For a beginner, it takes time to figure out how to do complicated wood working projects using wood lathe. Meanwhile, you can try doing easier projects to keep you engaged in woodturning. This will also help you to get familiar with all functions and features of the lathe machine and ways to operate them perfectly.
For initial few projects, it would be best if you try turning some of the simple projects. It will help you to turn more complicated ones later without much struggle.
To start with, you can consider making the following 21 woodworking & woodturning projects that are easy and fun to work on. These projects will surely enhance your woodworking skills to make more complicated projects using the lathe machine in a very short time.
Table of Contents
- What Is Woodturning?
- What Kind of Projects You Should Try Using a Wood Lathe as a Beginner
- 34 Woodturning Projects Using a Wood Lathe
- 1. Bowls
- 2. Bangles
- 3. Wooden Rings
- 4. Ring Minder
- 5. Jewelry Display Stand
- 6. Chopsticks
- 7. Bottle Stoppers
- 8. Wooden Spoons
- 9. Handles of Kitchen Tools
- 10. Flowerpots
- 11. Pens
- 12. Goblets
- 13. Chair and Table Legs
- 14. Tool Handles
- 15. Baseball Bats
- 16. Pool Cue
- 17. Wooden Trinket Box with a Lid
- 18. Wooden Gavel
- 19. Toothpick Holder
- 20. Mushroom Shaped Toothpick Holder
- 21. Bear Claw Salad Servers
- 22. Rolling Pin
- 23. Mortar & Pestle
- 24. Tea Light Candle Holders
- 25. Mini Candle Stool
- 26. Wooden Box
- 27. Square Serving Trays
- 28. Square Box with a Lid
- 29. Lazy Susan
- 30. Clock
- 31. Apple and Pear
- 32. Spheres
- 33. Root Vase
- 34. Chess Pieces
- What Can You Make with a Wood Turning Lathe?
- What Is the Easiest Wood to Turn?
- Is Woodturning Difficult?
What Is Woodturning?
We all heard about woodworking. But, woodturning might seem unfamiliar to most beginners.
Basically, what a wood lathe machine does, comes under woodworking. Woodturning refers to the projects that you make using the machine itself. The process turns a stock piece into a well-shaped stock for further operation.
You can use several tools, chisels, groove pieces, etc., to cut onto the workpiece to give it your desired shape or design.
What Kind of Projects You Should Try Using a Wood Lathe as a Beginner
To begin as a hobbyist or a wanna-be professional, making bowls, pens, tool handles, and similar small and less time-consuming projects would be worthwhile.
If you are a sportsman, and you like baseball and stuff, you can make yourself a baseball bat as well as a pool cue to make you more satisfied with your purchase. You may not be able to turn a stock wood perfectly into a baseball bat trying for the first time; eventually, the turning would be perfect after a few tries.
After spending a few days or weeks making small and simple projects, consider turning complicated or precise projects such as spheres and chess pieces to see how far your skills have improved.
Shortly after, engage in turning more practical objects such as making a replacement for broken furniture leg. If you are into gardening and stuff, make a couple of vases and flower pots to show off your woodturning skills.
Eventually, you will be able to make a body of a clock, commercial-grade storing boxes, wooden spoons, and whatnot.
34 Woodturning Projects Using a Wood Lathe
These are the most basic projects you can start your woodturning profession with. Try multiple times to turn perfect-looking projects. Don't rush any steps until you master using the wood lathe machine.
Making a bowl can be the perfect item you can make with no skills whatsoever. You can practice all the knowledge you have gathered in the last couple of months regarding woodturning using a lathe. Also, the bowl itself can be used for many purposes, be it for keeping fruits, using them for breakfast, or showcasing it.
Even most woodturners start using a lathe machine to make bowls. Whether you pre-planned it or want to turn it because it's simple, be sure not to make anything overwhelmingly large or ambitious. Keep it simple. Small to medium-sized simple bowls look elegant and graceful at the same time.
As an initial project, you shouldn’t make the bowl too deep. You might hit the backplate screws turning a too deep bowl.
I liked the idea of a woodturner who covered the base of the bowl with red felt. It gives the item a more pleasant appearance. You can try it if you want.
Be sure not to crack the felt base by cutting a groove around the bowl base.
If you have succeeded in turning a perfect bowl, you can attempt making a salad bowl as well.
Making a couple of bangles will also provide you a sense of achievement and motivate you to make more day-to-day used items. That's why I have listed bangles in the 2nd position.
Making bangles requires doing some basic woodturning movements and techniques on a wood lathe. Don't give up if the first few attempts don't go as expected. You will have to get used to this learning curve to improve your skills.
Once you make perfect bangles, be sure to wax and buff them up. You can use it or gift someone who will really appreciate your woodturning stuff.
3. Wooden Rings
When you can make great-looking bangles, why not try the same movements and techniques to make something similar to bangles. Wooden rings would be the next ideal project to hone your achievements further.
All the processes are the same. But, this time, you will have to make something smaller. It will get you the skills you will need to make more intricate and delicate items.
Rings go best with hardwoods. Although working on hardwoods might seem difficult, if you initially try with soft woods and then attempt hardwoods, you will get there without much struggle.
Hardwood rings look more attractive and real. This can be a perfect gift along with your previously made bangles.
4. Ring Minder
If you plan to turn a ring for your wife, you can also consider making a ring minder. This item is extremely useful. Ladies use it to hold their rings while taking a shower or doing something that involves contacting water.
The project requires a small amount of wood. If you previously turned something out of large stock, you can turn a ring minder using the leftover wood.
From the appearance perspective, a walnut base suits ring minders the most. For the stand, you can use pretty much any type of wood. But, make sure both the stand and the base got a nice-looking contrast.
5. Jewelry Display Stand
If you have a lot of jewelry, or your wife has, you can make a beautiful display stand. This project requires you to turn 3 pieces and buy some kits and accessories for hanging purposes.
First, turn the stem. This can be even from top to bottom, or you can create a nice-looking pattern or anything you want on it.
There will be two bases for the project, with a hole on both of these on one side. When you are done turning, insert the stem into the holes of two bases.
To make it durable and stable, be sure to use brass end pieces. You can buy some from a local hardware store. You can add a screw on the top of the shaft that goes with the brass finial. This will allow the top part to revolve at low friction.
Buy some brass hooks for hanging your jewelry.
If you are turning this in for your wife, don't just give it to her now. Wait for the next time when she gets really mad at you, and then give her this surprise. Her anger will melt like ice cream.
Have some leftover woods, which aren't enough in size to turn even a small project? What about making chopsticks out of those? You can make chopsticks even with a small wood without any struggle whatsoever.
It's not the kind of project that would add anything important to your skills. Still, you will get introduced to a simple spindle function of your woodturning machine. The project is to make sure nothing is wasted when you have a wood lathe in the house.
Previously made a wooden bowl? Serve noodles on it, and use chopsticks to enjoy your snack time.
7. Bottle Stoppers
It's time to move on to projects that require a bit more skills. Making bottle stoppers is more complicated than making bowls and bangles. But, it's still easy enough for you to try during the initial woodturning stage.
Other than the wood, you will need to get a bottle stopper kit. The upper part of the bottle stopper will be a regular small-sized object. But the lower part of it will be short in width but long in length. If you already have any bottle stopper in the house, try to mimic its dimension and size.
The best things about making bottle stoppers are, you can make these items from small wood pieces, yet you will get more skills in woodturning. This project will be your training session before turning projects that require spindle turning techniques.
8. Wooden Spoons
What about making some kitchen utensils? Spoons can be turned easily. Besides, wooden spoons are one of the utensils that people greatly admire. You can serve guests using these wooden spoons and get a warm appraisal from them.
This project would require a wood lathe chuck. If your model doesn't come with one, you can get it from any local hardware store.
Once you figure out how to turn a spoon, you can make spoons of different sizes. It won't take much time to make several spoons. Also, spoons don't need a large stock piece.
9. Handles of Kitchen Tools
After spoons, what about making a few handles for your kitchen utensils? You can use any kind of wood; it doesn't have to be large in size for the project.
Making straight handles will be easier. But if you don't mind making some errors, you are good to try turning curved handles. Eventually, you will be able to make perfect curve-shaped handles for your spatulas after a few tries.
If there are colorful flowers in your garden, you can display those flowers inside your house using a flowerpot. As now you have a wood lathe, you can make your own flowerpot to impress guests.
After turning the flowerpot, you will need to drill a hole wide enough to put several stems of flowers. Although you cannot put water inside it, the flowers will be in good condition for a couple of days.
Make one or two flowerpots, and keep them somewhere in the living room. You will thank me later for this.
Shaping a pot is quite an easy task. You will learn how to work on smooth shapes. Once you are done with this, you can try practicing other variations.
This is one of those projects that look complicated but isn't that difficult to do in reality. If you own a mini lathe, you are good to put things together to make wooden pens of your choice.
Turning pens is so creative that some people no longer feel interested in turning other projects. And they want to be specialized in this field alone.
Whether you had plans for this or something you don't feel much interest in, give it a few tries. You will notice that turning a bit complicated projects are no longer an issue for you.
Similar to pens, goblet-turning projects seem quite overwhelming to novices. But actually, making these isn't that difficult. When you have done several beginner-friendly projects and try to turn projects that require intermediate skills, goblets will help you get the most needed skills.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube about how to turn goblets using a wood lathe. Even if you don't feel like working on this project, you will surely feel tempted to make one for yourself after watching one of the tutorial videos.
13. Chair and Table Legs
Durable furniture doesn't come cheap. If you have any old furniture with broken legs, instead of replacing the furniture, you can make the replacement and save money.
Turning legs for chairs and tables are quite easy to turn. With some additional hinges and screws, you can place the newly turned legs in the proper place.
Just you have to consider the real wood used in the furniture and get stock of the same wood to make sure the legs can handle the total weight of the furniture without any issue.
Apart from that, you can even modify the existing legs of chairs and tables to give these a bit of a new design and look to make them attractive in the eyes of your guests.
14. Tool Handles
How many tools have you replaced just because the handle broke or the blade slips out of the handle? I'm dead sure, more or less, pretty much all individuals have something in their house that needs a handle replacement.
You can make handles that feel comfortable on your hand instead of spending for replacements. If the length or width of the handle doesn't suit your hand well, you can make your custom size handle.
These items are pretty easy to turn as well. After finishing off, you will need a drilling machine to make a perfectly sized hole to attach to the tool.
15. Baseball Bats
If you play baseball often, you know how expensive baseball bats are. As you have a wood lathe machine in the house, you no longer need to buy an expensive baseball bat. You can turn one for yourself using high-quality wood.
Due to the simple shape of these bats, turning one is quite a simple and straightforward task. All you need is to get a piece of quality wood stock, make a small handle and a body of correct size. That's all. It won't take much time for you to turn.
Even if you don't play baseball that often and have a kid who loves playing the sport, make one. Engage the kid in this outdoor sport to reduce overall screen time. The playmates will be impressed seeing a whole new handmade baseball bat.
Be prepared for taking requested orders from buddies in the field.
16. Pool Cue
I'm sure you never think of making a pool cue unless you are a pool player or an avid snooker player. Finding the perfect pool cue is a tiring thing. Why spend money buying a cue when you can craft even a better one? You know your exact needs, and you can turn the right cue yourself.
If you play pool regularly, you might get orders from the playmates to craft one for them. You can gift them or sell the cues.
17. Wooden Trinket Box with a Lid
What about trying to turn some wooden boxes? These handmade wooden boxes are extremely elegant to use. If you gift a box to someone, he/she will be pleased with the present.
You can turn box square and round-shaped boxes. But, initially, crafting a round-shaped box sounds easier.
Determine the size of the box you will need. Make the first one according to your need. If you already have a similar box made of something other than wood, you can mimic its size and dimensions and turn it on the lathe.
For the lid, you will have to be careful when it comes to crafting the collar. It should perfectly fit the lid. Make it deeper during your first attempt to reduce the chance of the second attempt.
18. Wooden Gavel
This item might not make much appeal to you because it isn't something people use that much. Still, I have listed this project just to hone your woodturning skills a bit more. The project requires you to make two different pieces and attach them using glue.
You can get the size and dimension size by Googling. And then, first, try crafting the top part of the gavel. The top part is a bit difficult and time-consuming to turn. So, I would recommend you to turn this part first.
Turning the handle won't be difficult if you have crafted the above-mentioned items prior to this.
19. Toothpick Holder
When any project would require you to use a large stock, there will be some amount of wood, which will be enough to turn smaller projects such as a toothpick holder. If you get bored turning complicated and time-consuming projects, give yourself some enjoyment crafting easy stuff like this.
I have seen people making the item from tulipwood. You don't necessarily have to use the same wood. Any leftover wood should do the trick just fine.
When it comes to the lid, you can make it two different ways. One is a regular lid; you just open up the lid, put your fingers inside the holder to get a toothpick.
Another option is to leave a base at the bottom of the lid so whenever you open it up, the toothpick will also raise and be more accessible.
20. Mushroom Shaped Toothpick Holder
The application would be the same; it's a toothpick holder, after all. But, it got a mushroom shape. Turn any leftover or ready-to-use stock into a mushroom-shaped thing. Craft a large hold inside it from its top to make space for the toothpicks. As simple as that.
21. Bear Claw Salad Servers
For occasions, events, and family gatherings, these unique salad servers would impress your guests. If you feel like making these, be sure to use durable and sturdy wood stock.
The most critical part would be to make the claws equal. Don't expect the length to be the same. Even if it's noticeable, people will admire your crafts.
22. Rolling Pin
One of the simple projects, yet a bit time-consuming as it involves three pieces. You will have to turn each piece separately and then glue it with the central piece. It would be an ideal 3-in-1 project for you to practice your woodturning skills and prepare for more complicated tasks.
23. Mortar & Pestle
It's nothing new compared to previously mentioned projects on this article so far. But still, making one would be great if you love showcasing your turned projects.
Determine the diameter and length of the bow and pestle. I have seen an experienced woodturner making a bowl 5 inches in diameter and 3 inches tall. The pestle is about 6.5 inches long and 1.5 inches in width.
You can customize the measurements according to your preferences.
24. Tea Light Candle Holders
If you have seen tea light candle holders, then you probably know how eye-soothing these small crafts look. You can actually make some and place them in different places in the house or gift a few of these to your loved ones.
Turning these small items won't take much from you as you already have turned more complicated projects than this.
Each candleholder must have a simple base with a stem cut for placing a candle. If you are turning these holders for showcasing, I recommend you use a better variety of wood. Honey locust or hickory wood would be great choices for this crafting idea.
I may want to line that beautiful piece of wood with foil to make sure the candle wax doesn't harm its appearance.
25. Mini Candle Stool
If you are bored working on time-consuming projects, let's make some simple ones to make woodturning an enjoyable job. You can make a mini candle stool, which is a pretty simple project. Within a short time, you will be able to craft the item.
Depending on your stool model, it will have 3-4 legs, so this simple project will still get you some valuable skills.
These stools are usually made of walnut or maple wood. These woods hold the elegance of the craft. You can display your creation, use it for daily purposes, or gift it to someone who will adore your crafting and stuff.
This candle stool isn't for this sole purpose. You can also use it for a plant stand, place somewhere in your living room to impress the guests.
26. Wooden Box
Although I previously mentioned turning a box, this time, why not aim for something bigger? A larger box would be an excellent opportunity to master interior cuts. You can further practice spindle skills as well as stretch your woodturning capabilities.
One of the areas you will need to be careful about is the fit between the base and lid. Take a large wood stock for this project. This might take a few tires. All the effort will start to make sense once you have a perfectly made wooden box on hand.
27. Square Serving Trays
If you think a woodturning lathe is only for making round or oval-shaped crafts, you have no idea. Expert woodturners make exceptional-looking square-shaped items using their lathe machines. As you have already made lots of round items, it's time you try something new and different.
When it comes to making square-shaped items, starting with a simple project like a serving tray would be perfect as an initial project.
You will need a large piece of stock or a small one if you want to make a small tray or plate first. The turning steps will be pretty much effortless as there are not many things to give a round shape. You will only have to make square cuts for the tray surface, walls around it, and two square shape holders.
A number of beginners find turning a square shape item easier than a round object.
28. Square Box with a Lid
Your second shape-shaped project should be a square box. This will also require making a lid with perfectly cut edges around the top part of the box to make sure the lid fits correctly.
A square storage box will be more convenient to use compared to a round one. You can keep more items inside, or showcase them, or give them to someone you love.
Small boxes can be used as jewelry boxes as well.
29. Lazy Susan
You might wonder why I have listed such an easy project here. I want you to make a perfectly shaped Lazy Susan for the next special project. You will have to work on making the Susan evenly round. The surface should be smooth and consider sanding a bit if necessary.
Now, it's time to apply the skills and techniques you gained from crafting lazy susan. Turning a clock will be a huge milestone for you as a woodturner. Wooden clocks look extraordinary and elegant. Hang one in the living room, and your guests will admire your craftworks even more.
Of course, you cannot make the entire project through turning. You will need to purchase clock gears and face to make sure it shows the correct time. You can either cut the numbers on the clock or write them with a pen, or use number stickers.
To make the clock look extraordinary, be sure to create some pattern on its surface through turning. This might waste a lot of wood initially. But once you figure it out properly, you can even sell your turned clocks and earn a good amount of money from them.
31. Apple and Pear
Time to work on some complicated and more time-consuming projects. Can you turn an apple or a pear using the lathe? You should have enough skills to turn such projects. This might take a few attempts, but eventually, there shouldn't be much issue for crafting these items.
Don't just use your imagination. Get a real apple and pear to use as templates. If you have square stocks, you will need to make them round first.
Then work from the thickest part of the wood to give the desired shape similar to the template. Move towards the thinnest section to give it a finishing touch.
Be sure to sand it, and use one coat of sanding sealer. After it dries, further sand, and then apply two coats of polish before you drill a hole on the top for gluing an artificial leaf. A golden-colored leaf would go well with a wooden apple as well as a pear.
If you find turning the project a bit difficult, be sure to watch YouTube tutorial videos on how to turn an apple using a wood lathe.
Creating a perfectly shaped sphere isn't a joke. It requires above-average woodturner skills because the design itself is quite difficult.
Be mentally prepared that this might take several hours or even a couple of days for you to figure out how to create a smooth sphere. Woodworkers prefer alternative ways to make spheres. However, using a lathe, you can do it with practice and patience.
Consider taking it as a challenge to use your best skills and experience to make one. This will help you not to get discouraged halfway.
33. Root Vase
This is an advanced project, and it's normal if you fail dozens of times while turning a root vase. Only experienced woodturners would be able to make something like this after years of practice. So, even if you don't manage to make it now, take it as a challenge to be able to make this stunning craft within a year or two.
I found a senior woodturner made this great-looking root vase from a $0.50 oak firewood log. This might seem highly overwhelming to you. But I would expect after 2-3 years of practice and experience, you will be able to turn in similar attractive items and sell them at a high price.
34. Chess Pieces
Whether you were able to make the root vase or not, I hope you can turn chess pieces with some practice. If you follow this list of woodturning projects and make items accordingly, you should have the skills to turn these beautiful little crafts.
Gather all your tools, chisels, cutters, cut, shave, and indent chess pieces, whatever shape and design you want to give. Initially, you can mimic the chess pieces that you have in the house. If you are able to turn pieces close to yours, you are ready to turn chess pieces of your customized design.
Don't forget to recall what you have learned turning a square board previously. Implement the same techniques to make a specialized chessboard. If you are a chess player, this would be your most favorite creation all off time.
Know someone close to you who loves playing chess? No gift would be more appreciated to that person than this amazing chess set.
What Can You Make with a Wood Turning Lathe?
So, here's the thing. When you bring the lathe machine to your house or garage for the first time, it can feel quite intimidating. This might lead you to wonder if you are only limited to turning serious projects that require a lot of patience.
But, the machine is quite fun equipment. You can make a wide variety of different sizes, shapes, and elegant-looking finishes.
Most commonly, woodworkers use a wood lathe machine for making bowls, platters, pen casings, replacement parts for furniture, cabinetry, etc.
Keep in mind that the item you will be making on the machine has a lot to do with the size of your lathe unit. Large and heavy-duty machines can work with heavier and larger stocks. Smaller projects can easily be turned on a mini lathe.
After working for a few days or weeks, you will find there's a lot of waste wood around you. Don't throw them out yet. You can actually make like-looking crafts out of the waste wood.
Items such as ring trees, chopsticks, toothpick holders, a small clock, a coaster set, etc., don't require a large piece of wood. Once you pass the initial stages of woodturning, you will be able to make more creative and stunning items out of wood.
What Is the Easiest Wood to Turn?
Your woodturning effort and time will highly be influenced depending on the type of wood you choose for projects. Some woods are easier to work on, whereas some are more difficult.
But going for easy and softwoods won't work every time. Some projects would require you to use the best quality or more durable wood.
As a beginner, try to use fallen wood from local trees. If you aren't lucky enough in this, then opting for beech, ebony, hickory, yew, rosewood, walnut, figured maple, cherry, pinewood, etc., would go the trick for you. Be sure to consider the type of project you want to turn and opt for wood that will be the best for it.
There's no need to get exceptional and highly expensive wood. Cheaper ones such as cherry and maple can handle most beginner-friendly projects really well. Try to avoid oak if possible. This wood is tough to carve into using a turning lathe.
The trick is to stick to less expensive wood during your initial stage of woodturning. Once you get the skills and don't waste much wood, you can choose quality and expensive wood projects. Working with high-quality wood will make the projects look much appealing, and it will highly encourage you to make more.
Is Woodturning Difficult?
Until the last decade, figuring out how to learn and use a wood lathe was quite difficult, considering that there wasn't much content on the web.
Nowadays, you can learn woodturning by watching tutorial videos and start turning projects following step-by-step guidelines that are widely available. You can self-educate yourself, which wasn't the case before.
So, yeah, woodturning is quite a simple and fun task once you get introduced to the parts and components and finish a couple of initial woodturning projects.
But, you will need the patience to start this practice. By the time, you will become an expert. With your skills, you will be able to turn complicated projects without doing much hassle and spending time.
Start slow, and don't aim for anything overwhelming during your initial few months of using a wood lathe machine. It wouldn't be frustrating if you go for simple and easier projects and then push it to the limit a bit hard once you get the skills and techniques.
Regardless of the difficulty level of any project, be sure to master it before moving onto the next. Set goals, and work according to them. You will get the much-needed proficiency in woodturning.