A little while back, my friend Ron Radliff asked me to come up with a kitchen knife holder. With a little help from my wife Robin, I came up with a simple, elegant maple cylinder with an inlay of some trees that I added using milliput.
The turning portion of this project is pretty straightforward: I knocked the corners off of a chunk of maple, added a tenon, and turned until I had a smooth cylinder. I then hollowed out the inside using a Forstner bit and a carbide gouge. This piece of maple had some cracks that I knew wouldn’t turn out, so Robin drew some trees that I then carved out with a rotary tool. This was probably the most difficult (or at least time-consuming) part of the whole project.
I used milliput, a two-part epoxy clay, to add the inlay. Milliput is a great material for complicated inlay. It molds easily, cures rock-hard, and turns like a dream. It’s a great way to add detail and complexity to products without using a scroll saw or CNC. I previously used milliput to add inlay to some lidded boxes I made — it’s great stuff to work with.
Once the milliput cured, I turned off the excess, sanded, and finished. The last step is to invert the piece and remove the tenon.
To turn this cylinder into a knife holder, I added rice. I’ve seen this method used at craft shows. The benefit of using rice is that it helps to keep your knives dry and rust-free if they are replaced while still a little damp from washing. It’s also cheap and easy to replace from time to time. If you don’t like the idea of using rice, you can also use something like bamboo kebab skewers.
And that’s that! I enjoyed this project because it took a simple idea and added some more complex design elements to make an attractive and unique end product. If you enjoyed this video or have ideas for future projects, please let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching!
Sanding your projects on the lathe is a quick and easy way to bring them to their final smoothness. However, using standard sandpaper can lead to ugly striations as the grit of the paper digs into the project. One way to sand quickly without leaving ugly marks is to switched to powered sanding.
Power sanding can be accomplished in a number of different ways. You can use a simple sanding pad chucked into a drill. You can also use a random orbit sander that is purpose-built for lathe work — they typically include smaller, softer pads than sanders built for flat work, and some (like the air-driven sander I use from Woodturnerswonders
) also include extensions to help reach inside bowls and other vessels. These types of surfaces aren’t typically encountered on flat work, so the purpose-made sander helps a lot.
The debate over gouges versus carbide tools is fought every day in woodturning forums and groups, so we won’t re-fight it here. They both do the same thing. Gouges have a much steeper learning curve (you must also learn to sharpen the tools properly and ride the bevel to get a clean cut) whereas carbide cutters are easier for beginners to get the hang of — get lined up on center and you’re good to go.
Not all tools are created equal, and this applies to both carbide tools and gouges. Cheap gouges are usually made from cheap steel, so it is common for them to lose their edge more quickly — which gives beginning woodturners a lot of practice at the sharpening station. On the carbide side, cheap carbide tips may not give you the smoothest possible cut, and it’s important to remember to turn the insert when cut quality starts to suffer. Trying to get “just one more” out of a dull carbide tip is a good way to ruin a workpiece.
When it comes to technique, experience is going to be your best teacher, but here’s a quick starter course. For gouges, start by bringing the bevel up to the piece, then slowly raise the handle until it starts to cut. Move slowly for a cleaner cut. Carbide tools, on the other hand, are brought in straight and level at the centerline of the work piece.
That’s it for this edition of Back to Basics. If you have a topic you’d like us to cover, leave us a comment and let us know. Thanks for watching!
I love turning boxes. If it weren’t for YouTube, I’d turn boxes more or less every day. This week, I wanted to experiment with Milliput
, a two-part epoxy clay. This seemed like the perfect excuse to turn a box with a Milliput
inlay (or, even better, two boxes with Milliput
I turned the lid by securing the piece to a waste block with hot glue
. I decided to add an inlay to the lid of the box as well, so I used a parting tool
to create a channel into which I could place the Milliput.
For the body of the box, I turned a tenon on a piece of maple after truing up the piece with a roughing gouge
. I removed most of the waste using a Forstner bit
, then added a channel for the Milliput. Because of the channel and added inlay, I left the walls of the box a little thicker than I normally would.
Playing with the Milliput brought out my inner child a little bit — I used two colors to create a striated effect, then molded it to the piece and allowed it to dry overnight. The instructions say Milliput only takes 2-3 hours to cure completely, but when you’re going to spin something at several thousand RPM, better safe than sorry. Once cured, the Milliput cuts like butter.
While working with the clay, I protected my workbench with some contact paper, because the Milliput sticks to everything it touches. That’s great because it will stick to your workpiece, but not so great because it also sticks to the bench and your hands. If you don’t wear gloves, be sure to wash your hands between colors, or you will cross-contaminate the clay.
One important note: Milliput
is heat resistant to a point, but I wouldn’t recommend a buffing wheel as that might bring it above its safe temperature. All in all, it seems like a great way to add detailed patterns and inlay to projects without cutting hundreds of tiny pieces. It’s also very easy to create random swirls and marbling by just kneading the clay around until you get the effect you want.
If you’ve got other ideas for how to use Milliput, let me know in the comments. Thanks for watching!
When you’re getting started with woodturning, it’s natural to look for projects that are easy to complete while still teaching basic lathe skills. Workshop projects like chisel handles are a great place to start, but when you’re ready to make items suitable for use in your home, utensil handles are a great project for new woodturners.
In this video, I turn a couple of handles for kitchen tools. Starting with some birdseye maple, I turn two styles of handle. One uses a mandrel (essentially a rod used to support the work from inside), while the other is simply turned between centers.
In both cases, the process is simple: I use a roughing gouge to true up the work, then switch to a spindle gouge to create a graceful curve that will fit comfortably in the hand. To make the piece look more finished, I check the size of the collar using a set of calipers, then bring the end of the handle down to that size using a parting tool. From there, you can simply taper the handle to that diameter using the spindle gouge.
Handles may not be glamorous, but they teach some important skills. You can use handles to learn about turning between centers, using mandrels, sanding and finishing on the lathe, establishing and reaching critical dimensions, and of course the use of tools. There’s no reason why you could not also use carbide tools for these projects, but they do present a good opportunity to learn how to use traditional turning tools. If you use a dense tropical hardwood for your handles, you’ll also get a great lesson in sharpening your tools!
These handles are a great way to improve your skills at spindle turning and get more comfortable with your tools. They don’t require a huge time or material investment to get started, so a mistake isn’t as disastrous as it would be for a more involved project.. Each of the handles I made in the video took about 15 minutes from start to finish, not including drying time for the lacquer.
I made these handles for specific kits from Chefwarekits, which are very high quality and make excellent gifts for friends and family. You can also make new handles for existing tools if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to get started. Even a dollar store vegetable peeler looks like a high-end implement when it’s sporting a handmade hardwood handle.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed the video!