Turned And Decorated Fruit archive

Thursday 19 May 2011

Nick Arnull creates a selection of turned fruit using a variety of different timbers and decorates them so they look almost good enough to eat


One of the most popular items I made while selling my work at craft fairs was turned wooden fruit. I always enjoyed seeing repeated sales as customers built a collection of different types of fruit or woods over the years.

In this article I am going to show you how to make some of these items without having to buy fancy chucks. Instead you can simply make your own small screw chucks to fit into your standard four-jaw self-centring chuck. One important point to add here is to use interesting timbers to give each piece of fruit visual interest. This will make your work stand out.

Tools used: 32mm (1 1/4in) spindle roughing gouge, 10mm (3/8in) beading/parting tool, 3mm 1/8in) parting tool, 1.5mm (1/16in) super thin parting tool, fingernail-profile spindle gouge, 10mm (3/8in) round skew chisel and 10mm (3/8in) point tool

Making the screw chuck

Step 1

When making fruits you generally follow a few basic principles: both ends need to be turned and finished, which can create some problems. To solve this you can make your own screw chuck. Begin by mounting your blank between centres, make round, then create two spigots to match your chuck jaws - one short and one long

Step 2

Mount the short spigot into the chuck and drill a 10mm (3/8in) hole to allow the screw head to be recessed inside the blank. Allow the screw to protrude out of the front by 15-20mm (9/16-3/4in)

Step 3

Reverse chuck the blank and taper the outside to a cone shape, dish the top slightly then drill a 3mm (1/8in) hole down the centre - this needs to match the correct diameter for the screw being used

Step 4

With the screw fitted tightly into the chuck, you can now fill the hole with Cyanoacrylate adhesive, which will prevent it coming loose

Turning the apple

Step 1

Centre and drill a small hole then mount the blank on the screw chuck using the tailstock for added support. Make the blank round then, using a 3mm (1/8in) drill mounted in a Jacobs chuck in the tailstock, drill a hole into the centre of the blank

Step 2

Replace the tailstock for added support and turn the profile of your apple

Step 3

Using the long wing of a spindle gouge, create a dimple in the bottom of the blank - this will become the bottom of the apple

Step 4

At this stage you can now sand, seal and polish the bottom then

remove the blank from the chuck

Step 5

Add a cardboard washer to the apple, the washer will help protect the finish as you are finishing and shaping the top

Step 6

You can now sand, seal and polish the form once again

Step 7

Using a single drop of Cyanoacrylate adhesive, install the stalk into the top of the form. I use real twigs but you could turn them, if you choose. I use dried silver birch twigs that are shed by the tree each year. I select the bit I want and discard the rest. These need to be dried or they may well shrink and fall out

Step 8

Now add a clove to create the remnants of the flower at the bottom. Again, you need to glue this in place

Turning the pear

Step 1

Firstly, you need to repeat stages 5-6 for turning the apple. Next, having turned the shape at the bottom, you now need to reverse chuck and create the top of the pear using the tailstock for added support. You can then sand, seal and finish as before

Turning the lemon

Step 1

Again, repeat stages 5-6 but do not make the second drill hole too deep, as this will be turned away as work progresses. You will notice that the blank is longer than the finished item - this allows the chucking method to be turned away. Next, using the Robert Sorby texturing tool, create a lemon-type texture on the surface of the fruit then lightly sand

Step 2

At this stage you can apply a coat of sanding sealer and then denib. Reverse chuck and turn the opposite end of the lemon, again using the tailstock for added support, while removing the waste timber that contains the chucking method. You can then sand, if this is required

Step 3

Use the tailstock with a protected drive - I use my rubber drive and texture the remaining area of the fruit - then lightly sand and seal the piece. Remove from the lathe and then insert a cup hook - this will allow the piece to be hung as it dries - apply a coat of satin spray lacquer, then allow to dry

Turning the plum

Step 1

Turn the top of the fruit as before, then sand, seal, and finish taking care not to overheat the timber as species like purpleheart/exotics can be prone to heat check, and this is to be avoided at all costs. Reverse chuck, remove the excess timber and refine the final shape. Take care to get the end grain cut cleanly at this stage, then you can sand and seal the fruit

Step 2

When the sealer is dry you can denib and polish, but do not be disappointed if your plum is not purple as the timber is one that needs time to oxidise and take on its full colour. Patience is called for here

Turning & making the bunch of grapes

Step 1

To make grapes, you can either use a chuck with small jaws and part them off from a rod as each is completed, or you can use a jam chuck to hold the rod. Alternatively, but only if you have a hollow headstock, you can use the Morse taper to hold the blank/rod. If you have a solid headstock spindle, then you can use one of the alternatives detailed above. Create a rod and turn a taper on one end to match the Morse taper of you lathe, then fit this as you would any other drive. Use the tailstock for added support while turning the grape. Drill a small hole in the end, turn the grape, sand, and part off. When completed, no finish is applied on the lathe. Now repeat until you have 24 grapes of varying sizes. Reverse chuck the grape onto a micro screw chuck, again, this is held in the chuck to allow the grape to be finished. The screw chuck is the same as for the apple and pear, but smaller. You can find suitable rubber stalks at cash and carries, in fruit shops, and even at greengrocers. Remove the plastic grapes then cut off one side of the 'T' - this is varied to allow the grapes to fall differently or they might all fall to one side. This is easily done with a small pair of snippers. Carefully apply one drop of Cyanoacrylate to the stalk and then attach the grape. Continue until the bunch is complete then you can allow to dry

Step 2

Use lemon oil to finish the grapes, then hang on a hook and allow to dry

Tegan Foley

Tagged In:

decoration , fruit , Nick Arnull , turned

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Timber Requirements

Apple: Spalted beech
75 x 75 x 75mm (3 x 3 x 3in)
Pear: Black palmira
75 x 75 x 90mm (3 x 3 x 31/2in)
Plums: Purpleheart
45 x 45 x 70mm (1 3/4 x 1 3/4 2 3 3/4in)
Grapes: Pink ivory
25 x 25 x 150mm (1 x 1 x 6in)
Lemon: Pau amarello
60 x 60 x 100mm (2 3/4 x 2 3/4 x 4in)
Screw chuck: English beech
45 x 45 x 70mm (1 3/4 x 1 3/4 2 3 3/4in)

Time Taken & Cost

Apple: £2; 15 mins each
Pear: £4; 15 mins each
Plums: £3; 15 mins each
Grapes: £1.20; 24 required, total 4 1/2hrs
Lemon: £2; 20 mins
Screw chuck: £1; 45 mins

Health & Safety

1. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times, and work at a speed that allows you to feel both comfortable and safe
2. Always reduce lathe rotation speed when using wood that is not round and when using alternative chucking methods that you are not familiar with
3. Keep the toolrest between you and the work - NEVER let your fingers cross over to the other side
4. Remove the toolrest when sanding and applying finishes

Handy Hints

1. Reduce the lathe speed when sanding or use a lubricant to avoid heat check when working with exotics
2. Use decorative pieces of timber when making fruit
3. Use a type of timber that matches the piece of fruit
you are making
4. When working with exotics, it may be advantageous to sharpen your tools more frequently than if turning English native species

Woodturning Says...

Turned pieces of fruit are fun to make and present great options for using up small sections of wood that end up being stored in the workshop. The shapes are easy to form, do not cost much in the way of time or money, and they make nice gifts.

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge

The turned apple

The turned bunch of grapes

The turned lemon

The turned pear

The turned plum