A couple months ago I jumped into the world of woodturning. I’ve been wanting a lathe ever since I went to a turning demo put on by Rockler at the Haven Blogging Conference this past summer. And it just so happens as I was buying another tool off CraigsList from a guy, he also had a lathe for sale. Badabing badaboom, now I have an old Rikon 70-100 mini lathe. I got a little more than I bargained for as I had to refurb it, but that’s another post. Today I’m going to show you how to turn a Pizza Cutter and Bottle Opener and how easy it is to make some cool gifts on the lathe even as a beginner!
With Christmas coming quickly it’s time to think about what to make for family and friends. Something handmade is always a big hit and people tend to cherish it a lot longer than the Snuggie you got them back in ’05. This year I want to incorporate lathe projects and I wanted something easy to make for a beginner.
I turned to my friends at Rockler for their expertise to help get me started on the lathe. They got me squared away with all the turning tools and accessories I’d need to get going and recommended some of the kits they thought would be good for a beginner. I’ll have a future post about all the things you need to get started in turning, but today we’ll just jump right in and make a Pizza Cutter and Bottle Opener.
Here is what you’ll need for the project:
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Let’s take a quick look at the Pizza Cutter and Bottle Opener kits. They are similar kits because they both have attachments that are screwed into the handle via a threaded insert. Here is the Pizza Cutter kit and its contents.
And here is the Bottle Opener kit and its contents.
The threaded insert in each kit is installed in the end of a wood blank before turning begins. After the turning and finishing is complete, the attachments are screwed into the insert. Rockler sells a turning kit mandrel that you can use to make turning the blank and installing the threaded insert much easier for both kits.
I’m going to do the full walk through on the Pizza Cutter, and for that kit I am using a 1.5″x1.5″x6″ block of Desert Ironwood from Rockler.
The first thing to do is to select and prepare your blank for turning. Use a center finder to mark the center of one end.
The threaded insert goes into a 1/2″ hole in hardwood or 7/16″ hole in softwood. Ironwood is DEFINITELY a hardwood, so I drilled a 1/2″ hole 1″ deep using my drill press. You can see the DIY clamping station I have to hold pieces in place.
Now use the pizza cutter mandrel to install the threaded insert into the blank. Remove the large bushing from the mandrel and replace it with two 5/16″ nuts tightened against each other and screw the threaded insert onto the mandrel against the nuts.
With the drill press unplugged, install the mandrel in the chuck. Lower the mandrel into the hole and install the threaded insert by turning the chuck with your hand. This seats the insert perfectly straight.
Remove the mandrel and the nuts then reinstall the bushing. Screw the mandrel into the threaded insert and you have a turning blank ready to go!
To install the bottle opener mandrel in the head stock, you first need to put a Jacobs chuck into the headstock.
Mount the mandrel/blank assembly to the headstock and spin the blank by hand to make sure it spins true and isn’t off center. Put a live center in the tailstock and move it into place on the other end of the blank.
You are now ready to start slinging chips! Before turning make sure you have proper safety gear and proper clothing for turning. Loose hair, jewelry and clothing should stay away from the lathe.
For cutting tools I used the Rockler carbide turning tools. They are very beginner friendly as you don’t have to worry about orientation of the cutter. You simply hold the tool level and against the tool’s rest and push it directly into the stock.
The carbide cutters come in 4 different configurations. From Left to Right, the square tool is for roughing or straight areas. The square radius tool is for smoothing cuts and convex surfaces. The round tool is for finishing and does great with large coves. The diamond tool is for detailing and can be used for parting as well.
Start by roughing the blank to a round blank using the square tool or a roughing gouge. This should be done at a slower speed than finishing work.
After the blank is roughed, lay out your design and work one section at a time. I wanted a detail at the front with a reverse hourglass shape in the middle and a similar detail on the end. I made pencil marks where I wanted the transitions to be.
At this point you can work in whatever direction you want. I started with the front and then moved backwards. The bushing on the pizza cutter mandrel is sized to the pizza cutter hardware. Turn the handle down to this size and it will match perfectly with the pizza cutter.
I moved to the middle then back of the handle, taking off mounds of shavings as I went.
The thing I like most about turning is how fluid it is. The design I started with turned into something else as I cut the profile and followed what looked good to my eye. Frequently I would stop the lathe and grasp the handle to see how it felt in my hand. I’d adjust accordingly, making changes based on feel and look.
I ended up with two detail beads in front and a fairly straight handle tapering larger towards the back. At the back I made a slight dip inward before a flared butt of the handle with a bead and chamfer combo. I used the round head and diamond tools for the beads and the square radius tool to put a finish cut on the tapered section of the handle.
After you have your desired shape switch over to sanding. I got a box of sanding strips from Rockler and sanded from 150 to 240 to 320 to 400 and finished with 600 grit.
I then slowed the lathe back down and applied 5 coats of Wood Turner’s Finish with a paper towel as the lathe spun. I let each coat dry about 3 minutes and sanded with 1500 grit in between coats.
The final step is to trim the waste end off the handle. I parted the end down to about 1/8″ and then trimmed it off with a pull saw.
Use a small knife to knock off most of the nub left behind and then sand it down flush with 150 grit and progress up through 600 grit until smooth. Apply finish by hand and you are done with the handle.
Installing the pizza cutter is as easy as screwing in the head. I think mine turned out great for my 3rd real time turning and I love the look of the Ironwood.
I also turned a bottle opener handle from walnut using the exact same method and a very different design. The great thing about turning is you can let your imagination run wild and explore different shapes and designs.
I can’t wait to try out the other kits I have from Rockler for a Bottle Stopper and an Ice Cream Scoop. If you are thinking about getting into a lathe I would highly recommend it. I’m having a blast and my family is going to get some awesome new handmade presents for Christmas!
Rockler provided me with tools and/or monetary compensation as a sponsor of this build. All opinions are my own and are not filtered by the sponsor.