Turning Fruit archive

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Nick Arnull demonstrates how to turn natural and coloured fruit the easy way


Some time ago, my wife Jane asked me to make her some fruit, but I didn't have a clue where to start. I had seen a demo where a fruit chuck had been used, but I decided there had to be a simpler/cheaper method. So I developed the method I still use today. The main problem was how to hold the wood on the lathe for turning fruit. Easy, I thought, use a screw chuck. Those available commercially at that time were too big, so I made my own, see figure 1, using screws that were already in the workshop - 6 and 8 gauge, 1 1/2in wood screws.

When you are making natural wooden fruits, use highly figured/decorative timbers like spalted beech (Fagus sp) and yew (Taxus sp). When making coloured fruit, my first choice is sycamore (Acer sp). Do not forget fruit is regional/seasonal so make what is available in your area. Go out and buy good examples of the fruit you are going to make - you will not believe the actual shape and colours on the fruit. Take a long hard look before you start.


When turning natural fruit you want to use the most decorative timbers. As a rule, the more pretty the wood the more hazardous the dust. Though this is a small-scale project, do not forget to protect your eyes and lungs.

Materials required

Timber apples are made from 75 x 75 x 75mm (3 x 3 x 3in), pears are made from 75 x 75 x 90mm (3 x 3 x 3 1/2in). For coloured fruit, use sycamore, holly (Ilex sp), maple (Acer campestre) etc. With natural fruit, you can use highly figured timbers. Liberon acrylic palette wood dyes are used for the base coats, and a selection of artist acrylic colours will be required. It is very important to have fresh fruit to copy when decorating.

Woodworkers Institute

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Nick Arnull , Turning Fruit

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"The main problem was how to hold the wood on the lathe for turning fruit"

Hand Colouring Fruit

Turn apples and pears as previously shown but use sycamore. Sand thoroughly to 400 grit. Remove from the lathe and raise the grain by wetting the surface using water and a 25mm (1in) paintbrush. Allow to dry naturally.
Here is a selection of natural and synthetic sea sponges. These will create the texture found on pears

Fitting Stalks

There are many ways of making stalks for the top of your fruit. I wanted to make the stalks look natural. Every year the silver birch (Betula pendula) sheds small twiggy branches. I collect these and leave them in the top of my workshop, where they slowly dry. When used in this manner they will not shrink. For the bottom of most fruits I use cloves.
1 Using a Bradawl enlarge the hole slightly
2 Fit a clove in the bottom of the fruit. Remove the centre
3 Using side cutters cut the stalk for the top
4 With super glue fit the stalk at a slight angle