Lathe Turned Wooden Snowman

About: Hi, my name is Rich and I'm just an amateur woodworker that wants to share some of my projects. Badlands Wood-N-Stuff is the name we use to sell our crafts at shows, Ebay, and Etsy. I also enjoy watching oth...

Intro: Lathe Turned Wooden Snowman

This time of year we have lots of snow. Kids all over town are making snowmen. It's too cold for me out there so I decided to make my snowman indoors in my shop. These wood turned snowmen make great gifts. When finished properly they will last forever. Nature always seems to provide me with interesting wood for my hobby. This piece was no exception.

In this Instructable I'm going to show you how I turned a log that I found into a beautiful gift. The fantastic thing about this gift is it only cost me time. The time I spend on my lathe is very enjoyable and I put a little of my feelings in everything I turn.

I made a video showing most of the process and you can watch it in the preview above. Be sure to let me know what you think of my snowman, and I will be glad to answer any questions.

Step 1: What You Will Need:

  • Lathe, I use a Central Machinery lathe sold by Harbor Freight. These are reasonably priced and they ship right to your home. I have made hundreds of gifts with mine.
  • Lathe cutting tools, for this I only used a gouge, and a parting tool.
  • Lathe chuck, this can be turned between centers but I feel safer using the chuck.
  • Brush for stain or polyurethane.
  • Safety equipment, full face shield, hearing protection, rubber gloves, and a dust mask.
  • Small log, preferably a hardwood. 4 - 6 inch diameter and at least 12 inches long.
  • One small branch for the hat.
  • Saw, even a hand saw will work. I used my band saw.
  • Sand paper of grits from 60 to 400.
  • Wood glue, I use Titebond wood glue as it works best for me
  • A finishing stain, for this I used Minwax Natural.
  • Polyurethane or clear gloss lacquer.

As for all of my tools that I use with my lathe the cost was right around three hundred dollars. Many things can be made with this setup. This equipment has given me many hours of enjoyment. Most of what I make is gifted, and that's where the real joy comes in. The quote that I always hear is "You made this, Wow".

Step 2: Safety:

Always be safe with any project. Understand that I am wearing long sleeves while operating the lathe. This is a no-no. Your sleeves can get caught by a spinning part and cause serious injury. Unfortunately it is extremely cold this time of year in Montana and we adapt. I am very careful to not place my hands near the rotating parts. If I do get close I roll up my sleeves.

Always wear protective gear when operating a lathe. I wear a full face shield and dust mask. Sometimes a project can fly off the lathe and hit you, so protect your face. I also constantly check that that the wood is secure on the lathe.

Another issue is some wood dust can be irritating and even poisonous, always wear a dust mask when wood turning. I use a shop vacuum attachment on my lathe and have a dust filter system in the shop to remove fine particles from the air.

Follow your tool manufacturer's instructions and enjoy wood turning, it is fun.

Step 3: Set Up You Lathe

When I'm done with a project I always clean up my lathe. Tools are where I need them for a new project. If special tools are needed I add them to my work area. Make sure your lathe is well lit.

Step 4: The Log

This gift will start with a log I had in the back of my truck. It's an ugly piece of wood, but nature has provided it for free. This is from an Elm tree that was cut down locally and I asked the property owner if I could have several chunks.

When I look at a piece of wood like this I ignore the outside and try to imagine what is underneath. This particular piece had a beautiful grain hidden inside. It was my calling to release the inner beauty. You should use your imagination as to what your finished turning will look like.

Step 5: My Imagination: the Stump

Looking at the log I envisioned a stump. The branches that were cut or broken will look like the roots. On top will be a flat area where my snowman will appear to stand. See if you can imagine this as I did. I know it doesn't look that way, but keep reading.

Step 6: Turning a Tenon

Now with the log firmly mounted I want to turn a tenon on the waste area. This is so the log can be mounted in a chuck. I prefer using the chuck for this project just for my ease of mind. The chuck holds the wood more securely, but this project can easily be turned between centers as well.

Step 7: Log Is Mounted in the Chuck

Now the log is mounted in the chuck using the tenon we just turned. My lathe is adjusted for speed and my tool rest is in place. Time to start turning.

Step 8: Marking Out the Snowballs

I will only use two cutting tools to make the snowman, a parting tool, and a gouge. In this photo I mark the placement of the snowballs with a parting tool. Once again you must use your imagination as to what this will become.

Step 9: Turning Snowballs

Many folks remember making a snowman. We started with a small snowball and rolled it in the snow. The more we rolled it the bigger it got. This is the opposite the more we turn the smaller the snowball gets. I like to start with the base snowball and work my way to the head. Kind of reminds me of a happier time as a kid playing in the snow.

Either way you work it keep that imagination working as you turn your project.

Step 10: The Wood

The more you cut, the more you will begin to see the grain. I watch the wood, feel the wood, and in this project I'll leave some bark still in place. A small area of lightly cut bark will really enhance the look. I'm constantly stopping the lathe and looking at what is coming out in the wood.

Step 11: Looks Like a Snowman

When you get to this point you start to see a snowman on your lathe. Look at the beautiful grain, imagine the finished product. Looking at this I can see the form of the stump as well.

Step 12: The Stump

Here is where I create the stump. I do this with a very light touch of the cutting tool. You want to leave bark but make the former branches look as if they were the root of the tree. Angle the cut of the branches toward what you imagine to be the ground it was sitting in.

Step 13: Time to Cutoff the Top

I took the snowman off the lathe and used my band saw to cut off the top. I cut this flat with a slight angle so a hat can be glued on. You can use a small hand saw to accomplish this as well.

Step 14: Back to the Lathe, for Some Sanding

Sanding on the lathe is much more fun than hand sanding. When the velcro is worn out on the sanding discs I use, they go over to the lathe. This way I can get more use out of something that normally might be discarded. I used several grits starting at 60 and worked my way up to 400. This gave me a smooth finish to apply the stain. Be sure to sand the stump as well, just use a light touch.

Step 15: Time for Stain

I'm using a stain made by Minwax. The color is Natural and that is what I need to bring out the woodgrain. I apply the stain to the snowman using a paper shop towel. You will see the difference the moment it is applied. The grain just pops out. This part always amazes me.

Step 16: Staining the Stump

I use a brush to stain the stump. This gets the stain into the bark as well. Be sure to use a drip pan to keep the stain from dripping onto your lathe.

Step 17: Cutoff the Stump

Once again I went back to the band saw, this time to cut off the stump. Break out your imagination again. Cut the stump off making look as if it were a tree growing from the ground. I included a pic of some other snowmen I made as an example of the stump. Some even lean with the way I imagined the stump having grown.

Step 18: A Snowman Has to Have a Hat

Here I turned a small piece of a branch for my snowman's hat. Once again I used my imagination as to what I thought the hat should look like.

Step 19: Tophat

I wanted an old fashioned tophat for this fella. I began turning the top and the made the brim.

Step 20: Sanding the Hat

Once I got the shape I wanted I sanded the hat while still on the lathe.

Step 21: Back to the Band Saw

Then back to the band saw. I used my imagination to picture how the hat should look. Then I made the cuts. The hat did take a bit of hand sanding, but it was worth it.

Step 22: Glue on the Hat

After hand sanding the hat I added a dark stain for contrast. Then I just glued on the hat with a slight tilt. I used wood glue for this. Then I sprayed the snowman with clear gloss lacquer to give it a shine. You could also use a polyurethane to accomplish this.

Step 23: The Homemade Gift, a Snowman

My snowman is complete and the best part is that he won't melt when springtime arrives. These snowmen make great gifts for the holidays or even to celebrate winter. Remember when you make this, a part of you went into this gift, your imagination. I hope you enjoyed this project and feel free to contact me with any questions. The video was also provided to show a bit more of the actual making of the snowman.

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