A few words about Jon Magill and Ornamental Turning
Ornamental Turning, or OT, is a specialized niche of woodturning that provides a way to add precise surface decorations to turnings. OT was popularized during the Victorian-era but had fallen largely out of vogue due to the rarity and cost of the lathes and equipment. The rarest but most magical of the ornamental lathes were called “rose engines” because of their ability to cut a tremendous variety of flower-like patterns on the workpiece. Obtaining an antique rose engine today would be nearly impossible and incredibly expensive. You can read a brief overview of OT and rose engines at:
To overcome the hurdles of cost and availability, Jon wrote about, and published the plans for, a homemade rose engine in the Spring 2007 issue of American Woodturner. The lathe, made from a half-sheet of MDF, is now known as the “MDF Rose Engine”. You can read the original article about it here:
After seeing the demo, if you are interested in building an MDF Rose Engine, the construction instructions and detailed drawings are available here:
Artist’s Statement — Jon Magill
I have been working with wood and tools all my life, early on as a hobbyist, and now as a second career. I have always had an affinity for wood as a medium and have also been drawn to mechanical devices for as long as I can remember. I derive a lot of enjoyment working out the processes that go into making an object and devising a sequence that allows something to actually be brought to fruition.
I re-discovered woodturning about a dozen years ago when I was given a lathe. Two years later I stumbled upon the esoteric art of ornamental turning, a highly specialized, Victorian-era technique that enables very precise surface decorations, using a complex lathe called a rose engine. Rose engines were primarily used by jewelers, watchmakers and artists like “Faberge”.
Exposure to the niche of ornamental turning immediately resonated for me and I knew I had found a vehicle that would give me an expressive balance between my technical bent and creative desires. Using the rose engine lets me marry the organic nature of wood, the industrial gears to work it, and my own sense of design. The possibilities are limitless but always different.
I enjoy the challenge of making boxes, particularly the precision required to produce threaded wooden boxes. Recent works also include experimentation with resins and other materials by themselves or in combination with the exotic woods I normally use.
Although I am primarily a self-taught woodworker, I have taken advantage of a number of woodturning classes, lessons from visiting demonstrators, and the help of a few world-class mentors. I have written and published numerous articles on ornamental turning, as well as being asked to be a demonstrator at multiple national symposiums.
I studied photography, art and design before turning to engineering as a career. After retiring from an engineering career, my wife and I moved to Whidbey Island to build our house, where I am happily working in my shop pursuing my second career in woodworking.