Was going through some older media and thought that you folks might enjoy this vase I made almost a year ago. At the time I was working in a local makerspace and had all the tools my lazy time lacking self could want. As this was something I wanted to make as well as useful since my girlfriend actually needed a vase and her birthday was closing in - the game was on!
Keep in mind that this is perfectly doable without having fancy tools like a CNC router, thickness planer and even slab of ash and I'll offer you solutions how in the further steps.
Step 1: What Do I Need?
- A piece of solid wood (I used ash)*
- Stainless steel tube with a brushed finish (used 10mm outer, 7mm inner diameter)*
- Glass test tubes (around 16mm in diameter)
- Wooden dowel in same diameter as the steel tube*
- CNC router*
- Pillar drill*
- Miter saw*
- Rotary tool with a small sanding drum attachment*
- Drill bits for leg and tube holes
- Sander and/or sandpaper
- Wood finish (DIY beeswax polish in my case)
A big chunk of tools and even materials are optional, I've marked those with an asterisk * and will explain workarounds in further steps. Flowers are obligatory, but a girlfriend is optional since there will be many takers if you make this. :)
Step 2: Getting the Board Flat
This step in itself is somewhat optional, but since I had the tools I wanted to make something with square edges and even surface for once in my life.
I used a CNC router with a relatively small (20mm) planer bit to even out the board. Had to take over a centimeter of height off from each of the sides to get it nice and flat. This way also allows you to go for a coffee while the machine is doing its work, given that you're playing safe with feed rates and stepdown.
The surface has some minor unevenness afterwards and that is why you want to go over it with a sander or fine sandpaper. Stroke the wood for your enjoyment afterwards.
As a better alternative - use a thickness planer to do this instead of a CNC router.
If fancy machinery like that is not what you have - make a jig for a hand router. Here's an instructable showing you how.
If router is too much of a tool to have - you don't necessarily need to get the board flat, just sand it smooth! You can also use scrapwood to make the top instead of solid wood and it may even look cooler. Try something like mikeasaurus did here!
Step 3: Trimming to Size
Everything is pretty straightforward here.
Grab any capable saw you own and cut the board to size (in my case around 15x13cm). Then sand the edges smooth. Careful around the bark though as it has the tendency to pop off from dry wood - glue it if necessary.
Step 4: Drilling Holes for Legs and Test Tubes
This is a little trickier than the cutting part, you should think and measure before you drill (as is usually the case I guess).
To avoid eyeballing the distances and arrangements I made a drilling template Illuminati would be proud of. You can find it attached to this step in both vector PDF and Fusion360 formats - you can change the Fusion one to specifications you need, it's a fully defined sketch.
You want the holes for legs to be slightly diagonal (10 degrees in my case) for stability and the holes for test tubes should remain straight. I would also suggest using some kind of marking on the drill bit for leg holes (masking tape works well) to avoid drilling through the wood. I didn't do that since the drill wasn't capable of going far enough to drill through.
As for the test tube holes - I made small pilot holes drilling through the template, then flipped the wood piece around and drilled from the would be top to the bottom. This was done to avoid potential tearout at the top (visible side).
Step 5: Making the Legs
It's straightforward once again - just mark equal lengths on your tube and cut. I had around 1 meter of tube left over from another project, therefore each leg is around 33cm long. Give them a little sanding afterwards.
To avoid scratching a surface the vase will sit on and to have nice tiny accents of wood on the end of legs I decided to plug the ends with wood. The problem was - I had no access to a lathe and had to improvise. Ended up using the pillar drill as my lathe which obviously isn't optimal as well as using a standard chisel isn't optimal but it did the trick. The rule of thumb here is using the chisel to make the sharp corners you need and sandpaper to form the round part. Try at your own risk.
Step 6: Fitting the Test Tubes In
The first picture shows an initial test on a piece of plywood which got me all happy and optimistic. The reality was a little different. To fit in 3 test tubes successfully I had to destroy another 3 in the process.
Some things to keep in mind. First of all - wear thick leather gloves when inserting the test tubes. Expect it to break at any time and think where would your hand go if there would be no more resistance working against you. You don't want to stain the wood with blood.
Test tubes have a fire polished lip which might be of a larger diameter than the rest of the tube (unless you buy lip-less tubes which I don't recommend). This means that you might have to insert the tube from the top down. In my case it turned out that the tube wasn't of a consistent diameter all over, somehow I managed to slide them in from the bottom up and they held in place. Still don't understand how.
If it seems like the tube doesn't fit - don't try to force it as you will have to refer to the first thing I asked to keep in mind. The tube should go in with minimal friction or even none at all as long as it doesn't wobble around and the lip is big enough to keep in from falling through.
Some people mentioned to me that buying more expensive test tubes from established manufacturers is likely to make this easier as they are of a very consistent diameter. There are also options with a thicker wall if I recall correctly.
With all this in mind you will need to adjust the drilled holes just right for the test tubes. I used a rotary tool with a small sanding drum attachment (around 8mm in diameter) to sand the holes just big enough. Standard Dremel sanding drum is bigger and right around 16mm and it might work for this, but it will get stuck in the hole and may burn the motor of your tool in the process.
Step 7: Assembly and Finishing
By now it should be ready for final assembly - that is fitting the legs in. I just pressed them in and they held well, therefore I felt no need to glue them, but it's up to you.
For finishing I used some beeswax polish I made myself (refer to this instructable if you want to make some). This is an important part because the vase is pretty likely to have water spills or drops on in and you want to avoid any staining, rotting or anything else resulting from that, therefore apply lots of polish. I did remove the test tubes an extra time for applying polish so you may want too, just don't get too energetic with polish in the holes since it might swell the wood and you will have quite some trouble then.
Step 8: Done! Now Get Some Flowers :)
Thanks for reading this far!
Hopefully this gave you an idea or two and just enough encouragement to try one.
I can easily see a similar vase taking a more industrial or steampunk look if distressed wood and copper tubing would be used. If you decide to make one, similar or entirely different - please share it in comments!
Cheers and until next time!