Turned Canisters
Popular Woodworking|February 2021
Hone Your Skills Making Functional Storage
Dillon Baker

PROJECT #2102

Skill Level: Advanced

Time: 1 day Cost: $50

It’s rare that I afford myself the opportunity to spend time and experiment at the lathe. Much of this could be attributed to the fact that turning (to me) has always had the perception of being a purely hobbyist pursuit that was too arcane and esoteric to be practical. And as a neophyte to the craft, it’s often easy to view fine woodworking and turning as two separate things, but in fact can be classified as either synonymous or as an extension of one another. Personally, I prefer to view them as complementary—a correlational and mutually advantageous discipline.

It’s this sense of interconnectedness combined with a willingness to improve, that continually drive my need to pick up a gouge and dispel my initial impressions of turning. Over time, I have found that committing to small projects (such as the ones featured in this article) become a reminder of the gratifying quality that turning possesses. Another redeeming aspect of turning is the ability to yield successful results without having a great deal of experience. Minimal tools and equipment are required, rendering this an accessible and enjoyable exercise for novice woodworkers and experts alike—so let’s get started.

Scrap Bin Diving

One of the things to relish about this project is that it allows you to finally utilize those pieces of wood you refused to discard ‘insert number of years ago here’. Of course, there is always the option of going out and purchasing something exotic or figured (since it’s on a more economical scale), however, there is something inherently gratifying about using up old scraps of sentimentality.

For this project, I chose some leftover cherry that had interesting figure along with some spalted maple. If you have blanks large enough, great. If not, there is no shame in laminating two pieces together (from the same board) to get the desired thickness. Just make sure to be conscious of matching grain to avoid any conspicuous glue lines.

Blank Preparation

Since the piece(s) will invariably be turned down to a cylinder, there doesn’t seem to be a conceivable reason to further prep your piece, short of chucking it into the lathe. Albeit, squaring up the work piece aids in finding center on each end of the blank. Move over to the band saw and create two intersecting stop cuts on one end of each blank. This will aid in allowing the spur center to seat properly to the blank. Proceed to do this on all four blanks—don’t hesitate to make a couple back-up blanks for insurance.

Need for Speed

Before turning its important to determine the safe minimum as well as maximum RPM in relation to the size of the work piece. Take the diameter and multiply it by 6,000 to 9,000. The first number (6,000) divided by the diameter of the piece will give you the minimum efficient speed. The latter number (9,000) divided by the diameter will provide you with the safe maximum speed. Considering our blanks are under 3, speeds up 3,500 RPMs are acceptable, however are not requisite— the important thing is to start slow and to establish a level of comfort as well as familiarity with how each individual tool cuts.

Start with a Cylinder

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