Turn an Inside-Out Ornament


Here’s an easy holiday project: A tree ornament turned both inside and out. It’s a good way to use up scraps in the shop and practice some new finishing techniques.

Begin With Good Stock

Mill some dry, straight-grained hardwood so you have four pieces measuring 1-1/2″ square and at least 6″ long. The exact dimensions aren’t critical. You can make the pieces less than 1-1/2″ square, or go longer. The thinner the wood and the longer the pieces, the skinnier the ornament will be. However, take the time to make the wood square, flat and uniform. You don’t want gaps showing in the finished ornament.

Let the wood you choose determine the finish you use. Plain woods such as maple or poplar lend themselves to paint and gilding. Gild the inside and paint the outside, or vice versa. If you use nice quilted maple or a tropical hardwood with strong grain and figure, opt for a clear finish all over. Or, gild the inside of the ornament and put a clear finish on the outside. There’s more detail about finishing at the end of the article.

Bundle & Mark

(Fig. 1) Tape together four identical pieces. Mark the inside and outside corners on the end-grain, as well as the ends of a large cove around the cutting faces.

Gather the pieces together and secure them at each end. Some people use dabs of hot glue plus blue tape; others use double-stick tape. I prefer fiberglass-reinforced strapping tape.

Rather than try to hold the pieces in a vise, I corral them with a big hose clamp. This allows me to tweak the pieces so the ends are flush. I then bind them with two or three layers of tape.

Before mounting the piece on the lathe, mark each piece to identify the inside and outside corners. This is good insurance to prevent misalignment of the pieces later in the process. Also draw lines on all four sides to mark the ends of the cove; this helps you start the cut (Fig. 1).

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