Introduction: Snowman Moneybox

I’m a member of a local wood turners club and we have a monthly competition to produce a turned object to a pre-set theme.

One such event was for a box in the shape of a snowman, I chose to make it a bit more functional and made a moneybox.

For most of my turning I use wood that is just laying around waiting for a purpose, this project was no different, I obtained it from a previous employment where it formed part of the packaging materials from a shipment from Africa. As such I don’t really know what the wood was, only that I liked the grain and that it was claimed to be some form of fruit wood.

Step 1: Tools



  1. Spindle roughing gouge
  2. Spindle gouge
  3. Skew chisel
  4. Round-nose scrapper
  5. A piece of scrap wood with some hook-and loop material attached to one end. The stick will be used to hold abrasives later on for smoothing the inside of the snowman


  1. Box: body and head approx. 85mm diameter × approx. 170mm tall
  2. Base: 88mm diameter × 30mm tall
  3. Hat: 80mm diameter × 59mm tall (button 27mm diameter × 14mm tall)

Step 2: Prep the Blank

I started with a blank measuring 100 ×100 × 400mm in size and roughed it into a cylinder before marking out the parts I would need, I ensured to allow enough scrap material to form a tenon for each piece. Once the tenon was cut, each piece could then be parted off.

Step 3: Shaping the Body

The first pieces to be made were the main box, the body and head of the snowman. Using the tenon, I held the blank in the chuck and used the spindle roughing gouge to make a basic shape. Remember to leave about 50mm at the neck end to allow for hollowing out the head. The wood I used had an incredible amount of resin in it, which made short work of a sharp edge, so it was important to sharpen the tools whenever the going got tough. With the outside roughed to shape (round head and elongated body), I used the spindle gouge and skew chisel to refine it and finally sanded through the grits to obtain a smooth finish. The next step was the hollowing out

Step 4: Hollow It Out

To remove the material from the inside, I started by drilling a hole through the wood almost to the top, leaving enough room here for finishing the head off later. The hole can be made in a number of ways: using a drill bit, Forstner bit, or by boring a hole with a gouge. I chose to use the gouge. Starting with the wood rotating, I carefully pushed the chisel into the center. Once the hole was started, I moved the tip up and down slightly; this kept the hole just large enough to avoid getting the gouge stuck

Once the hole was deep enough, I started removing the inside using a combination of spindle gouge and scraper: the gouge to remove the bulk of the wood and the scraper to get the round body shape on the inside to follow the external profile. As I went deeper, I had to use a box rest inside the body to reduce the amount of vibration as the tool became less supported at the tip. Again, at the neck end I made sure not to go too close to the outside shape or I would have had a headless snowman.

Note: the hole should be large enough for a fifty pence piece to pass through.

Sanding all the way to the top of the snowman on the inside was going to be an issue and I was definitely not putting my fingers inside, so I made a sanding stick using a piece of scrap wood and attached some sticky-backed hook-and-loop material (just the hook side). I used Abranet with this and sanded through the grits up to 400. At this point I could go no further with the body section, so I took it off the lathe and replaced it with the piece I’d set aside for the base.

Step 5: Start the Base

I Started the base by cutting a recess so that the wood could be flipped over and mounted on my chuck for the remainder of the work. The base was made slightly concave and the recess decorated with a couple of rings. These ensure the snowman will sit upright on a surface

I checked the base using a straightedge to make sure there were no high points…… then I sanded and applied some sanding sealer

Step 6: Body Continued

Before finishing the base, I transferred the internal diameter of the snowman to the wood in the chuck and made a jam chuck to hold the body. This would allow me to finish shaping the head and add the facial details. The jam chuck would also be used later to hold the body onto the base once it had been extended a little.

To finish the body it was placed on the jam chuck and supported with the revolving tailstock. This allowed me to finish the head before sanding the outside, I covered the wood with a mixture of beeswax and paraffin oil to keep the dust down while sanding, as well as to seal the grain

Step 7: Adding Features

To add decoration to the snowman (eyes, nose buttons, etc.) I needed to mark out some points at which to drill holes. To do this, I first located a point on the base in line with the joint for two of the chuck jaws then proceeded to mark the wood. This is just a reference point.

I then lined that mark up with the tool rest and drew a line along the length of the snowman. For the face (eyes), I held the pencil still on the rest at a point where I wanted them and rotated the chuck by hand to make a line across the face. It was then just a case of marking points where I wanted the eyes, nose and three buttons. For the mouth I drew an approximate curve shape. With everything marked out I used a punch to mark the points for drilling; these would stop the drill from wondering.

To drill the holes I used a Dremel, but any suitable drill would do as long as you go steady and drill slowly – you don’t want to go all the way through. I positioned the tool rest so that the flexi-drill could rest on it. I then lined up the punch marks and drilled the required holes

Step 8: Adding a Mouth

The mouth was a little different; I had to drill out each hole then carefully join the holes to form the smile, which once done I didn’t like and would fix later. The money box also needed a slot for adding money, so I made a straight line approximately halfway down the head and used the Dremel to drill all the way through. Again, the fifty pence piece was used as a length guide, with a pound coin used for the height.

Step 9: Finishing the Base

Time to finish the base. I extended the jam chuck to provide a suitably long plug for the bottom of the money box, this was then hollowed out slightly for aesthetic reasons and then squared off at the shoulder using a parting tool to create a nice joint at the bottom of the snowman, and the remainder of the base was given a simple curve before sanding and finishing with sand and sealer and a spray lacquer.

Step 10: The Small Bits Matter

The nose and buttons are made from an oak pen blank. To make the buttons, I turned a small cylinder measuring approximately 7mm diameter and rounded over the end, finishing and polishing each as I went. Next, I added a small tenon using a parting tool before removing it and moving on to the next. The nose was a similar affair; it’s just very small.

The eyes are made from a different material – still a spare pen blank – but this time I used a piece of buffalo horn. They are slightly larger than the buttons at approximately 9mm diameter. An interesting material to turn – it smells a little like burnt fingernail does (if you have ever caught your finger on a cutting disc)

The parts would later be attached simply by using some epoxy in each of the holes and pressing the parts into the appropriate hole.

Every snowman needs a pipe to help keep them warm and this one is made from – you guessed it – another pen blank, but this time in padauk

I started by drilling a hole using a 3.5mm bit and then shaped the wood to look like the chamber of a pipe. Next, I used a hand drill with a 1mm bit to make a hole into the side, which would take the pipe stem

The stem was a cylinder from the same blank, measuring approximately 15mm long × 4mm in diameter with a 3mm long (1mm) tenon on the end, which would fit into the hole on the side of the pipe chamber.

Step 11: Adding a Hat

It was now time to make the hat. I placed a blank on the lathe via the tenon already in place from the initial preparation, and I then gave the wood a beanie bobble hat shape, including a fold up rim. Because I wanted the hat to sit nicely on the snowman’s head, I chamfered the recess on the underside; this would give me an area in which to apply the glue when attaching the hat to the money box. I then made a deeper recess so that the hat could be mounted on the chuck for finishing. Before turning it over, I checked the hat sat correctly on the head and that it could be positioned so as to avoid the money slot. Once happy with the fit, using the Dremel, again resting on the tool rest, I cut grooves in the rim of the hat to make it look more like a curled rim. I then flipped it over onto the chuck and finished off the shape, before finally adding a button on the top.

Step 12: Adding Some Color With a Paint Effect

One of the last tasks was to decorate the hat before attaching to the snowman. To start, I ebonized the outside using a couple of coats of black lacquer as well as a couple on the inside just in case a good fit was not possible and some of the inner hat became visible

I then used a selection of Jo Sonja metallic paints, applied with random strokes, to the hat, avoiding the rim while getting as close as possible to it. Then before the paint was dry, I crinkled up some cling film and wrapped the wet paint with it. Once wrapped I moved the film around a little until I was happy with the view through the film and carefully removed it so as not to disturb the wet paint pattern.

The hat was then left to dry, and once dry, I remounted it on the lathe and used a parting tool to cut away the paint just above the rim; this would give a crisp border on the metallic coat. I then re-coloured the parting tool cut using a black marker pen. All of the parts where then treated to a couple of coats of clear lacquer before the final gluing session.

Step 13: The Finished Snowman

I mentioned before that I didn’t quite like the shape of the mouth, so I decided to use a few black beads in place of coal for the snowman’s teeth and placed the pipe in at a slight angle, all secured with a few drops of epoxy. At the start, I decided that he should not have arms and I think it was the right choice. Have a go – it’s not a project that needs strict measurements and you’ll find you have a lot of fun along the way.

If you have enjoyed reading this guide please considered voting for it in the competitions it has been entered into.

Thanks for reading

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