Corkscrew flame finials come in all shapes and sizes. The flutes of the flames vary in the amount that they spiral to the top. You find examples that advance a quarter turn as they ascend the finial, while other examples complete a full revolution. We’ve seen a few that turn as much as 1-1/2 revolutions over the length of the finial. The more the flutes turn around the finial, the tighter the spiral.
You’ll notice the use of the word “flutes” as we write about finials. That’s because nearly every period spiral finial is fluted, not reeded; they are concave, not convex. Occasionally, you’ll find what we refer to as an “ice cream cone” finial where the lobes of the twist are convex. (And by “occasionally” we mean rarely). (Fig. 1)
There are lots of ways to layout the flutes of the flame. We asked David Heim to share his method for drawing a corkscrew finial in SketchUp, so you can work out any design details before you get your lathe geared up. Then after you have your patterns set, off to the lathe you go. We suggest that you spin a few extra turnings of the flame section – it’s good for practice, and you can better see how the changes in the amount of twist change the overall appearance.
Plus, while you can mathematically layout a spiral on a sheet of paper, cut it out and stretch it along the cone of the flame, we find this method to be cumbersome and time-consuming. Glen creates a grid to help layout his flutes, and Chuck prefers to sketch the flutes by eye.