Introduction: Handmade Wooden PARTY Cup (No Lathe!)

About: Tinkerer with a garage, tools, and time to kill...

Going to a party is about being seen, rubbing elbows, and having fun! When you show up at a party you want heads to turn! You want people to KNOW you were there! What better way than by carrying your own, custom-made cup?!? You don't have time for those hum-drum fluid-carrying vessels... you need a color-popping, handcrafted, statement piece as you drink. This instructable will get you there in no time.

So the idea for this project came when I was heading to get one of my favorite mugs and it fell and shattered! Tragedy! I wandered into my garage to console myself and was sitting there and realized that I had everything I needed to make a new cup!

Ok, well, I didn't have previous experience doing anything like this... and I didn't have a lathe... and I really didn't have the right kinds of shaping tools... but I did have a garage, some wood, and time to kill! I figured I'd just have some fun and see what came of it. So, here I'll lay out the methods I used.

This isn't the best way to do this, but this is A way of making a cup. For me it was the ONLY way so, hey, necessity is the mother of innovation right? Anyway, maybe this'll inspire you, maybe this'll just entertain you...but here's how it went.

Tools Used:




Belt Sander

Drill press/Spindle Sander

Dremel grinder


Wood (I used a discarded cutting board)



Step 1: Prepping the Wood for Cutting

So there I was standing in the garage with the sudden idea to make this wooden cup. I went to my scrap wood and found an old cutting board that I could use. I decided to use the cutting board because it had a good thickness (~.75") and, since it was a cutting board, would be made from hardwood. The steps I will explain in these instructions can be used on lots of different wood but I would suggest a hardwood with a dense grain structure. That will result in a more durable cup.

I took the broken mug (RIP) and used it to trace out several circles on the cutting board. Make sure that there is a fair amount of room between each circle so there's room to cut them out. The plan here was to eventually cut out several wooden rings, stack them, glue them together, then sand the stack into the final shape.

So first, cutting the rings!

Step 2: Cutting Holes

Time to cut out the holes I just traced.

These holes are going to be defining the INSIDE of the cup. So when I cut them out I needed to do so without cutting through the lines I had traced. I did this by first using a spade drill (1") and making a hole in the middle. I then had plenty of space to get a jigsaw blade in and start cutting out the circle.

I found that the easier way to cut the circle was to first make a bunch of radial cuts (from the hole I'd drilled out to the line I'd traced). Then, I started cutting out in a helical pattern with the jigsaw from the center towards the traced circle. Once I'd reached the line I could just follow it with the blade until I'd finished the cut. The radial cuts seemed to help make maneuvering the jigsaw blade a little easier.

I ended up cutting out 5 circles. With the wood thickness being 3/4", the stacked height of all 5 pieces would be about 4 inches. I figured that was a decent height for the cup.

Step 3: Cutting Rings

Next I traced circles around the holes I'd cut (to make rings). They don't need to be perfect since there will be shaping steps later on to fix any mis-matches. Also, I didn't want to give myself too much sanding to do later so I tried not to make the circles too much larger than the holes I'd cut. I aimed for 3/8 to 1/2 gap between hole and the circle I was drawing.

Then I used the jigsaw again to cut out the rings.

Step 4: Smoothing the Inner Diameter of the Rings

Next, I went to my drill press and chucked-up a drum sander with some rough sanding grit. I spun up the machine and worked the ring round and round against the sanding drum. I tried to remove the rough blade cut marks on the inside of the rings. At this point I wasn't trying to get things perfect, just cleaned up a bit.

Step 5: Gluing the Rings Together

With the rings cleaned up a bit, I then needed to bond them together. I applied adhesive to each of the rings and clamped the stack together.

Not all the rings are identical. Some rings will match each other's contours better than others. Some rings won't be perfectly centered with the middle hole. So while this step is relatively straight-forward, there is some nuance here. I would suggest stacking the rings so the inner diameters line up and the outer diameter has enough thickness to it so it can be straightened out without sanding through the wall of the cup.

Step 6: Shaping the Inner Diameter of the Cup

Back to the drill press/pseudo spindle sander.

Time to do more shaping on the inner diameter. Just like with the rings, I ran the drill press as I worked the wood stack around the drum sander. The idea is to hit the high points in the inner walls and try and smooth out the low spots. I paused periodically to run my fingers along the inside of the cylinder to feel for defects or waviness in the walls. I was careful also not to dwell in any one spot so as not to change the circular shape of the inner diameter.

Step 7: Shaping the Outer Contour

Next I went over to the benchtop belt sander.

The sander I was using has an articulating belt which can be moved to the vertical position. That made this easier but that isn't required.

I pressed the cylinder in the sanding belt and, while i supported it with one hand, slowly turned it in place. It's important not to dwell in any position or you'll end up either sanding a flat into the outer wall or, even worse, sanding through the wall entirely. I paused periodically to check the wall thickness. I did this by pinching my pointer finger and thumb together on either side of the cylinder wall. As I turned the cylinder in my hand I could feel areas where the wall was thicker or thinner. I kept sanding until I had a good cylindrical shape and fairly constant wall thickness throughout.

Step 8: Making a Bottom for the Cup

As I was sanding the cylinder it occurred to me that it was going to be very tough to custom cut a piece of wood to fit the bottom of the cylinder and seal it off without showing gaps. I tried for consistency but I knew the cylinder varied in its inner diameter and I wasn't going to perfectly match that. So I decided to cast the bottom of the cup with epoxy. Suddenly this got much easier.

Now all I needed was to seal one end so the epoxy wouldn't leak and then the epoxy would cure to make a seamless bottom. I sealed the bottom by pulling saran wrap over the wood and taping it in place. I then placed a piece of wax paper under the cylinder and clamped it to the work table. The wood was now ready.

I pulled out my casting epoxy and mixed up a batch. For those that aren't familiar with epoxy here are things you should be aware of:

1) There are food grade epoxies, you should steer towards those for this

2) Epoxies are 2-part systems with a base and a hardener. Each type has its own mix ratio of the two parts but a very common ratio is 1 to 1 (equal volume of each component -- which is the case with the system I used)

3) Epoxies have different cure times. Longer cure times are associated with thinner (less viscous) epoxies which lend themselves to pouring and casting. This also means they take longer to fully cure. You should be aware of how much time you have to mix and pour before the epoxy hardens enough to stop flowing and then how long after that before it is fully hardened.

4) Finally, and most important, this is an exothermic reaction which is fancy speak for "this reaction creates heat". Mixing too much together at once can have the reaction get out of control and generate lots of heat.... to the point of starting chemical fires. You need to mix in small batches and have a way to stop the reaction before it gets out of control.

Step 9: Adding Some Color!

So here's the thing. I was just having fun with this project and decided that a clear epoxy bottom wasn't interesting enough... I wanted some COLOR! However, I don't have any epoxy dyes and they tend to be expensive anyway. What I do know about these dyes is that they are often powders made to dissolve in the epoxy during mixing. I decided that I could probably do the same thing with powdered ingredients in my kitchen. Turns out I wasn't the first to have this thought. I found a youtube video of a guy testing this idea with koolaid, food dyes, chilli powder... even cocoa powder! (check it out here: ) So i dug around and found TANG in my cupboard. I love the color so decided to give it a shot.

I mixed a few scoops into the epoxy.

I've got to say... it is very strange mixing epoxy but having your sense of smell and sight both trying to tell you it is a delicious orange drink. RESIST THE URGE TO DRINK THE TANG-POXY! ;)

Step 10: Pouring the Epoxy Bottom

Once I'd mixed the epoxy and got the tang to dissolve in the mix, I poured the mix into the wood cylinder. Be careful not to spill! I poured enough to fill completely the bottom ring (so about .75" deep). I wanted the base to feel solid in the hand and I didn't want to risk sanding through while contouring.

Now was the waiting game. The epoxy takes about an hour to harden up and I had to stay close to keep any eye on it. As the cure started progressing the top surface started foaming up. That happens normally with epoxy but this time it was a lot worse...probably what happens from mixing in TANG...

Anyway here's a helpful tip. You can break up the bubbles on the surface by heating them. Trying to mix the froth away would have just pushed the bubbles down into the epoxy to be trapped. Instead I pointed a blow dryer (on the hottest setting) at the surface and the bubbles popped and went away on their own.

Step 11: Shaping the Bottom

I let 24 hours pass before removing the cylinder from the clamps and removing the saran wrap from the bottom. The casting was pretty clean, no real spills or signs of leaks and no major defects on the bottom. The epoxy did pick up some wrinkles from the saran wrap, but that was going to be sanded off anyway.

Next it was time to sand and contour the bottom. While what I had was a cylinder with bottom, it was time to turn it into a party cup with a statement base!

So back to the belt sander.

Again, I kept the cup spinning as I supported it with the other hand. This time, however, I kept slowly changing the angle of the cup to the sander as I spun it. This allowed the sander to round out the bottom.

Admittedly there is a certain feel to this step. You need to just keep the cup moving so as not to sand a flat on accident or sand through the cup wall. After I got the rounded contour I wanted, I made sure to sand the bottom of the cup flat.

Step 12: Finishing Work

With the basic contour set, I just needed to do a little detail work:

1) I went to the drum sander and sanded a slight taper on the inner edge of the cup mouth

2) I used a Dremel grinder to do some touch-up sanding near the bottom of the cup near the epoxy

3) I broke out the 220 and 320 grit sand paper to take a few finishing passes over the cup surfaces.

Step 13: Sealing and Treating the Wood

The cup is nearly ready to use at your next party... you just have this slight issue of it not being water proof yet. Shouldn't be a problem right?

Ok so maybe we should make a cup waterproof... probably a food safe surface would be a good thing to throw in there too.

I personally like keeping it simple when treating wood. I want the wood to "speak for itself" and not have its texture hidden or color masked by a top coat or stain. So for me, I decided to just use mineral oil and beeswax. There are plenty of other food-save choices. Some that are even far less maintenance but to each their own. You can use linseed oils, polyurethanes, and epoxies to name a few.

Whatever you use, follow the directions and be sure to check for the heat tolerance of the treatment, as well as anything affecting it being food safe.

Here is as good a place as any to point this out: wood utensils/dishes should never go in the microwave. It destroys the finish and could lead to cracking or warping of the wood. Just don't do it.

Step 14: Rock That Cup!

Now THAT is one color-popping, head-turning, statement-making, PARTY CUP! Enjoy your hand-crafted masterpiece... I certainly am enjoying mine!

It only seemed fitting that the first drink from it be some good ol' TANG ;)

Well let me know if you have any questions. I hope you enjoyed reading through this!

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