Editor’s note: With the holidays upon us, I’m looking through the magazines and books we own for fun handmade gifts – things that you can build in not too much shop time, but that will help to create a lifetime of memories for the recipients. I’ll post (at least) two every week between now and the new year. This is Holiday Project Post number four – for the “Pint-sized Pickup,” click here; for a Craftsman-style Wall Shelf, click here; for “Heirloom Photo Album” click here.
Turn spindle and hollow-globe ornaments using a waste block mount.
by Judy Ditmer
from the December 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine
For woodturners, the nip of autumn in the air usually triggers thoughts of holiday projects. Here are two ornaments you may enjoy making. A simple spindle or “icicle” ornament provides the opportunity to practice technique and design while producing gifts in quantity, should that be your goal. The more complex hollow-globe ornament is slightly more challenging. It would be nice as a special gift or to keep and pass down in your own family.
Waste Block Mount
This glued-tenon waste block mount is a useful technique for many turning projects. It wastes little of the workpiece material and is quite strong. And, there are no chuck jaws protruding to bite knuckles or fingers, and no metal for the gouge to hit. I like to use hard maple, but any close-grained hardwood will do. Avoid open-grained woods such as oak, which can split apart along grain lines.
Prepare and mount the workpiece as described in “Waste Block Mount” above. Using a small spindle gouge, begin shaping the ornament. The possibilities here are endless. In general, I find shapes that vary greatly in diameter from one part of the spindle to another are pleasing to the eye. Many people make very angular shapes on spindle ornaments, but I like full, round shapes. Pay attention to transitions; the different parts must relate to one another in some way. And as always, curves must be smooth; make sure there are no bumps or dips in them so the ornament will look finished and harmonious.
When you have a pleasing shape roughed out, begin to refine the surface. Once you have the shape you like cleanly turned, turn the left end close to the axis but don’t part off yet; leave about 1⁄4” diameter. Turn the right end very close to the axis, again not quite parting it off. This leaves enough support to sand and finish without breaking the piece off.
You should, however, still sand and finish gently, minimizing the lateral pressure on the piece. Then part off the right end, sand and finish the tip. Part the workpiece off at the headstock. Then sand and polish the top, install a tiny eye screw and ribbon, and the ornament is complete.
This ornament is turned in three parts (four, if you turn the globe in two pieces as I have here, instead of one), which are then glued together to complete the piece. Many people turn this type of ornament by hollow-turning the globe in one piece. For this article, I am hollowing the globe by dividing it into two pieces and excavating each one separately. I’ve chosen this technique because, in spite of requiring two mountings, it’s somewhat easier, especially for relative beginners – and because when I started out to make these, I couldn’t find the bent-tip hollowing tool I thought I had somewhere.
Start by making the globe. Use a piece of wood about 3″ to 4″ square by 4″ to 5″ long. Turn it between centers to the shape of a cylinder, then cut a tapered tenon on each end. Part almost into the center in the middle of the piece, remove it from the lathe and cut it apart on the band saw. Mount the first half in a waste block as described in “Waste Block Mount” above. Shorter pieces are especially prone to being twisted from your hand during my “burn fit” procedure, so you may wish to hold the piece in Channellock pliers or fit it without the lathe turned on.
Cut a straight shoulder on the end of the piece and rough in the outside shape. Using the tailstock to mount a drill bit, drill a 1⁄2“-diameter hole through the piece into the waste block. With a fingernail-grind spindle gouge, remove most of the wood inside the piece to reduce the weight. Continuing the rough shape you’ve established, part the piece off.
Mount the other half of the globe stock and drill it as you did the first. Mark the diameter of the shoulder from the other piece on the end and cut a straight recess to fit the two pieces together. It doesn’t need to fit as well as a box lid, because it will be glued together, but it should fit closely enough that the pieces can’t move side-to-side. Hollow out this piece as you did the first, then glue the two halves together. If the grain is pronounced, make sure the lines match up.
Finish turning the outside of the globe. Be careful to leave enough material at the headstock end to hold the piece on the lathe. Remember, there is a 1⁄2” hole at the center. But try to get close enough that the unfinished part at the top will later be covered by the flange on the spindle. You may wish to turn a detail of some kind at the middle of the globe, where the halves join; it’s hard to completely hide such a joint, so making a decorative cut of some kind is a good choice to help disguise it. Sand and finish; then part off.
Now make the spindles. Again, mount the prepped workpiece (cylinder with a tenon at one end) as described in “Waste Block Mount.” Turn the spindle as previously described for the simple ornament, making a 1⁄2” tenon and a slightly undercut flange at the end that will attach to the globe. The flange should be as wide as possible to cover the area on the globe where you parted it off; this saves having to sand and finish that small part.
When you have finished the first piece, part it off, mount the other piece and repeat the entire process. The top spindle is usually made considerably shorter than the bottom, but you could play around with this. Just make sure you undercut the flange so the curve of the globe will fit into it and not leave a gap where the two pieces meet, and have a clean, 1⁄2” tenon for alignment in assembling the parts.
Glue the pieces together, install a small eye screw in the top and attach a ribbon. Your ornament is finished.
Now that you know the process, you should make a few more of them to refine your understanding and designs. You may want to keep the best one for yourself! PWM