Introduction: (Lasers & Lathe) Wooden Magnifying Glasses - Corporate Awards

About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ex…

A set of 6 corporate awards made from a combination of black walnut and white oak. The bases and handles were turned on the lathe, and the head of the magnifying glasses was cut on the laser. The lens part was salvaged from some cheap plastic magnifying glasses. The client wanted it so the magnifying glasses could actually be removed from the bases and be used so we ended up with this design. This project was actually built on location with my buddy Jay at Jumbie Industries (just north of me in DC). He doesn't have a lathe, so I brought mine with me and set up there and gave him a lathe 101 lesson. What he does have though are some pretty sweet lasers!

Step 1: Materials & Tools


- 4x4 walnut post

- 3/4" thick white oak board

- 3/4" oak dowel

- Waterlox Original tung oil finish

- Magnifying glass lens (salvaged)

Tools (Not all of these are required, but this is what I used for the build)

- Wood rule

- Table saw

- Wood lathe

- Lathe chuck

- Carbide turning tools

- Carbide parting tool

- Bandsaw

- Laser engraver

- Belt sander

- Digital calipers

- Drill press

- Forstner bits

- Drum sander

- Large laser cutter

- Bar clamps

Step 2:

The first part of the process is making the bases of the awards. These are made from black walnut and I square up a big post to a little under 4". The table saw doesn't cut quite deep enough, so I cut all the entire length and then flip it end over end so I can finish the cut.

Taking off the corners now makes the next step of rounding a whole lot easier, so I tilt the blade of the table saw over to 45 degrees and cut off all of the corners.

Step 3:

Now I move over to my lathe and mount it into my chuck. I use the big jaws in my chuck so it bights around it and I tighten down over the walnut. I then bring up the tail-stock to the center of the other end of the post and tighten it so it's supported at both ends.

Then I can turn the lathe on and start turning! This is a pretty simple turning project really, just making a giant dowel. I use my gouge to start the turning process and then switch over to my square carbide cutter to finish rounding the piece over.

Looking good so far! I want to maximize the diameter of this piece so I only turn off as much as I need to to make it round. I cut down as much as I can with the size of my tool rest and work my way to the right until the whole piece has been made into one giant walnut dowel.

With the dowel turned down to size, it's just a matter of dividing it up into the individual pieces. For this I use my parting tool which just creates a 1/8" wide groove in the piece. I then measure off of each of the grooves and work my way to the right until all 6 bases are accounted for.

Then while it's still on the lathe in 1 piece, I sand it down through the grits down to 220 grit.

Step 4:

With it sanded, it's time for the first coat of finish! This is walnut, and there is no other choice but Waterlox for finishing walnut! I turn down the speed and rub on the Watelox with a rag.

What did I tell you! That color never gets old, and this is just the first coat too. The first coat of Waterlox always soaks in, so we applied this before putting it in the laser.

The parting tool cuts most of the way through the dowel, and then I finished up the cut on the bandsaw. For now I just cut the piece in half so we can engrave them on the laser together.

We mount each of the pieces on the rotary tool in the laser and set it to engrave! It's so much fun watching this thing work ;)

Step 5:

After the laser has completed the engraving, I cut the remaining pieces apart on the bandsaw and then sand each face down flush on the belt sander. There is a little nub left after cutting them on the bandsaw, so this makes each side nice and smooth then I apply the first coat of finish on these faces so it can soak into the end grain.

The client wanted to have the wood magnifying glasses removable so we mounted them in the base by simply drilling a hole. To mark out the center I use a set of calipers and set it to as close to half the diameter as my eyeball can get. I spin the piece around and make a mark with the end of the caliper in a hand-full of places and then the center of all those pieces is the center of the piece.

I use a 3/4" forstner bit and drill out the center of all of the bases. This is tough drilling into end grain so it's just a matter of going slow and steady and relieving the chips so the bit doesn't get too hot.

Step 6:

The bases are done so now we move onto the wooden magnifying glasses. We start by resawing down some white oak to roughly 3/16" and 1/2" thickness. The thinner piece is the exact thickness of the lens in the magnifying glasses and the thicker piece will sandwich on either side of that piece.

The bandsaw leaves behind a bit of a rough surface, so we smooth all of the pieces out on the belt sander.

Now it's time for me to play withe the big boy! This guy will both engrave and cut the white oak for the ring pieces for the head of the magnifying glasses.

It's pretty awesome watching this thing cut through half inch oak. The engraved piece is the front of the magnifying glass and the blank piece is the back.

We put wood glue around the perimeter of each piece and clamp them together with the lens pinned in the center. The inner diameter of the center piece is equal to that of the lens and is smaller than the outside pieces, so this holds it in place.

Step 7:

For the handles of the magnifying glasses, I cut down some of the remaining white oak into 3/4" square pieces to turn down round on the lathe.

I mount the piece on the inside of the chuck and pinned the other end with the tail-stock. Then it's just a matter of turning this down to a dowel, just like earlier, but quite a bit smaller. I use my square carbide tool to turn it down and then sand it through the grits.

Next I use my parting tool to cut the handle down to length and then apply some Waterlox finish to the handles as well.

Step 8:

It was then when Jay apparently realized that we had some 3/4" oak dowels kicking around, contrary to what he told me earlier...

So then I mount the dowel in the lathe and pretend to turn it down to size before sanding it through the grits.

I use my parting tool to cut all of the handles down to length. This cuts most of the way through and then I cut the rest of the way on the bandsaw like before and then sand the ends down on the belt sander.

Step 9:

To mount the handle to the head of the magnifying glasses I need to drill a hole, so I create this quick little jig to hold the round piece in place and also hold it square with the the table.

I set up the stop on the drill press to make sure I don't drill past half way through the ring.

Now it's just a matter of putting 2 more coats of Waterlox on everything to give it a subtle shine and then we're done and ready to award the awards!

Step 10:

Lastly, I pack my lathe up back in the work truck going home until the next lathe on-location experience. Somehow I had some pallets wander into the back of the car too... maybe next project. But thanks for checking out this one and definitely watch the build video for the full experience!


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