Picture of recycle pallet wood into turned art
this instructable is about how to take a chunk of pallet wood and turn it into a bowl/vessel on a lathe.  this is not a "how to turn" instructable; there are lots of those out there as well as plenty on how to build your own lathe if you don't have one.  this is simply one way i like to re-use pallet wood for artsy-fartsy projects.  enjoy!

the first step is to find a pallet with blocks separating the two sections of slat and not boards; though it is certainly possible to harvest the boards/slats as well and glue them into a turning blank as well.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Prepping the blank

Picture of prepping the blank
step 2:

now that you've got a blank, you want to square it up roughly.  i use a my miter-saw to do this.  once you've got a square-ish piece of wood to deal with, find the center with either a center-finding jig, the dividing head that often comes with a combination square, or you can "zoom in" on rough center with the normal head on a combination square as well.

mark the center, use a compass to draw a circle about that center and drill the center out for a screw-chuck on the lathe.  at least, that's how i do it. 

i also like to take the "square" blank back to the miter saw and knock the corners off so i start turning with a rough octagon rather than a square.  anyone who's ever turned wood before can tell you this takes a lot of the initial "chop" out of roughing down the piece to a cylinder.
1-40 of 41Next »
The "blemish" is an integral part of the look. If you look at books of artistic bowls, they have normal holes, fungus, checks and splits everywhere. It's pretty difficult to get a piece of wood to turn or carve that is completely free of those blemishes. And it's not like Montana mindsmith can use that cup/bowl for drinking or food. The wood has been treated, so it's poisonous. I think you did a beautiful job. I've been reading a lot about turning and carving vessels the past two weeks. It's very hard. I'm in the middle of carving my own bowl. I used a right angle grinder with a Lancelot attached. I looks like a circular chain saw. What an awesome tool!! My hat is off to any one who can turn or carve vessels. Again, Montana, beautiful job!! Thanks for taking the time to make an i'ble.
Nice job! Love it!
static2 years ago
I'm sure there will many who will ask why you made this in the manner you did, but I like the look of the finished work.
montana mindsmith (author)  static2 years ago
"why you made this in the manner you did..." while i certainly do not mean to be rude or anything, but i don't even understand this comment. it was a chunk of pallet wood; were you expecting to see a vessel with absolutely no flaws or something? the piece turned while dealing with flaws like knot holes and nail holes are part of the project. i'm glad you like the look, but i guess i don't understand the the cutting remark at the beginning of your comment.
This is great! how long have you been turning?
about three months now. hardest part is learning how to sharpen those "fingernail" profiles on my gouges. thanks much!
Yeah, i hear ya there. I have had my lathe for almost three years now and i still cannot sharpen that profile either... I bypassed it by learning to cut with my own grinded tools. You dont need that fingernail grind. Some of the best turners out here make their own tools out of old files and such. So dont buy into the hype of a toolname. But i will add, "EZ Wood Tools" has a carbide turning tool, i bought one and after i saw the simple design i made two. They are the best cutting tool i have used, they take all the guesswork out of tool height, and angle. The tips last a long time and you never need to sharpen them! Keep em comming!
Hey, I was thinking of buying an EZ rougher this week. But if you'd consider doing an instructable on how you made yours, that would be awesome.
Dr Qui Brad I.2 years ago
Old power hacksaw blades make a fantastic thin parting tool that is good for decorative lines and also parting of, I posted an Ible on how to make it. I have a nice 13mm slide bar from a printer that has potential to mount a carbide tip on
I dont have any pics of that build... Just the finished product.
If you look at them, you can see that there isn't much to them.
Its 1/2" square stainless steel bar stock and a handle with their carbide cutting tip. Ill look and see if i can find the pics somewhere...

Thank you. I'm excited. I didn't even consider the possibility of building one.  How did you tap out the threads to mount the carbide cutter?  If you don't want to bother with the pictures, I can probably use the pictures online at their site as a reference.  
yeah, there is a bit of an expense at first unless you know someone with metal working tools. The carbide bit and the screw come together for around 20 bucks. I had to buy a solid carbide 4 flute 5/8" roughing end mill, purchased locally for around 40 bucks. but this tool if used properly will last and make a few of these Lathe EZ Carbide tools. When it comes down to it, you really dont need the end mill. you could go right on top of the barstock, as long as the bit sits nice and flat on top of the barstock. Take a look at "EZ wood tools" on google to get the exact specs. but I was ANAL about the first one and wanted to come as close as possible to the real thing. after you get the bit, buy a 1.5" copper coupling and a nice long thick chunk of hardwood.
also you asked about the tap for the screw. I will assume you dont have any taps and tell you to take the screw to a hardware store, or an automotive store and match up a bit, and tap for it. make sure you tell them what you are cutting (stainless steel) TAKE YOUR TIME TAPPING IT! and for the sake of not hijacking this awesome instructable Ill contact you by message with pics.
Dark Solar2 years ago
is that an independent or scrolling chuck?
Soz if i'm butting in, just wondering if you are asking because you are thinking of getting a chuck.

In my experience of both independent and scroll chucks would be that its not a wise move to turn air with an independent chuck, is you do a safety helmet an body armor would be advised as a couple of pounds of timber fair shifts when it zings out of the lathe if the tool catches, it almost impossible to get a good solid hold on the piece on independent wood chucks especially if its irregular, they seriously need the work piece supported by the tail stock.

I have a scroll chuck now that is ultra safe and they jaws are dovetailed so they get superb grip of the work pieces, I almost lost a finger to my evil independent chuck when polishing a work piece the jaws are so evil its unreal, I now have a Record Nova chuck and the worst it has done has been slightly scuffed knuckle.

The accident happened when i was polishing and the pad snagged on some tacky wax due to the pressure i was putting on it and the friction jerked the pad in and my finger into the chuck, it happens fast, i reckon the jaws hit me about 50 times before I go my hand away.

When I got the scroll chuck I purposely brushed my thumb lightly on the chuck at 2000 rpm which I highly recommend that no one tries but i can say that it was just a tickle and didn't mark the skin at all.
Not a problem at all; safety is first priority when working with any kind of power tool. I do use both scrolling and independent chucks on my lathe and oy vey is the independent chuck ever a pain. Unfortunately it's the only fast way to set up for non-jigged, off-set turnings. :\
As far as safety equipment goes, I'll pass on the advice that was passed on to me by an old-school wood-turner: "A full-face shield is pretty good but a full-face shield over a catcher's mask is even better. Might wanna put on the chest shield too."
Yes, I fear the inevitable fly-out that one day shall come to pass but I still get in there and do the work. :))
O, one other thing that might come in handy for independent chucking; I keep a supply of extra-heavy guage rubber bands in the shop specifically for slipping over the backs of the jaws after a piece is locked in. They'll still give you a nasty bruise if you get in there accidentally, but at least you won't get cut.
That is a good idea, i still have my independent chuck but since i got the nova chuck I have never needed to use it since, must look for some inner tubes that are a nice fit for it, I just found the independent would always crush the wood and then it would slip and if you don't crush the wood it would slip even quicker.
montana mindsmith (author)  Dark Solar2 years ago
Dr Qui2 years ago
Impressed indeed, I got a Nova chuck now myself and must try my hand at turning some air, that is an impressive piece from a pallet block, but then if you check my ibles you will see that all my blanks are from old fire doors.
Re-design2 years ago
Nice instructable and VERY nice work.
pinksloth2 years ago
Very nice Instructable. I just got a new lathe and learning to turn. Your idea of recycling old woods is great and "sharpening" comments were very helpful.
BigCountry2 years ago
Another good turning project is is to laminate pallet flats with exotic or dyed veneers to make a sculpter's mallet.
montana mindsmith (author)  BigCountry2 years ago
i did make a joiner's mallet out of some palletwood, but i didn't take any pictures of the process. otherwise, that might have been my first instructable :)
Packmule2 years ago
I turn A lot and this is very offense my brother, but you gotta get a NEW phone! (-: But really, great Job. I love the recycled wood idea.
montana mindsmith (author)  Packmule2 years ago
as soon as my contract's up, man, i'm all about the phones with the woodworking apps... there's an app for that ya know?!?
bepartial2 years ago
Very nicely done. Anytime you can take an obscure source and turn it into useful art, you've done a good thing. Considering staining on this piece?
montana mindsmith (author)  bepartial2 years ago
probably just going to seal the nail holes, then oil and wax. the wood itself has a lot of character and i don't really wanna cover it up with a different color
awoodcarver2 years ago
Nice work good re use of a waste product ///////I have been turning since the late 60;s when I was given a Dremel lathe and have turned pallet wood as well as other assorted crates / boxes I have found
keep up the good work and enjoy the lathe
ringai2 years ago
That's a great turning. I'd be a little concerned about chemicals used to treat pallets against bugs/mold, though.

Sharpening is the suckiest part of turning. Here's a great link for a DIY sharpening jig:

I made one similar to this that I found on a UK woodworking board. It works really well.
montana mindsmith (author)  ringai2 years ago
not all pallets are treated, as can be seen if you ever look at a stack of incredibly weathered pallets. i should have been more specific in my instructable, though; one needs to still be a little picky even when going through pallets. besides; if nobody did anything that was known, in the state of california, to cause cancer, no one would do anything and we'd all be vegetables - moderation... too much woodturning or any other craft or activity at all will be bad for anyone. that's why people get "overuse" conditions like carpal tunnel (too much overuse of the flexor muscles of the upper limb and not enough balancing it out with some extensor work)
poofrabbit2 years ago
Very cool!! Might I make a suggestion, you might consider using your end photo also as a first photo. You can leave the block of wood as a second picture in the first step, but I have a feeling you will get more people to check out your awesome instructable if you put that picture at the start so it's what shows in searches. A great project like this shouldn't get over looked. :)
montana mindsmith (author)  poofrabbit2 years ago
thanks. this being my first instructable, that means a lot and i certainly appreciate the constructive feedback.
it was some good advice, first time i saw the instructable with the block of wood picture i never even clicked on it but since you changed it i thought it looked pretty cool and decided to check it out
Of course anytime! It is so lovely, I want you to get the views you deserve. :)
P.S. I voted for you, good luck!!
I have to agree here... I turn as well, so I was drawn in by the block of wood and the title. but you will get many more views if you give it a nicer front page pic.
Nice! Very...uhm...artsy-fartsy! Really though, that's nifty.
CementTruck2 years ago
I LIKE IT!!! I wish I had a decent lathe to do stuff like this.

The retention of rusty nail holes, cracks and knots give things like this individual character and leans away from the mass produced.

One of my favorite lathe videos. . This guy is an inspiration to me, as is your instructable.
montana mindsmith (author)  CementTruck2 years ago
machines do mass productions; humans do unique things. thank you very much for your compliments :)
1-40 of 41Next »