Introduction: Wavy Vase

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…

The wavy vase is constructed from reclaimed walnut beams, hardwood pallet wood slats, and a plentiful amount of wood glue. It's 28" tall, 16" in diameter at the widest part, and weighs more than an average sized cat. It took up ~200 hours or so of my life and I think it was worth it. It's supposed to be hard to look at, so that you can't absorb the entirety of the piece is just a quick glance. It's supposed to mimic nature, due to its clearly defined pattern, but also its slight inconsistencies due to it being carved by hand. It's supposed to be busy, but organized at the same time. And it's supposed to be at least slightly insane, much like its creator.

Step 1: Notable Tools

Arbortech Tools

► TURBO Plane -
► Mini TURBO -
► Mini Carver -
► Contour Sander -
► Mini Pro -

Safety PPE

► ISOtunes bluetooth hearing protection -
► Respirator (use code "Jackman" for 5% off!) -

Other Tools

► Air Locker denailer -
► MagSwitch Power Feeder Base & Finger Board (use code "JACKMAN" for 10% off!) -
► MiterSet segment jig -
► Segmented ring spreadsheet calculator -
► Steady rest -

Step 2: Milling the Walnut

This project is made from 2 main ingredients, the first being these reclaimed walnut beams. I start at the miter saw cutting them down into thirds to make them easier to manage later. It feels at least a little shameful to cut these big beams into a bunch of small pieces, but this way the color of the walnut in the vase is all fairly consistent (something not easy to do with walnut).

I rip all of these shorter lengths down to 1-1/8" thick (finished thickness will be 1", so this gives me a bit of room to play with). Once all the beams are all ripped down, I clean up the faces on the table saw to make surfaces are straight and parallel.

Then all that's left to complete milling the rough lumber is to clean up the edges, which is done by ripping one edge off on my jointing jig on my table saw (to give me a straight edge) and then ripping the other edge using the regular fence of the table saw.

Step 3: Disassembling Pallets

2nd, and almost as important ingredient, is the always loved and sought after pallet wood. I find a bunch of hardwood pallets in the trash heap and then disassemble them using the best method their is (because it's the way I do it). It starts by using a circular saw and running it down just inside where all the nails are along the length of the runner. Do this on both faces and both sides to remove both outside runners.

And it's like magic, just by doing that the pallet looses all of it's integrity and you can bend it to your will, brainwash it, gaslight it, whatever you're into. The slats and removed by working them back and forth by hand a bit to loosen them up and then prying them off by hand or with a pry bar if you're a sissy (like me).

Then I pull out the denailer, which is basically a reverse nail gun. The long tip of it slips over the nail and the piston fires, shooting the nail out of the other side. Saves so much time banging nails and I save all of the nails in my bedside tables... makes for a great home defense weapon. With all the visible metal removed, I also run over all the slats with my metal detector to find anything that's left hiding in the slats.

Step 4: Laminating the Pallet Slats

Each slat is run through the thickness planer until the surface on both faces is completely smooth. This gives me a random thickness on all of the slats, but this will benefit the chaotic random look of the feature ring in the vase later on. Then the edges are cleaned up the same way that I did with the walnut, with the jointing jig and rip fence on the table saw.

For the best looking, the pallet slats need a lot of sorting. I first organize them by finding the worst looking edges and pointing them up and then organize those from shortest to longest to give me the best yield out of the material later on. I also make sure to randomize the slats so that no wood species is next to the same species, I have a dream.

Glue is applied to one face of each of that slats and then they are clamped tight together with pipe clamps and left for the night to dry. I love the random colors that you get out of the random species from pallets and take advantage of that regularly with these pallet laminations, but another huge benefit of doing this is that it pulls out the warp that is inherent with almost all pallet slats since the warps all average each other out.

Step 5: Milling the Pallet Wood

The big lamination was actually 2 lamination approximately half the size (because that's how math works) which allowed me to get 2 chunks that were about 10" wide, small enough to fit through my planer. So once the glue dries, I run both through the planer until each face is smooth, then I can rip these down to 1-1/8" thick much like I did with the walnut beams. The reason I did this instead of gluing together the slats at the final thickness is because I started with random thickness slats and it would have taken me forever find combinations that gave me the exact thickness I wanted. I lose less than 1/8" to the saw blade each time, so really I think I win in the end, I always win.

Step 6: Cutting Segments

After all that milling, it's finally time to cut the pieces into even smaller pieces before I glue them back together into larger pieces.... the Jackman way. For each ring, I have 20 segments making it up, so to set my angle to cut I use my MiterSet gauge to set my miter gauge at the right angle, which is close to 9 degrees then a "right angle".

First I cut the starting angle in one of my pieces. I have a spreadsheet that I use that automatically calculates the length of the segment needed based on the diameter of the ring and the number of segments in the ring, so I use that to determine how big the segments should be in each layer and start by marking that out on one of my pieces. (that spreadsheet is a free download on my website if you can find it useful, it's $100 if you don't find it useful)

The mark that I just made is then lined up with the cut in my sacrificial fence (using a flashlight to help out) on the miter gauge and then I line up my fence until it just tight on the corner of the piece and lock it in place. Then I cut my segment, double check the length, and if it's right I go to town, grab myself a coffee, and then come back home and cut the rest of the segments. Note the extra fence on my table saw fence, this is for safety because the end of it stops before the blade, which gives plenty of room so the piece I cut off doesn't get stuck between the fence and the blade and shoot back at me.

Step 7: Assembling the Rings

I cut one segment, flip the board over, cut another segment, rinse and repeat a number of times equal to the number of times I doubt my self worth in a year (a lot). Using my spreadsheet, I right down the length of segment needed for each ring and check those off as I make the rings, moving the fence in and out to adjust after cutting each set of 20.

To clamp the rings I use some hose clamps strung together (I find that the 4-6" variety give me the most range). I bought a bulk box years ago and keep using them over and over, so they've paid for themselves many times and give more clamping pressure anyway vs the blue tape or rubber band method. Anyway, each time I cut down a rings worth of segments, I clamp them up dry in the clamps to keep them organized.

Step 8: Ring Glue-up

With the pieces cut down into really little pieces, it's time to glue them back together into larger pieces again. I apply a plentiful amount glue to end of each of the segments and then put the hose clamps and use my drill to pull all of the joints tight. Repetitive is the name of the game with this project, I repeat that process 28 times and then set the rings aside to dry.

Honestly, I have nothing to say about this one, just wanted you to have to see it since I had to.

Step 9: Sanding the Rings Flat

My drum sander is really small, so unfortunately I need to make a dust storm in my shop and use my disk sander to flatten out one side of each of the rings.

After letting the dust settle and giving shop a blow job with my leaf blower to clean it out, I can then use my drum sander to bring the other side down flat and smooth. Since the rings are all wider then the drum sander, I just feed them in and then rotate them until the entire surface has been sanded. This is also the point where I bring the rings down to their final 1" finish thickness.

Finally time to power carve! I start by marking out some reference marks so that I know the extents that I want to carve to. I use a scribe to mark in 1" from the inside edge of the ring (leaving me 2" on the outside to carve). I also mark the edge, 1/4" in from each face on each segment joint, which will be the final thickness of the "waves" later.

Step 10: Power Carving Waves

The larger rings are carved with the Arbortech Turbo Plane cutting disk in my angle grinder. I basically connect the dots from my mark on the edge to the mark on the face and the cutting disk gives me a nice radius curve. Once I cut to the full depth, I then feather out the edges to make a smooth curved transition to the next segment. I repeat this 10 times around the perimeter, flip the ring around, and do the same thing to the opposite segments on the other side.

The smaller rings are much the same, except that they need a smaller radius to carve the waves, so I use the Mini Turbo mounted in the Mini Carver to achieve that. The carving process is the same though, I connect the reference marks and then feather out the edges for a smooth transition.

Rinse and repeat that process 28 times and we almost have ourselves a vase.

Step 11: Plugging Up the Bottom

The bottom ring has a hole in it, which doesn't make for a very good vase, so I need to rectify that. I cut a plug from laminated pallet wood and cut a hole to fit on the inner diameter of the bottom ring. The 2 pieces are glued together and then I sand the surface down flush so that the entire ring is flat again.

Step 12: Sanding and Filling Voids

Now that's just the beginning of what is about to become a weeks long marathon sanding session. I'm able to get the cuts fairly smooth during the carve, but I want these things to all have a perfectly smooth surface. The Mini Carver also has a rubber backed sanding attachment for sanding curved surfaces, so I start with that since it's a radial sander and it aggressive and makes quick work of any of the inconsistencies.

Next step is the finish sanding on everything I just sanded. I use the Contour Sander, which is a small rubber back random orbit sander for the angle grinder that leaves behind a buttery smooth surface.

After multiple days of sanding, I inspect the rings and find any that have voids that need to be filled and then fill those voids with epoxy resin while I fill my voids with an entire pint of ice cream. Special bonus is that this gives me a reason to sand the rings again!! Luckily it's just a handful of rings, but once the epoxy cures I go through the same rough and finish sanding process to blend in the epoxy with the rest of the surface.

Step 13: Pre-finish and Getting Ready for the Lathe

Before assembly, I decide to pre-finish the faces of the rings, since it's going to be a bit tricky to get finsh on these surfaces once all the ring are glued together. I do 3 coats of wood sealer on the top and bottom of each ring and then sand down the top and bottom flat surface with my drum sander to bring those back down to raw wood so that the glue sticks.

To turn the vase, I decided to split it in 2 halves, turn those 2 halves like bowls, and then join them together. Normally I'd use a steady rest to support the end of the vase while I turn, but due to the waves in the surface that isn't possible (plus this vase is really heavy compared to a normal one, since the walls have to be so thick). The bottom of the vase gets a sacrificial face plate glued to it and the top gets the same, but on top of a regular segmented ring which gives me a smooth surface to mount my steady-rest on later.

Step 14: Glue-up Process

I glue and clamp the top and bottom rings together with their matching sacrificial pieces and then start with the top of the vase and mount that to my lathe face plate with a liberal number of screws (not taking any chances of this thing flying off!). To glue the rest of the rings together to the top ring, I just use my lathe as my clamp. Glue is applied to the next ring, then I put it in position and use a large plywood disk pinched in between the vase and the tail-stock to clamp it tight.

One of the biggest issues I had to combat was glue squeeze out. The inner surface was no problem because I was going to be turning that down anyway, but the outside surface had to be completely clean since this is going to be the finish surface. It wasn't easy, but I use the paddle side of my Rockler glue brush with a damp rag to fish out the glue. This gets most of it and then I blast some compressed air where there is any squeeze out left, which helps bring it out so I can reach it with my rag.

Step 15: Turning Process

The turning starts on the outside, bringing the outside of the rings down to be perfectly round. I also clean up the transition between rings so that there is an obvious and smooth shape moving from ring to ring. I get the majority of this done now, but I'll wait to establish the final shape until later when the entire vase is glued up.

I then turn down the inside, creating a smooth transition from ring to ring, cleaning up the steps that are created when gluing them together. While I turn it, I'm sure to continuously check the wall thickness to make sure I'm not going too thin (~1/4"). With this vase in particular it's extremely hard to tell what the wall thickness is since you can't actually see it due to the carving on the outside. Once I'm happy with the inside shape, I sand it down smooth starting with the Mini Carver and finishing by hand.

Step 16: Finishing Up the Top Half

I work my way out 3 or 4 rings at a time, turn them, and then do the same process again. This also allows me to get precise alignment for each of my rings since I want to rotate each one by 1/3 of a segment so the waves spiral as the go up. This is also done in steps like this because I can only reach so far inside of the vase with my lathe tools anyway, so this is the way to turn at that depth.

With the top half complete, I can remove it from the lathe. I take the metal face plate off and screw it to the bottom half so that I can then mount that to the lathe.

Step 17: Turning the Bottom Half

Same process as the top, I do for the bottom, turning and sanding 3 rings at a time. This one seemed a little easier to me, not sure if it was because I'd done this process already, because this was a less aggressive shape compared to the top, or because this is the point that I really turned my brain off (and I don't think I've turned it back on sense

Step 18: Getting Ready to Join the Halves

With both halves finished, I cut part of the sacrificial piece off the top so that I can still mount both halves to the lathe pinched together and then reach inside and mark the bottom half to give myself a reference point of what the inner diameter needs to be.

The top half is put aside again so that I can turn the bottom half down to the line and then sand through the grits.

Step 19: Gluing Halves Together

With both halves finished, just need to do the final glue-up and glue them together. I was doing to do this on the lathe initially, but decided it would be easier just to take the entire thing off the lathe and use clamps instead. I don't need the sacrificial piece anymore after all, so I remove it by sawing it off with a handsaw.

Glue gets applied to the flat spot on the bottom ring and then the 2 halves are jointed as one, to have and to hold, as long as this vase shall live.

Feels like the Stanley Cup!

Step 20: Re-mounting to the Lathe and Turning Outside

With the glue dry, the vase gets mounted back on the lathe again, this time the tail-stock stays pinched in the top of the vase using a plug because I definitely don't trust this thing spinning at hundreds of RPMs unsupported on the end. I mount it loosely and then use my dial indicator to get the top end as centered as possible before locking it in place.

Now I can finish turning the outside and establish the final shape of it. I'm also able to clean up the joint between the 2 halves since I hadn't established the outer diameter before.

Step 21: Turning Inside and Rim

In order to clean up the top of the vase and the inside joint between the halves, I made 2 tools. The steady rest is a ring with roller blade wheels mounted to it which is clamped in place to the bed of the lathe. This rest holds the top of the vase steady (makes sense, right?) so that it can be left open and not supported with the tail stock. I also made this beast of a lathe tool to clean up the last little bit deep inside the vase that I couldn't reach otherwise. It's a turned pallet wood handle (of course) with a 3' long 1/2" bar stock shaft with a negative rake carbide cutter on the end. The negative rake is much less aggressive and I'm just going to take really light passes since I'm reaching so deep into the vase. The length of the tool let me cantilever it off the toolrest and actually support the handle in my armpit.

Anyway, I ended up taping a small flashlight to the end of the chisel so that I could actually see what I was doing on the inside and carefully cleaned up the little bit of inconsistency that was left at the joint between the 2 halves.

With the top supported, I'm also able to clean up the top lip of the vase. I mark off the inner 1" like I did on all the other rings and then curved the inside surface out to this point.

Step 22: Removing the Sacrificial Ring

After some more sanding, the inside of the vase is all done, so I'm able to remove the sacrificial ring from the top ring of the vase. The easy way would be to part it off and cut the ring off into a big chunk, the fun way to do it though, is to turn it into ribbons.

Step 23: Carving the Top Lip

To finish off the top of the vase, I mark out the same 1/4" thickness to carve the wave shape in the top ring. This was actually a big inspiration for this design, about a year ago I turned a bowl where just the lip was carved with this wavy shape. I thought that bowl looked so cool, that recently I stupidly though "hey, what if the whole piece was made like that" now realizing that the reason no one has done this is because it's such a torture that it's against international law to even subject terrorists to this.

Step 24: Sanding, Sanding, Sanding

All of the rings have sharp corners, which is cool and all, but not the right shape for this project. I use a Dremel with a sanding drum in it to shape the edge of each ring all the way around the vase. This does a few things, 1. it lends itself really well to the shape of wavy shape of the vase to take away the hard corners and make the shadows less harsh 2. it help trick the eye into thinking that the inconsistencies in the hand carving are much more consistent then they actually are and 3. tests my patients like it's never been tested before.

After days with the Dremel doing the rough sanding, next for me is days of hand sanding to remove the scratches left behind during that process. Good news though, is that it's now starting to look how I was envisioning it in my head.

Last step of sanding is the finish sanding, which I'm able to do much quicker with a mop sander in my drill (aka sanding stars). I found that this wasn't aggressive enough to bring the corners down totally round like I wanted, which is why I had to do that part by hand. The flexible head of this sander was able to smooth everything out though once I got the worst of the sanding done by hand.

Step 25: Wood Sealer and Parting Off the Lathe

At long last, the finishing process can now commence. I start by blowing the vase off with compressed air to remove most of the dust from the surface. Then the whole surface gets rubbed down with paint thinner on a rag, which removes what's left of dust on the surface and evaporates quickly without raising the grain.

Then wood sealer is applied to the inside and outside of the entire piece, first with a rag, and then a couple coats using a paint brush to reach into any small crevices that I might have missed before.

And probably the most anxious I've ever been in my life (I get anxious all the time folks, no one gets as anxious as me), I use a parting tool to separate the sacrificial wood face plate from the bottom ring. I can't reach all the way in, so I use a hand saw to do the rest of the work (with a blanket on the bed of the lathe to protect the vase).

Step 26: Carving the Bottom

I scrape off what's left of the glue that was holding those pieces together and then carve the wave shape in the bottom just like I did with the rest of the rings.

The bottom is a bit special though, I don't want the vase to rest on the center because it will be even more likely to tip then it already is now. I use the Turbo Plane again to dish out the center so that what is touching the ground is actually the outer waves of the bottom ring. I then sand the bottom smooth and round over the edges like I did to all the other rings.

Step 27: Adding Branding Stamp and Finish Finish

The bottom is stamped with my logo using toner transfer and signed. Stamping is done by printing out the logo mirrored using a laser printer and then using the pattern bit in my wood burner to heat up the back of the paper, transferring the toner permanently onto the wood. I then apply a few coats of wood sealer to seal everything in and so it matches the rest of the vase.

The vase gets brought outside for the final finish, which is multiple coats of spray varnish using water based TotalBoat varnish and my HVLP. It is able to build up a finish on the entire vase including all those nooks and crannies, Thomas' would be proud! And that's it! 2 months spent on a vase that everyone will surely admire and love and say that it belongs in a museum, but despite all the talk, won't actually value the amount of time that went into it, because... IKEA.

Step 28: Glamour Shots

If you made it this far, thanks for joining me on this journey. I hope you enjoyed it more than me and at the same time I know you did. Actually, it was a meditative experience at certain points and I came out of this with every task that I do now not feeling overwhelming at all. As always, watch the video, that's where the real fun is! (linked below. It's like an audiobook, except it's a video and not an audiobook, so it's not like an audiobook at all. This post was brought to you by Hungry Hungry Hippos, a Johnson & Johnson company.


Thirsty for more? You can also find me in other places on the interwebs!

My Website: Essentially my entire life

YouTube: Me, in moving picture form

Instagram: Preview my projects as they progress #nofilter

Twitter: Riveting thoughts, in very small doses


Note: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting what I do!