Introduction: Easy Homemade Wooden Tea Cup Without a Lath

Picture of Easy Homemade Wooden Tea Cup Without a Lath

Hey everyone so here's just a quick instructable about how I made this teacup without using a lathe. All I used was a drill a sand belt and sand paper. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for the feature on my first instructable! Have fun trying it out! :)

Step 1: Getting Your Wood

Picture of Getting Your Wood

If you look at my finished product you will see that it's got a funky grain to it. This is because it's what's called a burl. I'll let you look it up if you want to know more but they have the cool wood grain patterns. For my cup I cut off a chunk of this recently dead cedar tree in my back yard.

Step 2: Rough Shaping

Picture of Rough Shaping

The next step is to saw off any protrusions and make it as semi circular as possible. I just used a regular saw and a clamp for this step but you can do it how you see fit.

Step 3: Belt Sanding

Picture of Belt Sanding

This next step could probably be skipped depending on how symmetrical you cut your burl, but this definitely makes things easier. All I did was run it against the belt sander to fine tune the shape a bit more.

Step 4: Starting to Look Like a Cup!

Picture of Starting to Look Like a Cup!

Here's where things get makeshift. I don't have a lathe to get the cup shaped perfectly so instead I used a drill. So first I got a screw and cut off the head with a metal saw. Then I clamped down on this screw with my drill as if it were a drill bit. Then I drove the screw into the middle of the cup. From there with a piece of string I drew a perfect circle the size I wanted the cup to be. Then comes the fun part! You then turn the drill on slowly while holding it in one hand to control speed and in the other hand you hold sandpaper up to your cup. Always remember to wear safety glasses and make sure your wood is extremely extremely secure. If you don't, technically the wood could fly off and hurt someone or something! Another good idea would be to use thick sanding belt sand paper so it doesn't burn through and also a must would be to use gloves. Other than that just shape it however you think looks best.

Step 5: Cutting Out the Middle

Picture of Cutting Out the Middle

Ok I'm not gunna lie this is the most time consuming part, but this is the only way I could think of with the tools I had available. First I drilled a bunch of holes into the cup to make cutting out the middle easier. Make sure you don't drill too deeply by taping off the drill bit to the length you want to drill. Then to take out more of the wood I started using a pocket knife and that worked alright, but I ended up borrowing a friends dremel. If you don't have a dremel it's going to take a while and even if you do I would suggest doing a lot of the end work by hand because it's very easy to take too much off with a dremel. But next just use course to fine grit sand paper to get the walls as thin as possible.

Step 6: Fine Grit Sanding

Picture of Fine Grit Sanding

Your almost there all the hard work is done! Next just go over everything with a fine grit sandpaper and get it as smooth as you possibly can with the highest grit paper you have. The pictures I have of this step are of the cup dipped in water so I could see how it might look when finished.

Step 7: Finishing the Cup

Picture of Finishing the Cup

There are many finishes that can be used but I chose walnut oil and bees wax for a couple if reasons. Number one being that it creates a waterproof and food safe seal for the wood. I bought them both on eBay for a couple bucks and I use them for all my food safe items. Basically I just use a paper towel to put a layer of walnut oil on the wood and then let it dry overnight. For this cup I put three layers then I smooshed on a layer of beeswax.

Step 8: Done!

Picture of Done!

Then all that's left to do is put your initials on it and have a cup of tea! Please leave a comment if you enjoyed this instructable or if you have any questions suggestions or just wanna say hey! :) Thanks for looking!


ewalk (author)2013-11-07

Is there an alternative to walnut oil? Not allergic to all nuts but I am allergic to walnuts

pudtiny (author)ewalk2015-06-15

The process for making walnut all removes the common allergen, altough I full understand you may not want to take the risk. Any food oil except olive oil would work. Olive oil has a tendency to go rancid. I tend to use sunflower oil.

pmshah (author)pudtiny2015-06-17

As a matter of fact only oil that does not go rancid is Cotton Seed oil. Believe me from 50 years of cooking experience.

hdaniel-1 (author)ewalk2015-06-17

Even though it's not an oil, the best I've found was propolis. No need for anything else. Just melt raw propolis in a pot (do this outside maybe; it WILL smell. Personally I like it, but my wife doesn't) and apply. It's the best sealant, (like natural epoxy) it's not just food safe, but extremely beneficial (antimicrobial, antibacterial, boosts immune system and many more) and it will stay applied for a long time, just like synthetic lacquer or varnish.

nancyjohns (author)ewalk2013-11-12

You can use this stuff called butcher block oil or mineral oil.

Spokehedz (author)ewalk2013-11-07

Any oil will do, you are creating a waterproof coating that gets absorbed into the wood grain/fibers. Just use a TINY bit, and rub it in like mad.

rgerber1 (author)ewalk2013-11-07

When I was in HS many moons ago I made a large salad bowl out of maghogany, my shop teacher told me to use vegetable oil on it,, and that is all I use,, I wash it once in awhile in soapy water and rinse clean, I let dry then re-apply the oil, have not died yet... hope that helps,, I would think any edible oil would work just rub it in well..

mulrich125 (author)rgerber12013-11-07

Yup one reason I chose walnut oil over vegetable oil though is that it goes bad much slower so less reapplying, although its more expensive. Happy woodworking, Matt

BigAndRed (author)ewalk2013-11-07

grape seed oil will be very good, haven't heard of there ever being an allergic reaction to it.

mulrich125 (author)ewalk2013-11-07

There are many actually! I chose walnut for its properties but there are many similar food safe finishes you can use. I suggest going looking at finewoodworking's article on food-safe wood finishes, That will have all the info you need and more, Happy woodworking! Matt

ctuck (author)2013-11-06

Could you expand on your method of applying the beeswax? I have a wooden cup that I made that I want to seal. Just been unsure how.

acoleman3 (author)ctuck2015-06-14

best wood finish i've found is boiled linseed oil and beeswax. melt the wax and add the same amount of oil, then stir until it's well mixed. just be sure to let it sit for a few days until the linseed oil hardens before you actually drink from it.

hdaniel-1 (author)acoleman32015-06-17

Actually, the best I've found was propolis. No need for anything else. Just melt raw propolis in a pot (do this outside maybe; it WILL smell. Personally I like it, but my wife doesn't) and apply. It's the best sealant, (like natural epoxy) it's not just food safe, but extremely beneficial (antimicrobial, antibacterial, boosts immune system and many more) and it will stay applied for a long time, just like synthetic lacquer or varnish.

lr10cent (author)acoleman32015-06-15

I'm sure that's a fine finish for anything that's not near food. However, these days, instead of boiling, metallic catalysts are added to the oil. I suspect they're toxic. Unboiled linseed oil shouldn't be as toxic, maybe not toxic at all. Or you can use flax seed oil, generally meant as a dietary supplement. The latter two apparently take much longer to dry. I cut open flax seed oil capsules to seal our cutting board. Seems to work fine.

I have used walnut oil as a finish on some picture frames. Goes on easy, dries relatively quickly, at least compared to some other oils, and has a pleasant color which ages into another pleasant color after a few years. I THINK it's darker and maybe a bit yellower, but I don't have a sample to look at.

acoleman3 (author)lr10cent2015-06-15

as i's not food safe until it's dry. once the waxes harden, it locks everything in. besides, i've read the msds and from what i know from researching water additives, drinking municipal tap water is just as dangerous as drinking from a cup treated with boiled linseed oil.

now, i will not discuss this any further and get involved in a mindless debate. you don't want to use it? fine, don't use it. but don't try arguing with me about it and try proving me wrong. i won't have any of it.

miked2001 (author)acoleman32015-06-17

From my experience linseed oil never completely dries. It appears dry but ...

pandadude (author)acoleman32015-06-16

From my experience boiled linseed oil is fantastic for tables, chairs- pretty much anything humans contact. However, it does contain Cobalt driers, which may be carcinogenic (it's not well researched, but cobalt compounds have been carcinogenic to animals in toxicity tests). Either way, I would go for the stuff labeled "Raw linseed oil" which doesn't contain the driers and not have any worries.

mulrich125 (author)ctuck2013-11-06

Sure I can! I simply warmed up the beeswax a bit in my hand and then pushed in onto the surface a little bit like coloring with a crayon. Then lastly I just went over the cup with a paper towel and a little bit of pressure to get the coat even. Thats it! :) Happy woodworking, Matt

24189 (author)2017-11-29


RobC152 (author)2017-09-30

I'm also "tool deprived", though I'm working on that. I think you did an amazing job, especially with no lathe etc - but even if you set that fact aside. Beautiful grain pattern, beautiful shape, very nice finish. !!

Rofivi (author)2017-02-11

Great instructable ! Veary creative and well thought!

I got lost at step 4, I don't quite understand how do you carve the interior shape with the drill and sandpaper... Some help, please?

bpark1000 (author)2017-01-03

Was the dead tree outside? If so, it will still have a high water content, which when brought inside, will shrink and crack. The recommended procedure in this case is to soak in PEG until hydrated, then dry. This can take some time.

Otherwise, you can rough oversize, then wait to dry to see if it cracks, and discard if it does.

bpark1000 (author)2013-11-08

Your cup will crack and split as it dries in the house unless you treat it with polyethylene glycol solution (sold by wood suppliers to "freeze" wood into the green state).

When you "turn" the outside, you can hold the work on the drill as you explained, but let the belt sander do the wood removal. This way, the cutting forces are low and the risk of the work flying off are also low.

mulrich125 (author)bpark10002013-11-08

Actually the tree was dead and not in the green state, its been months with no signs of cracks or splits thankfully. Thanks for the information though! Happy woodworking, Matt

aebe (author)mulrich1252013-12-13

Polyethylene Glycol is poisonous , and an ingredient of anti freeze . One of the reasons you do not leave old antifreeze out where critters or kids can get to it , the stuff is actually sweet tasting . And it will kill them .
Great cup !

Old Clockguy (author)aebe2017-01-03

There are different grades and uses for Polyethylene Glycol or PEG, one of which is the use of a low grade "cousin", ethylene glycol and it's close kinfolk "propylene glycol" in the manufacture of antifreeze. But there are also food grades and medicinal grades of PEG which are used in products that are ingested by humans. My exposure to PEG was back in the '70's when "greenwood" carving and lathe turning came into vogue with some of the Mother Earth people. PEG is a well known stabilizer for green wood [fresh cut wood] and will replace any water content stored in green wood and make the wood almost crack proof and very stable if used correctly. PEG treated green wood is actually much more stable ie., less prone to end splitting and cracking, than many kiln dried woods used for furniture and utensils.

bpark1000 (author)aebe2013-12-14

It is NOT poisonous. Do not confuse POLY ethylene glycol with ethylene glycol (which is in antifreeze and poisonous). Polyethylene glycol is even added to common foods such as cereal. You can buy it for treating wood.

When wood is cut "in the round" such as in this Instructable, it is prone to crack because if the different rates of shrinkage of the wood in different directions. When this wood is stored in the house in winter, it will dry further, shrink, and crack due to the low humidity. A small piece such as this will be easy to treat.

mulrich125 (author)bpark10002014-06-25

Been over a year no cracking! :)

aebe (author)bpark10002013-12-14

Low toxicity . Not what I was told when I was introduced to the stuff back in the '70's . I do understand about shrinkage , I work with green wood when I can , making walking sticks , and rarely now , treen such as the cup . Damp shavings or sawdust , packed with the piece into a plastic bag and kept in the 'fridge has worked . Anyway , thank you .

Artwitz (author)2016-10-14

Thank you. Looks like fun to try. Will the cup have to be re oiled/waxed over the years? Can i put boiling water in it. How to wash?

WoodWorkingPerson (author)2015-08-13

I like orange tung oil because it actually dries (unlike vegetable oils such as walnut oil) and it dries hard. I like it from

darthbindy (author)2015-06-18

If there will be boiling tea in it, is there a possibility it will melt the wax off?

T3h_Muffinator (author)2015-06-17


manuka (author)2013-11-07

FWIW elm wood, which has an interlocking cross grain that resists cracking, is esteemed for the likes of thin walled fruit & salad bowls. Grain detail is superb, but working ii is like chiseling marble & the wood may be a beggar to hand craft this way.

lr10cent (author)manuka2015-06-15

Also, don't try splitting elm to get the right sized chunk of wood. Elm is very resistant to splitting, which I guess is related to its resistance to cracking that you mention. At times, I've had three or four wedges stuck in one modest sized, short log. (Like, two feet long.) That was back when we were still cutting down elms that had succumbed to Dutch Elm disease, so there was enough for fire wood. I wonder how many elms there used to be in the neighborhood I moved to several years ago.

MichiganDave (author)2015-06-15

Totally impressed at your creativity. You have made a delightful object and did not use the tools I would think of using. Congratulations!

spark master (author)2015-06-15

You can also use wax with mineral oil. Sweet project make sure people, make sure you don't make one for someone who is allergic to nuts or even cedar!

I am not allergic to either, so feel free to send one this way!!!

nice job

Sawgrass man (author)2015-06-15

beautiful job! I'm also wondering if you'll get some cracks, but...well, time will tell.

BTW, you should be able to do a one-step/last step beeswax & walnut coat by melting the beeswax in a double- boiler and mixing in enough walnut oil to make a thick goo, though it may take longer to dry. The "double boiler" I usually use is an empty tomato can in a saucepan of boiling water that I've taken out to the studio. I've got a hotplate for bigger jobs, but I'm always leery of fire hazards like this.

iaincwil (author)2015-06-14

fine job but I think I will use the lathe! I will have a go at making a few of these make nice gifts for crimble time

JoeI2 (author)2015-06-14

I've been making (in my spare time) a guitar. To sand and shape it, I've been using a side grinder with 60 grit metal flap disc wheel from Harbour Freight. Go easy it will take the wood off fast if you aren't careful.

rainbowhoff (author)2015-06-14

very cool!

joe.palmer.18 (author)2015-06-14

Great project, I will try next winter.

imboox2 (author)2015-06-14

Forstner bits would work great.

AngusSpiers (author)2015-04-19

Hey I was wondering if you could help me out, I've made a spoon and am thinking of covering it with walnut oil and bees wax but it is meant to be a tea spoon so it will have to put up with boiling water. I was wondering will the Finnish melt off when it's being used or would it be ok? If you could help me out I would be really
grateful. Thanks

zfollette (author)2015-04-09

Wonderful job!

JimT3 (author)2015-02-06

Wow, great job on the teacup! I would love to make more things out of wood. I don't have a dremel, like you speak of, so I might need to get one if I ever decide to get serious into it!

KirstieLynn (author)2014-11-07

Beautiful! Just found your instructable through Pinterest, I think I might try to make one myself!

jango_fx (author)2014-02-16

i wonder if the oil and wax won't melt/dissolve when in contact with hot tea? i'd imagine drops of grease in my freshly brewed earl gray?

la2ur2en (author)2014-02-07

Absolutely love this! I wanted to make my boyfriend a cup for valentines day as he loves having his cookies and milk every night, and this is brilliant!

Seems simple enough, and much easier than I thought it would be without the lathe. :)

marcel.reuter (author)2013-12-18

Hi mulrich125! That was a great project, wondering to do one too! Did you put coffee or hot beverage on this cup? Did you have any problems with wood taste or others in the drink? Thanks!!

About This Instructable




Bio: Currently in college pursuing a degree in music therapy but love working with my hands!
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