Introduction: Spice Jars on a Wood Lathe

I made these tiny wooden spice jars on the wood lathe at TechShop in Pittsburgh.

These were more or less a project for experimenting and practicing on the lathe, and, as a result, the process of making each jar was slightly different.

We don't have a chuck for the wood lathe yet, which made this project a bit more of a challenge. I worked around the problem with a faceplate, scrap wood, and some wood glue.

I used Forstner bits to hollow out the containers while they were still on the lathe.

I made it at TechShop.

Step 1: Materials and Equipment

In the course of this project, I used...

- hardwood blank (the piece i used was two pieces of mahogany glued together - take a look at the picture)
- scrap wood
- wood glue
- screws
- sand paper (100, 150, 220, 400)
- mineral oil

- wood lathe
- face plate
- Forstner bits
- turning chisels
- measuring implement
- f-clamps

Step 2: Preparing Blanks for Turning

How I did it...

1) Rounded entire stock as one piece.
2) Cut stock into 5 pieces of equal length on the articulated miter saw
3) Cut squares of scrap wood, marked centers
4) Glued, centered, and clamped hardwood blanks onto scrap wood squares
5) Waited 24 hours
6) Centered and screwed glued wood onto faceplate

What I should have done and why...

If I were to redo this project, I would have rounded each of my 5 blanks individually. Cutting the stock to length after I had rounded it meant that each cut wasn't entirely square. As a result, my blanks didn't sit square on the scrap wood I glued them to and I had to true them. Basically, I could have conserved more material and made these jars a bit wider.

If I had a chuck...

I could have skipped all of this gluing nonsense.

Step 3: Hollowing and Shaping Jars

1) Trued up the blank using a scraper tool.
2) Drilled about an inch and a quarter into the blank using the smallest Forstner bit, repeated with larger diameter bits until the piece was hollowed out.
3) Used a pencil to mark the depth of the container on the outside.
4) Shaped the bottom of the jar, leaving enough to stock to hold the piece for finishing.

Step 4: Finishing Jars

1) Sanded the jar inside and out, moving from 100 grit sand paper to 400.
2) Applied mineral oil using an old shirt sleeve.
3) Sanded with 400 grit sand paper again.
4) Applied more mineral oil.

Step 5: Turning and Finishing Lids

The first two lids...

After parting off the jar, I used the shape left from the undercut to make the top of the lid. I measured the the diameter of the inside of the jar then used calipers to measure the diameter of the lid as I turned it.

The second two lids...

I shaped the lids with the bottom of the lid facing out. This was useful for two reasons. One, rather than measuring the diameter of the jar and lid, I was able to check their fit as I went. Two, it allowed me to use the partially formed lid to hold the the jar on the lathe while i sanded and finished it from the bottom. (This is a little confusing to explain - see pictures for clarification.)

Sanded, oiled, and parted the lids off the lathe. 

Step 6: Ideas for Sealing Lids?

For one of the jars, I used a strip of deer hide to make a gasket. I cut a notch into the lid while it was still on the lathe, so the strip fit nicely. I made the mistake of gluing the strip around the lid with epoxy, which was messy and has left the jar smelling like chemicals.

I toyed around with using waxed string to create a seal but gave up and left the rest of the jars without at an airtight fit.

Any ideas for seals that would be durable and look nice? 

Step 7: Finished

Now these jars are in my kitchen. Someday I hope to fill them with spices, but for now they're just for decoration.

Thanks for reading!

If you've got any, leave me some tips and suggestions in the comments please.