HWA January project – Wine bottle coaster

Whilst it may seem a little late, due to the snow the February wood turning meeting got canceled and I got more time to complete the challenge set by Bill to make a wine bottle coaster.

I wasn’t being lazy, I used the extra time to work on my side table project.

In theory a wine bottle coaster is a little larger than a typical coaster and with a raised side, such that it is a dish with a flat bottom. Which in itself is a challenge because a bowl gets to have a sweeping curve and no tight corners, but if you need a flat bottom and sides you have to worry about getting a good finish into the corners.

However, when Bill set me the challenge someone else (and if you ever read this I’m sorry I don’t remember your name) suggested that for a real challenge I should make it with a raise rail held up by individual spindles.

Never one to shy away from a real challenge I was taken by the idea and began to plan. Very quickly I formed the idea that I would make the base and the rail in a light wood, and make all the spindles out of a contrasting dark wood.

I found the actual doing of this project very challenging (which was the idea) but I also appreciate now that I should probably have thought out the process a little more before I began. But sometimes it’s difficult to think it through until you’ve started some things and got an idea for sizes and scales etc.

I started by shaping the base out of a piece of ash. This was simply a case of smoothing off the surface and rounding the edges over at about the right diameter. I then used the indexing ring on my chuck to help me mark 8 evenly spaced points around the rim for where I would drill to insert the spindles.

Mistake No.1 I stupidly did not mark a ring at the distance from the edge I would drill. I simply marked by eye rougly the same inset… It would of been so easy to just spin it with a pencil against the right point to get a consistent point of reference.

Mistake No.2 well not so much a mistake as a limitation of my setup. Whilst my chuck has an indexing ring, I have no fixed point to use to locate in it to fix a position. So whilst I was using the indexing ring, I was aligning it by eye and that’s just not accurate enough. At least not for the way I was doing this…more on that later.

Having gotten this far I then figured I should try making a spindle to get an idea of what size would work, what shape etc. Again I should probably be able to design up front and just make the design. But I find it easier to form my ideas whilst I try things for real.

Once I’d made a couple of spindles and felt I could repeat the size and shape I drilled holes in the base at my marked points to accept the spindle ends. Then re-mounted it on the lathe for final sanding and finishing of the front. Later I used a narrow parting tool to part thee base section off. Leaving enough left to make the ring section from the same block.

Next I turned more spindles. I wound up doing them 3 at a time along a length of a dark wood. I have no idea what it is, it was given to me by Harry or Bill.

Once I had completed the spindles I checked how they fit in :


Then I set to work making the ring. To do this I figured out the internal diameter enough to be just a little wider than a wine bottle. Then I decided how wide I wanted the top rim. Which was mostly a factor of looking right with the spindles. I used a parting tool to form the ring by reducing the wide of the rest of the block. And then using the parting tool to cut in a little from the end to form the ring shape.

I decided that the outside would be the bottom of the ring so that I could mark it up to drill the holes for the spindles.

This is where Mistake No.1 comes back to bite me, I checked the diameter for the holes I’d already made in the base, in order to match up the ones in the ring. But of course they were all slight different! I did my best to get a good match anyhow. But when I took it off the lath to try and line it all up it became clear that it wasn’t going to work, the combination of my two mistakes meant that the spindles wouldn’t sit straight and aligned. So I decided to use a parting tool to create a recessed track the same width as the drilled holes. So that the tops of the spindles could sit anywhere in the track. This sort of got around the problem but was a generally unsatisfactory compromise.


Once I parted off the ring completely I wanted to be able to re mount it the other way up, and also re mount the base the other way up so that I could finish the underside better. Which led me into making a jig for the purpose. I may write a blog about that another time. For the moment I’ll just say that it worked well enough, but leaves a lot to be desired. Again the theme of accuracy and how the lack of it is a problem there.

I had a tough time getting a good finish on the ring. Partly because it’s a difficult thing to re mount and work on, and partly because I slipped up and gouged what had been a good surface and had to re-finish it under less than ideal holding conditions.

Assembling the whole piece was a fiddly process. In which I managed to get glue on the finish, and over used my gorilla glue which I’m still not used to. This meant that once all was said and done I had glue to clean off that had expanded way too much. And the finish is compromised by patches that I got glue on.

All of which makes it sound like a disaster. But in fact the finished piece is ok. Sure it’s not perfect, but there are things I’m happy with. The overall design, the contrasting colour of the spindles to the base and rail. And the face I did a reasonable job of making 8 matching spindles, fairly quickly.


And I’ve already had a test drive with it 🙂


I’ve got lots of thoughts on how I would make a better job in the future so it was at least a good learning experience.

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