Introduction: From Log to Salt Cellar - Using a Red Sharpie Marker to Tint Wood

About: I'm not an expert in anything. I just enjoy making things sometimes for the process sometimes for the end product.

I recently made a Walnut salt cellar for the first time and one of my wife's friends saw it and asked me if I could make her one but she wanted it to be red to match her kitchen décor. I've never tried to stain wood red so I wasn't sure how to make it red with out just painting it and losing the visible grain. After thinking about it for a couple of days I decided to try and use a red Sharpie Maker to tint the wood. I've used a black Sharpie in the past for small pieces and was always happy with the end result so I decided to give the red marker a try. I have to say I am super happy with the end result. I am new to the lathe so take everything you read hear with a grain of salt.




Lathe tools



Hot Glue

Blue Tape

Super Glue

Red Sharpie Marker

Clear Coat

1/8 Brass Pin

1/8 Drill Bit

Drill or Drill Press

Step 1:

I have some silver Maple log pieces from a tree that a neighbor cut down last summer. I found a piece that I thought would work for the salt cellar. Using my bandsaw I sliced a 4-5 inch wide section off the log and then cut what would be the bottom off to make it flat.

Step 2:

I made two diagonal marks from corner to corner to find the approximate center of the wood and drilled a 1/4 inch hole about a 1/2 inch deep. This hole is for a 1/4 inch diameter metal pin that will act as a pivot point for the wood to spin on. I used appropriate pivot point on my circle cutting jig to cut out a cylinder on my bandsaw. The cylinder is oversized and will be trimmed to the final dimension on the lathe.

Step 3:

I need to trim the top and bottom of the cylinder to get rid of the 1/4 inch hole on the bottom and to remove the bark on the top. I used my portable bandsaw table, I thought the cut would be cleaner, to remove the bottom but this was slow going so I used my band saw to remove the top.

Step 4:

Next I used my circle center finding jig to find the center of the cylinder. I want to locate the center so that I can hot glue a small wooden puck on the bottom of the cylinder. The puck is what I will use to mount this in my lathe chuck. The puck has a 5/16 inch through hole in the center which I use to line up the puck when I glue it. I pass a 5/16 inch brad point drill bit through the hole in the puck and use it to line it up with the center mark on the cylinder. I clamp the piece up for about 15 minutes to make sure the hot glue sets up before chucking the piece in the lathe.

Step 5:

Once the hot glue sets I mount the wood in the lathe chuck jaws and use my live center to put pressure on the opposite side of the wood. I use a small cut off of hdpe plastic, that's what I have I'm sure a piece of scrap wood would work just as well, to prevent the point of the live center from making a hole in the top of the wood.

The first thing I do is true up the outside diameter. I don't really have a specific size I was aiming for I just made sure it was nice and round. Next I removed the live center and flatten the side that will become the top. And finally I sanded the piece up to 400 grit.

Step 6:

While the piece is still in the lathe I made a pencil mark for where I was going to cut off the top. You could do this using a parting tool on the lathe but I wanted to maintain the grain orientation and I thought the parting tool would remove too much material. So I opted to use my portable bandsaw table (Portable Bandsaw Table) to cut off the lid portion. Then I sanded the lid on my belt sand and made sure it was nice and flat then I hand sanded it up to 400 grit on my bench.

Step 7:

I decided to shape the sides of the cylinder a little and I used some blue tape and super glue to temporarily reattach the lid to the body. This is done by applying blue tape to the two sides that will be joined and using a few drops of super glue on the blue tape to glue the pieces together. Essentially you are gluing the blue tape to the blue tape, the adhesive on the actual tape is strong enough to hold the pieces to wood but can still be removed later. I clamped the pieces together until the glue sets for about 5-10 minutes.

Step 8:

So I mount the piece back on the lathe and remove a little bit of material, granted I could have probably done this initially but I didn't think of it until after I had cut the top off.

Next I sanded everything again but this time up to 2000 grit. I use a paper towel to burnish/buff the piece as the last step.

Step 9:

Now for the fun part. The Sharpie I am using has a paint brush tip so its a slightly larger and a little flexible. I turn the lathe by hand and coat the entire piece. I let it dry for a few minutes and apply two more coats. The nice thing about the Sharpie is that you can still see the grain and it doesn't raise the grain like some stains do. Once I was happy with the color I used a paper towel to buff the piece and leave it nice and smooth.

I'm not 100% sure about this but I think the key to getting this to work is that the wood has to be sanded up to a high enough grit, in this case 2000 grit, to where it is very very smooth. So that when you apply the marker it doesn't raise the grain and cause the need for sanding. Then after the application it can just be buffed with a paper towel.

Step 10:

In order to separate the lid from the body I used a putty knife to gently pry the two pieces apart. Then I remove the blue tape and any residue left behind from the tape.

Step 11:

Next I carve out a nice bowl shape in the body of the salt cellar and sand it up to 2000 grit as well. Since there will be salt placed in there I did not color the inside of the salt cellar. As for the depth of the bowl I just went with what looked right and tried not to blow out the bottom of the container.

Step 12:

To separate the wood puck from the body of the salt cellar I again used my putty knife to pry the two pieces apart. I just work the putty knife side to side and apply downward pressure. I scraped off any hot glue that was still stuck to the salt cellar.

I use a piece of 1/8 inch brass rod to act as the hinge. I use a 1/8 inch drill bit to make the hole, being careful not to blow through the side wall of the container. I'll show how you put this together in a couple of steps.

Step 13:

I clear coat all the pieces before assembly. I put about 3-4 coats of an acrylic lacquer to seal the piece. This part was unexpected the combination of the red Sharpie and the grain made a really nice effect. The lid ended up having several different tones of red and orange and yellow it really brought the piece to life.

Step 14:

To assemble everything I first put the brass pin through the top of the lid to were it sticks out of the bottom. Then I add a small drop of super glue to the portion of the brass rod sticking out and insert it in to the hole in the base of the salt cellar. Next suing a ball peen hammer I gently peen over the top of the brass rod to dome it out so that it locks the lid in place. The dooming basically makes it so that the lid will not slide off the brass pin.

A word of advice be careful with the super glue do not put too much as you don't want to super glue the lid to the container.

Step 15:

And that's it just let the clear coat cure and then add the salt.

Its always fulfilling to be able to make something from raw materials to a finished piece; but my favorite part of all this was the effect of the red Sharpie. I really can't express how cool the wood grain and red Sharpie look, the pictures don't do it any justice. I don't know if this was dumb luck or can be repeated but I will certainly be trying this again in the future.

I hope you all find this helpful. If you have any questions do not hesitate to ask I will do my best to answer them in the comments.

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