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A spindle ornament is the perfect gift for all your family and friends. They can easily be turned in quantity. The more complex hollow-globe ornament is a special gift someone will always treasure.

Turn spindle and hollow-globe ornaments using a waste block mount.

For woodturners, the nip of autumn in the air usually triggers thoughts of holiday projects. Here are two ornaments you may enjoy making. A simple spindle or “icicle” ornament provides the opportunity to practice technique and design while producing gifts in quantity, should that be your goal. The more complex hollow-globe ornament is slightly more challenging. It would be nice as a special gift or to keep and pass down in your own family.

Waste Block Mount

This glued-tenon waste block mount is a useful technique for many turning projects. It wastes little of the workpiece material and is quite strong. And, there are no chuck jaws protruding to bite knuckles or fingers, and no metal for the gouge to hit. I like to use hard maple, but any close-grained hardwood will do. Avoid open-grained woods such as oak, which can split apart along grain lines.

1. Prepare your workpieces by turning them between centers to a cylinder and cutting a slightly tapered round tenon on one end. Mount a waste block onto a faceplate, turn it round and flatten the surface. Measure the diameter of the tenon on the workpiece with a caliper and transfer this to the waste block. With the lathe on, gently touch the left point of the caliper to the waste block. Remember: The wood to the right of center is moving upward; if you touch it there, it can grab the caliper. Make a light mark and move the caliper until the right-hand point lines up with the mark; then push the caliper in to make a deeper mark.

2. Using the mark as a guide, cut a tapered hole in the waste block. The taper makes it easier to fit the tenon.

3. After cutting the hole to the approximate size of the tenon, and with the lathe on, firmly grasp the workpiece and push it into the waste block. This will burnish where there is good contact. There should be good contact at the outside of the cylinder and at the tenon, as shown here. An important caution: If the fit is too tight, or the hole is shorter than the tenon, the cylinder can twist and be pulled from your hands. If you are uncomfortable with this method, fit the piece with the lathe off until it’s right. This will take longer, but the workpiece won’t be pulled from your hand.

4. Use extra-thick cyanoacrylate glue to attach the workpiece to the waste block. First, spray accelerator on the waste block, and apply the glue to the end of the cylinder and the tenon. Push the tenon into the hole and twist to spread the glue evenly. Hold the piece for a few seconds until the glue grabs, then wait a couple minutes to ensure that the glue has set. Finish as much of the workpiece as possible before the final parting off; you should not expect to do the roughing-in and shaping of the piece without tailstock support. You are ready to begin working.

Spindle Ornament

Using a small spindle gouge, begin shaping the ornament. The possibilities here are endless. In general, I find shapes that vary greatly in diameter from one part of the spindle to another are pleasing to the eye. Many people make very angular shapes on spindle ornaments, but I like full, round shapes. Pay attention to transitions; the different parts must relate to one another in some way. And as always, curves must be smooth; make sure there are no bumps or dips in them so the ornament will look finished and harmonious.

1. Left to right: Squares (about 1″ x 1″ x 6″) ready to prepare; turned to round and ready to mount; finished “icicle” ornaments (4-1⁄2″ long, 1″ largest diameter).

2. Begin shaping the piece, using an appropriately sized spindle gouge. Mine has a long “fingernail” grind; the side of the tool can remove a lot of material, and the tip is good for fine detail.

3. Continue refining the shapes. Take your time and get it right; you can get faster later.

When you have a pleasing shape roughed out, begin to refine the surface. Once you have the shape you like cleanly turned, turn the left end close to the axis but don’t part off yet; leave about 14” diameter. Turn the right end very close to the axis, again not quite parting it off. This leaves enough support to sand and finish without breaking the piece off.

4. Here I am using a steel wire (always attach wire to dowels or other scrap, and hold the dowels, not the wire itself) to burn details into the work. Complete the turning, sand and finish the piece. I use a hard wax, which is applied and buffed while the piece is on the lathe.

5. Part off the right end, being careful to smoothly complete the shape at the end. Sand and finish the end. Be gentle; too much sideways pressure could pull the piece from the mounting or break it off at a narrow place.

6. Part the piece off at the left.

7. The completed ornament. You can hand sand and polish the small area at the top where it was parted off; then attach a tiny eye screw and ribbon for hanging.

You should, however, still sand and finish gently, minimizing the lateral pressure on the piece. Then part off the right end, sand and finish the tip. Part the workpiece off at the headstock. Then sand and polish the top, install a tiny eye screw and ribbon, and the ornament is complete.

Hollow-globe Ornament

This ornament is turned in three parts (four, if you turn the globe in two pieces as I have here, instead of one), which are then glued together to complete the piece. Many people turn this type of ornament by hollow-turning the globe in one piece. For this article, I am hollowing the globe by dividing it into two pieces and excavating each one separately. I’ve chosen this technique because, in spite of requiring two mountings, it’s somewhat easier, especially for relative beginners; and because when I started out to make these, I couldn’t find the bent-tip hollowing tool I thought I had somewhere.

1. Left to right: rough stock, prepped stock, finished ornament (6-1⁄8″ long, 2″ largest diameter).

2. Mount the first half of the globe stock. Cut a straight shoulder on the end, and rough in the shape of the ball.

Start by making the globe. Use a piece of wood about 3″ to 4″ square by 4″ to 5″ long. Turn it between centers to the shape of a cylinder, then cut a tapered tenon on each end. Part almost into the center in the middle of the piece, remove it from the lathe and cut it apart on the band saw. Mount the first half in a waste block as described in “Waste Block Mount, near top of article.” Shorter pieces are especially prone to being twisted from your hand during my “burn fit” procedure, so you may wish to hold the piece in Channellock pliers or fit it without the lathe turned on.

3. Drill a 1⁄2″-diameter hole all the way through the workpiece into the waste block.

Cut a straight shoulder on the end of the piece and rough in the outside shape. Using the tailstock to mount a drill bit, drill a 12“-diameter hole through the piece into the waste block. With a fingernail-grind spindle gouge, remove most of the wood inside the piece to reduce the weight. Continuing the rough shape you’ve established, part the piece off.

Mount the other half of the globe stock and drill it as you did the first. Mark the diameter of the shoulder from the other piece on the end and cut a straight recess to fit the two pieces together. It doesn’t need to fit as well as a box lid, because it will be glued together, but it should fit closely enough that the pieces can’t move side-to-side. Hollow out this piece as you did the first, then glue the two halves together. If the grain is pronounced, make sure the lines match up.

4. Hollow out the interior with a spindle gouge.

5. Here I have mounted the second half, cut a recess to fit the first half, and hollowed out the interior.

6. Glue the halves together and complete the exterior; sand, finish and part off.

Finish turning the outside of the globe. Be careful to leave enough material at the headstock end to hold the piece on the lathe. Remember, there is a 12” hole at the center. But try to get close enough that the unfinished part at the top will later be covered by the flange on the spindle. You may wish to turn a detail of some kind at the middle of the globe, where the halves join; it’s hard to completely hide such a joint, so making a decorative cut of some kind is a good choice to help disguise it. Sand and finish; then part off.

7. Mount and turn the long (lower) spindle. This is just like turning the icicle ornament; see those instructions for more detail.

Now make the spindles. Again, mount the prepped workpiece (cylinder with a tenon at one end) as described in “Waste Block Mount.” Turn the spindle as previously described for the simple ornament, making a 12” tenon and a slightly undercut flange at the end that will attach to the globe. The flange should be as wide as possible to cover the area on the globe where you parted it off; this saves having to sand and finish that small part. When you have finished the first piece, part it off, mount the other piece and repeat the entire process. The top spindle is usually made considerably shorter than the bottom, but you could play around with this. Just make sure you undercut the flange so the curve of the globe will fit into it and not leave a gap where the two pieces meet, and have a clean, 12” tenon for alignment in assembling the parts.

8. Make a wide, undercut flange and a 1⁄2″-diameter tenon at one end.

9. When sanded, finished and parted off at the narrow end, part it off at the end of the tenon.

10. Make the short (top) spindle or finial.

11. For any of the spindles, after hand-sanding the end you parted off (unless it will be hidden in the finished piece), use a buffing wheel to complete the finishing.

Glue the pieces together, install a small eye screw in the top and attach a ribbon. Your ornament is finished.

Now that you know the process, you should make a few more of them to refine your understanding and designs. You may want to keep the best one for yourself!

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine.

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