This Instructable will show you how to take a single board and turn it into a unique wooden vase for displaying cut flowers. The vase itself is watertight, but it is not intended to hold water for extended periods as this can lead to warping if the water makes its way past the finish.
The size of the vase is completely up to you, but will be limited by the maximum cutting height of your band saw. (My band saw can only handle material up to 6 inches thick, so the maximum height I can make my vase is 6 inches)
1 board, ¾ thick. Species is your choice, but pick something pretty. (Length and width dimensions will be determined in step one.)
Waterproof wood glue
Wood stain or oil.
Polyurethane or other clear coat finish (optional)
Spray adhesive or double sided tape
1 sheet of paper
Table saw (or any other saw capable of making straight cuts)
Clamps, clamps, clamps
Belt sander or other power sander (optional)
Scissors or hobby knife
Step 1: Design
First draw how your vase will look when viewed from the front. The design is up to you, but try to make it somewhat “vase-like.” You can draw this freehand, or draw it on a computer. The picture shows the shape I am using for my vase.
Once you have a design you are happy with, draw it one more time, but actual size (if you didn’t already draw it actual size.) Make a few copies of your drawing; you only need one, but it is good to have extras. Use scissors or a hobby knife to cut out one of the vase drawings. You don't need to cut precisely on the lines, in fact it is probably best to cut slightly outside of the lines. We will be using this as a cutting guide later so you want your outline to be completely intact.
Step 2: Wood Selection and Preparation
Using your full-size drawing, measure the height of your vase. Multiple this number by 3 and add 2 inches to it. This is the length of the board you will need with a little extra, just in case.
Next measure the widest point of your vase. Add 1 inch to this number. This is the width of the board you will need (again, with a little extra, just in case.)
Use these measurements to pick out a nice board for your vase. Stay away from construction grade lumber and other soft woods. I recommend using a nice piece of hardwood with an attractive grain pattern. Oak and Maple are good choices, but it is up to you. I’m using Sycamore on this vase. Avoid any cupped or twisted boards, we need nice flat surfaces to make this work.
If you are planning to use some type of "exotic" wood, I recommend doing a little research first to ensure that particular wood adheres to glue well. There are some species that resist gluing, and they would not be appropriate for this project.
Once you have your board, run it through a planner on both sides. We aren’t going for a specific thickness here, we just need both sides of the board to be nice and flat.
Step 3: Let's Cut Some Wood
Crosscut your board into three equal lengths. These three pieces will form the faces and center of your vase.
Select one of the pieces of wood and make two vertical lines running the length of the board. These lines are going to form the pocket inside of the vase, so they need to be positioned close enough together to fit inside the shape of your vase. Each line should be an equal distance from the center of the board. I've included two sketches to show the cuts we will make, and one with the vase outline to show how the vertical cuts need to fit within the shape of the vase.
Using a table saw, cut along the two vertical lines you just drew. You will now have three equal length pieces. Take the center piece and cut off a 1 to 2 inch piece from the end. This small piece will form the bottom of the pocket in your vase. The rest of this piece is scrap, but hang on to it for now. In the picture, I’ve included an outline of the vase to help you visualize how the pieces will fit.
Step 4: Make a Sandwich - Part 1
If you are hungry, stop and eat something. Better?
Okay, now we are going to make a sandwich.
First let’s dry fit everything. Lay one of the face pieces on a flat surface. Lay the 3 center pieces on top of the side piece. They should form a “U” shape. (Try to keep the bottom edges all aligned with the bottom of the face piece.) Next lay the other face piece on top. You now have your sandwich.
Your center layer will not be as wide as the top and bottom. This is due to the wood lost when making the two vertical cuts. (This is why you need to start with a board a little wider than your final size.) Try and center them as best as you can.
If you have trouble keeping the two sides of the center layer aligned, you can stick the waste piece back in place temporarily.
Take off the top layer of your “sandwich” and trace the inside of the vase. (if you were using the waste piece to help with alignment, you need to remove it for this part.) Now remove the inside of the center layer. You will be left with one board with a “U” drawn on it.
Step 5: Make a Sandwich - Part 2
We are going to build this sandwich one piece at a time.
A quick note about gluing: In the coming instructions, I will say to spread the glue onto a piece. When I say spread, I really mean spread. We are looking for complete glue coverage, so use a spreader or your finger to smear that glue all over the surface we are gluing. Don't get lazy and just squirt a line or two of glue onto a piece, that is a sure fire way to invite water to seep into your joints.
With that being said, let's begin:
First, spread a thin layer of glue on the face of the small center piece and place it in position using the markings you just made as a guide. Use a clamp to hold this piece in place.
Next, spread a thin layer of glue on the area of the face piece where one of the side pieces will go. Also spread a layer of glue on the side of the center piece (the piece we just glued down,) where the side piece will contact it.
Place the side piece on the glue and make sure it is snug against the side of the center piece. Repeat the process for the other side piece. (Don't forget to put glue on the side of the center piece.)
Take your waste piece and stick it back in place to make sure everything is aligned. When you are happy with the fit, clamp everything in place except the waste/spacer. Once everything is clamped down, remove the spacer.
If any glue squeezed out, clean it up with a damp rag.
Let it sit until the glue has dried enough to ensure the pieces are not going to slip out of alignment. If you are using a good wood glue, 1 hour should be plenty of time.
Step 6: Make a Sandwich - Part 3
Once the glue has set, we are ready to add the final layer to our sandwich.
Remove all the clamps and spread a thin layer of glue all over the tops of the three middle pieces. Place the remaining face piece on top. Try to keep the bottom aligned with the bottom of the middle layer.
Clamp the entire sandwich together and leave it clamped until the glue dries. If any glue squeezes out, you know the drill, clean it up with a damp rag.
Once the glue is dry, remove the clamps.
You should now have a three layered block of wood with a hole in the middle. Technically you have a vase, but we still need to make it look nice. Let’s just call it a vase blank.
Step 7: Let's Get Curvy
If your top pieces are not particularly even, use your band saw (or table saw) to trim of the excess so you have a fairly flat top.
Once your blank has a flat top, attach the paper cutout to one of the faces of the blank with spray adhesive. The bottom of the paper cutout should be aligned with the bottom edge of the blank.
On the top of the vase blank draw a curve on each face (try to make them as close to identical as possible.) You can see in the sketch I uploaded the general shape we are going for. If you are bad at drawing curves, the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket makes a great template.
Leave a small gap between the apex of the curve and the edge of the wood. 1/8" should be enough but you can leave more if your design requires it.
Once you are satisfied with your curves, stand your blank up in the band saw and cut along the lines you just drew. If at all possible, try to make one continuous cut on each side. Go slow! You are removing a lot of wood so go slow and don't overload your saw. After completing the cuts, you should have your slightly curvy blank, and two thin curved waste pieces. Do not throw away the waste from these cuts!
Using spray adhesive or double sided tape, put the waste pieces back in place. The reason for this is twofold. First, we just cut our paper cutting template off of the blank; We need to put it back so we know where to cut. Second, we need a flat base when we make the next cuts.
Lay the blank down on the band saw with the paper facing up. Carefully cut along the lines of the paper. Once the cuts are made, you can remove the waste pieces and your vase is basically complete.
Step 8: Sanding and Finishing
Use a rougher grit sand paper to remove any saw marks or burns. If there is any dried glue on the outside, be sure to scrape or sand it off or it will be visible when you apply your finish.
If any of your cuts got away from you and you are left with a wavy edge, you can clean them up by sanding. A benchtop belt sander work great for this task. You can use it to sculpt your vase until you are happy with the final shape.
Switch to finer grits of sandpaper until you are happy with the smoothness of your vase.
The final finish is up to you. Most likely you will want to stain and clear coat your wood. (follow the instructions provided with the stain and clear coat.) Be aware that stain will often cause the wood grain to raise, so you may need to do some light sanding after your first coat of stain.
If you plan on using water in your vase, be sure to coat the inside with a waterproof finish.
I went with a simpler finishing method and just rubbed the vase down with mineral oil. It won't be as waterproof as stain and clear coat, but I think it really brings out the character of the wood.
Your vase is done, display it proudly. If you make one, I'd love to see it.