Turn a Lidded Chalice
A lidded chalice is an interesting switch in the production of vessels on a woodturning lathe. It expands the process of hollowing, as well as lid fitting. It also allows a box to be made with a decorative finial.
I’ve always been interested in turning lidded vessels. Over the past few years I’ve turned a lot of goblets, other lidded bowls and boxes with many types of decorative elements incorporated into their design. A lidded chalice on a pedestal with a decorative finial adorning the top presents some unique design opportunities.
Uses for a lidded chalice can be quite varied – holding jewelry, other trinkets, or even nuts or candies for the coffee table. The choice is up to you.
This is a good project to help expand your woodturning skills and creativity. However, I do suggest that basic turning skills and intermediate turning experience are required.
Sketch It Out
A drawing will help work out proportions and details before you start to turn the chalice. Cusworth used the “Rule of Thirds” to work out the overall proportions.
Divide It Up
With the stock turned round, Cusworth marked where the three main segments would be located.
Cut the Top Off
Here, Cusworth parts off the lidded section and sets it aside while he focuses on the main cup and base sections.
Working from the drawing, shape the outside of the chalice. You don’t need to add all the details yet.
Though there are lots of options for adding texture to turnings, Cusworth used his Sorby texturing tool to create a textured band around this chalice.
Burn a Barrier
In order to define the edges of the textured band and keep the brown dye from migrating beyond the border, Cusworth used a homemade burning tool – a guitar string and two dowels.
Hollow the Inside
Cusworth used a 5/8" diameter bowl gouge to rough out the cup cavity and a 3/4" reverse rake scraper to leave a smooth surface.
Finish the Inside
While the chalice is still on the lathe, apply a finish to the inside of the cup.
Shape the Outside
Fine tune the outside shape of the cup and add details through the stem area.
A Nice Finish
Apply a finish to the outside of the cup and stem area while the chalice is still on the lathe.
Though the finished lid rim will fit inside the lip on the chalice, it’s best to start on the large side and take light cuts to fit the lid perfectly.
Transfer to the Lid
Take the dimension on the calipers and mark it on the underside of the lid. Be very careful to keep the point on the right-hand side, away from the turning lid.
With the rim of the lid almost turned to size, you can bring the chalice to mate with the lid to check sizing.
Turned and Finished
The lid is now turned to final diameter and a finish has been added to the underside of the lid.
Shape the Finial
A jam chuck will allow you to attach your lid to the lathe so you can turn the finial.
Finish the Base
A second jam chuck will help you turn the base of the chalice to its final size and shape.
My first step was to sketch out what I wanted to create. It’s a lot easier to make design changes with an eraser than with a chisel. I used the Creative Woodturner computer program from Britain (creative-woodturner.com) to help me with this, but it can easily be done by hand as well.
To make the design more appealing, I used the “Golden Ratio,” or “Rule of Thirds” concept to create most of the dimensions for my chalice. Describing these concepts is beyond the scope of this article, but there’s a lot of information on the internet on this topic. Suffice it to say that dividing overall dimensions into three similar sections has been pleasing to the human eye for centuries.
I created several drawings before settling on one for my basic design. This is a concept picture only; the design details will be developed as the project is made. I may even make some design changes as I proceed. The size of the finished chalice will be about 4″ in diameter and about 9″ tall.
Select a stable piece of dry hardwood for this project. If green or wet wood is used, it will be difficult to fit the lid since the wood will be changing shape as it dries when you turn it. I chose a billet of dry British Columbia big leaf maple a little larger than 4″ square by 10″ long, but you can use any species of hardwood.
I squared up the ends of the block on the bandsaw, then located and dimpled the centers of the ends.
It’s a good idea to check the grain direction, wood colour and any features in the piece to decide which end of the block will be the top of the chalice. Mount the block between centers with the top end facing the headstock. I used a multi-prong drive center in the headstock and a live center in the tailstock. Round the block to 4″ in diameter.
Turn a tenon at the tailstock end of the block to fit a scroll chuck with the largest set of jaws possible. Be aware that some scroll chucks require a beveled tenon and others require a straight one. Make sure you know which type of tenon your chuck uses and cut this one accordingly. Using large jaws will help in securing the strongest grip on the block when turning it later. I used 100mm (4″) jaws in my SuperNova2 chuck.
Reverse the block and mount it in the scroll chuck and tighten firmly.
Measure and mark the three major sections of the chalice: 1) top (lid); 2) body (cup); and 3) stem (base). This is where the “Golden Ratio” or “Rule of Thirds” concept is used.
Turn a tenon to fit your chuck on the tailstock end of the block. This will be used to mount the piece to make the lid section later. I used smaller jaws for this section since this is a smaller piece. The same jaws as used for the body section will also work. Part off the top section and set it aside.
Shaping the body
Bring the tailstock with a live center up to support the blank and start to form the outside shape of the chalice. This will help to visualize a line for hollowing the inside of the cup. Leave a lot of wood where the stem/base starts in order to support the cup while hollowing in the next step. If you want to add any details to the outside of the cup, it must be done before you hollow it out to prevent the cup walls from flexing from the pressure of a texturing tool.
I decided to add a 3/8″ wide textured band about 1/2″ below the rim. I measured and marked the location of the edge rings and grooved them with my skew. The texturing was done with my Sorby texturing tool. I used an alcohol-based brown dye to color the textured band. In order to prevent the dye from penetrating the adjoining edges of the grooves I burned the grooves with a burning tool that I made from piece of guitar string and two pieces of dowel. This process seals the pores of the wood and the dye didn’t migrate. I then proceeded to dye the band with a small artist’s paint brush.
Forming the inside of the cup and lip
The area for the lid is designed so the chalice can be used with one hand. The edge of the cup has a 1/4″ ledge/lip on the inside, and the lid will be made with a lift-off fit. I cut the lip very carefully with a 3/8″ Bedan tool and finished it with a 3/4″ skew on its side. I didn’t want to sand it because that would distort the edges and cause the lip to fit poorly.
Hollow the inside of the cup. I used a 5/8″ diameter bowl gouge to rough it out and a 3/4″ reverse rake scraper to smooth the surface.
Sand the inside of the cup through the grits from 80 to 400 grit. I finished the inside of the cup with food-safe Tried and True Original Finish, which is a mixture of beeswax and boiled linseed oil that penetrates the wood and cures. I selected this finish in case the chalice is used for edible items. If you choose to use a film finish like polyurethane, you may want to finish the chalice off the lathe when the project is completed.
Forming the outside of the cup, the stem and the base
Since the inside has been finished, the top edge has to be protected while turning it. I attached a large cone to the live center in the tailstock, made a pad of paper towel to cover the surface of the cone to reduce the chance of marring the edge of the cup lip and brought the cone up to support the chalice for the next step.
Shape the outside of the cup while checking the wall thickness with calipers. Shape the decorative beads and coves of the stem area. Sand and finish the outside surfaces the same way as the inside of the cup. Remove the chalice from the chuck and set it aside.
Making the lid
Mount the lid section in the chuck. Orient the bottom of the lid towards the tailstock. True up the face of the blank.
The inside dimension of the chalice lip needs to be transferred to the base of the lid blank. Using a pair of dividers, measure that dimension and open the dividers a little larger so there will be some wood to make the fitting cuts later. Transfer this measurement by placing a tool rest on center near the face of the blank. With the lathe turning very slowly, (100 rpm), touch the left point only on the blank and watch where the right point comes close to the groove made. Don’t let the right point touch the wood or you will get a real surprise. I like to darken the groove with a pencil.
Measure the depth of the inside of the lip of the chalice and mark that dimension on the edge surface of the lid blank. At that mark, cut away the corner to create a flange that will fit into the top of the chalice. To fit the lid, use a skew flat on its side to creep up on the fit. Use the chalice to frequently check to make sure you do not overshoot. This is when you choose the type of fit you want.
Hollow the inside of the lid with a bowl gouge. Add any decorative beads, coves or other elements as desired. Form the top surface of the lid, leaving a lot of extra wood in the finial area. The finial will be formed later. Sand and finish the inside of the lid as before. Remove the lid from the lathe and set it aside.
Making the finial
To reverse the lid blank on the lathe, make a jam chuck from a piece of scrap and fit it tightly to the inside of the lid flange. Mount the lid on the jam chuck and bring the tailstock/live center up for support.
Form the finial with the design elements as desired. Sand and finish the outside of the lid and finial as before. Remove the lid from the jam chuck and set it aside.
Complete the bottom of the body
Rework the jam chuck or make a new one to fit the opening in the chalice cup. Mount the chalice onto the jam chuck and bring the tailstock/live center up for support. Remove the waste wood and tenon from the bottom using light cuts and form a slightly concave surface on the bottom of the base so it won’t rock on the table. Add any decorative rings, etc. as desired. The little nubbin left at the center will be removed later. Sand the base as before; add any decorative details as desired. I like to make three rings on the bottom and sign the creation.
Finish the base as before. Remove the chalice from the jam chuck and slice the little nubbin off with a sharp knife. Hand sand that area and add a little finish for the final touch.