Canadian Woodworking

Ornament display stand

Author: Paul Ross
Published: December January 2003

This easy project can make a nice table accent.

It can also be used to display that collection of special ornaments. The wire hangers are purchased and the bases are turned, using a favorite piece of wood. Two of the three, which I turned for this article, are done in Rosewood and the third is Pau Loupe.

I approached this project the way most faceplate turning is done, with the exception that I used a different tool from the usual to form the beads. I also show a different way of reverse chucking than I usually use.

The wood used for this project is rather valuable so, to avoid wasting any wood, begin by fixing a waste block to the piece to be turned so that you can grab it with the chuck, as shown in photo 1 below.

You could turn a spigot from the piece of wood, but this would mean sacrificing at least ¼” of the wood. Another advantage of using the waste block is that it can be used over and over again on different projects.

To shape the pieces, you only need to use one gouge: a ⅜” bowl gouge. I have this particular gouge ground on a 60-degree angle with a side grind profile. This means that the sides of the flute are swept way back, exposing a large cutting surface. With this particular grind and gouge, a neat, clean cut can be made.

Hold the piece of wood in the chuck with the waste block and prepare the wood by taking an outside cut across the diameter (photo 2).

Whenever you can, push towards the head stock, with your body behind the gouge. Using your body behind the cut will help absorb any vibration because mass absorbs vibration and the head stock is the mass of the lathe. With this particular project, there’s not much vibration to be concerned about, but in general it is a good habit to form. Practice with this smaller project so that when you are turning a larger project, you’ll be in the habit of using this method.

True the diameter round and then move on to make a facing cut across the front face (photo 3).

NOTE: if you had your body behind the gouge in the outside cut then you were pushing with your left hand toward the head stock. Now you will be cutting across the face, so change hands on the handle and push with your right hand. Facing cuts usually start from the outside and travel into the centre.

When you have a clean, flat facing cut, it’s time to move on to a shaping cut. For the shaping cut, travel with the grain (meaning from centre to the outside).

However, because the bed of the lathe is in the way, you won’t be able to get your body behind the gouge to push it. Therefore, pull the gouge towards yourself, traveling with the grain, from the centre to the outside (photo 4).

Before you move the tool rest off the face back to the outside, take a finishing scraping cut, with a ¾” square end scraper. Do not shape with this tool. Simply take off the high spots that the gouge has left. Next, drill the hole into which the metal hanger will be glued. The hole is approximately 1/16”. Hold onto the drill bit with a pair of pliers and simply push the bit into the centre of the base (photo 5).

Now it’s time to cut the bead. Move the rest to the outside of the wood to cut a fairly prominent bead. In order for the bead to roll to either side, you have to remove the wood from both sides of the bead. Do this with a ⅛” parting tool (photo 6).

Start with the handle in a low position. Then, as you lift the handle, the tip of the parting tool will fall into the wood and produce a cut. Cut a bead approximately 3/16” wide by 3/16” deep. While you are in this position (at the back of the waste block side), part half the width of the tool slightly concave, towards the waste block. Use a 9-in-1 tool to form the bead (photo 7).

This tool is like a little wee skew, however it’s considerably easier to control. Sand and finish to suit your desired result.

I glued the waste block on with cynoacrylite glue because it is very strong at holding, but if you shock it, it will let go. So now, give a simple tap on the edge of the base at the back with a deadblow hammer and the piece will fall off the waste block.

NOTE: Before you tap it, line the grain vertical, so that you’re tapping the length of the grain. If you tap it the width of the grain, you will split the piece.

Leave the waste block in the chuck. Cut the face of the waste block slightly concave to accept the shape of the base (photo 8).

At this point, I usually use a vacuum chuck to flip the piece and turn the bottom. However this is not a particularly large piece so you can try another way of holding the finished piece. Use a piece of double-sided tape stuck on the waste block (photo 9).

Centre the finished piece onto the double-sided tape using the tail to provide initial pressure. Cut the majority of the bottom with the tail stock in place (photo 10).

Remove the tail stock and the piece of wood is being held with the tape. Now, simply cut away the little pip. Sand and finish.

Try turning three stands in different sizes to showcase your favourite ornaments.

Or, use one as a centre piece the next time you have company over for dinner.

These stands are a perfect alternative for all the window ornaments, which are available today. Instead of attaching them to your window you can sit them on the window sill, shelf or table.



  1. Hello,

    I’m new to woodworking, and would like to create some ornament hangers for my Amon to hang some of her keepsake ornaments this Christmas. I’ve been searching for just the wire hangers. Would you kindly share where they can be purchased? I haven’t had any luck other than buying ones already made and disassembling them.

    Many Thanks, Anna McPherson

    1. Just do an internet search for “Ornament display stand” Anna. also lists quite a few.

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