Introduction: Make a Wooden Propeller
This is a wooden propeller I made and mounted to the wall in my home office.
I like airplanes (especially vintage) and have always wanted a wooden propeller to have as a piece of decor.
So just for fun I decided to make my own from scratch, and I'm quite proud of how it turned out.
Whether you want to make a similar wooden propeller or any other curvy wooden object, I think you'll find some of my steps helpful. I really enjoyed making it, and it's fun to just reach over and give it a spin every once in a while!
Thanks for taking a look.
Step 1: Piece of Ash
I started with a 36-inch piece of ash wood.
This was ripped into two pieces with a table saw.
Step 2: Glue Up
The two pieces were glued together using plenty of wood glue and several clamps. When gluing wood, be sure to apply a thin layer of glue to both surfaces to be joined.
Step 3: Lay Out Propeller Shape
The glued-up wood blank was 2 inches thick and 3 1/2 inches wide.
I laid out a propeller-like shape on stiff paper and cut it out. The paper pattern was used to transfer the propeller shape onto the wood blank.
Step 4: Drill Center Hole
The propeller spins on a stack of skateboard bearings, mounted on a 5/16" bolt. A hole to house the bearings was drilled using a 7/8" (22mm) forstner bit on a drill press.
Step 5: Band Saw
Tapered lines were drawn onto the wood blank along the sides from the middle section down to 1/2", centered on either end. These wedge shapes were then cut off using a band saw.
The wedge shapes were then taped back into place with masking tape to provide support while cutting the shapes on the face-side of the wood blank.
After all cuts were completed the tape was removed to reveal a rough propeller shape in the wood.
Step 6: Progress
Here is the propeller shape after initial band sawing.
Step 7: Mark Areas to Remove on Prop Blades
Areas to be removed on the propeller blades were indicated with a marker.
The faces of each blade were marked in the same exact way, following the side tapers as shown.
Step 8: More Band Sawing
The marked areas were carefully nibbled away using the band saw. The blade guide is raised and the blade is used to basically carve the work piece.
Since the blade is working mostly unsupported, you must keep the wood firmly in contact with the table behind the blade.
Work slowly and let the blade do the work, being mindful to not apply any lateral pressure on the blade and only remove small amounts of wood at a time.
Step 9: Progress
Here is the propeller after further roughing out the shape on the band saw.
Step 10: Refine Shape With Belt Sander
The shape of the propeller blade is refined with 36 grit sandpaper on a belt sander. The propeller is held securely in a vise to do this.
This is a process that requires constant feeling of the wood to remove high spots and continually working toward a shape you are happy with.
I indicated high spots with a marker, removed these by sanding, and then repeated this over and over.
Step 11: Refine Further With Orbital Sander
The shape was refined further using an orbital sander with 80 grit sandpaper.
It's important to remove all sanding grooves from the previous grit before progressing to the next higher grit paper.
Step 12: Round Over Blade Edges
As I was working toward higher grit sandpapers, at 100 grit I rounded off the blade edges.
I marked with a pencil the areas to remove and sanded away the wood between the marks. Then I carefully beveled any remaining angular edges until I had a uniformly rounded shape I was happy with.
Step 13: Progress
Here is the basic propeller shape completed.
Step 14: Route Area for Aluminum Plate
I wanted to have an aluminum face plate on the front of the propeller. An area was routed about 3/16" deep to receive this plate.
Step 15: Aluminum Face Plate
A piece of scrap aluminum was measured, marked, cut out, and sanded smooth.
Holes were drilled for the center bolt as well as for the screws that will hold the plate to the propeller.
Step 16: Stain
The propeller was stained with a dark oil-based stain and allowed to dry for a couple of days.
Step 17: Finishing Touches
The propeller tips were masked off and spray painted with red, then masked off again to receive a black stripe.
When dry, the paint was lightly hand sanded with wet 400 grit sandpaper to give a slight weathered look.
After this the entire propeller received several light coats of semi-gloss spray lacquer.
Step 18: Add Faceplate
The aluminum faceplate was screwed in place into holes pre-drilled into the wood.
Step 19: Build Base
A base was made using another piece of ash.
This was cut out using a band saw and the edges were rounded over with a router.
The center hole for the bolt was drilled used a drill press and areas for keyhole screw anchors were added to allow this to be mounted on the wall.
Step 20: Completed Base
The base was painted and finished in the same method as the propeller tips.
A 5/16" bolt as well as the keyhole screw hangers were attached to the base at this point.
Step 21: Attach Propeller
A pair of washers were placed on the bolt followed by six skateboard bearings, the propeller itself, another washer, and a nylon-insert lock nut.
Step 22: It's NOT a Fidget Spinner
You could try to use this as a ridiculously large and unwieldy fidget spinner, but that would be silly!
It's really just a quirky piece of home decor.
Step 23: Spin Away
Thank you for reading, and happy spinning!