Weekend Projects – Button Cylinder Pendant

Monday 9 July 2018

Utilising the simple, yet elegant, cylinder shape, a person at any woodturning skill level can create a unique version of this button cylinder pendant. Woodturning is a 3D art and a cylinder is one of the first items a turner learns how to create on a lathe. I used basic cylinder shapes in this project and incorporated offcentre techniques in a manner different than most eccentric turning. I invite you to work on design details with the thought that simplicity does not occur without consideration. This project emphasises that successful simplicity does not just happen; it comes with clean lines and precision.

Equipment used:

Spindle roughing gauge

Skew chisel

Detail gouge

EEE Ultra Shine paste wax

Pen turning jaws

Blue tape


Jacobs chuck

Eye screw

Necklace chain

PPE: latex gloves, facemask, respirator/dust mask

Selecting the wood

Pen blanks are a perfect fit to use to start this project. The bonus is you are able to get two pendants from each blank. Also, those small pieces of expensive, or highly figured woods left over from previous projects but too good to throw away, are potential resources for this project. Of course, any plain wood can be used as a canvas or to add a small decorated accent to the work. The design is meant to be straightforward and simple, so this is an opportunity for the wood to be the main feature. When selecting the blank stock, examine the grain of the wood – grain running the length of the piece or at an angle will be best for turning. A piece of burl is an excellent choice. Normally I don't like shiny finishes, but with this project I prefer the highly polished presentation on pieces of burl


After selecting your wood stock, set up the lathe for traditional spindle turning. Start by using a spindle roughing gouge to make quick work of turning the cylinder. When turning the cylinder shape, watch the horizon to get a true line. Crisp, clean lines are essential to the final look of the piece


With the lathe still in this setup, finish sand the cylinder to at least 800 grit. The finish is critical for a jewellery project. All tool or sanding marks must be removed. The EEE Ultra Shine paste wax is useful to create a nice shine if an exotic wood is used


After turning and sanding the cylinder, set up your chuck with extended pen turning jaws. They allow a longer reach for the piece and give you the ability to place the piece at an angle to create an interesting turned button – bead. Turn the cylinder over, looking for the side you think will look best in the front and select the most interesting side. The placement of the button position is important to the finished design. I prefer the button higher on the piece more towards the top, roughly following the golden rule of one-third and two-thirds on the bottom. To set up the angle, use blue tape placed on two sides of the cylinder, leaving the desired front open


This offers protection from jaw marks. You can then select a top and a bottom. The area you will turn is in the centre of the jaws, so place the top of the piece flush with the top of the jaws, angling out the bottom of the cylinder towards you


Here is the piece mounted and viewed from the side


When the piece is set up, the results will be a turned button that has a longer swoop – or plunge – at the bottom, which helps to add an interesting detail. Before you turn on the lathe, always test to make sure the wood is secure in the jaws. While turning, the gouge should be in the same position as you use for turning a bead. Start with the flute up and end with the flute on the side


The button – bead – can vary in size and diameter. When making a narrow or wide bead shape, always ensure to check depth: too deep and the bottom overpowers the cylinder; too shallow and the proportions are off. When you've finished turning with the detail gouge, turn a small detail at the bottom of the button using a skew chisel. Smooth up the edges with abrasives when necessary. Inspect to make sure no tool marks are showing and sand as needed – with the lathe switched off


Now set the button back up for spindle turning in the same exact position as your first spindle set up. You should inspect and fix any imperfections that you find. Then, proceed to sand, starting at about 400 grit, then use the paste wax to put on a finish


The next step is to set up to turn the offset accent by positioning the top of the pendant so that the button is a little higher on the piece. If looking at the tailstock, move the piece of wood one centre point width away from you to create the offcentre accent


You can then begin to turn the offcentre accent at the top of the pendant. Then, using a skew chisel, turn the top offcentre accent piece


In this photo, you can clearly see the offset turned cut


Clean up the top edge with a skew chisel slicing cut and on the bottom, make a clean slice, also using the skew. These cuts take off the wood where the live centre has left marks. Then, shape the top and bottom. Change the setup of the lathe, putting a Jacobs chuck into the headstock and with a sanding pad inserted into the Jacobs chuck. You could also use the drill press with a sanding pad or a belt sander. Sand and shape the top to be flat, leaving one slight indent in the centre as a mark for the next step. I like an angle to add interest, which also provides the person wearing the piece with a place to handle


You now need to fit an eye screw on top of the cylinder. Correct proportions in selecting an eye screw size is critical here: too large or small will quickly spoil the look of the piece, as will its position. Test fit in a scrap piece of wood before drilling into your piece. Once drilled to suit the eye screw selected, apply adhesive to the eye screw and fix in place. Pliers are handy here and will help to hold the eye screw in place


Decide on the desired drop distance from the neck the pendant will hang and choose a chain that will best suit the wood, the size and design characteristics of the piece. The finished pendant should look something like this