Lathe mk 1

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Project by Odiferous posted 05-19-2013 07:39 PM 2630 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

My wife was conscripted to create the wedding topper for her brother’s wedding cake, which was to be button themed. This quickly turned into a request for me to provide a 6” button for the couple to stand on. I was originally intending to carve it on a router table with round-over bits, but I struggled with how to make the inside profile. Because I lack the artistic ability, regardless of tools involved, to turn a block of wood into something recognizable without detailed plans, I pulled out a caliper and measured and sketch-up’d a button, then scaled it up. At this point I realized that the curves weren’t even close to full round-overs, and this was unquestionably a lathe project.

But I don’t have a lathe. I’ve never turned anything. Rather than listen to my internal this-is-probably-going-to-end-poorly-o-meter, I grabbed my workmate, an old craftsman motor with a threaded spindle adapter, some clamps, and a plug from a 3” hole saw. I cut out a disc of poplar with my scroll saw, and screwed it to the plug with a pair of cut-down screws. I managed to attach it in such a way that the screw holes eventually were drilled out to become the button holes.

Next problem—no lathe tools. I had some fairly sharp carving tools that were so cheap that I didn’t care if I destroyed them, but the “pop” when I barely touched one to the spinning wood told me to put them away. Next up, some worthless chisels I picked up at the dollar store for sharpening practice (well, someday). These had enough metal in them that they didn’t scare me to try, but I didn’t expect much because they’re completely dull. Surprisingly, shavings started coming off, and I quickly saw how so many people can get addicted to turning. It ended up a little rough in spots, but honestly I expected much less from my first attempt.

The only thing I really was a little disappointed in was that I was hoping for a little more of the poplar green. The finish is clear spray lacquer, but it seems to have hidden the color completely. I was trying to keep the color lighter and brighter to match the cake.

6 comments so far

View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4655 days

#1 posted 05-19-2013 07:43 PM

Wow , that came out great !

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 3660 days

#2 posted 05-19-2013 08:09 PM

Ooooo, oooo we got another turner hooked!!!!

And the conversation goes like this
Hubby – Well that cake topper base you hooked me into turned out better than I thought it would.
Wive – Yes you did a fine job dear.
H – You know it might have turned out better if I had the right tools.
W – Are you hinting at something?
H – Oh no not at all. Nothing of the sort.
W – Oh go buy yourself a new toy. What are you going to make me? (kiss, kiss)
H – I’m sure you’ll think of something.
Run, run, pant, pant. Start computer.
H – Come on hurry up gotta get on LJ…....... Hey guys the wife just said I could buy a new lathe FULLY ACCESSORIZED!!!!!
Well that’s what he heard anyways!

And now for the rest of the story….........

-- See pictures on Flickr -[email protected]/ And visit my Facebook page -

View Scott Oldre's profile

Scott Oldre

1128 posts in 4398 days

#3 posted 05-19-2013 08:39 PM

Nicely played. Yes it can be addicting, but it can also be that perfect tool to make that accent when you need it.

-- Scott, Irmo SC

View Sergio's profile


470 posts in 3659 days

#4 posted 05-19-2013 09:37 PM

Great…. dont buy any lathe (yet)... go further and see what you can do with this set up

-- - Greetings from Brazil - --

View jim65's profile


1020 posts in 2900 days

#5 posted 05-20-2013 06:29 AM

great project, great problem solving, that the fun part anyway

-- Jim, Marostica Italy

View drbyte's profile


847 posts in 5029 days

#6 posted 05-20-2013 03:03 PM

The principals are good and the motor lathe worked out fine. It can be used much more. But those old chisels are really dangerous, I’ve seen them flung across the room and stuck into a wall at my cousins house the first time he tried using that type. Buy a cheap gouge to experiment with and it will be a lot safer. Congrats on the job well done and the success this time!!

-- Dennis, WV

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