5 Clever Wood Turning Projects (For Lathe Beginners)

Woodturning is a skilled craft with a history dating back centuries. The value and popularity of the talent remain a classic choice due to the fact that we often favor handmade pieces over those that are mass-produced.

In the times we currently live in, there is a greater reflection as to where products come from, what they’re made of, and if they contribute to a clean lifestyle, with most people having the urge to engage their creative side while connecting in nature. Working with magnificent pieces of wood couldn’t be any more natural.

For the craft, there are only minimal tools needed for the process, but it does require that you have patience as it will take practice and time to learn the skill. You will need a variety of gouges and chisels, a scraper, a parting tool, and a sander.

Chisels are a favored tool among wood carvers. Click here to learn all about these handy utensils: How To Care For A Chisel | 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions

The most critical piece of equipment for woodturning projects is going to be the lathe, which is responsible for rotating pieces of wood. As it spins, the turner uses their tools to carve, shape, chisel, cut, manipulate, and sand the piece into the desired creation.

It’s a time-intensive practice that takes focus, but it’s one for those who need a creative outlet that provides a therapeutic response to relieve stress and enhance mental clarity.

Clever Wood Turning Projects 2

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What Can You Make With A Wood Turning Lathe?

For those seasoned in the skill of woodturning, the claim is that working on a lathe has the potential for becoming addictive.

When you first start, the machine can appear intimidating, but the suggestion is that it’s genuinely quite fun, and with the ability to make a broad array of projects with the help of the turner, gifts soon become the goal.

The more you work with the lathe, the better you get, and the more creative you become with your project ideas.

Most commonly, people make items such as:

• Platters
• Bowls
• Pen casings
• Cabinetry
• Parts for furniture

The item that you make is dependent on the size of the lathe. These can range from small up to heavy-duty, large models.

No woodworker likes to waste wood, so even the odd pieces or mis-cuts are used to create some clever piece like perhaps:

• Small clock
• Ring tree
• Toothpick holder
• Coaster set

You are only limited by the depth of your imagination.

What Is The Easiest Wood To Turn?

Turners take the stock they use seriously considering the amount of time and effort spent with the wood.

Everyone has their preference as far as which works the best and what they believe to be the easiest. It’s somewhat subjective.

But the consensus is when you’re learning, you should try to use any wood that has fallen from a local tree. If you can’t get your hands on such lumber, then you won’t go too far wrong by opting for Pine wood.

You can learn more about Pine wood (and get some handy woodcarving tips) by clicking here: Is Pine Good For Carving? (9 Facts You Need To Know!)

After you reach a point where you’re turning it clean, you can work with virtually any hardwood, such as Mulberry wood.

You may not want to get the most expensive wood, but cherry, maple or sycamore, are known to turn exceptionally well, (particularly cherry, which’ll give wood crafts an incredible finish). But I personally believe that oak is probably the least nice to work with. It’s a very tough wood to carve into whilst turning.

In fact, cherry wood is perfect for chip carving, chainsaw carving, and wood turning projects.

Quick Side Note: If you want to do some woodcarving with this lumber, handheld carving tools are going to have a hard time biting into the grain. Especially if that cherry wood has very little moisture in it.

The higher the standard for the types of woods, they will produce a quality product enticing you to continue with your woodturning craft. If you stay with the lesser standard woods far too long, these may discourage your passion.

Related Post: Is Oak Wood Honestly Any Good For Turning?

Is Wood Turning Difficult?

Over the years, with modern technology and vast improvements to the lathe, virtually everyone has the capacity to break into the woodturning craft. The level of difficulty in learning the skills will depend on the person.

Overall as a process, the basics are easy to catch on to, with some needing perhaps a tutorial to do simple projects like a bat.

The internet makes it very easy to find step-by-step instructions along with a variety of resources to self-educate.

However, for someone more interested in a hands-on approach, there should be classes available with registrations online. Plus, most hardware stores have a variety of wood lathes and the various tools for practicing at home to begin to get into the more intricate work after you have achieved the basics.

As far as becoming an expert, no one ever fully learns a skill to the point that there is nothing left to learn. At that point, it becomes boring.

The claim is you will learn something new every day, even if you are a seasoned pro. This keeps it exciting, fresh, and allows for surprises with each turn.

Can You Turn Wood Without A Lathe?

The claim is that though there are ways to manufacture a set up capable of creating round things without a lathe, the processes would be very involved, much more time-consuming, and extremely difficult.

The idea of merely using the tools that you would use while the lathe is turning the wood was among the suggestions in merely creating what you want by hand through chiseling, gouging, shaping, and sanding with abrasive paper. It would be extremely labor-intensive and take an extended duration.

Some recommendations also include using a router. A table saw using a jig in conjunction with the saw tapers the wood while the router with a ½” ’roundover’ bit works the four corners of the leg. It then gets cleaned up with sanding and the bottom shaped.

If you’re looking for a smooth, rounded edge on say tables or drawers, these router bits are your best choice bit.

In fact, these bits will work just as well on epoxy resin coated wood. If that piques your interest and you’d like to learn more, check out our post: Can You Use A Router To Even Out Epoxy Resin Edges?

The router seems to be the most popular of the techniques, but there are various different takes on the method. Everyone is creative and finds a way to make a situation work even if the tools are just not there to do it. It’s just a matter of improvising.

Discover more about woodworking routers by checking out my article here: Woodworking 101: What Does A Router Do Really?

5 Wood Turning Project Ideas For Beginners

The suggestion for beginners is to use wood that you may find on your property fallen from trees. Alternatively, you can practice with pine until you get the basics enough to work on some simple projects.

So here are a few super simple beginner lathe projects you can start out with:

Easy Beginner’s Bowl

In this video, the host goes step-by-step to create the very first bowl, which is a typical woodturning project.

There are no intricate components for the piece. It’s fundamental and straightforward as a means to show the operation of the lathe and how to maneuver the tools in order to get the definition and the shape right.

They’re not as focused on the quality of the wood in the beginning stages. That comes once you have a better handle on your basics, and you’re ready to progress forward into more refined pieces.

Simple Tree Craft

With the tree, more of an ornate appearance means more work for the turner. There are layers in the concept allowing for the flow of the tree’s shape.

Creating this requires a little more control over the hand tools and more focus to taper in just the right way. At this level, maybe after a practice tree or two, these are the kind of objects that, after they go through the finishing stages, make great gifts.

Awesome Tea Lights

These are a simplistic base with a stem cut for the candle to sit on. You are still getting somewhat more advanced with the turning.

With these, you may want to use a better variety of wood, like hickory or honey locust as they did in the video, so that you can use these in your home.

A helpful hint when you have such a pretty piece of wood with the inlay where the candle sits, you may want to line that with foil, so the wax from the candle doesn’t harm the wood.

Handy Bottle Stopper

A bottle stopper like this is a really handsome piece, especially for a holiday such as Father’s Day. It turned out so pretty and well done.

It is a bit of an intricate piece that will take time and focus, but that’s the point of doing this kind of work.

Small Cherry Bowl

The bowl is among the most coveted pieces in the turning community as a staple for the projects that most create. It is a gorgeous piece of art.

Final Thoughts

The art of woodturning is a process that takes incredible skill, focus, and overall patience.

You may not finish in one sitting, nor may you want to. It might be something you want to go back to over some time and practice with as you go. It may frustrate you in the beginning.

But at that stage, walk away and come back. The idea is to enjoy it and allow it to be that calming influence in your life that we are all so desperately in need of.

You’ll get the hang of it quicker than you’ll expect!