If you have just bought your first wood lathe or are about to buy one, you will be keen to get started with all number of creative turning projects. However, when you are starting out, you need to learn the craft, and to do this, you need to begin with some simple projects and work up from there.
Even if your ultimate goal is to specialize in a certain type of object, like large wooden bowls for example, in the beginning, you should choose simpler projects to build your confidence and to help you learn the basic skills. To help you work through this in a methodical way, here are 9 wood lathe projects for beginners.
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When you’re first starting out, the kind of project you need is one that will allow you to hone your basic skills while also producing something that will give you a sense of achievement and make you want to continue onto more ambitious projects. That’s why bangles are an ideal choice for your earliest experiments.
Making a simple bangle will allow you to practice the basic movements and techniques of turning – and the result will be something you will be proud of. Perhaps the first couple of attempts might not go exactly as you planned, but that’s part of the learning curve.
Before long, you will be able to produce bangles that you can wax, buff up and give as gifts – gifts made by your own hand! Here’s a useful set of instructions that will show you how – as well as some photos of what you can expect to achieve if you stick at it!
2. Wooden rings
Making wooden rings is similar to making bangles. The techniques are basically the same, but by attempting something smaller, you will be able to practice while working on something smaller and more intricate.
One other factor that might make rings a little more challenging is that they work best with hardwoods – and for a beginner, this might be a bit more difficult to turn. However, the results you can achieve are particularly original and attractive – and wooden rings will go well with the wooden bangles you have already created.
If you’re interested in having a go, here’s a page we found that explains the process. As you can see from the photos, if you choose the right wood to work from, the results can be stunning.
3. Bottle Stoppers
Once you’re ready to move on to something a bit more advanced – but still easy enough for beginners to manage – you can try making bottle stoppers. Again, these are a great option for learning and perfecting the new skills you need to acquire but will also yield impressive results with just a little perseverance and practice.
When making bottle stoppers, there are a few other pieces you need other than just the wood, so you will need to buy a bottle stopper kit. However, just like the bangles and the rings, you will quickly be producing beautiful items that will make great gifts for your friends – and something you made yourself means a lot more than something you just bought in a store.
Here’s a very informative page that takes you through everything you need to know about making basic bottle stoppers. You will find details about what you need to buy, the correct techniques to use and a lot more besides.
4. Wooden spoons
Another ideal project for beginners – and one that will quickly allow you to start producing highly useful kitchen utensils – is to learn how to turn wooden spoons. If you have friends who have never tried woodturning, a beautiful homemade wooden spoon is sure to impress – and yet, with just a little practice, they are not especially difficult to make.
This well-written explanation about making wooden spoons on your lathe gives you all the information you need to try it for yourself. There are also plenty of photos to see how it should be done – as well as to give you lots of inspiration for similar experiments of your own.
To make wooden spoons, you might need to purchase some extra equipment beyond your basic lathe, wood lathe chuck, and wood lathe tool rest etc. but the site gives you all the information you need. You will also need to purchase the proper food-grade varnish if you want to use them.
For a project that will look deceptively complicated and that is sure to impress your guests, you could try to turn your own pots for displaying flowers. In fact, the hole inside is just drilled and only wide enough for the stems of a few small flowers. You can’t put water in there and keep them alive for long – but at least they will look pretty for a day or two, and for woodturning novices, this can be a very rewarding project to attempt.
The basic form of the pots is quite easy to create and will be a good exercise for a beginner wanting to practice working on smooth shapes. This kind of simple project also allows you to release your creativity since the variations you can produce are practically limitless.
Again, these pots will make wonderful gifts – or will look lovely with a few flowers poked inside and left to decorate your home.
One of the classic objects many people enjoy turning on mini wood lathes – and practically a whole sub-genre of woodworking in itseslf – is producing beautiful, homemade wooden pens. While for the beginner, they might seem initially out of reach, once you understand the basics of how to put lathe-turned pens together, the actual work isn’t that challenging.
For some people, once they start turning pens, they no longer want to turn anything else, choosing instead to specialize in this one area. However, even if you don’t plan to make pens exclusively, it’s worth having a go at least once or twice for the skills you can learn – as well as the often stunning results you can achieve.
If you want to try it as a beginner’s project, check out this clear and well-written guide, complete with images, that explains and demonstrates what you should be doing at each step. There’s also a list of the extras you will need – so novices won’t get overwhelmed.
At some point, most woodturners will want to try their hand at making bowls – and in fact, turning bowls may well be what you are most interested in. When you feel ready to try your first bowl, make sure you don’t attempt anything too large or ambitious. Simple bowls can be elegant and graceful, and trying to make one will help develop your skills greatly.
Here’s an informative site that doesn’t just teach you how to make a bowl but takes you through a rookie turner’s bowl-making journey, explaining the different experiments he tried and sharing his thoughts about what went right and what went wrong.
There are some very original pieces in there too – we particularly like the idea of a bowl with a commemorative coin in the center. At the very least, this site should give you plenty of ideas and inspiration for things you can attempt in the future.
Another project that comes under the category of objects that look more difficult than they are is goblets. They are perhaps not the best thing to take on when you are a raw green beginner, but as you progress and you are ready to take the step up to intermediate level, they are certainly something you can consider.
Here, we found a well-made YouTube tutorial for beginners all about how to turn a goblet. What we love about this video is watching the whole process from the block of wood right through to the final product. Even if you’re not interested in trying turning for yourself, you might change your mind after watching videos like this.
9. Advanced project – root vase
To finish, we wanted to include one highly advanced project to give you an idea of what you can look forward to creating once you’ve mastered the art of turning. In this video, a man takes the root from a dead tree and puts it on his lathe. The vase he creates from it is worth an incredible £70,000 ($88,000)!
While this is not the kind of project you can expect to tackle as a beginner – or perhaps even as an intermediate turner – if you keep practicing, one day, you too might be able to create beautiful and valuable works of art like the one in this video.
Take it slowly and build your skill
The key to learning the art of turning is to take things slowly and to build up your skills in a methodical way. Set yourself goals and master each item before moving onto the next. You will quickly see that your skills develop rapidly and that you quickly become proficient in the art of woodturning.
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