Making a wooden cup, part 1

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Blog entry by Ghrrum posted 08-23-2011 04:38 PM 3796 reads 4 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I offered a couple weeks ago to try to do a tutorial on how to make a coffee cup like this.

The above is teak, it’s composed of 15 separate pieces. You build it like you would a barrel, just smaller.

So, to start you need to find something that will work well as an interior sleeve, I’m partial to stainless so I keep my eyes peeled for any candidates when I’m out and about.
I’ve found these work wonderfully and are cheap.

Here is one out of the box.

The really great thing is that the acrylic sleeve on it is held in place with a single phillips head screw on the bottom.

Before I even get to the math and all that mess and bother I get the lumber into some pretty basic shapes, since I do most of this on a table saw, and I have a very deep love of my fingers I usually cut my boards at 2x the height of the cup I’m working with, I usually leave about 1/4 inch more than necessary so I have room to screw up.

The cups I’m working with are 6.25” pay attention to the taper on the cup if there is one, otherwise you will be cutting the boards too short. The boards above I cut at 1’ 1” to make sure I had plenty of room for error, I’m using black locust from a local sawmill, usually I cut and plane my own, but I ran out out and someone made an order for more. Now for the part that will take the longest amount of time, cutting the boards into slats.

Decide on the thickness of the slats you are going to be working with, you need to decide this based on what you intend the final piece to look like, obviously if you are going to be doing heavy releif carving or want to do some interesting lathe work, you are going to need to have your slats thicker. I’m planning on doing these on a lathe, I’ve found that anything less than 1/4” is too thin for doing anything on a lathe with these. So set the table saw at just above 3/8” and get to it.

Recall I said REALLY like my fingers? The first slat you cut is going to be your push stick, I suggest sanding the back end of it round for comfort’s sake. If you have trouble deciding on the best and safest way to mill this through please let me know and I’ll be happy to explain further.

I do lots of these when I do them, normally I do them in sets of 8 cups at a time. For one cup with a 3.5” diameter you need maybe 15-20 slats at 1” wide, that is actually much more than you really need, but I’ve found it difficult to get it perfect the first time, so I like to hedge my measurements on the high side until I’m checking the fit of everything, can’t add more to the width but I can take some away.

Now it’s time for the chop saw, I measure, set a block in place so I’ve got uniform length for the slats, cut ONE and measure it against the cup, adjust if necessary, cut the rest. Check, double, and triple check your measurements on everything from this point on, you screw it up from here on, you’re starting over.

This is the point where you need to do some math.
You need to determine the circumference of the top and bottom, as a reminder you do this by multiplying the diameter by pi.

3.25 x pi = approx 10.205” circumference NOTE: I am using the outside diameter of the cup’s rim, this is intentional.

2.625 x pi = 8.243 circumference.

Measure off the width of your slats, decide on a reasonable number, usually use between 12-15 per cup. On these I’m doing 12 per cup.
So, at this point you want to figure out how to bevel your slats, I’m using 12 slats, so….
12 slats with 2 faces each = 24 seperate bevels.
360 / 24 = 15 degree bevel.

At this point I discovered that my camera was dead, I’m going to do a few more cups soon, so I’ll take more pictures and make sure to have my camera charged.
I’m going to stop here as there are a couple more tricks I’ve found for making these that are easier to show with pictures than explain with words like making a jig for cutting the slats, which is kinda important as it keeps your hands clear of the blade as well as keeping the width and taper of the slats uniform.
Hopefully I’ll have more to add to this soon,

Cheers everyone and good luck in your endeavors.

11 comments so far

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3129 days

#1 posted 08-23-2011 04:47 PM

I see you pulled the ole-switcheroo. :)

This looks like a neat project. I’ll be monitoring this one. I have a mug that I’ve been wanting to convert to wood. Thanks for sharing.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Ghrrum's profile


16 posts in 2457 days

#2 posted 08-23-2011 04:58 PM

One interesting thing, the only power tool you really need to do this is a table saw, everything else can be done by hand. All the carving on that teak mug was done without the aid of any power tools (with the exception of the final buffing), all hand carved, no lathe necessary. Neat huh?
One other interesting thing about doing these is that you have a really neat and tidy grid if you need it. Since all the pieces are uniform, and you have regular widths you just need to measure off and mark each join in whatever increments you choose, and you just freehand the rest. That is how I measured off and did the curves for all the cups I’ve finished so far.

Sorry double post.

View tsangell's profile


216 posts in 2661 days

#3 posted 08-23-2011 10:58 PM

This might become a Christmas gift… keep going!

View robbinscabin's profile


313 posts in 3456 days

#4 posted 08-23-2011 11:15 PM

I agree that these would make fantastic Christmas presents! or Customer Gifts! Or…Well, obviously anyone would want one of these! Now, can I really handle the math? LOL…I’ll have to try!

-- Robbinscabin,

View rance's profile


4255 posts in 3129 days

#5 posted 08-24-2011 12:12 AM

Ghrrum, you can determine this but for some of us, the ‘Math’ could be replaced with a paper strip like you use for cutting out gingerbread men. Seriously.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4215 days

#6 posted 08-24-2011 01:42 AM

Thanks for the tutorial, very good. Am looking forward to the next one.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View 58j35bonanza's profile


395 posts in 2661 days

#7 posted 08-24-2011 02:05 AM

I really like this! I will be following along.

-- Chuck

View Ghrrum's profile


16 posts in 2457 days

#8 posted 08-24-2011 03:32 AM

The whole point behind the math is so that you can scale this up or down for any cup, or if you are feeling really ambitious you can make a half keg pretty quick and easy. Doing a paper template may work, but this was the easiest way for me to figure out how to put it together.

View Ghrrum's profile


16 posts in 2457 days

#9 posted 08-26-2011 03:04 PM

I’ll be finishing the tutorial on how to make these today. Just in time for you all to go out and make one yourself over the weekend. If you do, please snap some pictures, I’d be curious to see what other people do with this idea.

View Ghrrum's profile


16 posts in 2457 days

#10 posted 08-28-2011 05:32 PM

From the above you should have the rough dimensions of the slats you need to cut for your cups. Since I finished off all the cups I did out of black locust, I dug around and found some black walnut. So same as before, cut into slats, trim to height.

Now, taking the math above into account it’s time to make a jig to cut the bevel, and to keep your fingers clear of the blade.

Set the depth of the blade just a hair less than the thickness of the slats,

Find a chunk of scrap wood to use as your jig. The edge of your slats are going to need to overhang about 1/8” from the side of the jig, doesn’t need to be perfect.

Make the cut all the way through the block that is your jig to be. Check it against one of your slats.

Do two more cuts at 1/2” from the ends on each side.
Your jig should look something like this at this point.

View Ghrrum's profile


16 posts in 2457 days

#11 posted 08-28-2011 06:11 PM

Mark the difference between the top and bottom, measure in and mark it. Then take a screw to use as a spacer, adjust it so that you are going to do a straight cut.

At this point your jig should something like this.

If you have a router you can use that to cut out the extra wood from your jig, if not break out the chisel.

So there is your jig, keeps your fingers safe and holds the slats in the same position, now to cut the bevel. If you will recall I calculated the bevel at 15 degrees, so set the blade.

You’ve likely noticed that I did this jig upside down, that is intentional so I can show what it looks like.

Set the guide on your saw so you are just shaving the bevel on to the slats, a good SHARP blade is nice to have, otherwise you can have the saw grab and ruin some of your slats.

So, first bevel cut

Line em up and cut the other side, once again, just shave the bevel, you need to have some more room to get it right when it’s on the mug.

Now time to cut a shoulder on the ends of the slats. Measure the depth, set the blade height, and cut.

I do the top and bottom at the same time.

Use a chisel to snap the chunk off the shoulders, then using either sandpaper or a rasp smooth it down till it fits nicely, if you have a belt sander or profile sander I would suggest using it, as it is faster.

So, set the slats on the mug. See if they fit

The initial set were too tight, so I shave just a hair off of a few of them and check it again. Repeat as necessary, once I’ve got them just beyond where I can wedge it in by hand I go in and tap the last slat in place with a wooden mallet.

Now, time to go in with the hose clamp.

Tap the slats down using a block to get them level on the bottom.

Time to get the bottom on, sand the base to get it to line up nicely. You want it beveled, so when you put it on it’s just beyond what you can get in place by hand alone. Hammer and a block again to get it on tight. If your bottom bevel is right, then it’s never coming off without a lot of effort.

Now, if you are after some overkill for getting everything to stick together you can use expanding foam to fill gaps and it also works as a glue

Tape the outside of the mug, be sure to wear gloves, give the inside of the thing a squirt of foam and let cure overnight.

You’re done with this part. So from here you can put it on a lathe and turn any number of shapes, you can hand carve, do wood burning, or leave rough, up to you from here.

Good luck everyone, I’d love to see your efforts if you make any of these.
I’ll be quite happy to answer any questions you have

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