Here is a project that will quickly use up all those small scrap pieces of wood that accumulate in the scrap bin.
The bud vases are made by cutting scrap pieces into squares, stacking the squares into blocks, and turning them on the lathe. An endless variety of shapes and interesting designs can be made by using several contrasting colored woods of different thicknesses. I stack 2-inch squares into blocks 5 or 6 inches high using a variety of veneers combined with 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 inch thick walnut, ash, oak, maple, birch, mahogany, koa, vermillion, and purpleheart.
The technique of lamination described here can also be use for creating lamps, bowls, and an assortment of containers. For laminating the squares together use a good-grade of glue and don’t apply excessive clamping pressure. Too much pressure creates dry joints and causes the pieces to break apart during turning.
Before mounting the blocks on the lathe, cut off the corners at 45 degrees on the table saw or bandsaw to make an octagon. This step reduces the possibility of the gouge’s catching in the end grain and tearing out chunks of wood. Then mount the blocks on the lathe using the screwcenter in the headstock and the cone center in the tailstock for added support.
End grain, being very dense, creates a lot of heat when cut on the lathe. For this reason, be specially careful to grind the tools to the correct angle, keep them sharp by honing on oilstones, and set the lathe at the correct speed.
The three main tools used to shape the vases are the gouge, the skew chisel, and the round nose scraper. Gouges are used primarily for roughing out the stock and making coves. Grind the bevel to approximately 0 degrees or twice the thickness of the steel.
Skew chisels are used to smooth round shoulders or cylindrical stock. When grinding the skew, take care to keep the two bevels the same length so that the cutting edge, when looked at head-on, is centered and parallel to the sides. Each bevel should be ground to 15 degrees, and the angle at the cutting edge should be 70 degrees.
The round-nose scraper is used to make coves or shape concave areas, after the turning square has been roughed out to round with the gouge. The bevel on the ground nose should be ground to 40 degrees.
When lathe tools are ground to the correct angle and kept sharp by honing, high late speeds are not necessary. Lathe speed is determined by the diameter of the stock. TO make the vases, rough out cylinders between 2 and 4 inches at about 80 to 1000 RPM. Increase to about 1800 RPM for general shaping and finishing. After shaping, sand the outside with 80 grit sandpaper and graduate down to 220 grit.
To drill the hole in the top, I use the geared chuck in the tailstock with a 1/2 inch twist drill bit. Mark the bit with masking tape for the correct depth and drill at a slow speed. After drilling, shape the inside walls with the round-nose scraper. In shaping the inside walls, use slow, light cuts, because the piece is now very delicate and most likely to break at this point if too much pressure is applied.
Carefully sand the inside of the top, then plug the hole in the bottom with a dowel and oil the vase inside and out with natural Danish oil. When the oil is dry, spray with two coats of high-gloss lacquer. You may also want to glue a thin piece of felt to the bottom of the vase to cover the dowel plug and provide a soft bottom surface.
With the addition of a few dried flowers or a flower bud, these vases will add warmth and charm to any room and win you many compliments. Good luck and have fun!