Starter Wood Lathe Projects
One does not just jump into woodturning and expect perfect results the first time around. If you do you’re just setting yourself up for failure. When you’re just starting out you need to go slow so that you can develop the skills and the confidence to become a good wood turner.
It’s a lot like learning how to drive for the first time. There are a bunch of simple and easy woodturning projects to choose from.
By choosing easy things to make on a lathe, you’ll start to develop the fundamentals associated with woodturning. Such as how best to position the tool rest, the angle at which to hold your spindle and or bowl gouges, how fast or slow you move the woodturning tools across the tool rest.
The speed at which you should set the wood lathe to get the results that you are looking for. The more you turn and hone your skills the more you’ll notice that your confidence level will increase making you want to challenge yourself into doing higher levels of woodturning.
I like pen turning for a beginner woodturning project because the turning part is so straight forward. There isn’t a whole lot of crazy things that you need to turn into the pen to make it look nice such no coves and beads. It’s just a straight piece of wood that turned down to specific diameter.
All this is done between centers which just requires a simple beginner set of spindle gouges or if you prefer carbide woodturning tools. The pen blanks are really inexpensive and they don’t take up very much space in your wood shop. The pen blanks are available in many types of wood.
If you have some scrap pieces of wood laying around you can make your pen blanks a save a little money that way. You will need to buy a pen hardware kit which comes with everything you need for a handcrafted pen.
These like the pen blanks are pretty inexpensive, most kits you can buy for under twenty dollars depending on where you go. You’ll need to have a decent drill press in your shop so that you can be precise when you drill a hole down the center of a pen blank.
If you don’t want to buy a drill press you can get pen blanks with the hole already drilled in them for those of you who just want to focus on the pen turning part of the job. To assemble all of the parts and make it easier you will also need a pen turning vise.
The vise will make sure that all of the pieces are being pressed into the pen straight. You can get these for less than a a hundred dollars and it’s well worth it to have it.
A pen mandrel is a necessity for pen turning. The mandrel allows you to take the two pieces of the wood blank and turn it down to the specifications in the instructions all at the same time.
This is all done through the use of bushings that come in the pen turning kit. The final step for pen turning is just sanding it down using sanding paper ranging from 150 grit to 600 grit. Now that the sanding has been complete you just need to apply the final finish to give it that nice gloss. To get this you have to apply a CA wood finish and use a micro mesh and polish to a nice gloss.
Turn A Bottle Stopper
Turning bottle stoppers is another good beginner woodturning idea. Like pen turning it’s also turned between centers so using spindle gouges is a requirement or use carbide turning tools. This simple woodturning project will allow you to get more creative but won’t get you into any trouble.
Turning bottle stoppers will allow you more freedom to work on your shaping skills. There’s not much required for materials when turning bottle stoppers either which is nice.
Pretty much all you need is square piece of wood that measures one and a half inches square by three inches long. That’s why it’s so important not to throw away your scrap pieces of wood.
You never know what cool turning projects can com out of them. You need a decent set of drill bits because you will need them to attach the stopper itself to the turned wood. To go along with your drill bits, you’ll need decent taps so you can thread the hole that you will drill.
I wouldn’t buy an entire set of drill taps because there will be only certain sizes that you’ll use. The final piece as far as hardware is the stopper itself which you can get on the internet or your local woodturning store. Then the last part is sanding and finishing the wood part of the stopper using 80 grit to 600 grit sand paper.
Just like pen turning you can use CA wood finish to get that nice shine. Once that has been applied and dried, you use a micro mesh to bring out that glossy look.
The best part about turning bottle stoppers is if you mess up on the wood part who cares. You won’t be out very much money especially if your using scrap pieces of wood. The only thing you’ll be out of is a little time and you’ll learn from the mistakes. Which in turn will make you better at woodturning.
Woodturn Christmas Ornaments
Wood turned Christmas ornaments are great ideas for beginner wood turners’. There are so many different ornaments that you can turn like wooden Christmas trees of different sizes and designs that can be hung from the Christmas tree.
What about wood icicles for the tree? Instead of using the traditional gold or silver tinsel, what about some that have been turned from wood? I mean you can get really creative in this area of woodturning. Neat round ornaments with a finial attached to the top is also a nice decorative touch.
Turning Christmas ornaments will allow you to develop the skills to turn coves and beads. I like coves and beads, they allow you to add some nice detail to your woodturning. Wood turned Christmas ornaments make really great gifts during the holiday season.
Most everybody loves something that’s hand made. Pretty much everything on this list is something somebody would probably enjoy as a present. It gives you an opportunity to leave something behind.
With a little bit of sanding and the right wood finish you have something beautiful that didn’t take a lot of time and skill.
Wood scraps really come in handy for ornaments or making tools for the workshop. The ornaments themselves don’t take much to make. Here’s an interesting twist that involves pen blanks, instead of turning a wood pen why not use these blanks for ice sickles? So always keep your cutoffs for future use so that something interesting can be created. That’s another thing that I learned from dad, never throw anything scraps away. It might come in handy one day.
Wood Turned Tea Light Candle Holders
Tea light candle holders is another simple wood turning project that a beginner can turn on a lathe. These are really easy easy to do. For this project all you need is some tea light candle and maybe a forstner bit to hollow out the end of the candle holder where the candle will be placed. If you don’t have a forstner bit you can use a spindle gouge. It’ll just take a little longer but it’s more than doable.
This project will let you practice on your end grain work using the forstner bit or a woodturning gouge. You can practice your bead and cove skills on this project as well. The important things about turning these tea light candle holders is the bottom has to be level and flat. The top has to be hollowed out the same depth and diameter as the candle. These also make great gifts for any occasion.
I should also mention that everything on here can be sold at craft fairs as well. I mean let’s face it, what else are gonna do with all these things that you turn? Might as well make a little money if you can and it’s better than just throwing it all away.
Woodturning Your First Bowl
At some point when yours turning skills have gotten better, you might want to try your hand at turning a wooden bowl. Just like everything that’s on this list pick a bowl that’s easy to learn and turn on. To make this project as simple and easy as possible, your first bowl should be made out of a soft wood such as pine. A good starting point for the bowl blank dimensions is six inches square and around three inches thick.
To help make the bowl blank more round in the beginning you can cut the corners off with a band saw before mounting the bowl blank on the wood lathe.
Your bowl gouges will cut through a softwood easier than a hardwood. This will help you get a handle on the learning curve of bowl turning. A skill that you’ll squire from turning a bowl is how to shape the inside and outside curves.
So what’s a simple bowl to start out with you ask? It doesn’t have to have any coves and or beads that are carved into it. You can turn a really nice bowl without any intricate detailing. Cove and bead work in a bowl doesn’t always come out the way you want. It makes sanding more difficult.
Sometimes you can’t get all of the roughness sanded out. Sticking to the old saying “less is more” will keep you out of trouble. What makes it beautiful are two things. The natural grain of the wood and a nice finish like stain or a lacquer. There’s many finishes to choose from. If you plan on using the bowl for the dinner table be advised you need to use a food grade finish.