General Guidance on Materials Used in Ornamental Turning

The Wood Database is a great online reference tool, so links to that site are added where relevant. Images of the wood on this site are courtesy of Eric Meier at The Wood Database. As a side note, Eric has created a poster showing the woods in a form that is really nicely done. I have one in my shop and reference it often.

Eric posted a list of the Top Ten Hardest Woods. I'd bet any of the woods on this list (except Snakewood) would work well.

Finishing: Most ornamental turning pieces are not finished. If you choose to finish your work :

  • using something simple with a low sheen is recommended, and
  • test the finish on an unnecessary piece.

That last bullet is very important : My experience with trying to finish a very hard wood with shellac was a super fail, as was lacquer.

One product I like using is Tried & True's Original Wood Finish. I don't burnish with steel wool as I don't want to mess up the sharpness of the details, but a cloth works well.

Prototyping: Many woods used in ornamental turning are very expensive. If you use one of those, particularly if you want to make something you've never made, I recommend making a prototype using another, less expensive wood (e.g., Ash or Maple). This enables you to:

  1. ensure the design is what you want, and
  2. that you have worked out all the details about how you will work achieve that design (i.e., the order of operations).

Materials Overview: Bonnie Klein gave this presentation on about various materials she uses. She gave this presentation at the 2018 Ornamental Turners International Symposium.

Using Multiple Materials: Bill Ooms gave this presentation on using multiple materials in the egg he made which is similar to a Faberge egg. The egg is made from African Blackwood, Maple, Brown Ivory wood, and sterling silver.


About this site
Disclaimer : eMail comments to me at OTBookOfKnowledge @ Gmail.com. The process of woodturning involves the use of tools, machinery and materials which could cause injury or be a health hazard unless proper precautions are taken, including the wearing of appropriate protective equipment.