How to Turn Wood Urns

Written by nicole byerly
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How to Turn Wood Urns
Turn a wood urn to preserve a loved one's ashes. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

When a loved one passes on, you may choose the option of cremation. After a person is cremated, the friends and family have the option to keep the ashes. The ashes need to be stored in a safe location, which is why numerous individuals choose to store their loved one's ashes in a wood urn. Wood urns can be extremely expensive and impersonal, which is why carving your own wood urn on a lathe is a reliable and inexpensive alternative to achieving an attractive urn.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 18x9-inch wood log
  • Wood ball, 3 inches in diameter
  • Lathe
  • Large metal table clamp
  • Wood chisels
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • Hammer

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  1. 1

    Secure the 18x9-inch wood log into the lathe and turn the lathe on. The wood will begin spinning at a high speed around the lathe.

  2. 2

    Carve away the outer 1-inch layer of the log using a large wood chisel. The outer layer is generally rough. Create a smooth, even finish on the log.

  3. 3

    Shape the log into a vaselike shape. Leave a 5-inch diameter rim around one end of the wood. Shape the neck of the urn to about 3 inches in diameter. Shape the largest area of the urn about 7 inches wide.

  4. 4

    Sand the wood urn while it is spinning in the lathe. Use 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface completely, creating a finished paintable surface. Turn off the lathe and remove the urn from the machine.

  5. 5

    Place urn on a flat surface, laying the urn on its side. Clamp the urn to the surface to keep it in place while removing the centre of the urn.

  6. 6

    Remove the centre of the urn with a chisel and hammer. Leave 1/2-inch around the top rim exterior, and place chisel along this area. Chisel toward the centre. Continue to work into the interior of the urn until all of the wood is removed. Leave a 1/2-inch thickness around the entire interior of the urn.

  7. 7

    Sand around the rim to create a smooth finish using the 220-grit sandpaper. Chiselling away the centre causes the wood to splinter, which is why sanding the rim to a smooth finish is extremely important. Place the wood ball over the top of the urn as a lid.

Tips and warnings

  • Paint or stain the urn for a more finished appearance.

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