Introduction: Wooden Travel Mug

Picture of Wooden Travel Mug

The wooden travel mug is a great intermediate level wood turning project with a really nice and functional end result.

The necessary materials for this project are a 4 by 4 by 10 inch piece of wood some epoxy and a travel mug insert from Woodcraft.

You will also need a wood lathe with a Jacobs Chuck tail stock and a 4 Jaw Chuck head stock option.

Step 1: Center

Picture of Center

Start by marking the center of your stock on both ends and chuck it between centers in the lathe.

Step 2: Cylinder

Picture of Cylinder

Like most turning projects, the first step is to turn your square stock into a cylinder.

You can use a roughing gouge for this step. When possible use long continuous cuts along the length of your stock.

Step 3: Cut Tenon

Picture of Cut Tenon

In order to hold your work securely in a four jaw chuck you'll need to cut a tenon in the end. Once an appropriately sized tenon is cut use the parting tool to cut it to length.

Step 4: Drill

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Traditional woodturners may frown upon the use of forstner bits to remove material, but I'm not a traditional woodturner. In the interest of efficiency I encourage using the tools you have at your disposal.

I used three different sizes of forstner bits in this project to approximate the taper of the mug insert. I chose the sizes for each but by measuring it against different parts of the insert. The first bit was sized to the bottom of the insert. The second was measured to half way down the mug, and the third the size of the opening at the top.

I used a Jacobs chuck in the tail stock of the lathe and drilled each bit to a depth corresponding to the distance down the mug insert where the diameter of the insert matched the diameter of the bit.

Step 5: Internal Cuts

Picture of Internal Cuts

The forstner bits did a pretty good job of roughing out the internal shape of the mug, but a small amount of clean up work was necessary to make the insert fit perfectly. For internal cuts run the lathe in reverse and lower your tool rest a bit. A bowl gouge or hollowing tool is a good choice for these cuts.

I recommend taking it slow and checking the fit of the insert often.

Step 6: Shape

Picture of Shape

Now that the inside of your mug fits the insert it is time to tackle the outside. The most important part of the outside is the top end where the insert overlaps. For the best results this part first and then be careful to not take any more material off. You can use a gouge or a scraper here to slowly remove material from the end until the lip of the insert just barely fits over the end of the wooden vessel. Once the insert fits you can cover the end in masking tape to remind yourself not to take off anything else from that area.

After the lip is cut the rest of the mug's shape is completely up to you. I chose to follow the taper of the insert, but you could shape the mug in any way you like.

Step 7: Sand

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Sanding on the lathe is best done at a slow speed with the lathe spinning in reverse. Use a series of increasingly fine grits to achieve the desired finish texture.

Step 8: Remove

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Once you are satisfied with the shape and surface texture of your mug you can use a parting tool or hand saw to remove it from the stock.

Step 9: Glue

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Epoxy is the best glue for adhering wood to metal. I mixed up a small batch of epoxy and applied it liberally to the insert before inserting it into the wooden vessel.

Step 10: The Bottom

Picture of The Bottom

The bottom of hollow forms is always where I struggle the most. In this case my strategy was unorthodox but very successful. I used the four jaw chuck to hold the top of the mug from the inside and sanded the bottom with a air-powered die grinder. I tried using a gouge and a scraper on the end, but the chuck didn't hold the mug well enough to deal with the forces of a real turning tool.

Step 11: Finishing

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I highly recommend General Finishes' food safe oil based Urethane called Salad Bowl finish for this project. I applied tow coats with a rag while the mug was still on the lathe.

Step 12: Enjoy

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Now you can enjoy the warmth of natural wood while you sip your morning coffee and relish in the knowledge that you created something beautiful and functional.


Carter Hildebrandt (author)2015-04-08

could you use a drill press instead of the lathe?

You could, but you would have much less control. I don't recommend it.

All right I thought it would be a little dangerous

MyFixitUpLife (author)2015-04-14

Now this is absolutely fantastic! Love.

CobyUnger (author)MyFixitUpLife2015-07-10

Thanks, Glad you like it.

owatson (author)2015-04-17

Forstner bits are great for removing material

CobyUnger (author)owatson2015-07-10

Yes indeed.

smacha made it! (author)2015-07-07

so this is my first one ever made I still have to sand it. let me know what you think.

CobyUnger (author)smacha2015-07-10

Looks great!

danielg21 (author)2015-04-13

Fantastic .........

Now to find somewhere in the UK that sells the Travel Mug inserts so I can have a go :)

p.ingenhoff (author)2015-04-09


CobyUnger (author)p.ingenhoff2015-04-10


submark (author)2015-04-09

I would put a word in on this about cleaning your wooden wares. This is probably not dishwasher safe. And also, wood should not be soaked in the sink. If you have need to soak dried up material in the bottom of the cup just fill the cup with warm sudsy water and let it stand upright for a while.

Spalting is the result of a natural fungal process of decay in wood that has been stopped by the drying of the wood. The wonderful colors and patterns it inscribes in wood are much sought after as natural accents in the finshed item.The fungus is not harmful to you, but if allow spalted wood to rehydrate, the process of decay will continue as the fungus in still present, but dormant in the object.

Treen ware will wash well but soaking most wooden objects will cause them to swell and possibly deform. Wood takes more care than modern materials, but the rewards of beauty, utility, and light weight make it wonderful.

CobyUnger (author)submark2015-04-10

Thanks for the advice. I totally agree.

ClareBS (author)2015-04-09

They are beautiful and best of all, they don't need to be finished on the inside!

CobyUnger (author)ClareBS2015-04-10

The stainless steel inserts are awesome. I recommend them highly.

lovethebackwoods (author)2015-04-09

Positively excellent work, C.U.! Beautiful stuff.Thanks for sharing this,

Thanks. Glad you like 'em.

Shrimp24 (author)2015-04-05

Absolutely wonderful use of wood. The mug looks incredible.

CobyUnger (author)Shrimp242015-04-10


smorgsborg (author)2015-04-05


CobyUnger (author)smorgsborg2015-04-10

Thank you. I am glad you like it.

PhilTee (author)2015-04-06

That is absolutely beautiful. Fantastic work!

CobyUnger (author)PhilTee2015-04-10


ExquiseMarquise (author)2015-04-06

I don't have a wood lathe and wouldn't know how to use one anyway but this blew my mind. This is so beautiful. Congratulations.

Thanks. Glad you like them.

These are gorgeous! I need to learn to use the lathe so I can make one!

Do it! it's super fun.

Doc Honey Badger (author)2015-04-06

I don't have any of the tools... I'd buy one in a heartbeat

same here

CobyUnger (author)golddigger15592015-04-10

Look in the comments above. Someone is selling a very similar mug.

amansharma4love (author)2015-04-08

nice work bro, it is a impressive project.


amauuarin (author)2015-04-09

I need to learn how to do this!!!

It's actually been a dream of mine, since visiting a wood turning workshop in Spiddal, Ireland. The artist made the most incredible bowls from fallen trees and stumps...

Lovely work!

CobyUnger (author)amauuarin2015-04-10

Thanks. I encourage you to give it a try. It is really fun and rewarding.

markthehippie88 (author)2015-04-06

How much would it cost me to purchase one from you? I don't have a lathe, Or a workshop for that matter since I'm apartment dwelling.

I already gave all the ones I made away to friends. Looks like there are some really nice ones on Etsy for around $50.

ldubia (author)CobyUnger2015-04-09

Nice work there. I too make travel mugs with wood. Mine sell for $50 as well. I have yet to do a solid wood one. Mine are all stacked woods or segmented.

CobyUnger (author)ldubia2015-04-10

Amazing work. They look fantastic.

spectaculareyedcat (author)2015-04-09

Where do you get your cup inserts?

Second sentence in the instructable (even before step 1), they link to woodcraft where they get the kit -

sorry about that my computer i was reading it on did not show it as a hyper link :) thank you !

jemmans1 (author)2015-04-09

We need an instructable for 'how to make a cheap lathe'

abqjohn (author)jemmans12015-04-09, based off of an article in shopnotes...

ACappy27 (author)2015-04-06

In your second image, would you mind telling me the name of the 4 woods you used from left to right? I'd really like to try and make some of these, they look great!

CobyUnger (author)ACappy272015-04-06

The darker ones are Spalted Beech and the lighter ones are Maple. Best of luck. I look forward to seeing photos of your final product.

About This Instructable




Bio: I build, I teach, I learn. Happiest when covered in saw dust, sweat and machine grease. Visit for more projects and info.
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