So, you’ve just invested in a wood lathe, or at least you’re looking to soon. If you’re not sure about what you can make on your lathe, or even if you want some more inspiration, then you’re in the right place!
Here we’re going to explore the basic tools you will need for woodturning, as well as some handy hints and tips to help you along the way. Then, once you’re ready to go, we’re going to introduce you to 12 projects you can try at home.
What is Woodturning?
If you’re completely new to this, let’s begin right at the very start.
Woodturning is a craft that involves hand carving wood on a lathe.
On the lathe, the wood is rotated at high speed. The introduction of different tools to its surface helps the crafter to mold the wood into different forms.
Historically, woodturning can be traced back to ancient times. These days most (but not all!) woodworkers use an electric lathe to turn their wood. In the past, this was all done manually, of course.
Things You’re Going to Need
Before you start making any of our suggested projects, you’re going to need the basic tools. What should you have to hand before you begin?
- Wood lathe – The primary tool for woodturning. Good lathes aren’t cheap, but they’re well worth the investment.
- Chuck – This will grip your project and hold it in place whilst you work. Owning one is not a necessity, but it certainly makes things easier! It’s worth getting a decent chuck, too, as the cheap ones will do a poor job and won’t last as long.
- Chisels – There are plenty of different sized chisels out there, and each has its own purpose. If you’re starting, get a basic set. Then you can add to it in the future.
- Wood – Different projects will mold better with certain types of wood. Good wood types for woodturning include walnut, cherry, pine, maple, elm, and sycamore.
- Sand Paper – Required for the final stages of your project. Once you’ve successfully shaped your wood, it’s time to sand it down to refine your work.
- Varnish & Finishes – Depending on their uses, different projects will require different varnishes and sealants. Items that may hold food will want a natural sealant like beeswax, whereas others may require an acrylic sealer.
- Pencil & Ruler – Use these to mark out your basic design before you begin. Remember: measure twice, cut once!
Hints & Tips
Invest in some good quality PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). You’ll want a pair of goggles and a visor, foot protection, and sometimes even a face respirator.
It’s also a good idea to wear old clothes whilst you’re woodturning. Wood shards will be flying everywhere, and you’ll most likely be covered in dust and debris by the time you’ve finished.
Make sure that you remove anything that could get caught in your lathe. Think about any jewelry you might be wearing or any loose clothing. If you have long hair, make sure you tie it back!
Practice Makes Perfect
Any new craft requires lots of practice. Be prepared to refine your skills with each new project.
When you start, don’t worry too much about your mistakes. Instead, make the most of them and turn them into unique characteristics of your work.
Also, don’t throw away any of your larger offcuts! You’ll be surprised what you can make out of even the smallest pieces of wood. A small chunk from one project could later become a cute pair of Earrings!
12 Woodturning Projects to Try at Home
Okay, so now it’s onto the fun part – deciding what you’re going to make. Here we’ve scoured the internet to look for some of the best projects that you can try at home!
These will make the most adorable present or look beautiful decorating your own home during the festive season.
Wooden Ornaments are another great project for using up any extra wood that you might have. You don’t need to buy new wood blanks. Instead, why not clear out some of your stash!
Before you start sketching out your proportions, think about what design you want to make. If you don’t want to hang your makes, why not create some free-standing ornaments instead.
When you’ve finished, varnish your creations and add a cord to display.
No matter how many pens I have, I still don’t seem to have enough. If you have the same issue, why not try turning your own pen?
This project uses up smaller wood blanks, meaning it can be cost-friendly and quick to make. Plus, don’t forget that with every pen you produce, you’ll improve your precision skills!
What you need:
- Pen Kit – If you don’t want to buy one of these, you could use the old parts from a pen you have at home
- Super Glue
If you need some great instructions on making a pen, this is a great video:
However, if you’re looking to make something a little different, why not make your pen out of acrylic rather than wood. Alternatively, if a pen isn’t to your taste, make a quill or crochet hook handle instead.
Another great beginner’s project!
A rolling pin is ideal for those just beginning their wood lathe adventure due to its size and shape. Give your rolling pin some character by decorating the handles. Your creation can be as simple or as decorative as you’d like. Just remember to have fun whilst creating your masterpiece.
As you’ll be using your rolling pin on food, you’ll want to make sure that you use non-toxic elements in your making process – including your choice of wood. A hardwood such as beech or maple would be ideal!
A very practical make and great for those who are just starting out!
If you’re looking to make a baseball bat, you’ll need a large piece of strong wood.
You could make your bat as simple as you like or add some character by creating notches at the base of the handle.
In regards to wood choice, you’ll want to use a hardwood again. Think ash, beech, or maple.
A Honey Dipper will make a great gift for those with a sweet tooth!
Not only will you have to carve your dipping end, but you can make your handle as decorative as you’d like. Don’t worry if your Dipper is a little bit wobbly. It just adds more character!
Just make sure you make and seal your project with products that are food-safe and non-toxic.
If you’re going to gift your make, why not add a jar of honey!
A super-simple make, which doesn’t require lots of wood! These tea-light holders will look fab in your home or could make a cute little gift for someone you know.
You could make little individual tea-lights (as pictured above), or you could make a holder for multiple candles.
Some good material options include maple, oak, or even pieces of reclaimed timber.
When prepping your wood, make sure you measure the circumference of your tea-light before you begin. Don’t forget to add some extra width for your candle – you don’t want it to be too tight. You should also consider how deep your candle will sit, as you don’t want it to be swallowed up by the holder!
Candlesticks are more of an ambitious project than a tea-light holder, but if you can achieve it, the results will be amazing!
Candlesticks will look amazing in a variety of woods.
Think about what size candle you want your candlestick to hold, as this may affect its overall size. You’ll have to consider your base’s weight to make sure your candlestick doesn’t topple over.
Don’t forget to be creative with your design! Produce texture and repetitive patterns on your candlestick by notching ridges up its length.
When you’ve finished, if you’re worried about the base of your candle scuffing your work surfaces, add some felt to the bottom!
If you’re like me, there’s a clock in every room of your household – and sometimes even more than just one! Clocks are a useful everyday item that you can definitely make on your Lathe.
What you need:
- Clock Mechanism
- Clock Face
- Strong Adhesive – to bond your clock face to the wood
You’ll need to carefully consider how big you want your clock to be, especially in relation to your clock face’s measurements. Will your creation be free-standing, or will you want to mount it on the wall when it’s finished?
Once you’re happy with the overall shape of your creation, fit your clock face and mechanism. Don’t forget that you will need to change the batteries, so the back of your clock must be easily accessible.
Okay, stay with me here. You may be thinking that a bowl is a very ordinary item to make on a lathe. But you’d be wrong! bowls are beautiful, and as they are not always the easiest thing to make, they are a great option for those who want to be challenged!
When thinking of what woods to use, you could look at sycamore or beech. That being said – the choice is totally up to you!
Think about what size or shape you want your bowl to be. Will you give it a straight edge or even create texture along its sides? Have a play with your bowl’s dimensions and get making something unique and quirky!
If you want to make something slightly different, why not think about what your bowl would be used for. There are plenty of different types of bowls to make – including a plant pot or yarn holder!
When I think of a box, the normal image that springs to mind is a standard square shape. But let’s think outside of the box for this one, if you’ll pardon my pun. Certainly, this will need a little more planning than some projects, but making a box is a great challenge.
Material wise look at boxwood or another fine-grained hardwood of your choice.
Your box can be small, large, or even circular. Will you add hinges and a lock, or will you create threads so the lid can twist off? When you’ve finished, give it a sand a lick of varnish and proudly display what you’ve made!
This is a great craft for using all of your spare offcuts.
Difficulty wise, it’s not the easiest to achieve. Jewelry making will require a lot more precision and finesse than some of our other projects, but you want a challenge, right?
What you need:
- For earrings: ball wire findings (or any earring base of your choice) and jump rings.
- For necklaces: cord or wire
- Jewelry pliers
- Glue (optional depending on earring base)
When you’ve got your supplies together, plan out your design. Will you be making a pair of earrings, a necklace, or a complete set? If you want to create something a little different, you could always try making a brooch or shawl pin.
Looking for a special gift for your loved one? Maybe you want to create something a little bit different to display in your own home? A vase is a great large-scale project to start on your lathe.
There are lots of different styles of woods you can choose for your project. Either plan out what shape you want in advance or just see where your carving takes you!
So, now you’ve seen some of our suggested projects, why not have a go?!
Whether you’ve owned your lathe for years, or just bought one, there are plenty of great crafts out there for you to try at home. From a cute little honey dipper to a grand vase, if you’ve got some spare wood and a free afternoon, you can create something beautiful.