Make a decorative wooden snowman
With Thanksgiving out of the way and Christmas right around the corner, it’s time to start decorating the house. In this project, I will show you how to create a pair of snowman decorations on the wood lathe. Not only is this a great holiday project, but it also provides valuable practice with a variety of turning tools — so it’s a perfect skill builder project for beginners and those looking to hone their technique.
As for woods: I used Maple for the bodies and Osage orange for the accessories, but I only used them because I had some. You can use any hardwoods you like. A light hardwood will make the snowmen look more like snowmen, and a darker wood for the accessories provides contrast, but you could also paint or stain the pieces to any shade you like.
The final pieces measured a little less than 9 inches tall, but as with most woodturning projects, the dimensions can be changed to suit your needs.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
*Maple firewood (or other light hardwood)
*Osage orange (or another contrasting wood - anything with color)
*Cyanoacrylate (CA) glue, aka superglue, and activator
*Decorations from the craft store - beads, cloth, buttons, etc. to taste
*Wood lathe w/ chuck
*Turning tools: bowl gouge, spindle gouge, Easy Wood Tools #1 Hollower, Detail Gouge, skew chisel
Step 2: Turning the Bodies
I’m using firewood for the bodies, so I start the lathe out slow until the piece is turned true and round. I picked a relatively straight piece with some character to it, because I intend to leave some of the bark on at the bottom.
With the lathe at 1000 RPM, start out with a bowl gouge. Form the basic features: snowman shape, a flange at the bottom for the “ground,” and a tenon on top for the hat. Having a tenon in place allows you to secure the hat with plenty of glue surface.
Once the basic shapes have been roughed out, speed up the lathe to about 1500RPM and move to Easy Wood #1 Hollower and detail gouge. At this stage, you add more detail to the body by slowly removing material. Shallower cuts will give you a cleaner finish and require less sanding later, so take your time.
Step 3: Hats
To form the hats, I used a spindle gouge at 2000 RPM to form the basic shape and a parting tool to face off the top of the snowman’s top hat. Turn a recess inside the hat to accept the tenon on top of the head.
Apply your finish of choice. I used CA glue as the finish because of its speed, durability, and clarity.
Step 4: Arms
The arms are the only pieces of this project not turned on the lathe. Instead, the arms are cut on the bandsaw and refined on the spindle sander. The shape can be free-formed, but be sure to leave enough material at the shoulders to accept mounting pins. Drill the arms after sanding.
Step 5: Wooden Details
We’re getting near the finish, but a few details remain. I made a handbag for the snowwoman by turning a small disc of Osage Orange and then removing material from one side.
The noses were turned from scrap hardwood using a skew chisel. You can get very detailed, slender pieces with a skew chisel, just take your time and be careful. I also used the skew chisel to make a cane for the snowman.
Step 6: Assembly
To assemble the snowcouple, drill the shoulders to accept the arms and the face to accept the noses. You can simply glue these pieces in place using CA glue or wood glue — they won’t take weight and aren’t structural, so any glue will do. If you are careful with your gluing, the arms can swing free after assembly!
Step 7: Finish and Accessorize
Finish the entire piece with several light coats of spray lacquer. Lacquer dries quickly and leaves a nice finish, but be sure to use it in a well-ventilated area. Wear a respirator or mask if you have one.
At this point, the snowcouple are finished! Now you can add decorations using common items from the craft store, including buttons, beads, et cetera. I added some jeweled details to the snowwoman’s hat and purse and buttons for each of the snowpeople. Scarves made from scrap fabric are a nice touch. This is a great time to involve your children — all of the power tools have been put away and all that remains is a relaxing craft activity.
Thanks so much for reading!