Turning a Potpourri


A Pictorial Article by Bob Hamilton


In this article I will attempt to describe how I turn a potpourri container.  This one is built up using black walnut and butternut, but I have used many different wood species to make them.  I turn them in two pieces and glue the parts together before final turning of the top.  I find them to be fun and easy to make, and they make wonderful gifts.  I hope you find this of interest!


Photo.1:  Blank prepared for mounting


This is the blank ready for mounting on the lathe.  I made it by resawing a 5/8" thick slice from a 2" thick butternut board 6" wide.  I then glued a 5/8" thick piece of black walnut to the thicker of the two pieces of butternut.  The butternut pieces are still oriented the same way they were in the original board.  I usually start with boards 3 or 4 feet long, which yields 6 to 8 potpourri containers.


Photo 2:  Chamfer the hole


I use a screw chuck for the first mounting of the pieces.  It requires a 9/32" pilot hole, which you can see in Photo 1.  Here I am using the fingernail shaped end of a 1/2" spindle gouge to chamfer the edges of the hole which makes it easier to get started onto the screw chuck. I just hold the gouge vertically and rotate it in the hole.


Photo 3:  Top mounted for turning


I now have the top for the potpourri mounted on the screw chuck in preparation for turning a recess.  This will be the inside surface of the top in the finished piece.


Photo 4:  Top recess ready for sanding


Here I have completed turning the recess and it is ready for sanding.  I used a 1/4" bowl gouge to remove the bulk of the waste, then a wide, heavy round nosed scraper to fair the curve.  Butternut is a quite soft wood and it is difficult to get a clean cut with a scraper.


Photo 5:  Top recess sanded


The recess in the top has now been sanded and is ready for finish.  I use a product called Clapham's Salad Bowl finish, which is a blend of beeswax and mineral oil.  I rub it into the wood with the lathe stopped, then buff it out with the lathe running.  I try not to get any of the finish on the gluing surfaces, but it is still a good idea to wipe them down with mineral spirits prior to gluing the top and bottom together


Photo 6:  Top recess finished


Now the recess has been finished and the top is ready to be removed from the lathe.  The outside surface of the top is not turned until after it has been glued to the bottom


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