8 Easy Woodturning Project Ideas

Updated: Jan. 11, 2023

These woodturning projects are manageable, personal and perfect for holiday gift giving.

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Wood Lathe Projects for Beginners

If you’re new to woodturning, you’ll be thrilled to know there are lots of easy projects that are inexpensive and readily accessible. One of the most common is making a bowl, but I’m not a big fan of that. Here are eight other beginner woodturning project ideas you can try instead.

Manageable and inexpensive

These projects don’t require a big lathe, which can be expensive and takes up a lot of room. Nor do they require big chunks of wood or a lot of additional tools beyond your basic woodturning tools. And they’re small enough that if you mess up one, you can learn from your mistakes and try again quickly.

Make personal gifts

Whether you’re looking for a gift for the holidays or another special occasion, it feels good to make something for someone you know. Making a gift can deepen the connection you have with a person. You’ll smile just thinking of the moment the recipient sees your hand-crafted gift and says, “Wow, that’s beautiful!”

What you’ll need

While these projects are basic, you’ll benefit from woodturning classes that teach skills and techniques as well as safety measures. Check with woodturners supply stores and the American Association of Woodturners, which has 365 worldwide chapters. Search online for woodturning organizations in your area for instruction, and check with such woodworking stores as Rockler for classes.

Also, for some of these smaller projects, you’ll need a few specialized tools for making pens and pencils.

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4 In 1 Screwdriver Turning Kit Ecomm Via Rockler.com
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Screwdriver Handle

I used Rockler’s screwdriver kit for my first woodturning project, following its instructions to make eight handles of various hardwoods. I mailed each to a specific friend, including a note on why I matched the wood and the handle shape to each person.

The $12 kit includes a square #1/square #2 bit, a slotted/Phillips bit, brass ferrule, knurled insert and a reversible shaft that accepts 1/4-in. bits. For this kit, the minimum recommended wood blank size is 1-1/2-in. by 1-1/2-in. by 6-in. (not included).

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Artisan Confetti 4 Pack Ecomm Via Woodturnerscatalog.com
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Candleholder

Winter nights and festive gatherings are great excuses to fill your rooms with candles. A cherry candleholder was my second woodturning project.

Making candleholders lets you perfect certain techniques, including creating coves and beads. It’s also a fun opportunity to play around with candleholder heights, widths and designs. You don’t need a kit for this project. But if you want glass and brass material options, check out this kit from Craft Supplies USA.

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Artisan Pull Light Kit Ecomm Via Woodturnerscatalog.com
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Light Pull

Next time you’re visiting a friend, study their lamps. Maybe sneak a photo so you can match the wood and your design to the lamp. Then create light pulls that match your friend’s lamps with this $5 Artisan kit.

Each kit features 12-inch and 4-1/2-inch brass pull chains with connector links; a 10k gold-plated brass finial; and a threaded adapter for attaching the turned wood piece.

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Rockler Shoe Horn Turning Kit Ecomm Via Rockler.com
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Shoehorn Handle

I cringe every time I see my grandkids’ shoes with the backs crushed in. I say, “Use a shoehorn!” They don’t, but maybe they would if I made them one.

That’s simple enough to do with this $22 kit that includes stainless steel hardware and a hang hole so you can store the shoehorn on a hook in your mudroom. Turn the handle with as much detail as you want.

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Turners Select Quartz Clock Movement Ecomm Via Woodturnerscatalog.com
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Bedside Clock

With a three-inch cube of wood and basic woodturning tools and skills, anyone can make a clock for travel or a bedside table. This $12 Turners Select 3-1/2-in. Quartz Clock comes with a polished brass face and requires one AA battery (not included.)

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Apprentice Vase Tubes Ecomm Via Woodturnerscatalog.com
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Vase

A thoughtful bouquet of flowers makes a great gift, but they’ll be even more impressive delivered in a vase you made yourself. Turning a vase is a rewarding and straightforward project. Keep in mind wood requires protection from water. To safely fill a vase with water, purchase flower vase glass tubes for less than $7.

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Artisan Mini Key Ring Pen Kit Ecomm Via Woodturnerscatalog.com
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Key Ring/Pen

How many times have you been in your car and scrambled to find a pen to make a note? You won’t have to again with this $7 Artisan Mini Key Ring Pen Kit. It’s three inches long and 7/16-inches in diameter. The minimum wood blank size needed for turning is 3/4-in. by 3/4-in. by 2-1/4-inches. The kit even includes a mini ballpoint refill.

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Finial Tip Ornament Turning Kit Ecomm Via Rockler.com
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Ornament

If you make ornaments for the trees of friends and relatives with this $4 Rockler Finial Tip Ornament Turning Kit, there’s a good chance they’ll be be passed on for generations. The brass hardware will brighten any tree. The kit makes it easy to shape the wood or acrylic material into a festive holiday decoration.