Making Wooden Fruit

The woodscrew chuck is a most useful piece of equipment and can be used to good effect to make wooden fruit. Apples and pears are particularly good sellers, and allow some of the many short ends of wood which we all accumulate to be put to profitable use.


I prefer the stalks of both apple and pear to leave the fruit at an angle, and this factor influences the chucking techniques. My method means that slightly longer stock than normal is required, but I am quite happy to waste a little wood to make the fruit more natural-looking. Accordingly, the stock required is of 3" square section and 4" long (76 x 76 x 102mm).

Choice of wood

Exotic hardwoods can produce stunning grain patterns, but for some people the cost of such species can be prohibitive — particularly in the early learning stage, when mistakes are not unusual. Native hedgerow and garden trees or shrubs can also produce dramatic grain. Yew wood, laburnum, cherry and plum are eminently suitable, as are spalted woods, particularly beech. I have used North American tulipwood for both the sequence photographs and the finished examples. 


Mount the wood between centres and prepare it for the woodscrew chuck using Method 2 above. Taking light cuts with the roughing-out gouge, reduce the stock to the suggested 2-3/4" (70mm) diameter. The profiling can now commence at the open end (the stalk end), using a 3/8" (10mm) spindle gouge. A rolling action is required to form the rounded-over section, merging into a swinging, scooping action to form the undercut profile. At a distance of 2-3/4" (70mm) from the open end, size in with a parting tool to a diameter of approximately ¾" (19mm). The remainder of the profiling down to the depth of the sizing cut can now be completed with the same tool. Before reverse-chucking it is necessary to sand and polish the completed section, and also to drill the 1/8" (3mm) hole to accommodate the stalk.

Stop the lathe and drill the hole to a depth of about 1/2" (13mm) and at an angle of about 15°. Fig 6.61 shows the drilling operation, and Fig 6.62 shows the profiling thus far.  

This article is excepted from Woodturning A Foundation Course By Keith Rowley.

The underside or blossom end now needs to be profiled, and in order to do this it is first necessary to mount a short length of 3"square (76 x 76mm) softwood on the screw chuck and gouge out a shallow hemisphere to take the stalk end of the apple on a gentle push fit. By locating the tailstock revolving centre in the exposed screw hole, gentle pressure can be applied to ensure stability and true running. If necessary, line the wooden jam-fit chuck with soft tissue paper to prevent damage to the polished area. 

Now reduce the waste wood down to about 1/4" (6mm) diameter to allow access for a ¼” spindle gouge to refine the base (Fig 6.63). The final little raised nib which represents the blossom end can be refined with the tailstock removed, taking very light, delicate cuts (Fig 6.64). It is important that the blossom end does not protrude beyond the main profile, or the apple will not stand up. The sanding and polishing process can then be completed. 

My final touches to the blossom end are to 'rough it up' a little with a skew chisel, and finally burn and blacken it with a pyrography unit. A hot poker or soldering iron will serve the same purpose. 


My method is to prepare 3/8” stock about 5” long (10 x lO x 127mm) and turn it to a cylinder between centres. This is then transferred to the Jacobs chuck and fixed in the headstock mandrel. The tailstock can provide gentle pressure while the stalk is profiled (starting at the tailstock end), sanded, polished and parted off. This procedure allows me to make three stalks on one fixing. The top end of the stalk can now be sanded to the angle required. Fig 6.65 gives dimensions of a typical stalk, which is subsequently glued into the top of the apple. 


The shape of natural pears (and apples) varies considerably, but I prefer to maintain some kind of uniformity in both designs. By referring back to Fig 6.62 it will be seen that the largest diameter of the apple is equal to the length, and to me this looks in proportion. Similarly, I consider that the length of a pear should exceed the largest diameter by about 1” (25mm). Accordingly, a minimum 4-3/4” length of 3” square section (120 x 76 x 76mm) is required to fulfil the desired proportions.

This article is excepted from Woodturning A Foundation Course By Keith Rowley.

Choice of wood

As described  for the apple.


The methods and techniques used for producing the pear are identical to those used in turning the apple. The only things that are different are the profile and the overall length (Fig 6.66). It will also be necessary to produce another jam-fit chuck in softwood. This can be hollowed out to approximately 1 in (25mm) diameter to receive the stalk end of the pear in the reverse-chucking process (Fig 6.67). The stalk can be identical to the apple stalk.


1. Regular practice using the four basic tools on the three basic profiles, will inevitably lead to rapid improvement.

2. For the novice woodturner, the 1” (25mm) oval—section skew chisel is a must for planing straight cylinders and slow contours. Used as described, it will quickly instil confidence. 

3. In bead cutting, the spindle gouge is presented on its back and rolled on to its side. 

4. In cove cutting, the spindle gouge is presented on its side and rolled on to its back. 

5. The ½” (13mm) skew chisel is indispensable for cutting crisp intersections, fillets and general tidying up. 

6. It is a fundamental principle of woodturning that the bevel or grinding angle is lined up with the intended shape to be cut.

7. Much pleasure can be derived from the making of small-section hollowware on the screw chuck, so ensure you practise your hollowing-out techniques frequently.

8. Making simple objects like apples and pears builds confidence and offers practice in producing balanced, flowing profiles.

This article is excepted from Woodturning A Foundation Course By Keith Rowley.

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