How to Start Woodturning: 7 Easy Projects for Beginners

Updated Jan 16, 2024, by Burt Miller

Hey there, fellow woodturning enthusiasts! Remember that day when you first stood in front of a wood lathe, the unfamiliar tool intimidating yet oddly inviting? Yes, yours truly can relate. As a beginner, I was equally excited and nervous, like a kid with a new toy—only this toy could turn a block of wood into a beautiful bowl!

Woodturning for beginners is like learning to ride a bike. You don’t start on mountain trails; instead, you begin in your backyard. Similarly, it’s important to start with easy woodturning projects to build your skills and confidence. This approach lets you learn from your mistakes without feeling overwhelmed. Trust me, every tiny victory counts in this journey!

In this article, we’ll explore seven easy projects that are perfect for beginners:

  1. Wooden Bowl
  2. Wooden Pen
  3. Bottle Stoppers
  4. Spindle Whorls
  5. Salt and Pepper Shakers
  6. Tea Light Holders
  7. Door Stops

We’ll also delve into what comes next after these beginner projects and recommend some resources for further learning.

So, ready to embark on an amazing woodturning adventure? Let’s dive right in!

1. Wooden Bowl

Woodturned Bowl by Mad Woodcraft
Woodturned Bowl by @MadWoodcraft

Ah, the humble wooden bowl – it’s like the bread and butter of woodturning projects for beginners. Think of it as your rite of passage into the turning world. A wooden bowl is practical, endlessly customizable, and just plain fun to create. So, let’s get that lathe spinning and chips flying!

Project Description and Objectives

The goal here is simple: to turn a chunk of wood into a beautiful, functional bowl. This project will introduce you to the basics of shaping, hollowing out, and finishing a piece that you can proudly display or use at home.

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Turn a Basic Wooden Bowl

  1. Select Your Wood: Choose a blank that speaks to you – whether it’s a sturdy oak or a grainy walnut – make sure it’s dry and free from cracks.
  2. Prepare Your Lathe: Ensure your lathe is in tip-top shape. If you’re on the hunt for one that’s beginner-friendly with user-friendly features, consider some of the best wood lathe options for beginners in 2024. These machines are designed to maximize power tool efficiency, offer user-friendly features, and have a compact design ideal for small workshops.
  3. Mount the Blank: Securely attach your wood blank to the lathe using a faceplate or chuck – safety first!
  4. Shape the Exterior: With your gouge at the ready, start shaping the bowl’s exterior. Go with the flow of the wood and watch as its character emerges.
  5. Hollow It Out: Time to dive in! Begin hollowing out the center by gradually deepening the bowl interior.
  6. Sand It Smooth: Start with a coarser grit and work your way down to fine sandpaper until it feels smoother than a jazz quartet on a Saturday night.
  7. Finish with Flair: Apply your chosen finish – be it oil, wax, or friction polish – and buff that bowl until it shines like a diamond.

Personal Tips and Insights Based on First Bowl Turning Experience

  • Embrace Imperfections: Your first bowl might have more character (read: quirks) than you intended. That’s part of its charm!
  • Speed Isn’t Your Friend…Yet: Don’t rush; let your tools do their thing at a comfortable pace.
  • Stay Sharp: Keep those tools sharp – dull tools are no friend to clean cuts or fingers.
  • Safety Above All: Always wear eye protection, and don’t forget to turn off that lathe before adjusting anything.

Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was your first wooden bowl masterpiece. Take your time, enjoy the process, and before you know it, you’ll have a creation that’s both functional and fabulous!

2. Wooden Pen

Wooden Pen by PurpleRobinReserve
Wooden Pen by @PurpleRobinReserve

Turning a wooden pen is like sculpting a piece of functional art that fits snugly between your fingers. It’s the perfect way to shift gears from bowls to something a bit more intricate. Your objective here is to craft a writing instrument that not only looks stunning on your desk but also glides across paper like butter on a hot skillet.

Here’s what you need to transform a humble block of wood into a masterpiece:

Project Description and Objectives:

  • Create a wooden pen using a lathe
  • Fine-tune your attention to detail with smaller-scale work
  • Finish with a smooth surface that begs to be touched

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Select Your Wood Blank: Anything from classic oak to exotic purpleheart will do the trick.
  2. Prepare the Blank: Cut it to size and drill a hole lengthwise to house the ink cartridge.
  3. Glue in the Brass Tubes: These are the skeleton of your pen, holding everything together.
  4. Shape on the Lathe: Mount your blank and turn it, shaping as you go until you’ve got a slim cylinder.
  5. Sand Your Heart Out: Progress through grits—start coarse, end fine—for that glassy finish.
  6. Apply Finish: A friction polish works wonders for that deep, rich shine.
  7. Assemble the Pen Parts: Press the hardware into place, making sure everything clicks and slides as it should.
  • A beginner’s pen turning kit from Craft Pro or Axminster Tools—everything’s included!
  • A mandrel specifically for pens—it keeps things centered and spinning smoothly.
  • Sharp tools mean clean cuts: think gouge, skew chisel, or carbide-tipped tools.

Personal Tips for Achieving Smooth Finishes on Pens:

  • Patience: Take your time with sanding; rushing leads to regrets.
  • The Right Touch: Light passes with the tool prevent unsightly gouges.
  • Finishing Finesse: Apply thin coats of finish and buff between layers for an even sheen.

3. Creating Your Own Bottle Stoppers

Woodturned Bottle Stopper by MelturnsWood
Woodturned Bottle Stopper by @MelturnsWood

Ah, bottle stoppers! These small marvels of woodturning combine function and beauty in a compact package. If you’ve ever been frustrated by a half-finished bottle of wine going bad due to improper sealing, you’ll appreciate the importance of a good bottle stopper.

Project Description and Objectives

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to create a custom bottle stopper using your lathe. This project will help you:

  • Develop precision skills in shaping and size control
  • Experiment with various designs and finishes
  • Create a practical, everyday item that’s also an excellent gift idea

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s a basic guide on how to create your own wooden bottle stopper. Remember, the journey is half the fun!

  1. Choose Your Material: Start with a blank piece of hardwood. Something like walnut or maple can provide an attractive finish.
  2. Prepare the Blank: Cut your blank into approximately 2″x2″x3″ dimensions. Remember to always work safely when cutting.
  3. Mount the Blank: Securely mount the blank onto your lathe using a chuck or faceplate.
  4. Shape the Stopper: With your lathe running at a safe speed, use your gouge to shape the stopper to your desired design. You might want to start with a simple tapered design for your first attempt.
  5. Sanding: Once you’re happy with the shape, start sanding from lower grit numbers up to higher ones for that smooth-as-silk feel.
  6. Apply Finish: After sanding, apply your chosen finish (such as friction polish) to bring out the natural beauty of the wood.
  7. Detach and Assemble: Carefully detach your newly-turned stopper from the lathe, then attach it to a bottle stopper base (typically made of stainless steel or cork) using epoxy or a similar adhesive.

Suggested Materials for Bottle Stopper Blanks

The world of wood is your oyster when it comes to choosing materials for your bottle stoppers. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Walnut: With its rich, dark color, walnut is always a classy choice.
  • Maple: This light-colored hardwood is versatile and easy to work with.
  • Exotic Woods: If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try an exotic wood like zebrawood or purpleheart?

In the world of woodturning projects, bottle stoppers are like the haikus of woodworking – small, simple, yet filled with potential for creativity and expression. So go ahead and give it a whirl! And remember, each piece you create is one step further in your journey towards mastery. So let’s keep those lathes spinning, and on to the next project!

4. Spindle Whorls

Wooden Spindle Whorl - CaySwann
Wooden Spindle Whorl by @CaySwann

Spindle whorls, those little, round objects found at the bottom of spinning wheels and drop spindles, have a big job to do. They help keep your spindle spinning longer and more smoothly, which means you can spin more yarn in less time. What’s not to love about that?

Spindle whorl woodturning is an excellent project for beginners. It allows you to experience the thrill of turning wood while creating a functional and beautiful item. Plus, spindle whorls are small, meaning they won’t take up too much room in your shop or take too long to complete.

Here’s a quick guide on how to turn your very own wooden spindle whorl:

Step 1: Select Your Wood

Choose a piece of hardwood that is neither too heavy nor too light. You want it to have enough weight to keep the spindle spinning but not so much that it makes the spindle difficult to handle.

Step 2: Shape The Wood

Mount your piece of wood onto your lathe. Using a roughing gouge, shape it into a cylinder about one inch in diameter and two inches long. Then, make a taper at one end for the spindle hole.

Step 3: Drill The Hole

Once you’ve got your shape right, it’s time to drill the hole for the spindle. Use a drill bit that matches the size of your spindle (usually around 1/8 inch) and drill directly into the tapered end you created earlier.

Step 4: Refine The Shape

Now that you’ve got your hole drilled, you can refine the shape of your whorl. This is where you can really let your creativity shine – there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to shape a spindle whorl. As long as it fits on your spindle and spins well, it’s a success!

Step 5: Sand & Finish

Once you’re happy with your shape, sand your whorl smooth. Start with a coarse grit sandpaper and work your way up to a fine grit for the best results. Apply a finish of your choice – wax, oil, or lacquer all work well.

And voila! You’ve just turned a beautiful spindle whorl. As you can see, woodturning is not about getting it right the first time. It’s about learning, experimenting, and having fun along the way.

5. Salt and Pepper Shakers

Woodturned Salt Pepper shaker John Rendle 16
Woodturned Salt Pepper shaker by @John.Rendle.16

Shaking up the woodturning world, salt and pepper shakers are not just the life of the dinner party; they’re a fantastic project for beginners looking to spice up their skills. The goal here is to create a set of shakers that are not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing, with a matching design that could become the talk of the table.


  1. To turn a pair of salt and pepper shakers from wood.
  2. Ensure both shakers match in design and size.
  3. Learn to hollow out wood on a lathe.
  4. Apply finishing techniques suitable for items in contact with food.

Step-by-Step Guide

Select Your Wood

Start by choosing a hardwood that will withstand frequent use. Maple, cherry, or walnut can be excellent choices. Make sure the blanks are identical in size to achieve a uniform look.

Mark and Mount

Mark the centers on both ends of your wood blanks and mount them between centers on the lathe.

Shape Exteriors

  • Rough out the exterior shape using a gouge. Aim for smooth curves or a classic cylindrical design.
  • Sand the bodies while still on the lathe, progressing through grits until you reach a fine smoothness.

Hollowing Out

  • Remove one end from the lathe and use a drill chuck with an appropriate-sized Forstner bit to hollow out the interior.
  • Clean up any rough edges with hollowing tools and sandpaper.

Create Lids and Bases

Turn separate lids for your shakers, ensuring they fit snugly onto each body. Consider adding a small knob or handle for easy removal.

Drill Shaker Holes

Using a drill press or hand drill, create several holes in the top of each lid—smaller ones for salt, larger for pepper.

Finishing Touches

  • Apply a food-safe finish to protect the wood and ensure it’s safe for table use.
  • If desired, personalize your shakers by adding decorative elements such as rings or burn lines using wire or specialized tools.

By tackling this project, you gain experience in basic shaping, hollowing out materials, precision drilling, and applying finishes—techniques you’ll use time and again in more advanced woodturning projects. So go ahead, give these salt and pepper shakers a whirl!

6. Tea Light Holders

Wooden Tea light holder - wood.i.turn
Wooden Tea light holder by @wood.i.turn

There’s something special about tea light holders, especially when they’re made from wood. The combination of the soft candlelight and the natural beauty of wood creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. But what’s really exciting is being able to take a raw piece of timber and turn it into a holder for your favorite tea lights.

Project Description and Objectives

In this project, we’ll be designing and making a tea light holder that can hold one or more candles. Our goal is to create a design that not only works well, but also highlights the unique qualities of the wood we’re using. Here’s what we hope to achieve:

  • Learn how to hollow out spaces accurately
  • Improve our finishing techniques for smooth surfaces
  • Understand how to work safely with smaller pieces on the lathe

Step-By-Step Instructions

Let’s get started! Here are the steps we’ll be following:

  1. Select Your Wood: First, choose a piece of timber that’s suitable for your project. Hardwoods like maple or walnut are good options because they’re strong and have interesting grain patterns.
  2. Prepare Your Blank: Next, cut your chosen wood into a cube or rectangular shape that will fit securely on your lathe.
  3. Mount Your Blank: Now, attach your blank to the lathe using either a faceplate or chuck.
  4. Shape Your Holder: Turn on the lathe at a slow speed and gradually increase it as you get more comfortable. Use a gouge tool to shape your holder however you like.
  5. Hollow Out Space(s) for Tea Light(s): Mark where you want your tea lights to go on top of the holder. Then, use a parting tool or small gouge to hollow out these areas so the candles will fit snugly.
  6. Sand and Finish: Once you’re happy with the shape of your holder, it’s time to sand it. Start with a coarse-grit sandpaper and gradually switch to finer grits for a smooth finish. Finally, apply your chosen wood finish – oil, wax, or lacquer – to enhance the natural beauty of the wood.
  7. Safety Check: Before using your tea light holder, make sure it sits flat and steady on a surface.

That’s it! You’ve now completed your very own tea light holder. As you gain more experience, feel free to experiment with different shapes, sizes, and types of wood for these delightful creations. After all, one of the joys of woodturning is that each piece is unique in its own way.

7. Door Stops

Woodturned Doorstop lindjferber
Woodturned Doorstop by @lindjaferber

Let’s talk about door stops—those unassuming heroes that save our walls from doorknob dings. Now, if you’re a woodturning novice itching to create something both practical and delightful, crafting a wooden doorstop is a solid choice. Not only do they serve a functional purpose, but they also offer a chance to play with design and form.

Project Description and Objectives

The goal here is to turn a piece of wood into a charming doorstop that’ll have your guests asking, “Where did you get this?” It’s about creating an object that’s hefty enough to hold a door in place yet stylish enough to be on display.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Choose Your Wood: Pick a hardwood for durability. Oak or maple can be great picks. You want something that can take a few knocks without complaining.
  2. Cut to Size: Start with a block measuring approximately 6″x2″x2″. This isn’t set in stone; feel free to adjust based on the size and weight you want.
  3. Mount the Block: Securely mount your block on the lathe using either a chuck or between centers with a spur drive.
  4. Shape It Up: Use your roughing gouge to round out the block into a cylinder.
  5. Add Personality: Time for creativity! Taper one end slightly—this will be the bottom of the door stop. On the upper part, experiment with curves or keep it sleek and simple.
  6. Sand to Perfection: Once you’re happy with the shape, start sanding from low to high grit until it feels smoother than jazz on a Sunday morning.
  7. Finishing Touches: Apply your chosen finish—oil, wax, or varnish—to protect the wood and bring out its natural beauty.

Remember, steady hands make for smooth curves, so take your time and enjoy the process.

Personal Tips:

  • Consider adding a non-slip base such as felt or rubber pad glued to the bottom of your door stop for extra grip.
  • If you’re feeling adventurous, mix materials by inserting metal weights inside your wooden door stop for added heft.

By now, you’ve got yourself not just any doorstop but a handcrafted wooden gem that holds doors open with style and grace. Who knew such small woodturning projects for beginners could lead to such proudly displayable pieces?

Moving Beyond Beginner Projects

After mastering the basics with beginner projects, the adventure into intermediate-level woodturning projects beckons. It’s like upgrading from a trusty old bike to a sleek new motorcycle – there’s more power under the hood, and it’s ready to take you places you’ve never been!

The Next Steps in Your Woodturning Journey

Embarking on more complex endeavors offers an exciting array of benefits:

1. Skill Enhancement

Tackling intricate designs refines your technique and hones precision.

2. Creative Exploration

Intermediate projects open doors to innovative patterns, materials, and finishes.

3. Personal Satisfaction

There’s a unique thrill in conquering challenging pieces that once seemed out of reach.

Embrace the challenge! Stepping up to more complicated work is not just about showing off new skills; it’s about growing as a woodturner. Each new project is a chance to learn something valuable, whether it’s mastering the art of thin-walled turning or experimenting with mixed media.

Remember, every expert was once a beginner who decided to push the boundaries. So grab your chisels, sketch up some designs, and prepare for the delightful journey into intermediate woodturning projects – who knows what masterpieces await!

Let’s dive into some woodturning resources available to help you hone your skills and fuel your passion for this craft.

1. Wood Turning A Craftsman Guide by Mark Baker

This essential guide covers a wide range of topics, from the fundamentals of woodturning to advanced techniques. It’s like having your very own woodturning mentor right at your fingertips. You’ll find detailed step-by-step instructions, vibrant illustrations, and a wealth of expert knowledge – making it a fantastic resource for both novice and experienced woodturners.

2. Online Tutorials and Community Forums

Don’t forget to tap into the wealth of knowledge available on online tutorials and community forums. There’s a whole world of videos on woodturning out there, just waiting for you to explore. Watching experts at work can be an invaluable learning experience, offering new perspectives and techniques you might not come across in books.

Participating in community forums can also be immensely helpful. You’ll get to connect with fellow enthusiasts, share your experiences, seek advice, and even find inspiration for your next project. Some forums are dedicated specifically to woodturning – so don’t miss out on this opportunity to learn from others who share your passion.

3. Mastering the Use of a Wood Lathe Tool Rest Guide

Consider checking out this comprehensive guide on mastering the use of a wood lathe tool rest. It offers insights into safety measures, stability tips, and how to choose high-quality materials for precision work.

Remember: The journey of learning never ends! So keep exploring these resources and let them guide you through your exciting woodturning adventure.


Hey there, future masters of the woodturning craft! It’s time to roll up those sleeves, get a little sawdust on the floor, and dive into the whirling world of lathes and chisels. With a lineup of easy woodturning projects for beginners just waiting for you to give them a spin, your journey from novice to skilled turner is about to take an exciting turn.

Remember, every seasoned woodturner was once a beginner, cautiously approaching that first block of wood with equal parts excitement and trepidation. The ride from rough cuts to refined edges is one filled with learning curves, but oh, the satisfaction when you hold that finished piece! Whether it’s a bowl that becomes your breakfast companion or a pen that writes its way into being a family heirloom, each project is a step forward in your woodturning adventure.

So grab that gouge with gusto and approach your lathe with newfound confidence. The projects you’ve read about are not just tasks; they’re stepping stones to mastering a craft that marries the beauty of natural materials with the joy of creation. And remember, each curled shaving on the workshop floor represents progress.

Keep turning, keep learning, and let those chips fall where they may—because in the world of woodturning, it’s all part of the process. Let’s make some shavings!

FAQs(Frequently Asked Questions)

How do I start woodturning as a beginner?

To start woodturning as a beginner, you can begin with easy projects such as turning a wooden bowl, creating a wooden pen, making bottle stoppers, crafting spindle whorls, designing salt and pepper shakers, creating tea light holders, or making door stops.

For beginners interested in pen turning, recommended pen turning kits or tools include those from Craft Pro or Axminster Tool Centre.

How can I achieve smooth finishes on wooden pens?

To achieve smooth finishes on wooden pens, it is important to exercise patience during the sanding process and avoid rushing, as this can lead to regrettable mistakes.

What are the suggested materials for creating bottle stopper blanks?

When creating bottle stopper blanks, you have the freedom to choose from a wide variety of woods, allowing you to select materials that best suit your preferences and needs.

What are the steps for shaping wood into spindle whorls?

The steps for shaping wood into spindle whorls involve selecting suitable wood, shaping the wood on a lathe, drilling a hole in the whorl, refining its shape, and finally sanding and finishing the whorl.