Wood lathes are tools crucial to the construction of components for furniture pieces. They can also make great designs on their own. You wouldn’t want to use a wooden lathe to create something unsuitable because you will be left with a piece that’s just not quite right. That’s why I’ve curated some simple wood lathe projects that I believe are perfect for woodworkers of all experience levels.
14 Simple Wood Lathe Projects
I’ve seen that there are certain designs ideal for beginners to start with. Even I, with all my years in the craft, often revisit and appreciate some of the suggestions from our team. Trust me, these designs can truly shine in any home setting.
Bowls are perhaps the easiest starting point compared to other designs on my list. As a first project, you won’t want to be too ambitious. Large wooden bowls can seem more difficult for some, so start with a small design so you can shape it easily with your reliable wood lathe. After turning a few bowls, you can then graduate to larger and more intricate designs.
2. Jewelry Box
A jewelry box is a project that isn’t commonly attempted by beginners. Producing anything but a round design can take some practice, but there are plenty of video and photo step-by-step instructions online that can help you master this piece of art.
Don’t be discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t turn out quite like you expect. With time and practice, you will be able to produce pieces that look like they came right out of a shop.
3. Jar Lid
Over the years, I’ve learned that woodturning isn’t just about creating from scratch; it’s also about enhancing what’s already there. Take simple household items, for instance. With the right touch, a basic jar can be given a custom-made lid, transforming its purpose. It’s all about letting your imagination guide your hands.
Aside from a jar lid, you can also try producing lids for other objects such as bowls, soap dishes, and even cups.
4. Wooden Bangles
Wooden bangles are an excellent and simple gift idea. Nothing is more intriguing than wearing something you made from scratch, and wood bangles are a great option to help hone basic woodturning techniques. Other than bowls, wooden bangles are woodwork projects to start for beginners.
The process is easy, but again, don’t be disappointed if you can’t produce the exact item you had in mind. Wooden bangles are also easily customizable via other woodworking techniques such as carving. There are great videos online you can get inspiration from for your first craft project.
I’ve often observed that a ring is essentially a miniaturized wooden bangle. From my experience, and the consensus among my team, the smaller size of rings offers better control. However, the challenge lies in achieving those finer details, especially if you’re aiming to add a personalized touch to your turning project.
Wood rings are also a common woodturning project seen on Etsy. Tons of sellers put them for sale in their store and make a good return. You can personalize the rings and charge more for your efforts or create beautiful gifts with your newfound skill.
6. Flower Pot
A flower pot is similar to a bowl, with the same hollow hole in the center, except flower pots have a flat base. This is why I like to recommend the bowl as a first project. From the techniques you acquire from creating a bowl, you will then have the means to elaborate and build on the basics to create more complex pieces. It is the best woodworking project for couples, too.
7. Rolling Pin
Rolling pins are fun to make and are a kitchen tool that can also sell for good money. Creating something cylindrical is what a lathe is meant for, so it won’t be too hard if you have the creativity. If you master rolling pins, the same skills can be honed to create table legs.
A rolling pin is an excellent profitable woodwork projects to sell, especially for those who want to sell their woodturning items for a good price. Any tool one can use around the house can provide great returns.
8. Bottle Stopper
Building on my earlier mention of jar lids, I’d also recommend considering bottle stoppers. These are small, rounded pieces of wood designed to seal a bottle, ensuring the freshness of your drinks. Trust me, I’ve encountered more than my fair share of cracked corks that simply refused to go back in. That’s where these wooden bottle stoppers prove invaluable.
I’ve always been a fan of such compact projects. Not only are they an excellent exercise in precision, but they’re also a cost-effective way to utilize those leftover wood pieces that we woodworkers invariably accumulate.
9. Wood Trivet
For those who don’t know, a trivet is used to protect the top of your table or countertop. It acts as a barrier between the hot bowl and the surface to prevent damage. Again, wood trivets are an excellent way to make the most of leftover woods. You can use an excellent beginner wood lathe and it doesn’t require much woodworking skills and the process is relatively easy compared to other designs.
There are plenty of tips available in educational video and instruction guides online that can guide you to the final product.
Why limit yourself to just bowls when you have the opportunity to craft an entire set of dishware? While creating a goblet may be slightly more challenging than making a basic mug or cup, it follows similar principles to the other beginner designs I’ve recommended. Whether you keep it simple or explore your creativity, making a goblet can be a rewarding woodworking project.
12. Christmas Tree Decor
Number 12 is a favorite for many people in the industry. The point of arts and craft designs is to have fun, right? What’s more fun than honing your lathe turning skills with Christmas tree ornaments? You can try for a simple bauble or try something more advanced. Depending on where your skills are at the time, the sky’s the limit  for Christmas tree decor potential.
13. Candle Holder
As I said, round and hollow as well as elongated designs are the best places to start. Even if you are an experienced woodworker, it never hurts to revert back to the basics once in a while to polish your skills. A candle holder is also a great way to showcase your taste for art as they are also highly customizable and can also sell for money like pens.
For those seasoned woodworkers like myself, I propose the ultimate challenge: crafting a clock. This project involves intricate inner workings that go beyond mere turning skills. But believe me, the satisfaction derived from seeing the finished piece is unparalleled. Every household needs a clock, and the beauty of this project is that with some customization, no two clocks will ever be the same. It’s not just a functional piece, but also a thoughtful gift idea.
What can you make with a wood lathe?
What is the best wood to turn on a lathe?
In reflecting on my journey with wood lathe projects, my advice is this: start with the basics and begin small. While a lathe isn’t inherently difficult to learn, mastering it is another story. I’ve had my share of designs that didn’t pan out as I envisioned. Don’t get disheartened by such moments. Instead, be patient, take your time, and move at a pace that feels right for you. Here’s to many fulfilling hours of turning!