Wooden Travel Mug




About: I build, I teach, I learn. Happiest when covered in saw dust, sweat and machine grease. Visit CobyUngerDesign.com for more projects and info.

The wooden travel mug is a great intermediate level wood turning project with a really nice and functional end result.

The necessary materials for this project are a 4 by 4 by 10 inch piece of wood some epoxy and a travel mug insert from Woodcraft.

You will also need a wood lathe with a Jacobs Chuck tail stock and a 4 Jaw Chuck head stock option.

Step 1: Center

Start by marking the center of your stock on both ends and chuck it between centers in the lathe.

Step 2: Cylinder

Like most turning projects, the first step is to turn your square stock into a cylinder.

You can use a roughing gouge for this step. When possible use long continuous cuts along the length of your stock.

Step 3: Cut Tenon

In order to hold your work securely in a four jaw chuck you'll need to cut a tenon in the end. Once an appropriately sized tenon is cut use the parting tool to cut it to length.

Step 4: Drill

Traditional woodturners may frown upon the use of forstner bits to remove material, but I'm not a traditional woodturner. In the interest of efficiency I encourage using the tools you have at your disposal.

I used three different sizes of forstner bits in this project to approximate the taper of the mug insert. I chose the sizes for each but by measuring it against different parts of the insert. The first bit was sized to the bottom of the insert. The second was measured to half way down the mug, and the third the size of the opening at the top.

I used a Jacobs chuck in the tail stock of the lathe and drilled each bit to a depth corresponding to the distance down the mug insert where the diameter of the insert matched the diameter of the bit.

Step 5: Internal Cuts

The forstner bits did a pretty good job of roughing out the internal shape of the mug, but a small amount of clean up work was necessary to make the insert fit perfectly. For internal cuts run the lathe in reverse and lower your tool rest a bit. A bowl gouge or hollowing tool is a good choice for these cuts.

I recommend taking it slow and checking the fit of the insert often.

Step 6: Shape

Now that the inside of your mug fits the insert it is time to tackle the outside. The most important part of the outside is the top end where the insert overlaps. For the best results this part first and then be careful to not take any more material off. You can use a gouge or a scraper here to slowly remove material from the end until the lip of the insert just barely fits over the end of the wooden vessel. Once the insert fits you can cover the end in masking tape to remind yourself not to take off anything else from that area.

After the lip is cut the rest of the mug's shape is completely up to you. I chose to follow the taper of the insert, but you could shape the mug in any way you like.

Step 7: Sand

Sanding on the lathe is best done at a slow speed with the lathe spinning in reverse. Use a series of increasingly fine grits to achieve the desired finish texture.

Step 8: Remove

Once you are satisfied with the shape and surface texture of your mug you can use a parting tool or hand saw to remove it from the stock.

Step 9: Glue

Epoxy is the best glue for adhering wood to metal. I mixed up a small batch of epoxy and applied it liberally to the insert before inserting it into the wooden vessel.

Step 10: The Bottom

The bottom of hollow forms is always where I struggle the most. In this case my strategy was unorthodox but very successful. I used the four jaw chuck to hold the top of the mug from the inside and sanded the bottom with a air-powered die grinder. I tried using a gouge and a scraper on the end, but the chuck didn't hold the mug well enough to deal with the forces of a real turning tool.

Step 11: Finishing

I highly recommend General Finishes' food safe oil based Urethane called Salad Bowl finish for this project. I applied tow coats with a rag while the mug was still on the lathe.

Step 12: Enjoy

Now you can enjoy the warmth of natural wood while you sip your morning coffee and relish in the knowledge that you created something beautiful and functional.



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45 Discussions

okay im a little late to this but when i make my mugs i use a drill press and it's not that bad you just want to keep the make sure the tenon is square.


4 years ago on Introduction

Fantastic .........

Now to find somewhere in the UK that sells the Travel Mug inserts so I can have a go :)


4 years ago on Introduction

I would put a word in on this about cleaning your wooden wares. This is probably not dishwasher safe. And also, wood should not be soaked in the sink. If you have need to soak dried up material in the bottom of the cup just fill the cup with warm sudsy water and let it stand upright for a while.

Spalting is the result of a natural fungal process of decay in wood that has been stopped by the drying of the wood. The wonderful colors and patterns it inscribes in wood are much sought after as natural accents in the finshed item.The fungus is not harmful to you, but if allow spalted wood to rehydrate, the process of decay will continue as the fungus in still present, but dormant in the object.

Treen ware will wash well but soaking most wooden objects will cause them to swell and possibly deform. Wood takes more care than modern materials, but the rewards of beauty, utility, and light weight make it wonderful.

1 reply

4 years ago

Absolutely wonderful use of wood. The mug looks incredible.

1 reply