Turned Bookends

In the Art Deco style

Overall dimensions: 13 1/4"w × 3 3/4"d × 6 3/8"h

Kip Christensen &
Rex Burningham

This unconventional woodturning lets you expand your repertoire of projects while creating an attractive gift item or functional piece for the home in the Art Deco style. We used tiger maple for the base and upright pieces and ebonized the rims and beads for an eye-catching touch of class. A 6 × 25" piece of kiln-dried 4/4 stock is all you need, while glue and screws hold the bookend assemblies together.

Turning the bookends blank

1. Joint the face and edge of a 1 × 6 × 25" board, and then crosscut it into two equal lengths. Next, glue the two halves together edge to edge. After the glue dries, sand or plane the back face smooth and flat. 

2. Locate the center of the glue-up panel, and use a compass or dividers to draw a circle of maximum diameter on the face. (Ours measured 11" in diameter.) Then cut it into a round disc on the bandsaw (Photo A). 

3. Mount the disc on the lathe by first drilling the pilot holes for the faceplate screws, locating them away from where saw cuts will be made when the disc is divided into quarters later. (Pay attention to the grain orientation as shown in the photo at right. Center the aceplate on the sanded side of the blank and secure it in place with screws. Now mount the assembly on the lathe.

4. Bring the tailstock into position against the blank for additional support until the roughing-out process is complete. Next, position the bowl gouge so the  bevel is parallel to the lathe bed and true up the blank’s edge, making push cuts from the back corner to the center, and from the front corner to the center. (Photo B).

5. Position the tool rest parallel to the face of the blank. Now rough-shape the face by holding the bowl gouge’s tool handle low and making light shear-scrape cuts while pulling the tool toward your body (Photo C).

B. Tool: 1/2" bowl gouge Speed: 400-500 rpm

C. Tool: 1/2" bowl gouge Speed: 400-500 rpm

6. Remove the tailstock and switch to a 3/8" spindle gouge to continue making light shear-scrape pull cuts as you form the half-beads at the rim of the blank (Photo D), following the bookend profile in Figure 1. Use the tip of the tool to make well-defined beads with small V-grooves at the bottom. The half-bead along the rim will later form a full bead after the disc is cut and reassembled. 

7. Turn the center bead by using a push cut with the bevel rubbing behind the cutting edge. Start from the top of the bead and work down each side. Make sure that the bottom of each side of the bead is crisp and clean (Photo E). 

8. Sand the completed face of the bead thoroughly. Begin with 120 grit and progress to 400 or 600. To keep the details clean and well formed, tear and fold your sandpaper into small pieces and use the corners to sand around the beads and into the V-grooves.

9. Apply friction burn lines in each of the V-grooves with a scrap piece of plastic laminate that has been sanded into a teardrop shape (like an oversized guitar pick) and taper-sanded on each face to create a sharp edge. With the blank spinning at 1000 rpm, firmly press the edge of the plastic laminate into the V-grooves and hold it in place until the black line appears (Photo F). The lines help define the beads by adding a color contrast to the piece. They also seal the pores of the wood at the bottom of the bead where you’ll apply the ebonizing stain, reducing the chance of having the stain bleed into areas where you don’t want it to go.

10. Using a black stain or dye, ebonize the half-bead at the rim and the center bead. To do this, bring the tool rest into position and turn the lathe to a very slow speed (about 25 rpm). Dip the cotton swab into the stain and, while supporting your hands on the tool rest, carefully apply the stain to the rotating blank (Photo G). Since the tip of the cotton swab is rather blunt, apply stain to the center portion of the bead only. Be careful to not apply stain to the bottom of the vee (where the beads intersect the flat surfaces).

11. Use a black Sharpie marker to ebonize the areas near the bottom of the vees. A marker with a very fine tip may be needed to keep the ink confined as needed. Here it is best to turn the lathe off and to rotate the spindle by hand while carefully adding the color (Photo H). 



12. Place paper or cloth on the lathe to prevent getting finish on the bed and headstock. With the lathe turning at about 30 rpm, apply a light coat of spray lacquer (Photo I). Avoid putting the lacquer on too heavily, because any lacquer runs will likely cause the stain to run as well. Apply three or four thin coats of finish. Lightly sand with 400 grit before applying the final coat. 

Cut the blank into bookend shapes and assemble 

1. After the finish has cured, remove the turned blank from the faceplate and bandsaw it into equal halves along the glue line (Photo J). Then, with the flat face down, carefully sand the cut clean using a disc sander or a sanding block. To make it easier to realign the grain when gluing the parts together, draw grain reference lines across the line of cut on the back of the disc. 

2. Find the center of each sawn edge and use a tri-square to transfer a line across the back of the blank. Lay down a length of tape on the face of the blank, and then use a flexible straightedge (here we are using a piece of plastic laminate) to draw a centerline across the face, bisecting each half into quarters (Photo K).

Tip Alert

When making layout lines on a finished surface, use painter’s tape to protect the finish and make the lines easier to see.

3. Return to the bandsaw and cut along the layout lines on each half, creating four quarters (Photo L). Use a belt or disc sander to smooth the sawn edges. To provide stability and prevent blow-out, the disc should be positioned with the finished face up while cutting and sanding. 

4. Glue the two quarters together, using the grain lines you made previously to book-match the grain at the ends. Apply a modest amount of yellow glue to the back of the mating pieces, align the edges, and hold them firmly by hand until the glue begins to tack. Then secure the glue-up in place with masking tape and hand screw. Let it cure for at least 30 minutes (Photo M).

5. After the glue dries, disc-sand the edges and ends flush and square (Photo N). Be careful to remove as little material as possible and to keep the corners square.



Making and adding the base

1. Cut a 1" (4/4) piece of kiln-dried matching wood to 4 × 15". (We used tiger maple.) Joint one face and edge and plane the piece to 3/4" thick. Rip and joint the piece to a finished width of 33/4". Lightly draw a centerline from end to end and use a compass to lay out the half circle on each end. 

2. Bandsaw the half-circle ends of the workpiece, cutting just outside the line. Disc-sand the bandsaw cuts to the line, removing saw marks.

3. Chuck a 3/8" round-over bit in your tablemounted router, and rout along the top edge of the base piece. Then sand and finish.

4. Set the turned bookend uprights in position on the base piece and visually judge what length to cut each half. (Our base pieces measured 6 3/4".) Mark and then crosscut each base section to length.

5. Center the turned bookends on the base, flushing the cut ends. Apply painter’s masking tape to the base to protect the finished surfaces. Then draw centerlines on the tape for alignment. Temporarily adhere double-faced tape to secure the bookends on the base pieces as shown (Photo O).

6. Mark and drill countersunk pilot holes through the base pieces and into the bookends where shown in Figure 2. (Note that the drill holes are positioned off-center so they are not in line with the face joint of the bookends. Also, we used a manual countersink for depth control.) Test the holes by fully installing the screws. Then remove the screws and the tape and permanently drive the screws in place. Spray two coats of lacquer onto the base and allow it to dry overnight. The next day, lightly sand the base with 400-grit sandpaper to remove nibs or drips, and then spray one final coat on the ends and bases to blend the parts together. 

About Our Pros

Accomplished woodturners Rex Burningham and Kip Christensen have produced several instructional DVDs including “Woodturning Projects with Rex and Kip,” Volumes 1-4, and “Turning Pens with Kip and Rex,” Volumes 1-2. The DVDs are available at Woodcraft.

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