The Travel Mugs Turning Project

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This project was my first experience in turning these Travel Mugs offered in a kit by Woodcraft.  This is a relatively new kit with a screw top lid.  In our online ad, it states, “Create a custom travel mug using your favorite wood or mixed media to produce a one-of-a-kind dramatic effect.  You can either turn the outer liner using a stave configuration or simply use solid wood blocks.  Although this kit is for an experienced turner, you will find that the hollowing techniques are easy to execute, and the results are nothing short of amazing.  Finished mugs make great gifts and are guaranteed to generate conversation around the office.  Kit contains 16 oz. stainless steel travel mug liner with screw cap lid.”


Now I’ve been turning for many years, but have never turned one of these mugs.  Although I would never consider myself an expert, especially in a first time try with any new project, you’ve got to start somewhere to gain experience no matter the project type!  In this case, I consulted with our turning guru, Ben Bice of our product development team, and decided to hollow out a Claro Walnut block as opposed to a staved configuration because I prefer the consistent wood grain look.  I experimented with a couple of design ideas before finally turning 2 mugs.  I purchased a 4″ x 8″ x 8″ block of Claro Walnut from Woodcraft as my choice of wood.  This would be enough to make 2 mugs.  I had previously purchased a block of Hawaiian Koa Burl from the AAW show and was saving it for this project as well.  You can never have too many wood choices!

In the design, there can be an option to fill the interior space between the inside diameter of the wood and the outside diameter of the mug kit with a spray insulation material that I first spoke of with a turner during the AAWshow this past June.  This insulation while expansive, does insulate the mug very well for both hot and cold beverages, but be careful, the hot stays hot for a long time and well, the cold, stays cold!  That being said, you have to consider how much spray insulation to use while not over pressurizing the expansive feature for possible pressure cracking to the wood shell.  So, I set out in search of a spray insulation that has the least amount of expansion characteristic, and found it in a product made by Dap.  This foam sealant will not over expand like most spray insulation products on the market.  I tested it first to make sure it did not over expand and found this low expansive quality was indeed true to it’s advertisement.


In my first turning of the claro walnut, I will share my mistake with you.  I thin-walled an area on the bottom of the wood shell creating a gap through to the interior! So be careful not to do this.  I will fix this with a segmented glue-up at a different time period.  Back to the drawing board as they say!

This time I approached the second block with a different exterior design!  I roughed in the outside shape, creating the lip tenon required for the stainless steel shell.  I then proceeded to hollow out the interior with a 2-1/4″ diameter Bormax Forstner Bit to a 6″ depth, allowing for an extra 1/2″ bottom space for the spray insulation.  There are a couple of ways to hollow out the remaining interior for the mug to fit.  One is to use the Easy Wood Full Size Rougher and Finisher Tools The other is to use the Hollow Roller System.  Why these 2 systems?  You need the length of these specific tools to get into the 6″ depth length required when filling with insulation, 5-1/2″ deep without.

After hollowing the interior shell, I fine tuned the lip exterior and final shape of the mug.  You’ll want to do this at a very gradual pace, checking the outside diameter frequently, taking only small cuts for the perfect fit.  I used my Groz Caliper Set for measuring this for fit.  In addition, here is a tip.  I fitted a plug bushing outside diameter to the interior diameter of the inside top lip of the mug shell.  This will support the thin area of the lip tenon.  Without using a bushing, this could cause chatter and cracking of the thin wall during final turning and fit.


I created 2 different methods for filling the insulation.  For the claro walnut, I filled from the top, adding small amounts, putting the steel mug inside the wood casing and removing to check the level as I pressed downward for final fit.  I did this about 4 or 5 times until I was satisfied that the insulation was just enough for final assembly.  For the Hawaiian Koa Burl, I filled insulation from the bottom using a pre-drilled hole, 1″ diameter Forstner Bitand plugging with a 1″ diameter dowel section, but it was not easy to see the insulation area being filled.  In future travel mug projects,  I plan on using the first method of filling from the top.  I sanded and prefer using the Abranet Assortment Pack of 80 through 600 grit discs because of the finish the pads leave, plus the product lasts a very long time.  I finished with 3-4 coats of Myland’s High Build Friction Polish, and top coated with Deft Clear Wood Finish Oil Based Gloss Aerosol Spray.


As a final touch, I measured, cut and applied Hafele Maroon self-adhesive peel-and-stick felt to the bottom of each travel mug.

The final products are ready for gift giving for any occasion!  The koa mug was gifted to my son Joey and the walnut mug was given to my cousin Ryan for Christmas.

Like any first time project, getting the hang of it is half the mind-set in planning and considering the details.  On to the next Woodworking Adventure with a Recipe Box, a couple of Pizza Cutters, and 2 cutting board projects.  All coming up with  “How-To” blogs, stay linked…

aud Wiedersehen…Frank!

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