Spalted Maple Vase

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Project by olivine posted 552 days ago 711 views 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This was a fun project, but it took me a little time to think about. I knew I was going to make a vase out of this spalted blank so I started by roughing out the shape. I spent three weeks thinking about how I wanted to complete the turning. This is not uncommon as part of my process to start a rough shape and then decide the details. Sometimes that is easier than planning from start to finish because I’ve had a number of projects where the wood dictated major changes as I turn.

I finally decided that a piece of wood with such a distinctive grain pattern should be simple. I finish sanded the piece and bored a deep hole using a forstner bit and an extension shank on the lathe.

Next came the really fun part (It actually took about a week of courage to carve such a nice piece of wood). Using a piece of string, I taped it at the top of the mouth down about 3/4 of the piece and traced the line with a pencil. The point of using the string was to make the curve look naturally smooth as it wrapped around the form (I was afraid freehand wouldn’t be as nice). Next, I left the string taped at the top and pulled it around the cylinder at a slight angle to define the shape of the opening. Using a saw, I cut at an angle around the top following the spiral line until it intersected the major line. Using chisels and a file I cleaned up the top. To define the major line, I deeply scribed the line with a chisel and then used several carving chisels to recess the surface a little more than 1/8”. I had to continue the carving around the piece so that the removed material blended with the rest of the piece (it required about 1/3 of the circumference to look about right). Since I can’t lock the head of my lathe, I used a homemade carving vise to mount the vase. Maybe sometime soon I’ll post the carving vise and the place I found the plans on the web.

After carving, I smoothed it up with sand paper to 600 grit. Sanding blocks came in handy to prevent marks from my hand. The piece was then finished with tung oil thinned with acetone for the first couple coats and then tung oil finish for another four or five coats (desired gloss). The reason it takes so many coats is because I use a lint-free cotton rag to apply the oil and finish and I apply very thin coats to make sure that it is even and does not run. I hate finishes: the smell and how tacky feel. That’s why I start with tung oil first. I’ve found this requires less stinky finish that way.

7 comments so far

View dean2336's profile


212 posts in 1543 days

#1 posted 552 days ago

now that’s a work of art—i just finished a bowl that took about six months to come up with the shape that did the wood justice—-don’t like to hurry—keep posting more of your work—-well done

-- dean2336,nebr.

View Woodbridge's profile


2671 posts in 1052 days

#2 posted 552 days ago

beautiful shape, beautiful work!

-- Peter, Woodbridge, Ontario

View GenuineGeek's profile


149 posts in 615 days

#3 posted 552 days ago

That is just beautiful. Thank you for the detailed description about how you did it. That is very helpful.

-- Don't try to figure it out... just turn it.

View Natalie 's profile


366 posts in 600 days

#4 posted 551 days ago

Simply elegant and inspiring. I have yet to be impressed with a wood vase! Until now.

-- Natalie - My mind is like a bad neighborhood, I don't like to go there alone.

View olivine's profile


16 posts in 1321 days

#5 posted 551 days ago

Thanks Natalie.

View KayBee's profile (online now)


1003 posts in 1880 days

#6 posted 551 days ago

Very elegant. I really like that you made the asymmetry look balanced and natural.

-- Karen - a little bit of stupid goes a long way

View lanwater's profile


3076 posts in 1568 days

#7 posted 550 days ago

Very pleasing color.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

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