Wood Carving Projects

Weekend Projects – Candlestick with copper candle cup

Colwin Way makes a charming oak candlestick

This is probably one of my favourite projects in turning, because it’s all about the design and balance of the piece. It doesn’t really matter what the timber is either, to the point you could use an old gate post and still have a really nicely finished project. You could also experiment with finishing techniques like colouring, bleaching, polishing and texturing. The candlestick can either be made as a pair or an individual, large or small. I would always consider drawing the design out first and even sourcing images to help with your design, from books and the internet. Once you’ve come up with a design, think about the candle to use in your candlestick to make sure it fits in with the shape you’ve turned. I don’t like my designs being limited to pre-bought candle cup holders either, so I make my own from brass and copper sheet either by spinning or planishing.

I’m going to make this candlestick out of some old re-claimed oak (Quercus robur) I had left over in the workshop from a previous project and for the candle holder itself, I’m going do some basic metal spinning to form a copper dish.

To prepare the blank for turning I needed to glue together my plank offcuts and instead of starting with a size in mind, I made the largest blank I could get out of the pieces I had and, in this case, that gave me a blank measuring 440 x 120mm.Any good wood glue is fine to use. This is a step that needs to be taken seriously and extra attention is needed to get a good joint. Make sure your glue is appropriate for the job in hand and is in date! Remember the blank will be turning at several hundred revolutions a minute; to have a joint fail at this speed could lead to serious injury. One extra precaution I took before I mounted the blank on the lathe was to take the corners off with my bandsaw. This helps to reduce impact when I start to rough the blank down, so I can start at a slightly higher speed with the tool rest closer to the timber.

Tools used:


25mm roughing gouge

Bowl gouge – or parting tool or skew

30mm skew chisel

6mm bowl gouge

300 x 100 x 1mm brass and copper sheets


Tin snips


Heavy duty tailstock centre


Oak – measuring 440 x 120mm


Finishing options

Instead of polishing the candle cup to a high shine, either leave sanded, or as in the picture below, try some Verdigris solution over the surface to give a weathered look. I’ve sourced the Verdigris solution easily from the internet.


STEP 1: You can clearly see the glue joints on this blank, which is made up of four offcuts. To drive this blank, I’m using a large four prong drive in the headstock and in the tailstock a standard single point revolving tailstock centre. If you’re intending to make a larger candlestick and find that your four prong drive isn’t big enough, then there’s nothing wrong with using a small faceplate to give you the same result. Make sure you do your checks and that you know the lathe speed before you start. If you have a variable speed lathe then turn the speed to its lowest position and if a fixed speed, then turn down to a low speed to start you off. Also make sure all levers are tight and know that the spindle locks are engaged.

True up the base

• The bowl gouge needs to be used with the bevel rubbing and the flute of the gouge facing away at around 2 o’clock. This requires a good knowledge of the gouge

• The parting tool is my least favourite as it gives a poor finish to the end grain but, unfortunately, is the easiest to use

• The skew chisel is my favourite by far

and leaves a far superior finish, but I know that a lot of turners have a dread of this tool and will understand if they opt for something else


STEP 2: Now to start roughing down the blank. Use a 25mm roughing gouge ground to around 40°. I use this gouge for most things, only going up to my 30mm gouge when the size of the project increases greatly. At this stage only rough down until the corners are gone and are nearly round, but don’t worry if you have a couple of flats left. This is also the stage to clean up the end grain at the tailstock end, this will eventually be the base of the candlestick so think about that when mounting the rough blank to begin with. To true up the base you have several options: either a bowl gouge, parting tool or skew. Whichever option you choose, the base needs to be very slightly concave so the candlestick sits without rocking


STEP 3: Once you have roughed down the blank, turn the piece over so your now trued base is at the head stock. Finish roughing down to a complete round. When the blank has been roughed down, start shaping at the base and the largest diameter, then move to any detail in the later stages. Here you can see I’m working on the main body. Clean up with a 30mm skew chisel


STEP 4: Once the base is roughed into shape and some basic cleaning up has been done, move onto the top of the candlestick. Start by taking the diameter down to size, then plot out where the detail will go – tweaking as you go to fit into the parameters of the blank


STEP 5: Once you’re happy with the shape, start the go over the detail and make sure all the features are crisp. Simply by offering the long point of the skew into the ‘V’ cuts ,you will make your beads really pop out


STEP 6: After your tweaking has been done it’s time to start sanding. Start at 100 grit and work your way up through 150, 240, 320 and 400 grit. It is important, however, to make sure any tears or tooling marks are gone before you move up to 150 grit, otherwise they will more than likely still be there at the end

Dust extraction

At this point it’s a good time to talk about dust and dust control. In these pictures, the dust is being taken away with the extractor and you can see the dust stream as it heads toward the extractor nozzle. This efficiency is greatly reduced, the further the nozzle is away from the work. On a long piece like this it might mean not all dust is taken out of the atmosphere, so good personal dust protection is also important. A powered dust visor produces positive pressure on the inside, keeping the dust away from the face and also protects from injury.


STEP 7: When sanding the fine detail on your candlestick it’s important to mould the abrasive to the shape you’ve turned. Lazy sanding will flatten the top of beads and round over fillets, so fold and mould your abrasive to shape

Making your candle cup holder

We’re going to make our candle holder using some metal spinning techniques to mould the metal to a very small curve. Metal spinning does have its own tool requirements, but I’ve improvised here and will be using an old worn out 6mm bowl gouge on a hollowing tool rest


STEP 8: I sourced my metal sheet from the internet, buying brass and copper in small pieces (300 x 100 x 1mm). If you’ve never attempted metal spinning before then start with copper as it spins far more easily


STEP 9: Using the whole width of the sheet and a pair of dividers, scribe your 100mm discs, leaving a centre point in the discs


STEP 10: Now, using a pair of tin snips, cut the circles out and remember that once cut, the edges will be sharp. A pair of gloves might be wise if at all unsure or new to this process. Once the shapes are cut, file the edges back to your scribe lines and tidy up the disc


STEP 11: In order to shape your metal discs they need to be formed over a mould. Here I’ve turned a simple curve from a piece of scrap timber. In the centre leave a small centre point and a 30mm-wide flat to press the copper disc against


STEP 12: In the tailstock, use a heavy duty tailstock centre with a small turned wooden ring to sit over the centre, which creates enough friction against the copper disc to keep it turning. When making this wooden collar, make sure just a small amount of the tailstock centre point is protruding to enable you to centre the copper disc


STEP 13: Use the centre hole in the copper disc and the point from the tailstock centre to press the disc against the mould firmly. Apply a lot of pressure against the disc and mould, but try not to have too much of the tailstock quill exposed in order to keep things as ridgid as possible


STEP 14: At this stage, the tool I’m using is an improvised 6mm bowl gouge, at the end of its life and where the flute has gone. I ground the tip of the tool until it was a smooth convex curve and then polished it until it shone, as you would the back of a carving gouge. It’s really important that the back of the tool is completely smooth to stop too much heat from friction


STEP 15: Use the tool in a hollowing gate and the tool below centre, levering the copper disc around the turned former. To help reduce friction, coat the copper disc as it spins with wax (candle- or wood-), which works perfectly for the small curve we’re making here


STEP 16: Once the disc has been spun and shaped, give it a light sanding to take out any tool marks. Caution should be taken as the metal has been reduced in thickness and the edge will be sharp. Remove this with abrasive


STEP 17: When the cup is finished, drill a 3mm hole down through the centre to take the candle spike. I prefer to use a pillar drill and hold the cup with gloves for safety


STEP 18: Polish the cups with a couple of stitched polishing mops, one for applying the polish, which in this case is tripoli abrasive compound designed for copper and brass, and the second one to take the polish off and to buff


STEP 19: However, you can go to an even finer compound to make your cup really shine


STEP 20: Now to prepare the candle spike, which will be glued into the candlestick. I use a galvanised 50mm nail for this, which I’ve de-headed with a pair of wire cutters. The nail measures 3mm in diameter and fits through the hole previously drilled in the candle cup


STEP 21: Once again, use a pillar drill to make the hole for the spike, ensuring the spike points vertically – again the hole is 3mm


STEP 22: Now dry fit all the components together before gluing, with the spike into the candlestick and the cup over the spike


STEP 23: To glue the the pieces together use a two-part epoxy resin. I find this one of the strongest glues when working between different materials. Glue the nail into the hole then the cup onto the wooden base


STEP 24: Your finished candlestick should look something like this

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