Not all wood lathe projects are suitable for beginners. Trust me, and I jumped in headfirst when I started. It was a frustrating process, and that is one of the things that cause most beginners to give up on what could be a fulfilling hobby. This post will introduce you to some projects that beginners can tackle on their lathes.
Wood lathes are machines used to shape wood. They come in a couple of types: the benchtop model and the floor model. Benchtop models usually have an overarm to compensate for the height difference, while floor models are self-supporting and can reach up to 6 feet in length. There’s an extensive range in price, too, from $250 – $3000 depending on size, craftsmanship, etc.
My favorite beginner projects for wood lathe owners
A wooden bottle stopper is a bit of an art form. It’s something that requires skill and precision to achieve a beautiful design. The resulting stopper is also functional so that you can use it as a gift for your friends.
Supplies: wood (I used rosewood and oak), Lathe, bandsaw, the router with bits (I used a 1/4 inch bit), sandpaper. You can certainly get away with using the Lathe without the other power tools. The first thing you’ll need to do is choose the wood type of your choice for the top of your stopper.
Wooden toys are a great project to take on with a lathe, and they vary in complexity, which makes this a project that you can adjust to suit your skillset. Start with simple toys such as a simple wooden ball, and then work your way up to something more complex, such as a carved ax or a boat.
Supplies: wood, Lathe, bandsaw. You could also use a jigsaw for this project if you have one available. I have two sets of coping saws in my shop for various uses, but you can use them for this project.
This is undoubtedly one of my top picks. Its size makes it slightly easier than the smaller projects that can be easy to mess up. Making a baseball bat allows you a reasonable margin for error, and you’ll also need a jigsaw for this project.
Candle stands are another project that can be tailored to your skills. They come in various shapes and sizes. To make one of these, you must have a lathe to turn the wood into a cylinder. Then you will need to cut out the cylinder to make space for the candle. That’s just the beginning, though – you will also need to sand and polish your work.
Supplies: wood, Lathe, jigsaw
I’m a big fan of birds – if you don’t know this about me yet, it’s probably time you find out. To make a birdhouse using a lathe, you will need to cut out the wood pieces and sand and polish the wood. You’ll need a lathe and a jigsaw for this.
Supplies: wood, Lathe, jigsaw
We have a post about how you can carve chess pieces. We outline things you can do to make your chess pieces with a wood lathe in that post. This is another project that can be tailored to your skills. Beginners can start with less detailed pieces and work their way up to tiki chess sets.
A wooden bowl is one of the most common wood lathe projects. It can be used for many things, from a bowl that feeds your cat to a bowl that holds your marbles. There’s something very satisfying about carving a wooden bowl.
Supplies: wood, Lathe, a router with bits (I used 1/4 inch bit), sandpaper, occasional sanding stick.
A skewer is an essential tool in any kitchen. To make it on your Lathe, you need to turn a wooden disk using the Lathe. Then you must cut a hole in it for your skewers. The rest of the process is the same as making any other wooden object.
Supplies: wood, Lathe, and jigsaw
Wooden Sunglasses Holder
This is another beginner project that I like. You can also adapt it to look more like an actual pair of sunglasses if you choose the right wood.
If you can make a bowl on a lathe, you can make an ashtray. You will need to sand and polish this project after you complete it.
Supplies: wood, Lathe, a router with bits (I used 1/4 inch bit), sandpaper.
You will need to turn the wood into a cylinder using the Lathe and cut out a hole in the middle for the ashtray. Sanding and polishing are a must for this project as they are with all of these projects. You can certainly get away with using your Lathe without a bandsaw or jigsaw.
To make placemats on a lathe, you should choose a wood that will allow you to create your choosing shape. I recommend starting with something simple, such as a rectangle, and then trying different shapes.
Supplies: wood, Lathe
Wooden Bowl with Ladle
This is another one of my favorites. It’s very similar to making separate bowls and spoons, making both easier to make than a bowl with a built-in spoon. You’ll need to have a bandsaw or jigsaw available for this project.
Now that we have covered my top picks for projects you can make on a lathe as a beginner, what are some of yours? If you are getting started, you should check out some of the best mini wood lathes on the market. You may also be interested in A Few More Wood Lathe Projects for Beginners.