Hidden Box Earring Stand

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Hidden Box Earring Stand

Andy Coates uses up some offcuts by turning this earring stand

One of my staple production items is made from 85mm square lignum vitae (Guiaiacum officinale) stock and the stock is always delivered overlength because that is how it is supplied. My customer has no use for the offcuts, so they are the ‘cream on the milk’ and I get to keep them. The trouble I have is what to make from them. I don’t particularly like lignum; it can be oily and difficult to get a decent finish on, it can look a little ‘old-fashioned’ for my tastes, and recent batches have had a number of faults that have rendered the blanks unusable for anything other than pen blanks! I have however, built up quite a supply of offcuts and decided I should use them before I get too many. They are usually about 90 x 90 x 190mm, so whatever I use them for needs to be a small item, and small items always suggest craft fair stock to me. I decided to make one of my regular stock items, an earring stand with a hidden box, which I usually make from branch wood yew (Taxus baccata). I designed this stand quite some time ago now and the main reason for the hidden box was to simply add interest and value to what is a pretty ordinary stock item that can only command a price within a very tight band.
The addition of the hidden box means I can have two versions, one without a box at price A and one with a hidden box at an increased price, B. And so far it has worked well. They always sell. Like anything we make to sell, the difference between the run-of-the-mill and the special is attention to detail, and this project is a good example of this philosophy. Some of the steps may seem like overkill and if they do to you, then please feel free to leave them out and finish the project to your own taste, but if you persevere and complete the stand in the prescribed manner then you end up with a finished object that looks and feels considered and is finished to a high standard.
In order to complete the box I use a homemade jam chuck for three of the steps. You can make one of these for yourself quite simply, and once made you will find other uses for it over and above those detailed here. I have included a drawing of the jam chuck, and detailed the making within the project. You could use almost any wood species for this project, but it works best with something strong-grained as it is the grain alignment that helps to hide the box; this wouldn’t work quite so well with a bland wood species. There are also opportunities for some further design features, such as texturing on the upper ‘umbrella’, or around the base, or maybe some colour, gilding or metal leaf decoration. As ever this project is intended more to get you thinking than simply copying a pattern.

Information and plans

Equipment Used
10mm long-grind bowl gouge
10mm spindle gouge
2mm parting tool 4mm parting tool
25mm round-nosed scraper
25mm skew chisel
3mm twist bit and drill
Strip of Formica
Abrasives 180–400 grits
Cellulose sealer
Hard wax stick
PPE: facemask, gloves, dust mask/respirator

Making the jam chuck
First, we will make a jam chuck for use later in the project. Take a scrap hard wood blank that will produce a cylinder 80mm diameter by about the same in length and mount it between centres. Rough it down to a cylinder and turn an accurate tenon on one end. Re-mount in your scroll chuck and true up the face. Using a 20mm Forstner bit, bore a hole through the blank. Next you need a disc of neoprene. This can be cut from an old mouse mat or something similar. Glue to the face of the blank using contact adhesive or carpet glue and allow to cure. Now take the sharp point of a skew and cut through the centre to reveal the 20mm hole. Your jam chuck is now complete. Set aside until later.

1. Mount the blank between centres. I use a multi-head centre and use the cup, or ring, centre for this part of the process. The ring centre serves two purposes which are of benefit over a more conventional cone centre: firstly, unlike a cone centre, the ring centre will not split the wood along the grain, and is therefore a safer option for holding stock. Secondly, the indent that the ring produces is a useful aid when re-mounting a blank as it gives an exact reference point for realigning the blank later

2. Rough down the blank using a long-grind bowl gouge or spindle roughing gouge. Check for faults in the wood as you progress and if you find any you may need to remount to remove them. Try to keep the cylinder parallel

3. Turn an accurate tenon on the tailstock end of the blank. Your particular scroll chuck will have specific dimensions for this; note these dimensions and get in to the habit of making each tenon accurate to these dimensions. Remember that depth as well as diameter is important. Here you will see that a fault was noted on my blank. I marked beyond the fault so that I could cut it away later

4. Now re-mount the blank in the scroll chuck using the tenon to hold it. Bring up the tailstock for added support. Now mark 45mm in from the end of the blank. Using either the bowl gouge or spindle gouge begin to turn the top section, or ‘umbrella’, down. The first 15–20mm of the edge should be relatively flat, after which you can produce a raised boss. This section should be about 15mm deep

5. The remaining 30mm section needs to be turned down to a cylinder about 20mm diameter. From this turn a small decorative finial. I prefer a ball type finial but you may prefer something a little more ornate. Using a skew chisel will give you a far better finish on lignum but if you prefer, then use the spindle gouge

6. Using the point of a small parting and beading tool, cut ‘V’ cuts 3mm in from the edge and 13mm in from the edge. You can also cut one near the base of your finial. Take a small piece of Formica and scorch these cuts until black. Now you need to abrade this top section to a finish. Abrade from start grit to 400 grit, then seal with cellulose sealer

7. The umbrella needs to be about 3–4mm thick. Using either a spindle gouge or a parting tool, cut in to set this thickness for the first 10–20mm of depth

8. Now begin to remove waste working towards the centre of the blank. Be careful not to let the wings of the gouge catch. When space becomes tight remove waste from the left and work down. When the central section gets to about 30mm diameter stop cutting for now

9. Before the remainder of the shaping is done we need to mark the earring holes. With a pencil mark the mid-point between the two ‘V’ cuts you made and scorched earlier. Using your index system – or compasses if you don’t have one on your lathe – mark 12 divisions around the umbrella. Centre-pop the intersects with a bradawl

10. Now we can return to shaping. At the headstock end of the blank, mark in 30mm. Now turn a sweeping curve between this point and the base of the umbrella. Try to make complete cuts to produce a flowing curve. Once completed make a ‘V’ cut under the umbrella to differentiate the stem from the umbrella

11. Now we can finish the umbrella section. Using a 3mm twist bit in a power drill carefully drill through at the 12 marked points. Use your fingers to support the umbrella, taking great care not to drill in to your fingers! Drill slowly and do not force the travel of the bit to ensure you do not get breakout on the underside. Now abrade – 180–400 grit – the curved section and underside of the umbrella, and then seal with cellulose sealer

12. Mark a point about 15mm to the right of the straight section of the base. Using a 4mm parting tool part in from this line until the cut is as wide as the parting tool. Now make a further cut to the left of the initial cut, approximately half the thickness of the tool – 2mm – forming a tenon 6mm deep

13. Take a 2mm parting tool and begin a parting cut on the headstock side of this tenon. You only need to go in about 10mm at this point. Now abrade the remaining 4mm of tenon edge. Keep it flat and parallel. Seal the surface

14. Continue parting off the top section of the stand. Keep the lathe speed slow and aim to fully part off the section. You want a small central reference point on the underside, so if you can stop parting at about 2mm and snap it off, all the better

15. Using a calliper record the diameter of the tenon, here it was 43mm. Transfer this dimension to the face of the portion remaining in the scroll chuck

16. Using a small parting and beading tool cut a recess to match the tenon – 43mm diameter and 4mm deep. You need to remove some of the central waste to allow for test fitting the top section. Do this carefully with a spindle gouge, making the interior slightly concave. Work carefully towards your 43mm mark test fitting the top section repeatedly until a very tight fit is achieved

17. Now we need to fit the top section on to the base section and re-turn the lower portion of the curve. A tight fit alone might allow for this, but to be assured that the top section does not fly off the lathe use the jam chuck you made earlier. I fit a cone head to the revolving centre and locate the cone in the hole on the underside of the jam chuck’s tenon. The umbrella is supported on the neoprene face. Do not apply too much pressure from the quill. Using the bowl or spindle gouge re-cut the lower curve until it matches the upper curve. Do not be tempted to follow the cut through to the top

18. In order to help to hide the join, cut a ‘V’ cut directly in to the join. Now cut matching ‘V’ cuts 3mm either side of the first ‘V’ cut. Scorch these black using the Formica. Take special care on the middle one as the material around it is finer than in the solid areas around it. Now abrade the base section to match the stand of the upper section. Seal with cellulose sealer. You can also apply a wax or oil finish

19. Remove the top section from the lathe. Using a 25mm round-nosed scraper cut a round-bottomed hollow in the base. Make it as deep as you feel confident to. It needs to be at least deep enough to take a finger ring, fine necklace, stud earrings or similar. Abrade the interior and seal with cellulose sealer

20. Mount the jam chuck in to the scroll chuck on its tenon. Using the ring centre again, mount the base of the earring stand between it and the ring centre. The indentation from the first holding assures concentricity. Turn the tenon away using a 10mm spindle gouge. Make the base slightly concave. Abrade and seal the base. The remaining stub can be carved or power sanded away and then finished

21. Take the top section and mount in a similar fashion as previously. The ball finial should fit in the hole of the jam chuck; the umbrella should sit against the neoprene face. The small 2mm stub is your centre reference for a cone centre in the revolving centre. Apply minimal pressure from the tailstock

22. Now, slightly dish the underside of the tenon on the top section. As the top section may be very slightly out of true, measure the lip in the base and mark the depth on the underside face of the top section tenon. From this mark, dish the base towards the centre. Abrade and seal. Remove the stub and seal to a finish. A light coat of finishing oil can be applied all over and then buff to a fine finish

23. Your earring stand is now completed. Fit the two parts together and you should find the grain matches and the scorched ‘V’ cuts look like a simple decorative feature. If you feel the fit is too tight, you can lightly abrade the edge of the tenon to relieve it a little

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