Candlestick - Canadian Woodworking Magazine



Turners often look at old logs and broken branches, imagining what they could turn out of them. Sometimes they see a beautiful piece of wood that seems to be just too far gone to do anything with. Well, this is just the project for those pieces. You’ll never look at a rotten piece of wood the same way.

I’ve turned candlesticks from logs I’ve pulled out of a lake, off cuts from other turning projects, old Christmas trees, cedar fence posts, and the list goes on. Anything goes! For this project I chose a piece of a cedar split rail fence. The size doesn’t matter but for stability, a wide base is preferred and the height shouldn’t exceed 3 times the width of the base.
Prepare the blank
I began by cutting one end roughly square then I cut out an 18” turning blank with my bandsaw. Now that the piece is a manageable size, choose the end you will use for the base and cut it so that it will stand up straight and flat and sand it smooth (I use a belt sander). Mount the end you just sanded to a faceplate and mount it on your lathe with the tailstock in place for stability. A piece like this will be off center and off balance so use low speeds when you start turning.

Prepare the blank 

Mark the top diameter
If your piece is very odd shaped like mine, you can rough it out on the bandsaw as I did with this one. With the lathe spinning at low speed, mark the top diameter. At the bandsaw, start your cut at the line you marked, and remove as much waste as you can.

Mark the top diameter

Mount the blank
Remount the piece on the lathe and check the balance.

Mount the blank 

Rough out the shape
As you remove material, you can increase your speed. Also remember to adjust your tool rest regularly. Before turning on the lathe, be sure to spin the piece by hand every time you adjust your tool rest. The wood for this project will often be soft and fragile. For this reason, it’s a good idea to do all your roughing in one step, leaving extra material in the thinner areas.

Rough out the shape

Finishing cuts
Leave the neck thick for strength. Make your finish cuts starting at the tailstock end. Complete the top part then move on to the body, always cutting down hill. This is important if you’re cutting a shape similar to this one. Once the thin neck is finished, you don’t want to go back and chance breaking it. Next I give it a quick sanding with 180 grit. Since this is a rough piece, a few tool marks are quite acceptable.

Finishing cut 

Clean up the top
Once you have your shape finished, remove the tailstock and clean up the top with a skew. The finished height is 16”.
Drill the hole
I drilled this candlestick to accept both a tea lite and a tapered candle. I use tea lite candles that come in a foil cup, as there is less danger of the candle igniting the wood. Alternatively you can drill the hole to accommodate a glass tea lite cup. Chuck a 1 ½" bit in the tailstock and bore ½" deep. Then drill a tapered hole 1" deep. To get the tapered hole, I ground a 1" spade bit to the proper profile to fit the candles. This bit cuts on the sides as well as the end so the sides have to be ground sharp.

I finished the candlestick with 3 coats of waterborne spray polyurethane. Lightly sand with 180 grit after the second coat to remove the grain raised by the finish.

Drill the hole

JP Rapattoni