Woodturning Christmas Ornament: Enhancing Poplar and Maple

Uploaded by AsWoodTurns on 07.12.2012

Hi, Alan Stratton for As Wood Turns. For my next entry to the Christmas Ornament
Woodturning Challenge, I think I'll use this piece of poplar, a fairly non-descript
wood, fairly plain. Generally termed as paint grade. And this piece of maple, also fairly
plain. To do this, I'll dress it up a little bit
with some alcohol based dye, red and green. To apply the dye, I'll use something that
I've found recently, a mouth atomizer. And then I'll, of course, have to size the
tenons with and end wrench. And for the body, I'll use spray lacquer,
and for the finials, friction polish. There is still time for you to enter the Christmas
Ornament Woodturning Challenge. Make a video of you making an ornament, upload it, and
let me know. I'll add it to the official playlist.
If you're a viewer, enjoy anyway. Let's have some fun.
I started by drilling two 1 1/8" holes clear thru the ornament body. These holes intersect
to form an inner chamber. The trick in roughing this wood now is to not catch the gouge in
one of the holes. Out on the larger diameter, I'm mostly cutting air and the holes rotate
by the bowl gouge. Light cuts are required to avoid splintering the wood at the edges
of the holes. I did a lot of very light sheer scraping.
After turning most of the body, I took it over to the drill press and sanded the insides
of the holes with a small drum. I also hand sanded the insides of the holes. Here's
where PSA sandpaper has a fringe benefit of sticking to my finger while sanding.
I drilled a 3/8" hole thru the top of the ornament and continued thru the bottom and
into the waste side of the turning block. I figured I could later mount the body on
a 3/8" dowel to finish up. After sanding and a few more refinements,
I parted off the ornament body. Then glued in a dowel to the waste block and remounted
the body for final sanding and finishing. To me, this poplar did not have much going
for it in terms of grain or color. I decided to color it with red alcohol based dye. I
don't have an air brush. I've used them in the past and did not want the hassle of
the equipment and the cleanup. I've seen a couple of woodturners use a mouth atomizer.
I bought a couple and decided to give it a try. With just a little practice, I could
blow on one tube of the atomizer. It uses my stream of air to siphon up the dye and
spray it on the wood. Pretty neat. Except, be sure to protect any surface nearby that
you don't want to become red. It's a bit of a pain to cover all the different surfaces
and angles of this ornament. For the tree, I used the end of a maple pen
blank. This is mostly skew work. I now enjoy using a skew on smaller diameter pieces. With
this itty bitty tree, the problem is the chatter from being so far from the chuck. With the
high RPM running on the lathe, I'm hesitant to back up the tree very much with my fingers.
They get hot very quickly. And, for safety, I don't want to wear a glove. But for the
final cuts, I have no choice but to stabilize the wood with a couple of fingers from my
left hand while holding the skew with the remaining fingers and my right hand. Fortunately,
I don't need a lot of leverage and can hold the skew up near the cutting edge.
Here, I also used a parting tool. The clearances where just too small. I'm aiming for a 1/8"
trunk on this little tree that had to fit in the 1 1/8" hole in the ornament body.
The branches are just little v grooves cut with a skew. By this time, I have so little
wood supporting the tree that these had to be very lightly cut.
This little tree did not take much work to finish. I took the wood from the lathe, dipped
the tree in the bottle of green dye, then wiped off the excess. When it was dry I sprayed
it with a little spray lacquer. I think it's important to size the mounting
tenon early on when making the finial. Otherwise, you risk cutting the tenon too small. Then,
the best choice is to start over. I had my finial almost finished and cut the
tenon too small. Oh well. Cut it off and move on.
Since I need a hole for the hanger, after shaping the tip, I cut a small indent to use
later to guide the drill bit. After sizing the mounting tenon, I undercut
the base just a little to offset the curve of the body when I glue them together.
Near the end of this finial, I drilled the mounting hole. I was thinking that I wanted
to keep all the wood that I could, as long as I could to prevent a break.
Then the final sanding and finishing with friction polish.
With practice, I've become more comfortable turning my finials. I would not dare compete
directly with Cindy Drozda yet. But I'm happy with my progress.
I used an end wrench to size my tenons. It's a great idea that I got from Eddie Castelin.
But I've also realized that the tolerances on end wrenches are not the same as woodturning
tolerances. A perfect size according to my end wrench was on the larger side of what
I had targeted. So the end wrench just indicates where to be extra careful.
I don't turn a finial with a drawn out plan. I start with an idea of the overall length
and a couple of elements that have worked for me in the past. Beyond that, I turn by
eye to find something that I find pleasing. One general rule is to continue to taper the
element largest diameters as the finial tapers to its end. I don't want a big bead following
a small bead. A small one following a big bead would be ok as long as it is larger than
the next elements diameter. One issue with the bottom finial is that the
Christmas tree must mount into the top of the finial's tenon. I had to measure the
thickness of the bottom of the ornament body and estimate how much to have the tenon protrude.
Also, I tooled the end of the tenon just a little bit in case it would show in the body
below the tree. With the body, top finial, bottom finial,
and Christmas tree, it's time to make a wire hanger and glue it all together.
My evaluation of this project. This ornament turned out very nice. Now, I'm thinking
of other possible variations on this theme. Please join with Carl Jacobson and myself
for the Christmas Ornament Woodturning Challenge. To participate, video your woodturning, upload
it, and let me know to add it to the official playlist.
If you have a woodturning project you'd like me to try, please let me know.
Meanwhile, please "Like" this video and comment below. Please add your tips and ideas
for small scale projects.