Traditional Wooden Flask archive

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Nick Arnull creates this traditional wooden vase with inset panels which uses salvaged pieces of wood and timber offcuts


This is quite a simple project but it does require some thought and particular attention needs to be made regarding accurate multiple chucking. Flasks are often made from one piece of timber but I decided to make mine using inset panels. This would allow me to create balance and contrast in the design.

Too often I see items made using one colour of timber and find them bland and uninteresting. You can use figured timber to accent areas of a design to make it more visually dynamic. However, if doing this, I recommend keeping the design simple and letting the wood speak for itself, as this will create a stronger design.

Tools used: Side-cut box scraper, 10mm (3/8in) point tool, 10mm (3/8in) round skew chisel, 6mm (1/4in) parting tool, 10mm (3/8in) fingernail spindle gouge, 12mm (1/2in fingernail spindle gouge and 10mm (3/8in) square-grind bowl gouge

Turning the body

Step 1

Begin by selecting your blank and accurately marking the centres - as per the drawing - then drill a 15mm (9/16in) hole in the top, which will become your flask top. Next, using a drill bit to match your 50mm (2in) chuck jaws, drill a shallow hole into one face of the blank. If you are using a drill press, remember to clamp larger pieces to the table or accidents can potentially occur

Step 2

Mount the blank onto the lathe using the hole made by the 50mm (2in) drill bit - this is your first chucking method. Draw the maximum diameter circle you can and then another 10mm (3/8in) inside this which will be your cutting guide. Create a second 50mm (2in) dovetail recess in the middle - this will be used later in the project - but must be parallel to the opposite face

Step 3

Mount the blank between centres and begin to work towards the line marked earlier using a 12mm (1/2in) fingernail spindle gouge. This task is easier if the lathe is running at a good rate. Once the line disappears, the waste wood will be removed and, all being well, you will have a circle. Take your time and check your progress regularly

Step 4

Once the main body has been turned, create two parallel spigots at each end of the blank - this is best done using a 6mm (1/4in) parting tool

Step 5

Using a freshly sharpened 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge, refine the shape but take only the lightest of cuts

Step 6

With the lathe stationary, you can now sand the turned edges

Step 7

Turn and create the outside shape of the neck so that it is 40mm (1 5/8in) long

Step 8

With the outside shape completed remove the piece from between centres and mount the spigot into the chuck using the tailstock centre to align the piece accurately. With the tailstock removed, soften the opening and then turn a shoulder into the top of the neck using a square-ended box scraper. Take care at this stage, then you can sand the neck

Step 9

Once more, change the chucking method and turn the piece across the bed of the lathe. Next, mount it using the 50mm (2in) dovetail recess created earlier, which will allow you to true the two faces/sides of the flask

Step 10

Now mark a 100mm (4in) diameter and create a parallel opening - this is where the inset panels will be fitted. It also creates another chucking method

Step 11

Reduce the centre so it will allow the chuck jaws adequate clearance later in the project - I used a 10mm (3/8in) square-grind bowl gouge. Now reverse chuck and repeat on the second face/side

Step 12

With the two face/sides complete it is time to change chucking again, so remove the piece from the chuck and mount between centres using a tapered scrap wood friction drive. Using a live centre in the tailstock, mark 8mm (5/16in) from the bottom of the flask; this defines the final length of the flask

Step 13

Carefully shape and refine the bead at the bottom of the flask

Step 14

Carefully sand, seal and lacquer the flask, then allow to dry

Step 15

With the piece finished you can now detail the underside of the foot, remove the waste material, and then finish by hand

Step 16

Final chucking for the body of the flask allows the removal of the centre - this will be saved for use another time - and will make the flask hollow. If you choose not to do this then your flask will be a little heavier than mine. Part in from one side then reverse chuck and repeat, taking care as you do so

Turning the panels

Step 17

Using double-sided tape, begin by centring and mounting your blank - this needs to be done on what will become the finished face. You then need to create a 50mm (2in) dovetail recess, before creating a spigot to match the flask opening. I found I needed to have the tailstock in place in order to keep the blank centred

Step 18

Reverse chuck the blank then make round and dome the surface, leaving a 3mm (1/8in) square edge. You can then sand

and finish

Turning the stopper

Step 19

I found it easiest to make the bottle stopper in two parts and then glue it together. Begin by creating the bung section - the bit that fits into the neck of the flask at the top - then create a spigot at one end to fit into a drilled hole in the decorative top section, which will simply be glued in place when both parts are complete. Take a piece of English sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and mount it between centres, checking the fit constantly. You can then sand and finish

The decorative top

Step 20

Drill a hole into the blank then mount it between centres using a standard 60 degree live centre - this will sit into the hole that has been drilled - then turn to the shape required. The parallel section sits in the opening at the top of the flask's neck

Step 21

Once you are happy with the shape of the bung, sand and finish, then glue the two parts together before allowing to dry. The traditional wooden flask project is now complete

Woodworkers Institute

Tagged In:

Nick Arnull , Woodturning , traditional , wooden , flask , offcuts

Glossary Rollover a term to view its definition

Bowl Gouge , Skew Chisel , Spindle Gouge , Lathe , Between Centres , Spigot

Timber Requirements

Piece of English sycamore: 140 x 200 x 50mm (5 1/2 x 8 x 2in)
Australian burr offcut: 120 x 120 x 25 (4 3/4 x 4 3/4 x 1in)
Australian burr offcut: 50 x 50mm (2 x 2in)
Sycamore bung: 25 x 25 x 80mm (1 x 1 x 3 1/8in)

Time Taken & Cost

Time taken: 8 hours
Cost: £7.50

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

Handy Hints

1. Have a clear idea of want you want to create before you come to the lathe
2. When applying finishes, if they feel cold then they are still wet; if the surface feels warm then it is dry
3. When turning the body of the flask, work against a clear background for clarity purposes
4. Always sharpen tools before taking finishing cuts
5. Take your time when you are hand finishing
6. Ensure there is no debris in the dovetail chucking recess; this will ensure accurate chucking every time
7. Use contrasting timbers to create visual impact for a project that really stands out
8. When creating the dovetail for the decorative panels, ensure to keep the tailstock in place
9. Make sketches and plan what you are going to make before finally committing to a project
10. Don't be afraid to try something new, especially those projects which are outside of your comfort zone
11. Avoid cross contamination when working with both dark and light timbers
12. Never throw odd bits of timber away, as these can often be used to create scrap wood chucking methods. The wood for this project came from saved timber
13. You should plan the project around the various chuck jaws you have available

Woodturning Says...

Wooden flasks have been made for centuries, and look far more complicated than they are to make in reality. Simple, key stage steps will have you making yours in no time at all.

Diagrams Click an image to enlarge