Woodturner's Travel Mug

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This article is from Issue 20 from Woodcraft Magazine.

Here’s a great way to show off your lathe talents and give shape to a few last-minute holiday gifts.

Tom Schottle, this issue’s featured turner, liked this project so much he made six right off the bat, using a variety of woods and wood laminations. Of course, you'll need a lathe (“The bigger, the better,” says Tom; although we had success with a Jet mini lathe), a stainless steel mug kit, a hardwood blank (which you could buy or find in your firewood pile), two common chucks, and a few turning tools.

Let’s start turning

1 Mount the blank between centers as shown in Photo A. Then, using a roughing gouge and a slow lathe speed, round the blank to 3½" in diameter. Next, turn a tenon on one end to fit your chuck (see the Tip Alert) and mount the blank in your chuck.

2 To begin hollowing the rough-turned blank, mount a keyed drill chuck (often called a Jacob’s chuck) in the tailstock and chuck in a 21/8" Forstner bit. (This is the first of a two-part process that Tom uses to drill into end grain.) Now, drill a shallow (1") hole to establish a centered registration mark as shown in Photo B. Switch to a 1½" Forstner bit and bore in as deeply as possible into the blank, withdrawing the bit as needed to clear out the chips. Return to the larger Forstner bit and drill to the depth reached by the smaller bit. Repeat this sequence until you reach a depth of 511/16". (Tom says you can achieve the same result by hollowing out the hole using your favorite hollowing turning tool.)

3 To further hollow and taper the blank, make a copy of the full-sized Hollowing Template pattern from the Patterns section on page 77 and adhere it to a piece of ¼" scrap plywood. Bandsaw and sand the template to shape. Now, using your hollowing tool (Tom uses a OneWay Termite listed in the Buying Guide), taper the blank’s interior as shown in Photo C. Frequently test the tapered opening using the hollowing template as in Photo D. If nessesary, use a round nose scraper to form a centered recess in the bottom to accommodate the nib on the insert. When you’re satisfied, slip the stainless steel cup insert into the opening to test the fit. 

4 Using the Outside Face Template (see Patterns, page 77) for reference, mark the width and rough-taper the 3/8" rabbet of the outside top rim of the blank with a parting tool and 1" skew. Make it oversized at first. Next, trial-fit the cup insert’s flange over the rim. Take care it does not get stuck. Says Tom, “It can happen and can be almost impossible to remove.” Remove a little more material until the rim of the cup bottoms out in the flange recess.

Meet the Expert

Liberty, W.Va., resident Tom Schottle claims a lifelong addiction to woodturning, beginning with a preteen experience at a YMCA woodworking shop. A retired career Navy officer, Vietnam veteran, and former software development manager, he now enjoys demonstrating woodturning and selling his efforts at Tamarack, in Beckley, and other fine West Virginia galleries. You can email him at wvschott@msn.com.


While you may have everything but the travel mug kit, here’s a look at the items used in this turning and listed in the Convenience Plus Buying Guide on page 71.

1) Travel Mug Kit
2) Epoxy, Syringe
3) Hollowing Tool
4) 1" Oval Skew
5) Woodturning Chuck
6) Lathe Drill Chuck
7) 1½" Forstner Bit
8) 21/8" Forstner Bit
9) Seasoned hardwood blank

Design options & pointers: 

Ideally, a solid, dried hardwood blank measuring at least 3¾ × 3¾ × 8" makes a great cup, but it may not be that easy to get your hands on, unless you resaw a piece that size yourself or use our source. An attractive alternative is to laminate contrasting woods to make a blank, or use stave construction, which is explained in the mug kit instructions.

Consider also the finished dimensions. Tom recommends a maximum 3" diameter for the turned wood sleeve and a length of 6" tall. The lower half of the sleeve needs to taper to under 2¾" so it fits in your vehicle’s cup holder. Most importantly, however, is that the finished cup feels comfortable in your hand.

5 With the cup insert temporarily fitted in the blank, mark the bottom edge of the rabbet and use a skew to establish the top outside diameter of the wood sleeve (formerly the blank) as shown in Photo E. It should be slightly proud of the outside face of the flange to allow for sanding later.

6 Remove the cup insert and measure 6" down from the rim of the sleeve and mark a line. With a parting tool, turn to a 2¾" diameter at the outside edge of the line. Switch to a 1" skew or ½" gouge and taper the outside edge of the cup moving from the top outside sleeve diameter to the established bottom outside diameter as shown in Photo F.

7 Frequently check the outside taper with either the Hollowing Template (Photo G), or by making the Outside Face Template from ¼" scrap and using it. Use a caliper to gauge the wall thickness of the sleeve, being careful not to go thinner than 3/16". Fine tune the shape and test-fit the cup insert.

8 Smooth the sleeve using 100-, 150-, 180- and 220-grit sandpaper as shown is Photo H. Finally, part the sleeve from the blank end.

9 Now, using a parting tool, form a jam chuck (tenon) on the blank’s waste wood, sizing it to the inside diameter of the sleeve’s opening as in Photo I.

10 Fit the sleeve opening onto the jam chuck and slide up the tailstock with a ball bearing center to clamp the sleeve in place. Now, using a skew, form a concave bottom as shown in Photo J so the travel mug sits upright.

11 Remove the sleeve from the lathe and apply tape around the rabbet. Now finish it as desired. We used five coats of spray lacquer as shown in Photo K sanding and buffing the finish between coats. When choosing a finish, consider that the mug will occasionally be exposed to moisture during cleaning.

12 Mix up a small batch of five-minute epoxy and carefully daub it around the rabbet and on the upper inside surface of the sleeve.  Avoid applying so much that the epoxy is forced out under the insert and onto  the outside of the mug.Now, slide in the cup insert, tapping it gently with a block of wood and mallet until the bottom edge of the flange seats against the outside face of the sleeve. Let dry, then, with mug in hand, find a pot of coffee and fill’er up. 

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