Turning a Barrel-Shaped Purse


Turning a Barrel-Shaped Purse:
Janice Levi enjoys turning wearable art, so here she turns an artistic and functional piece.

Janice Levi enjoys turning wearable art, so here she turns an artistic and functional piece

It is certainly gratifying to turn a bowl, platter or a box, although the task can be challenging, too. There is a drawback however, to turning that bowl, platter or box; no one sees it except for you and the occasional friend who might drop by. So shake things up a bit and turn a beautiful barrel-shaped purse that you ladies, or your lady, can carry out in public and just wait for the compliments.
The barrel purse is actually a fairly simple concept. It is basically a big box with a lid. There are, however, some modifications that are necessary to make the box functional as a purse. Since the purse will undergo some wear and tear, it is important to select woods that will stand up to some everyday use. I have used pecan (Carya illinoinensis), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), maple (Acer spp.), mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and mahogany (Khaya spp.). Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and oak (Quercus robur) are sturdy woods and will work well, but they are not suitable for some enhancements that you may choose to add.

Plans and equipment

Equipment and materials
• Hollowing system
• Drillpress or hand drill
• Drill bits
• Parting tool
• Roughing gouge
• 10mm spindle gouge
• 12mm spindle gouge
• 12mm bowl gouge
• Round-nosed scraper
• Hook tool
• Three-point tool or skew
• Rayon flocking
• Flocking adhesive
• 230mm non-fraying fabric
• 1270mm strap material (leather, twisted satin rope, etc.)
• Callipers
• 120–600 grit abrasive
• Wood glue
• White glue
• Hot melt glue gun
• Choice of finish – oil, water-based, etc.

1. Select an end grain blank, measuring 125 x 125 x 230mm, that’s relatively free of blemishes. Mount the blank between centres and use a roughing gouge to turn it round, then use a parting tool to turn a tenon on each end. Measure the bottom of the purse to a height of 125–140mm with a diameter of 115mm. Make the lid a height of 38–45mm and the overall height of the purse will approximately be 180–185mm. Mark the lid dimension on the blank

2. The overall profile of the purse’s body may be slightly convex, concave, the purse may be shaped like an acorn – there are many possibilities. When you have decided on a design, part off the lid section and set it aside. Mount the bottom section into the scroll chuck and use a roughing gouge or spindle gouge to begin shaping the outside. Be sure to wear your faceshield

3. With a spindle gouge, true the upper edge of the blank so the outside 20mm is perfectly flat, then measure in 6mm and 20mm from the outside edge and mark both dimensions with a pencil. On the outside of the purse measure down 6mm from the top edge and mark this dimension

4. Use a parting tool to create a shoulder, using both of the 6mm dimensions as guides. These cuts form a 90° angle and will form the shoulder upon which the lid will rest. Use a parting tool to plunge in at the 20mm line. The cut needs to be at least 12mm deep, which will form the shoulder that will support the purse strap and hide the liner

5. You are now ready to begin hollowing. There are several hollowing systems available, but I suggest using a ‘D’ handle system with an auxiliary toolrest as it is the one I use

6. When you are past the 12mm plunge cut, use a hook tool to hollow out beneath this shoulder to a wall thickness of approximately 6mm. Check the wall thickness as you hollow and leave a bottom thickness of 10mm. If you are going to install a sewn liner, don’t sand the interior. If you want to leave the interior bare wood or use a flocking liner, sand the interior but leave the exterior for now

7. Mount the lid blank tenon into your scroll chuck and true the face using a spindle gouge. Use your roughing gouge or spindle gouge to shape the profile. Proceed cautiously as the lid and the bottom must be the same diameter where they meet. Hold the bottom section up to the lid to check for a fit

8. When the lid and bottom section diameters match, measure 6mm from the outside diameter and plunge the parting tool 6mm deep. Approach this cut in increments and match the bottom section to the lid often in order to create a slightly loose fit

9. Begin hollowing the lid to a wall thickness of 10mm. This diameter can be slightly reduced beneath the shoulder that you created in step 8. You may use a bowl gouge or your hollowing system and the hook too may be used beneath the shoulder

10. Now, hollow the lid to make the top thickness about 6mm

Top tip
Although drilling the holes in the bottom section and the lid might be best done using
a drillpress, a hand held drill can be used. To prevent the bit from skittering across
the surface, use a small pilot bit first to drill the holes.

Top tip
To make hollowing go a little faster, drill out the centre section with a Forstner bit mounted in a Jacob’s chuck in the tailstock.

11. Fit the two sections together. You may have to make small adjustments in the contour or in the shoulder fit between the two sections. Bring up the tailstock and place the centre point into the hole left earlier by the centre point. A round-nosed scraper will work well here. Make any adjustments needed to the shape or shoulder fit then sand the outside

12. Accentuate the line where the lid and bottom come together using a three-point tool or a skew

13. To finish the bottom, expand the jaws of your scroll chuck into the top opening. Remove the tenon with a spindle gouge. You may choose to use a parting tool to turn a ridge around the outside for the purse to sit on

14. Add other decorative features to the bottom then sand through all of the grits

15. Finish the lid the same way by expanding the jaws into the opening. A pleasing design is for the lid to be slightly convex. Use a spindle gouge to shape the lid and, when you are satisfied with the shape, sand through all grits

16. Before removing the lid, lightly mark the centre top with a pencil and draw a line across the top, through the centre. Measure in 10mm from the outside edges on each side along the pencil line and make a light mark. This will indicate the outside diameter of the two holes that will accommodate the purse strap. Remove the lid from the chuck

17. Make the length of the strap around 1270mm long, but make sure the measurement reflects the height of the purse carrier. Measure the diameter of the cord and allow an extra 1.5mm when you’re choosing a
drill bit, as the lid should move feely up and down the strap. Locate the marks you made on the lid and drill each of the two holes 10mm from the outside edge

18. Place the lid on to the bottom section and line up the grain. Stick a pencil or awl into each hole and make a mark

Top tip
A sewn liner is the most elegant choice for finishing the inside of the purse. For an added touch of softness, you may choose to insert a 125mm round piece of batting beneath the fabric to cushion the bottom of the purse.

19. Drill the two holes into the lower section of the purse

20. As an option, turn small grommets to dress up the holes in the lid, using the same or contrasting wood. To turn the grommet, select a blank approximately 16mm square and mount the blank into small jaws. Drill a hole into the blank the same size as the holes in the purse. The grommets should overlap the holes by about 3mm on each side

21. Use your spindle gouge to round over the top and side of the grommet. Sand, then part it off. Attach the grommets with wood glue. You may now add enhancements, or you may choose to let the beauty of the wood speak for itself and apply the finish of your choice. Remember to put the finish on the inside of the lid and the shoulder of the bottom section

22. There are two options for a more professional look on the inside. The simplest option is to apply Rayon flocking inside the bottom section. Flocking is readily available online in a variety of colours and does hold up very well, but be sure to follow the online directions. After the flocking is dry, run the strap through the top and lower holes, knot the end of the cord and dab it with white glue

23. The second choice is to install a fabric liner. Measure the inside diameter of the purse, then the height. Multiply the diameter by 3.14 (pi) to get the circumference and add 12mm to all measurements. On a piece of blank paper, lay out the measurements. You will have two pattern pieces – a rectangle and a circle. Use a fabric that does not fray for the liner; I used suede cloth. Pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and cut out the pieces

24. With the right sides together, sew the two ends of the rectangle together. Cut 6mm gashes every 12mm or so around one open end of the cylinder. Pin the circle to this end of the cylinder with the right sides together and double stitch the two pieces together. Trim the seams to 6mm and turn under the top edge of the cylinder 12mm and top stitch

25. Before installing the liner, run the strap through the lid and bottom holes. Tie a knot into the end of the strap and apply a bit of white glue to the knot

26. Stuff the liner into the purse and use the hot melt glue gun to attach it under the shoulder, covering the ends of the straps. The shoulder should hide both the top of the liner and the knotted strap. Your beautiful
purse is now complete


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