We decided to change up our Christmas decor this year and go with an all natural aesthetic. Dried orange and cranberry garland, a basket instead of the tree stand, and wooden ornaments.
I’ve been learning how to do lathe work this year, so after Thanksgiving I started turning ornaments. I’m still pretty new to turning and had to throw about as many as I saved into the burn pile. Frustrating, but that is the way it goes when learning a new skill.
I first roughed them out and shaped them with a spindle gouge, then sanded them down with 80, 150, and 220 grit successively. On some of them I paused here and cut decorative grooves with a skew, then finished sanding with 400 and 800 grit. Then I cut them off the lathe, sanded the top, drilled a hole for the hook, and screwed in the hook.
I coated the ornaments with a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil that I heated up and buffed on with a rag.
- Green wood, especially branches of a similar diameter as the finished ornament (and thus have the heartwood in the middle) will crack every time when they dry. This is why the spalted oak doesn’t have decorative grooves.
- Turning without a center at both ends (like with a chuck that grips the wood from the outside) is a lot more delicate than turning with two centers. The wood can flex and cause a catch!
- Using skews is tricky. I still catch more often than I’d like.
- If you can turn the entire piece without removing it from the chuck, you should. It is very difficult to get it positioned exactly as it was, so you’ll have to reshape the piece after you put it back in the chuck.
- Your chisels need to be super sharp when dealing with soft wood like cedar or pine, or else it will tear out. I have no finished pine ornaments and only one finished cedar ornament, but I tried five others.
In progress shots with a piece of oak:
Here are two in-progess shots of the spalted oak ones that eventually split. I turned them both out of a single piece:
Finished ornaments. The small spoon is a hand-carved bonus!
The whole set:
Here is how they look on the tree: