Here are some plant/flower holders I made using various wood and different types of test tubes.
If either of these spalted pieces was an art piece (which they are!) then I guess the title should be Mother Nature. I had some blocks of spalted beech which I was cutting into squared-off blocks to remove the rough edges and make a box. It was then that I noticed the woman’s face pattern in the spalted wood. At this point I decided to cut the rest away to make it its own piece. The one on the right is also a face but it’s not as defined or large, so this time I used it as decoration. I made these using a 25 mm forstner bit and tidied up the middle with a file and flat drill bit. The yew bases are from an old yew tree whose timber was from a large length cut down by my grandfather somewhere in the 1970s and cut square using the river police’s carpenters. Since then it was just gathering dust, woodworm and dampness in a garage.
The remaining four pieces were cut from an octagonal length of mahogany.
Below is how I made them:
The mahogany length I had was around 640 mm long. I cut this into four blanks of 155 mm on the table saw using the Incra 1000SE as a guide. There wasn’t much room for error or wasage and it was also convenient that the test tubes I bought from Amazon were only 150 mm (6″) long and just under 25mm diameter. I marked the centres to be drilled out.
The drilling operation was done with a 25 mm forstner bit, from two ends. I clamped the vac hose to the drill collar to reduce the dust and chip build up – what you see here was before I did this!
I didn’t have a sensible way to clamp the pieces so I just held it securely in one hand whilst lowering the drill with the other – safety police look away now! I have since purchased a drill press vice. I could also have made a jig, but I wanted to finish the job whilst I was still keen on the idea.
The forstner bit when correctly seated could only drill to around 65-70 mm. Annoyingly this meant I had a deficit of 15-20 mm in the centre to cut out. Again, another black mark from the safety police but I just lowered the drill bit in the chuck as far as I felt comfortable until the difference was only 2-3 mm. I knocked this disc out with a file, with which I then cleaned the insides.
I could have used an auger bit to drill this length in one go but a) I don’t have the height on the drill to do this and b) I didn’t have a long enough bit.
As usual, this crude method rarely produces a straight, clean barrel so I cleaned up the small differences in bore with a round file, trying not to chip the edges.
For one of them, I needed to correct a large difference in the holes’ alignments so I used a flat bit on my cordless drill. I didn’t really care what happened to the inside as long as the ends were still clean, 25 mm diameter and the tube fits in.
The tubes would not sit within the wood until this had been remedied.
100 grit sandpaper removed the worst of the surface dents.
As an experiment, I used the drill press as a sanding station. I used a depth stop on my drill to stop it going too far and over-sanding. This sanding pad is soft and has a velcro connection for papers. I bought it for my lathe and was curious to see how it would work in the drill. Quite well is the result! I sanded the rest with finer grades of paper by hand.
I used a drum sanding bit on the drill press to clean up the inside edges. This was very effective at producing dust!
The tubes fit in snugly under their own self-weight. They are not intended to be filled when in the wood as any swelling could crack the glass and/or create stains.
Here’s a shot from below, there’s about 3-5 mm recess within the wood. In theory I could have cut them shorter to negate the need for the middle disc issue but these are a nice height.
I oiled them using some teak oil. Here they are standing next to some other projects I had on the go at the time.
I’ve not needed to coat them again but I may do in the future. I also turned a candlestick out of sapele on this day which is why it’s in this photo. See another page (link pending) for more on this. The cube in the foreground is from the yew log I mentioned, as can be seen below.
The woodworm was quite severe given that it’s been sat around for almost 50 years. I used the bandsaw to trim strips around 10 mm off each affected face but as you can see below, it wasn’t always enough! Interestingly they couldn’t penetrate the heartwood.
The small 10″ bandsaw took about 2-3 minutes to go through this without stalling once. The new blade helped.
I’ve used some of the offcuts in other projects (links pending), using glow in the dark resin for effect.
I was intending to make a small cup or bowl but the two ends of the log were split. The other became a small bowl (link pending) and became my first woodturned vessel. One of the split end pieces had a nice pattern and knot to it so I trimmed it on the table saw again and used a 22 mm forstner bit to drill most of the way in for smaller plastic test tubes to sit in. I then mounted the small spalted head figure in the other corner and cut two of the plastic test tubes down to reduce the cluttered effect. I’ll repeat the concept of course but there’s no chance I’ll get as lucky with the spalted patterns! Even the colour was natural, I have only cut and oiled it. I used offcuts from the bandsaw-ing of the yew to make a square for the base of the tall one and a similar method to turn the spalted figurine into a plant holder too.