Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Barry Gray
The wood lathe is a very unique tool. It’s a power tool that has provided hobbyists and professionals alike with years of innovative designs.
Stuck for time? I’ve made a quick overview of all wood lathe and turning projects you can create with a lathe, below.
- Bowls, tool handles, and pens are perfect projects for beginners who are looking to begin their turning hobby
- If you’re into sports, consider turning a baseball bat and pool cue, which is much more satisfying than buying
- Looking to see how far your skills have progressed? Consider turning chess pieces and spheres – a real challenge
- Replace broken furniture legs with turns of your own, as well as flowerpots and vases for your garden needs
- Wood lathes can turn the body of a clock, a box for storing valuable items, and even a wooden spoon
With the ability to shape wood into symmetric objects, there are many objects and projects that can only be created using the wood lathe.
What would you be using a wood lathe for? Typically, lathes are used mainly in woodturning. Woodturning is the process of shaping wood into a chosen object. This is done so by using a variety of tools to shave, cut, and groove the piece into the chosen shape or design.
What Projects Can You Turn Using a Wood Lathe?
Due to the sheer amount of tools, you can use with your lathe, and the versatility of the tool itself – there are many objects that you can turn and create.
There are so many, that we’re unable to list them all – however, I’ve listed 12 of the most common turning tasks, as well as some surprises that you can attempt for your next project.
Bowls are some of the most common items that can be turned with a wood lathe. These are often among the first turning projects that you can attempt, purely due to the ease and also the versatility of the bowl itself.
These can be used for many things – fruits, fancy dinner sets, and as larger storage devices for smaller things. Pending on the woods and tools you’re using, you can either opt for a standard, plain-looking bowl – or mix it up by adding aesthetically pleasing patterns and grooves on the outside.
Box With Lid
Boxes are another great use for your wood lathe. There are many reasons to list as to why a box with a lid is suitable for turning – however the possibilities are almost endless.
Boxes can be used for storage, mainly – but you can also go a step further by using your other tools and woodworking skills to add drawers and hidden compartments – all of which make perfect, personalized gifts for loved ones.
Is there anything, in particular, you’d store within your turned box? Let me know in the comments.
Wooden spoons are a staple in the kitchen – and they serve a multitude of purposes for your culinary experiences.
One of the best things about making spoons on your lathe – is that they don’t take too much time to create, and they can also be made in a variety of sizes for different uses when cooking.
When you’re looking to create a spoon, you won’t need to use a very large piece of stock – however, this is completely dependent on the size of the spoon you’re looking to turn.
Flower Pots & Vases
Like bowls, flower pots and vases are another common turning project many hobbyists look at, to begin with when using their lathes.
Vases and flower pots can be made in different sizes, and you’re able to use your turning skills to create these for a variety of plants and flowers – especially if you’re looking to create a romantic gift for a partner.
What’s one of the best aspects of creating wooden pots and vases? Unlike ceramic and glass versions, they won’t break easily – giving you a long-lasting holder for any plants and flowers you look to put inside of them.
Chair & Table Legs
Furniture is not cheap – especially if you want them to last a long time.
Unfortunately, the legs of both chairs and tables can take a beating over time, and weaken – leading to broken furniture.
Luckily for you, legs for both chairs and tables are relatively straightforward to turn, and can be attached in place quite easily when finished – needing additional hinges and screws (also, keep in mind the wood originally used and the total weight of the table itself)
With the many tool bits with your lathe at your disposal, you’re also able to modify existing chair and table legs, and make them easier on the eye for your guests and family.
Face it, we’ve all been there – whether it’s a chisel or a plain old knife – the blade slips out of its’ protective casing.
With a lathe, this is something you won’t have to worry about replacing – as it can easily be fixed with your own turning creation.
Regardless of their length, most tool handles can be turned in a similar fashion, with the only variable being how personalized you’d like the design itself.
Finishing off with a drilled input for your naked tool, it’s a relatively simple process to turn handles.
It sounds great to easily fix these with your own touch, doesn’t it?
Pens & Pencils
Pencils, and more commonly, pens – are widely used when turning, and it’s a great way to introduce yourself to the world of turning.
It’s a very popular object to turn.
The feeling of a beautiful pen within your fingers almost feels like that of luxury – and this isn’t too far out of reach with a wood lathe.
They can be created with a mix of partner materials, including brass, and gold – it’s all relative to the design of the pen you’re turning.
Spheres can often be the project that many woodturners aim to create one day – due to the difficult nature of the design itself.
It takes many hours of turning to successfully turn a sphere into a smoothed, completely round object. Many woodturners look at alternative turning options to create spheres, however, they can definitely be made with lathes.
Spheres take many steps and hours of time to create – however you shouldn’t be put off by its complexity – and merely see this as a challenge to tackle once you believe your skills are adequate enough to do so.
Perhaps an object you didn’t expect to see on this list, right?
Of course, you won’t be creating the clock entirely through turning, with the necessary gears and clock face needed to tell the time correctly.
Yet wooden clocks are still extremely elegant, and you have the ability to work within many different shapes, especially if you want to stray from the standard, stereotypical looking clock.
This would make a fantastic gift for someone – and also to show off your craftsmanship.
Baseball is a favorite pastime of ours, and bats can be incredibly expensive to buy.
You can dust off your old mits and prepare to play more than just catch – and it’s as easy as turning your own bat.
Due to their shape, bats are very common for hobbyists to turn, due to their shape – a small handle, and a longer, thicker body.
If you find your children are needing a new baseball bat (or even yourself), don’t immediately rush to the store to buy one. You are perfectly able to create one yourself – and even better, it will have your own touch, making it a very sentimental creation.
It takes one look at a pool cue to figure out that these are other objects that can be turned on a lathe – as this is an important step in the manufacturing process.
If you’re an avid snooker or pool player, you’ll know that each cue is different from the last, and it can take many cues for you to find the perfect one to play with.
Why bother with trying many cues, and spending your money – when you can craft one that is tailored to your exact needs?
This is another great task to commence – even if you don’t partake in the game itself.
Lastly, we have chess pieces.
Chess pieces are incredibly beautiful to craft – and will test all the skills you’ve picked up through your woodturning journey.
With your arsenal of tools, you’re able to cut, shave and indent each piece to how you like, and it’s perfect for those who may have lost pieces over time.
As well as the pieces, you’re also able to craft specialized boards yourself – and why stick to the standard pieces? Test yourself out, and design some new and exciting pieces.
I’m new to woodturning, what do you think I should start off with?
First of all, welcome – I’m glad to have you on board! If you’re yet to start – look into beginning with a bowl or pen as your first project, as these are very common for beginners to start off with.
Pens don’t need large pieces like many on this list do – so if you’re worried about making mistakes, this is perfect, to begin with.
Take it slow – we all have started from the beginning once!
There we have it – 12 different ideas for you to attempt with your wood lathe.
There are some projects on this list that require a higher level of skill than others, yet this shouldn’t deter you from attempting to turn them.
It’s also incredibly important to identify the woods you’ll be using for each project, taking into consideration the surrounding environment, the durability of the wood itself – and also your skill level.
What project on this list would you like to create? Or maybe there’s a project you’d like to share with us?
Let me know in the comments below, I’d be very happy to see your suggestions.