Using the McNaughton Center
Saver On A Mini-Lathe

The McNaughton Center Saver allows you to
produce multiple bowls from a single bowl blank

McNaughton Coring Tools Overview: Most woodturners are by nature, conservative with their materials. Many of the exotic and high figured timbers we work with can be very expensive. As a result, we use many different techniques to get the most out of our project material. For example, we might use a bandsaw blade to resaw project blanks instead of using a table saw, which has a much wider blade.

This nested set of bowls was produced with
McNaughton Micro Saver on a Jet mini-lathe.
Bowls range in size from 3" to 8.5"

Many years ago when I first opened my studio, I was turning production bowls and wasting away the center areas when hollowing the interior of the bowl. It did not take me long to realize that this practice was less than ideal, especially when I was working with a high figured or exotic wood blank.

Since I was making my living turning production bowls, I knew I had to find a way to make the most out of every blank. When turning bowls, I needed to find a way to save the center areas on the interior of each bowl, instead of turning it away as waste.


The McNaughton Center Saver System

The new McNaughton Micro Center Saver System
includes three curved knives and one straight knife

At the time, Kel McNaughton (New Zealand) was making a center saving tool called the "Kel McNaughton Center Saver" that used a series of curved knives to remove the center area on bowls as a solid block of wood. This saved "core" could then be remounted and cored again into another bowl, cored and turned again, etc. I immediately purchased one of his first center savers and began using it to core the bowls I turned in my studio. Using the McNaughton Center Saver (now known as the McNaughton Center Saver) allowed me to easily produce one bowl for every inch of thickness in the blank.

For example, if I was turning a 4" x 12" x 12" bowl blank using traditional bowl hollowing methods, I would get one bowl from the blank. Using the McNaughton Center Saver, I would get four bowls instead of just one, with each bowl slightly smaller than its original core. The series of bowls produced is typically referred to as a "nested set," as each bowl nests inside the original bowl.

I've been using the McNaughton Center Saver for almost thirteen years now to core bowls that I turn in my studio. Through the years, I have cored thousands and thousands of bowls using this system. Until recently, the system was only available to turners that were working on large and medium sized lathes, but this is no longer the case. Kel McNaughton has recently introduced two new center savers, a micro and mini to compliment his extensive line of center savers.

Close-up of the new McNaughton Coring Tools:
Upper is mini set, lower is micro set

The system now includes the following center savers: micro, mini, standard and jumbo in right hand versions and a standard and jumbo in left hand versions. For years, if you owned a mini-lathe you had little or no options for coring the bowls you turned. Since many new turners start out with a mini-lathe as their first lathe, this new coring system for mini-lathes allows almost any woodturner to easily and quickly save the centers of their bowls as a solid block of wood, rather than turning it away as waste.

Even if you do not want to turn the saved core into smaller bowls, you still have a solid block of wood left that you can use for something else. It can be resawn into pen blanks, bottle stopper blanks or various other project blanks. The key here is that using a center saver gives you options. You can turn more bowls from it, or resaw it into something else, the choice is yours.


The McNaughton Micro Center Saver System

The new McNaughton Mini System

The McNaughton Micro System is composed of four knives. One knife is straight and three feature curves. The knives are held in a turret assembly that mounts in your tool rest banjo when coring. A few years ago I wrote an article on using the McNaughton Center Saver, it has since become one of the de-facto standards for using this system.

The instructions for set-up and use of the micro system are identical to using the larger coring systems. If you're new to using center savers, please review this article for an in-depth overview of using this coring system.

How to Use the McNaughton Center Saver System

Close-up view of the toolgate for the new
McNaughton mini and micro center saver systems

If you turn bowls, you need to take a good look at this center saver system. If you purchase your bowl blanks, or like to turn exotic woods and burrs, this system can save you money by allowing you to remove the center area on your bowls as a solid core. If you turn more than a few bowls a year, you now have a choice when turning bowls. The next time you turn an expensive bowl blank on your mini-lathe and you waste away the center area, you'll know why center savers are so popular with bowl turners.


Safety Note: Always follow all manufacturers safety instructions before working with your lathe, or any of the tools or products you may use. If you are unsure about any operation, obtain competent professional instruction before proceeding. Use and wear all necessary safety devices during turning and observe safe woodturning practices to prevent accident or injury.


Steven D. Russell is a professional studio woodturner, teacher and writer. He has written numerous articles for international woodturning magazines, which have been published in more than 78 countries around the world. Steve has demonstrated in numerous cities across the United States. His studio, Eurowood Werks, specializes in bowls, platters and hollow forms with unique visual and tactile treatments.

Steve is also the current and founding President of the Lone Star Woodturners Association, Inc., an AAW member chapter. The LSWA is a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching and demonstrating the art and craft of woodturning.

Steve is also a featured writer for the Guild of Master Craftsman's "Woodturning" magazine, published in London England. Woodturning magazine is the world's leading magazine for woodturners. Look for his articles covering technical topics, or project based articles in an upcoming issue.