Carving on a Turned Lidded Container

Walnut. 2 and 3/4 inches in diameter. 3 and 3/8 inches tall. The grain matches from container to lid. This is the first container turned on the treadle lathe, and my first turned container in about 30 years. Coins in the photo are for size reference, a 2 Euro (Italian/Dante) and a US Quarter (Indiana/Indy 500 – we used to live 1/2 mile from there.) The pig is an Austrian good luck charm. Turning and carving details follow these photos.

photo of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lidphoto of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lidphoto of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lidphoto of a turned walnut box with monogrammed lid

Having watched half a gazillion YouTube videos about container turning techniques, I did this one a bit differently than what I saw in any of the videos. Being of Scottish heritage and a bit “thrifty,” I haven’t yet bought one of the 4-jaw chucks we so often see used for this type of work.

Instead, I sandwiched the walnut blank between two pine waste blocks (saves wasting 50 cents worth of walnut) and mounted the sandwich on a simple $10 faceplate. I trued the blank with a live center taking up the tail. After truing the blank into a cylinder, I trued a perpendicular face on the tail end of the blank, i.e on the end of the waste block there. That prepared a surface for mounting yet another simple $10 faceplate for working the lid.

The rest of the turning followed fairly standard procedure.

  • Turn a rough profile for the entire container.
  • Refine the lid profile to nearly final shape.
  • Part off the lid piece.
  • Mount a faceplate on the lid piece.
  • Remove the body from the lathe and mount the lid piece.
  • This leaves the inside of the lid accessible. Hollow the inside to desired depth. Refine, sand and finish the inside.
  • Remove the lid from the lathe and mount the body.
  • Turn a tenon on the body that accepts the lid as a very snug press fit.
  • Remove the lid’s waste block and faceplate. (The waste block was glued in place with a paper separator layer, hence easily cut off.)
  • Press the lid onto the body’s tenon.
  • Complete the shaping and finishing of the lid. For this particular turning, I left a raised ring of wood on the lid that later becomes the “C-bars” in the carving.
  • Refine the outside shape of the body.
  • Hollow the body.
  • Sand and finish the inside. (Did I say “sand?” Hate sanding anything!)
  • Cut the body from the waste block.
  • While still mounted, turn the waste block to form a plug / jam chuck for the body.
  • Press fit the body onto the plug and turn a very slight concave bottom surface. Sand and finish the body.
  • Remove all from the lathe.
  • Remount the waste block used for the lid and turn it to form a plug / jam chuck that fits inside the lid. This is not used for any more turning, but as a mount for holding the lid while carving.

photo of turned box on the lathephoto of turned box on the lathephoto of turned box on the lathe

All that remains is a simple matter of carving. The design is a single letter monogram set between two classic “C-bars.” The carving is different from most in that it is carved in end grain. While that eliminates the usual grain sensitivity of carving, it presents another difficulty. Carving in end grain is like pressing a knife into the end of a bundle of soda straws. Extra sharp tools are the order of the day, along with a healthy helping of patience. Also helpful are a white wax marker and a fine spoon shaped chisel.

I’m not sure what the recipient will keep in such a container. It has enough room for about 211 calories worth of Gummy Bears, or maybe a few spare gold coins. We’ll see.

photo of carving the lidphoto of carving the lidphoto of carving the lidphoto of carving the lid

One Response to “Carving on a Turned Lidded Container”

  1. Brigid Says:

    Beautiful!! I think I need to go play with the lathe.