Workshops and Demonstrations




Liam O'Neill is a founder member of the American Association of Woodturners (A.A.W.) and was present at the symposium at Arrowmont, TN in 1985 when the decision to found the association was taken. He has been a professional turner and teacher of his craft since completing his apprenticeship in Ireland from 1968 to 1972. From 1984 until 2002 he travelled extensively throughout the U.S.A. teaching workshops and exhibiting his work.

His turnings are included in many important U.S.A. collections including the Arthur and Jane Mason collection at the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, and the David and Ruth Waterbury collection.

Internationally his work is owned by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II and the Emperor of Japan among many others.

In 2002 he decided to remain in Ireland for a time, in order to concentrate on the development of Sculptural turnings for outdoor display in Parks and Gardens. Liam has been developing this art ever since, and has made quite a name for himself as a Sculptor using turning technology as an important part of the making process. Some of these pieces are 7ft tall by 3ft diameter.

In spite of his success with these innovative sculptural pieces, Liam still views himself as primarily a jobbing woodturner. The production of functional yet beautiful bowls still takes up much of his time, as does the making of more decorative hollow vessels and other functional work. He still derives great satisfaction from the practice of the basic skills of his trade.

Liam is once again preparing to share his expertise in a series of workshops and demonstrations on the international teaching circuit. As well as teaching the traditional skills such as turning bowls, boxes, and hollow vessels, he will also incorporate an element of the techniques he has developed for the production of large-scale outdoor pieces.

These techniques include:

  1. The use of the electric chainsaw as a turning tool
  2. How to make the necessary jigs and fixtures to fix the chainsaw in a lathe
  3. The use of softwoods such as Cedar, Pine or Redwood to make a deep vessel for use in creating figurative sculpture
  4. Shaping and finishing techniques

Liam will explain how he created his own outdoor lathe with a cast concrete body and fixings made at a local metal shop. After observing these techniques demonstrated in the Workshop on an ordinary shop lathe, students should then be able to construct their own outdoor lathes.

See below for Sample Workshop Menu

If you are interested in hosting Liam as a demonstrator, contact him by email: To view a selection of Liam's work go to

Happy Turning!


David Ellsworth says: 

"Liam O'Neill is one of the great studio woodturners from Ireland. He specializes in decorative open bowls and turned outdoor sculpture, and is the author of the classic 'Irish grind' bowl gouge. His vast knowledge and experience plus his natural sense of Irish humor has made him one of the top demonstrators since he first came to America back in the mid-1980s."

Sample Workshop Menu

Menu of Teaching Topics

Hands-on Class

a. Bowl Turning:

I start the day by demonstrating all stages of making from conversion of wood to finishing base. I can add a module showing different styles of bowl such as undercut rim, thin wall etc, as well as some beading and grooving techniques, all of which I use in my own production.

Sometimes it makes sense to do the added module just after lunch when students have had an opportunity to work through the techniques demonstrated in the morning. I emphasise cutting techniques using different gouges such as the side ground (which I popularised in the US)

b. Lidded Containers:

These are usually made of spalted wood or burl or crotch figure. I show how to minimise the width of cut between lid and body so as to keep grain matching as close as possible. I insert pieces of contrasting wood into the body of the box to provide a shoulder for the lid to fit onto. I leave a rounded base so that the container "ROCKS" I demonstrate first and then let the students do it as usual. NB: One topic per day is recommended.

Demonstration topics

a. Bowl Turning:

As outlined above

b. Lidded Container:

As outlined above

c. Using local soft wood:

I show how much fun can be had from using pine or other local soft wood. I suggest shapes and teach techniques for finishing, burning with blow torch and rubbing with scotch brite to get a black, sand blasted grain finish.

d. Chainsaw Turning:

I create outdoor sculptural turnings which can be up to 7 feet tall and 3 feet diameter as part of my making a living. I carry a bar and chain and a holding jig which matches a STIHL E20 electric chainsaw so that I can demonstrate how the technology works using a regular lathe with a tool rest shank of I" or 25 mm.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Each student should wear appropriate ear protection during the chainsaw turning demonstrations.

e. Hollow Turnings:

I can demonstrate Hollow Turnings but there are so many other teachers of those techniques that I tend to concentrate on (a) to (d) above.

Other topics:

  • Flat Ware using vacuum chuck.
  • Platters.
  • Lamps.
  • Spinning Tops.
  • Natural Edge Bowls.


a. Bowls:

Local hardwood such as cherry, maple, walnut, butternut etc. I suggest 14 inch diameter logs cut into 14" lengths beforehand and kept in plastic bags to stop splitting.

b. Containers:

I suggest dry spalted (not too soft) burl or crotch 4 to 5 inches diameter by 5 inches long I use dark wood for the insert, cut out of I " thick by the same diameter as box body.

c. Local softwood:

Cut 6" to 10" diameter by 12" long. (Approximate sizes)

d. Chainsaw Turning:

Have a piece of Pine or other softwood about 12 inches diameter (12" square with corners trimmed) by 14" or 15" long. A whole log can be used allowing for trimming off bark etc.

General Tools and Equipment:

  • Vacuum system — not essential but useful.
  • Electric Chainsaw — STIHL E20 or any make that will take a 16" STIHL bar and chain.
  • Blow Torch —I use plumber's type. Any type will do.
  • Face Plates — I turn most of my bowls on 3" face plates.
  • Bench Grinder with 100 grit pink or white stone and regular tool rest.
  • Belt Sander or Disc sander for flattening bases of boxes to have piece of scrap glued on to take screws.
  • Band saw to cut Bowl blanks etc.
  • DVD Player & Screen.

Tools needed by students for Hands-On Classes

Bowl Turning:

  • 2 x 1/2" Bowl Gouges — Grind shape not important — they can be changed.
  • 2 x 3/8" Bowl Gouges
  • 1 x Heavy scraper 1 1/2"w x 3/8" thick — domed or straight for finishing inside bottom of bowl.
  • 1 each 1/4", 3/8" & 1/2" spindle gouges.
  • 1 x 3/8" beading & parting tool.


  • 1 x 3/8" x 1/2 " spindle gouge.
  • 1x1" &  1 1/2" round scrapers.
  • 1 x1/8" parting tool.
  • 1 x 1/2" square scraper.
  • 1 x 3/8" beading & parting tool.


I use mineral oil for food bowls. I apply shellac sanding sealer for cosmetic reasons.

For boxes and burls I use matt or satin polyurethane or closest alternative. Danish oil is good for Pine pieces.


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Postal Address:

Liam & Cathy O'Neill

Wood Gallery and Sculpture Garden
Baile Eamoinn
County Galway
Spiddal Map

Telephone Numbers:

Tel: +353 (0)91 553633


All material on this website copyright Liam O'Neill © 2002 - 2013