be the most desirable way of
mounting them. John also notes that his hollowers will work well in a
restrained boring bar system like the Jamieson or Kelton. I only used
mine like this briefly, but can again confirm that they work very well
as part of these restrained systems.

Most hollowing tools traditionally have had shafts of 5/8 inch or
larger, and 3/8 inch or smaller diameter. Johns 1/2 inch diameter tools
fill a void that has been only partially filled by the 1/2 inch Kelton
Hollowers. I suspect these smaller Jordan tools are going to be
perceived as very valuable for all who like to make forms in the 5-8
inch range ( and makes these tools a very good match for those who make
hollow forms on a mini lathe). Furthermore, the small curved shaft is
also just wonderful for working just inside the mouth of a larger form.

The HSS tips look traditional as they sit in the shafts, but are
different from any others that I am familiar with. All of the curved
shafts are bored in the end to take a 3/16 inch diameter round rod. The
replaceable tips, accordingly, have a round section that seats in the
shaft, but the bevelled cutting ...

read more »


Jordan Hollowers Review (long)

Post by Lynn » Sat, 04 Oct 2003 17:01:05

Bless you. I've read and reread your Brief Review and have been on the
verge of investing in the Kelton tools, but after reading this timely
review, I know exactly what I want. Your thorough coverage answers all
my questions. Thanks for sharing the benefits of all your experience.