Introduction: Recycle Pallet Wood Into Turned Art

this instructable is about how to take a chunk of pallet wood and turn it into a bowl/vessel on a lathe.  this is not a "how to turn" instructable; there are lots of those out there as well as plenty on how to build your own lathe if you don't have one.  this is simply one way i like to re-use pallet wood for artsy-fartsy projects.  enjoy!

the first step is to find a pallet with blocks separating the two sections of slat and not boards; though it is certainly possible to harvest the boards/slats as well and glue them into a turning blank as well.

Step 1: Prepping the Blank

step 2:

now that you've got a blank, you want to square it up roughly.  i use a my miter-saw to do this.  once you've got a square-ish piece of wood to deal with, find the center with either a center-finding jig, the dividing head that often comes with a combination square, or you can "zoom in" on rough center with the normal head on a combination square as well.

mark the center, use a compass to draw a circle about that center and drill the center out for a screw-chuck on the lathe.  at least, that's how i do it. 

i also like to take the "square" blank back to the miter saw and knock the corners off so i start turning with a rough octagon rather than a square.  anyone who's ever turned wood before can tell you this takes a lot of the initial "chop" out of roughing down the piece to a cylinder.

Step 2: The Fun Part - Turning the Vessel

mount the blank on the screw chuck in the lathe and begin by turning the bottom.  my lathe is set up such that i first turn the bottom of a vessel and rough out the sidewall, including a tenon (or mortise depending on the wood and size) on the bottom for turning the hollow when i flip the workpiece.

before i go on, i'd like to state i'm a self-taught turner and still a pretty rank amateur.  that being said, the lathe tools i use primarily are as follows:
- parting tool
- round-nose scraper
- 3/4" spindle gouge
- 1/2" bowl gouge

after roughing out the bottom and sidewall, i like to remove the blank from the screw chuck and remount it 180 degrees the other way with the chuck jaws gripping the tenon i turned on the bottom.  i get the piece spinning again and finish up the sidewall before i begin hollowing out the vessel.  this allows me to work the outer most part of the wood while it still has a lot of mass in the center (isn't physics fun?!?).  once happy with the shape of the outside, i hollow out the vessel until i'm happy with the thickness of the walls and bottom.

after the turning, i like to sand the piece while its spinning with the following grits of sandpaper: 36, 60, 100, 150, 240 respective.  on occasion, i will also burnish the workpiece while its spinning with a piece of dowel stock of a harder density than the workpiece.  workpieces with knot holes pose an interesting challenge.  if you work a knotted out piece, your tools need to be SHARP!!!

Step 3: The Finished Item

once happy with the finished surface on the lathe, i take the piece off, usually oil it or finish it some other way depending on its intended use(s), and burn my signature and the year in the bottom with a soldering iron pyrography point.

i like this piece because it retained some nail holes from its previous life as a pallet as well as the added artsy-fartsy-ness, and challenge, of turning a knot hole.  hope you like it; if not, such is life - all i'm out is a little time and a chunk of pallet wood  :)

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