Katherine's Improved Finials

My Finial Story

by Katherine Kowalski, published 2009



The Very First One. Inspired by Cindy Drozda's work, one day in May I got the wild idea to make a finial... I was working and working and working -- 4 hours straight at the lathe! I was gently carving the wood away, sure that I was creating the most delicate finial that ever was seen! I tried to make every shape exactly perfect... and when I just couldn't manage the curve of the "onion" I was slightly devastated, so put a couple of "design opportunities" in instead. The result was No. 1 above.

Off the lathe, things can look rather different than you seem to see them while you're turning... clearly my first finial was an absolute disaster. Chunky, clunky, implied line went totally down the drain. Not an effort to be proud of.

Fast forward a little ways to June and the AAW Symposium at Albuquerque... I watched Cindy Drozda demonstrate finials and boxes at the trade show. I was absolutely entranced! I listened as she gently instructed the captivated audience on the techniques of creating finials, turning all the while, talking in-between breaths as she perfected the finest diameters!

Even as I watched, she came up with new designs, and creatively combined those gorgeous finials with perfect little boxes she made later in the day! Well, I couldn't wait to get home and try it myself!

After the symposium, drove 9 hours on Monday to get home. Crashed into bed to sleep a few hours, woke up late at night... and rushed to my shop and turned...


A Much Improved Ornament. The result was finial 2 above. The results speak for themselves -- a much finer finial with a beautiful onion shape at the base. A mistake on the hat, but not too bad overall. And let me tell you -- there was NO PRACTICE between 1 & 2 above. None. Nada. Zero. (The numbering of the finials is as they came off the lathe in my shop -- not just a system of reference for the photo -- these are Number 1, 2, 3, etc. I made in "real life.")

The much improved finial 2 was clearly the result of seeing Cindy's expert techniques at the symposium and listening to her careful instruction.

Finial 3 awaited -- and I was scared... could I do it again? Or would somehow I have forgotten the technique, and the whole thing would break into bits? I wanted this one longer, with a differently-shaped "hat" ... and a detail -- what I call a "serif" positioned between the onion and the "hat."

Finial 4 wanted to be shorter -- "more lively" as Cindy likes to say. I thought it came out so beautifully she deserved a place to shine! I made her a box to adorn. (The red wood underneath is actually the lid of the box she's attached to).

With the making of finial 5, I already had a box design in mind. I wanted a slimmer finial to define the implied line of the finished piece. The box is made from fiddleback maple, dyed in reds, oranges, and yellows, shimmery in the light! Finial 6, a new design with a double serif, made of Olivewood, is patiently awaiting her pedestal...

And finials 7, 8, 9, and 10, ad infinitum, will no doubt be improvements as well, indeed a tribute to the power of a remarkable teacher.


Turning Point. Taking Cindy's class and seeing her demonstrate her wonderful work has literally changed my turning overnight! I'm not quite sure how she does it -- whether it's her prolific knowledge, which she generously shares, her expert technique, her exquisite artistry, or the way she teaches all of the above, with a patient and gentle manner which speaks to every level of students' knowledge. Or it could possibly be her own brand of special magic... In any case, working with world-renowned woodturning artist Cindy Drozda is the very best thing you can do for improving your own turning skill and artistry.


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