Turning Candlesticks on the Lathe


Back in September I made a serious effort to learn how to turn wood on the lathe. I turned a few tenons on the stool legs earlier this year, but that is it. I was on the hunt for a good beginner project and Amanda asked for some candlesticks, so I got to work.

As far as beginner/learning projects go, simple candlesticks are a great option. They take more planning than just making something round, but can be as simple or as fancy as you’d like. I didn’t get very fancy. I kept these to simple curves and let the wood grain shine.

I made three sets:

  • 5 pine
  • 2 cherry, one with a live edge
  • 3 oak, all with a live edge

The Pine

I made the five pine candlesticks from a Douglas fir 4×4 post left over from making our garden boxes this spring. They were inspired by a set that Amanda saw at West Elm.

I turned two individually, then planned ahead and turned three at once:

I finished them with mineral oil and beeswax. We used them at Thanksgiving and now have them on our mantle:

The Cherry

I turned the cherry candlesticks from some beautiful black cherry wood that my friends Erin and Tyler brought to me from a tree that they had cut down on their property. I sent these candlesticks as a thank you.

Since I turned these from a small log that the bark was still on, the grain pattern is completely different than the pine. It also had some cool bug damage inside that I kept. I chose to give one of them a live edge by leaving the bark on. I also finished these with mineral oil and beeswax.

They look great on Erin and Tyler’s mantle.

The Oak

The oak candlesticks came from a limb off of a huge oak that fell in the woods at the end of our street. The trunk of the tree was pretty rotten, but the limbs I cut had some beautiful spalting. I loved the live edge I put on one of the cherry candlesticks, so I decided to make all three of these live edge.

I made a leveling jig to level the tops of these.


What I learned about turning through this project:

  • Sharp chisels make a world of difference. I bought a jig to make sharpening on the Shopsmith faster and easier.
  • Turning green wood (the oak) is very fast in the initial stages, but then it needs to dry for a few days before final shaping and sanding.
  • How to center irregularly shaped pieces of wood.
  • How to turn multiple items at once with a little planning.
  • Never turn something without planning it out first. “Figuring it out as you go” doesn’t work very well on a lathe.
  • Sanding something to 220 grit vs 800 grit makes a big difference. 800 almost makes the piece shine.
  • Sanding is easier with long strips of sandpaper that you loop under the work piece vs pushing a piece of sandpaper against the piece with your hand.
  • I used a step drill to make the holes in the top for the candles because it ends up tapered to better hold the candles.

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