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Making a flower vase

8979 Views 21 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  Peter Clark
I was asked by a friend if I would make a flower vase, basically a wooden "cover" for a glass insert.

My friend then showed a lot of interest in how the vase was made. I did not take build pictures at the time. I am now making the latest version, so I am doing a build, but intended for a non-woodworker friend, so this will be lots of details and pictures many of you will feel are obvious.

I have a lot of pictures, and expect I should break this up into a number of posts. No idea how many post at this point.

So for the folks who want the "sound bite" version, I will fast forward to the end.

This is the flower vase I have just completed. This is sanded ready for finish to be applied.

I will put most of the pictures in an album so I can link without the constraint of only 5 embedded pictures in a post.

Where did this start?

I found a glass insert I liked at Craft Supplies.

It had a nice thick bottom which I thought would be useful for adding weight below to offset the load from flowers above.

The insert is 1 13/16in max (happens to be at the bottom) x 7.5in high.

Insert shown here for comparison.

I made this flower vase as my first "test" using a piece of 3in x 3in ash which was an offcut from the legs of a stand I made for my lathe.

The friend wanted a wider waist. So I made a "prototype" to see if he like this shape.

He liked this shape, so I then made him this vase, which he gave to his wife for Mother's Day.

He then asked if I could explain how this was made. Hence this post to document how I made the latest vase.

I will save this post so the folks who want the sound bite version do not need to continue reading.
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First steps

For the latest vase I decided to use a curly maple board, nominally 4 quarter, and inserts of bubinga.

I wanted to maximize the yield from the curly maple which was just over 5 1/2in wide.

I cut a piece of the curly maple board a little over 18in so I could make an eventual blank of 9in.

This was the simple arithmetic to determine the cut width so that the offcuts when glued together would be the same width as the first cut.

In this sketch the blue represents the curly maple, the red represents the bubinga inserts.

"A" is the main cut and "B" is the offcut from the 5 1/2in board.

The bubinga board was then cut to the "A" width and then cut in half of the thickness to make two inserts.

I glued the bubinga inserts to each of the "A" curly maple pieces.

This is the preparation for gluing the assembly. The middle vertical piece was made by cutting the 18in long "B" offcut in half and then gluing the two piece together.

The blue in the picture is blue masking tape I used on the bottom. I like using this to keep the glue inside the joint while clamping.

The pieces glued in preparation for clamping.

The assembly clamped while the glue sets. Now we woodworkers can understand why we say "We can never have enough clamps".

I have experienced that if I do not clamp the pieces in all directions, then "Murphy" will come along and move something as I tighten the clamps, even when I am using parallel clamps like the Jet clamps being used for the horizontal clamping pressure.

Edit, forgot the picture of the clamps. Parallel clamps for side to side and Bessey clamps to keep pieces aligned with my granite slab for horizontal reference surface.

Aluminium blocks for the outer pieces, separate wood scrap for the middle piece.

Looks like overkill, but if I do not clamp everything, I get undesired movement. I can plane to fix, but then I lose some dimension.

The final blank glued assembly after being cleaned of glue squeeze out.

Saving this to continue in another post.
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Preparing the blank

I left the blank for the glue to set overnight. The next day I decided I would cut off the corners on the table saw. I do not always do this step, but felt it would speed up the roughing of the blank, which it did.

So I drew circles on each end of the blank, then marked some 45 deg lines to denote about where to cut on the table saw.

I then set the table saw blade to 45 deg bevel and the fence position so it would cut at the intended mark.

After the first cut.

Now simply flip the piece end to end, make the next cut, then flip the piece top to bottom, and make the next two cuts.

The piece after all the cuts were made.

The piece was then mounted on the lathe "between centers" which means short spikes are pushed into the centre of each end of the piece and the piece is held in place only by the force of the spikes at each end.

The "pro" is that if the piece get a catch while roughing, it will spin rather than break free.

The "con" is that the piece is not held as firmly as it would be in a chuck.

Saving the post. I will continue in my tomorrow.
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well done Dave. I like the explanation. thank you
I like the build thread.

The middle vase is my favourite. They all look good, I have to getto trying some again. I think I have a link somewhere you sent me with glass inserts. I won't say anything about your tape measure (its got fractions on it) ;). Glad I don't have to work with fractions.

Great build thread I'm sure many will benefit from it. I like the blue tape idea, great way for keeping timber aligned for segmenting work, not that I've done any but I can see me adapting the tape idea for it if I ever do.
Starting to rough the blank

After cutting off the corners the blank is mounted on the lathe to begin roughing to make the initial cylinder.

Choices to mount are between centres, which means a spike or point at either end, or hold at the head stock in a chuck.

I have jaws which could hold this piece, but then I cannot rough out the area being held in the chuck.

I am using a spur drive which is designed to be held in my chuck. A convenience so I do not have to remove the chuck.

It did not take long to rough the blank to get a smooth cylinder. Spindle roughing gouge used is on the stand among the chips.

LOTS of chips. :icon_smile:

I like to clean up as I go along. I do not want to track the dust into the house. Not good for domestic bliss. ;)

Next step is to turn a tenon.

Different tools create different chips. In this case I used a 3/8in beading and parting tool. I like using this tool. Wide flat chips.

Now I remove the blank to mount in the chuck for the drilling steps.

I install the other chuck and loosely mount the blank. I know it will not be easy to get the blank to run true unless I use the tailstock and the original centre point for assistance to get this aligned.

I position the tailstock and then tighten down the headstock chuck.

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Drilling the hole

Next step is to drill the hole.

To recap, final dimension is 1 13/16in dia x 7 1/5 deep. Wide and deep, not an easy combination.

I start with 1in Forstner bit, followed by 1 3/4in Forstner bit and finally a 1 13/16in Forstner bit.

The first two bits are Colt Maxi-Cut. I use these because they cut very well. The Roto-Stop extension is special machining to tighten without screws, so it does not slip.

I have not tried hogging out much material with the 1 13/16in bit. This is a no-name bit, although carbide tipped. I am finding it is working well for removing the last 1/16in.

I start with the 1in dia. Forstner. I mounted in a Jacobs chuck, overlooked that I have a special MT2 extension for the Colt Maxi-Cuts so I would not need the Jacobs chuck. Doh!.

I drilled the 1in dia hole, and then replaced the bit to drill the 1 3/4in dia hole, and then remembered I was forgetting to install the Steady Rest. This makes a big difference to avoid vibrations and run-out while drilling.

I highly recommend making your own Steady Rest, I did a build thread on mine.


It is important to drill slow, and stop frequently to remove the chips. They will get packed behind the drill bit which will increase the heat. It is possible for the bit to get VERY hot if you do not stop often for chip removal.

After drilling both diameters for the short length of the bits, I then add the Roto-Stop extension so that I can drill to the full depth.

This is when I remembered about the MT2 special extension for the Colt Maxi-Cut bits.

Again start with 1in dia.

Removing the bit to change to the larger bit is very easy. Two wrenches. 11mm on the extension and 10mm on the bit.

Drilling with the 1 3/4in dia bit.

Final drilling step is to remove the last 1/16in. This drill bit has a hex shank which helps with the screw based extension so it does not spin.

As luck aka Murphy would have it, the extension is a tad too short. I have to finish with the drill bit mounted in my cordless drill.

Lock the head stock, then rotate the bit with the cordless drill. Full depth is about middle of the chuck.

Now we make the first test fit of the insert. The base of the insert is the full 1 13/16in dia. The top/opening is slightly smaller. Bass ackwards for how I would want this designed.

This is a good first fit. I can tell a little lip at the bottom. I need some sanding to get this removed.

The hole is too deep to use my oscillating spindle sander which uses 4 1/2in long drums.

Necessity is the mother of invention. I made a manual sander by screwing 1/2in dia threaded rod through a 1 1/4in dia sanding drum.

I needed nuts are both ends, but I also need to sand to the very bottom. I slid the sleeve down to cover the bottom nut.

For the first couple of vases I held the threaded rod in my hand. This got old fast, so I thought about making a handle.

I then looked down and noticed the small handle extension for my McNaughton Core Saver. Heavy and easily attached with the two allen screws. Perfect.

This picture shows the insert installed after sanding, and the manual sander laying on the lathe bed.

I am improving my work process. This drilling was so much easier than the initial vases. At the time I did not have the 1 13/16in bit, so I had been removing the last 1/16in by sanding. That was time consuming.

I will save and continue in another post.
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Time to start shaping

Now that the insert can fit in the hole, time to remount for shaping.

I have a few options at this point.
a) I could mount with the hole at the headstock end and use the spigot jaws "internal" meaning inside the hole expanding to tighten. I would then use the pin in the tailstock live centre as for the roughing down stage.
b) Mount the tenon in the @2 jaws and use a conical adapter on the tailstock live centre.
c) Use the spur drive with the spigot jaws as for roughing down with a conical adapter on the tailstock live centre.

I chose c) since this gives me better access to most of the ends of the wood for shaping.

I have an aluminium big cone, but I decided to make a wooden cone so that if I hit this with a tool, it will not damage the tool and the wood is easily replaced.

I have the 3/4in x 10 tpi tap. I just had to purchase an 11/16in drill bit.

This is the wooden cone being screwed onto the tailstock live centre.

The wood now remounted. The spur drive on the headstock is using the same centre hole as for the initial roughing. Very important to have consistent reference points for mounting.

As the shaping progresses, it is important for the wood to run true.

I like to draw some landmarks to guide the initial shaping.

Three pencil lines. Left will be the cove for the base, the offset-middle will be the waist and the right will be the cove for the top.

I then use a parting tool to cut close to the depth for the coves.

I then begin the initial shaping.

At this stage I was still deciding on the shape and embellishments. I typically sleep on the design and continue the next day.

The next day I decided I would curve the top. More work on the cove for the base.

I then decided to make a couple of grooves with my narrow parting tool to emphasize the waist. Final shape is complete. Now time to remove the tenon for sanding.

Saving. More in a later post.
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Final steps

Next step is to remove the tenon.

I now remount using the spigot jaws "internal" in the hole for the top.

The pin in the tailstock live centre aligns the wood using the reference point from the roughing stage to run true.

The #2 jaws have serrations to grip the wood which can be seen in this picture.

I then use a parting tool to remove most of the tenon. If I remove all of the tenon I will loose my reference point for the pin. I decided to drill a small hole into the base for alignment with the pin for sanding on the lathe.

I prefer to remove the last piece of the tenon with a hand saw. The small nib of wood can be seen on the lathe bed next to the saw. This only takes a few seconds and gives me more control than trying to remove all the way with the lathe rotating.

I then bring the tailstock live centre back in position for the final sanding on the lathe.

I then remove from the lathe and buff with my Beall buffing wheels.

I am only using the Tripoli (first wheel) and White Diamond (second wheel). The blocks can be seen under the wheel. The lathe is turned on and the blocks pressed against the wheels to load the compounds. I then hold the wood to wheels and rotate.

I find the buffing will show me any remaining tool marks. This picture is not able to show the tool marks, but I had some in the cove at the top and on the body just before this cove.

I had to go back and so some more sanding.

I am now applying the finish on the piece. Using wipe on poly. I will update with final pictures once I have applied all the desired coats. Wipe on poly is easy to apply but thin coats. Need many coats.

Thanks for reading this far.
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Very Nice work Dave and a great build thread :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
I'm glad you posted this Dave. I enjoyed reading it immensely. I can see I need a chuck for sure. Looking good man.
Beautifully Done thank you for the thread, I love your work an keep it coming :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
Great tutorial Dave. Well written and plenty of pictures. I'll be saving this one to point other people to.

Your hand sander - I like that! What stops the paper spinning on the shaft. I presume those papers are easy enough to get.
I have just got home from a memorial day picnic.

Thanks for the kind words I appreciate the replies. A very pleasant surprise. :thumbsup:

I was not sure if I should post the thread. I knew I needed the detail for my non-woodoworking friend, but was concerned it would be too much for the rest of you.

I am happy if this has been informative. I did spend a lot of time editing the pictures, resizing, then posting to the album, but this is worth the effort if it helps others.

For DaveTTC, the hand sander sleeve is kept in place by the rubber drum. The nuts on the threaded rod push on the rubber drum which expands the drum causing friction to hold the sleeve in place.

I started with a single nut at either end of the drum. I soon found out the nut at the handle end of the drum came loose very quickly. I then added a second nut and tightened one against the other as a lock nut, and this is keeping the compression on the drum. Good learning.

What you refer to as the "paper" is called a sanding drum sleeve in the US. Not sure what this would be called in Australia. Try searching from oscillating spindle sanders. Then you may find a source of the drums and sleeves in various grits. Not expensive in the US. My size is 4 1/2in long, a length common for several brands of machines.

I saw an ad for a Jet oscillating spindle sander which used 7in long drums. I expect the sleeves for this machine are not as common.
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The sander would have been very handy for my bowl with spirals. Mind you on another forum it was suggested I keep a sharp edge t the base of the carving.

While this build thread maybe more comprehensive than I personally need I think it is excellent for newbies and I rather enjoyed it and all the pics. You should consider doing this for the uk woodturning magazine. You could pick up some $$$ for it. I believe they are always keen for more content. You have good picture quality. Easy to read and well explained. I think it would go down well over there.
The sander would have been very handy for my bowl with spirals. Mind you on another forum it was suggested I keep a sharp edge t the base of the carving.
My local woodturning club had a demonstration about fluting two months ago. The demonstrator used microplanes to shape his flutes. No power tools.

I could see starting with rough shaping with power tools, and finishing with these.

The demonstrator did make quick work even with only these hand tools.

He did like a sharp bottom for the flutes.

I am not sure if these are available in Australia, or if you have an equivalent. This is a US Woodcraft page for illustration.

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Can't say I have seen them. Specialty wood working stores are a bit rare down here. You have your major hardware stores bit they have a limited range of tools. I'll have to google it, that and the sanding sleeves.

What time is it there now 7:45 last night?
That is really cool. I think I would be pushing the limits of my "lathe"aka shopsmith with a project like that. But I may have to try anyways :)
Good job, Dave - both the vase and the build thread :thumbsup:

When I read the first post I wondered how you got around the problem of the glass insert weird dimension - was the 1-13/16 bit easy to find?
Dave Paine said:
I was not sure if I should post the thread. I knew I needed the detail for my non-woodoworking friend, but was concerned it would be too much for the rest of you.
Your level of detail coupled with the pictures was perfect. While I'm sure many members read through it quickly based on their knowledge level & familiarity, this novice woodworker really appreciated. It's these very descriptive build threads that make these projects almost possible by a guy like me.
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