Turn a Roman Canteen

Tim offers a project that gives you a chance to practice rounding and hollowing in two dimensions.

The project? A flask shaped like a Roman canteen that features a goncalo alves body with ebony accents on the sides and a cocobolo stopper.

Making the project involves simple techniques but you do have to work each piece of wood in several dimensions, so it’s a fun challenge to build.

Tim starts by mounting the goncalo alves on a screw chuck so he can shape one side and cut a dovetailed recess for later re-mounting.

Then, he mounts the blank between centers to round it top to bottom. As you’ll see, you have to be very careful with these cuts because your tool is only contacting wood about a quarter of the time. To absorb the bounce during these cuts, Tim uses with a heavy-duty, 3/4-inch bowl gouge.

When he’s satisfied with the shape of the canteen, Tim turns a dovetailed tenon on the foot for later re-mounting, then shapes the foot and the spout. He uses a spindle gouge and detail tool to cut the coves and beads on the foot, then uses the sweptback spindle gouge to shape the neck for the spout.

Before moving on to the next stage, Tim next uses a power sander with a soft pad to smooth the sides of canteen. Then, he mounts the blank on the dovetailed tenon he cut below the foot and uses a Forstner bit in the tail stock to drill a hole for the spout.

After flaring the flares the sides of the hole with a 1/4-inch sweptback bowl gouge, he mounts the blank on the dovetailed recess he earlier cut in the side and then drills a 1 1/2-inch wide hole in the opposite side to create an opening through which he can hollow the interior. Since he only has to hollow an inch or two, he uses a swan neck tool with carbide cutter to work the interior.

Next, Tim reverses the blank and shapes the other side to match. Then, it’s on to the ebony blank for the end decorations. He cuts dovetails on each end of the ebony, uses a thin parting tool to split the blank then mounts each piece in his chuck to shape it and cut decorative grooves.

Finally, with the other parts complete, he turns the cocobolo stopper to shape and assembles the parts.

Finishing the project is easy but does take two steps. Tim uses a hand-rubbed polyurethane on the outside of the canteen itself. But because cocobolo is too oily to take most finishes, he uses hard wax on the stopper.

As you can see, there’s a lot of back and forth to shape the parts for this canteen, but it’s still a project you can finish in a quick day in the shop. And when you’re done, you’ll have a beautiful flask to store your favorite drinks.

Kevin Ireland

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