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This article was published in the November 2019 issue of More Woodturning

Overlay Ornament as 21 page pdf

Overlay Ornament without drawings as 10 page pdf

Overlay Ornament

Overlay Ornament

Smiling Sun Overlay Ornament.  Yellowheart sun, Maple cap, Blue shatterproof ornament.


Originally I was going to call this article Obtarsia Ornament (for intarsia on an orb).  But I make a batch of ornaments for relatives and friends each year and the idea of making that many ornaments with many little parts was too daunting.   So, I decided to use simpler designs and a less ambitious sounding name.  You could, of course, use the techniques and jigs to make a full intarsia ornament.  I made a red-nosed reindeer.  Once.

The design the photos will follow is a smiling sun.  The link in References will link to patterns for a smiling moon, a smiling star, and a menacing cloud, (I think of this motif as Anthropomorphic Sky, but I’ll continue with the less ambitious names), as well as some heart patterns I used to personalize the ornaments for my grandkids.  The photos will show using a “shatterproof” (plastic) ornament, but again, you could turn your own sphere.

First shown is a cutter and swiveling post jig that fits in your tool rest banjo.  An overlay blank is chucked with aids and hollowed to match the curve of the ornament.  The blank is reversed and turned convex.  The blank is drilled for eyes and mouth using a hemisphere jig on a drill press.  Then the blank is sawn to match the pattern using a curved jig on a scroll saw.  Some slight carving is done to accent the sun’s features.  Eyes are turned and inserted.  A finial blank is hollowed convex using the hollowing jig, then reversed and turned.  A hanger is made from twisted and then flattened wire to give a chain effect, and the ornament is assembled.

The Cutting Tool

Prepare 1/2” drill rod for the cutting tool by cutting it 10” long.  Ensure the ends are reasonably square and bevel them slightly as in the top image of Figure #1.  Select a 3/16” square tool bit and an I drill bit.  If you use a different sized bit you can determine the round hole it will fit best into with a set of drill gauges as in the bottom image of Figure #1. 


Figure #1:  Prepare the cutting tool shaft and select a drill size to match the tool bit.

Now mount the drill rod in a chuck for drilling a mounting hole for the tool bit.  You can use a 3-jawed chuck, #1 jaws in a 4-jawed chuck, or the base jaws of a 4-jawed chuck.  Choke up on the rod as much as possible.  Use a combined drill and countersink, or some other short centering drill to start a well centered hole in the end of the drill rod as in the upper image of Figure #2.  Then mount the drill bit that matches the corner to corner distance of the tool bit in a drill chuck and drill the end of the drill rod as in the bottom image of Figure #2.  Some lubrication will help.  It’s not necessary to drill the entire length of the tool bit, as you can cut the tool bit in half.  After drilling the hole make sure the tool bit fits. If you have trouble getting a center hole started due to vibration because your lathe isn’t bored to accept more than 3/8” diameter so you can’t choke up on the rod as much, then use a 5” length instead of 10” and turn a separate wooden handle.


Figure #2:  Center drill and drill a hole for the tool bit in the rod.

Now drill and tap the rod for a set screw.  I used a 1/8” long 1/4x20 set screw.  The cutting tool should be able to slip through a 1/2” hole in the swivel post, which is why you have to use such a short set screw.  Unless you frequent a very well stocked hardware store, you’ll probably have to order them from an industrial supplier.  Use a center punch or a centering drill 3/8” from the end of the rod to start the drill.  Select a #7 drill bit and mount it in your drill press.  Clamp the rod to the drill press table and drill through the rod as in the left image of Figure #3.  You’ll notice in the image that the table is lower than one would normally use for a bit of this size.  This is so you won’t have to disturb the alignment of the drill head and table by changing the height for the next step.  Insert a mini-tap guide in the drill press chuck and use it to align a 1/4x20 tap as in the right image of Figure #3.  Tap the threads.


Figure #3:  Drill and tap for a set screw.

Cut a 4-1/2” wide strip lengthwise from a sheet of self-stick 2mm craft foam.  Roll it around the rod at the end opposite the set screw as in Figure #4.  You can overwrap the craft foam with duct tape.  Sharpen the end of your tool bit to a round end.  Insert the tool bit in the end of the rod so that the bit sticks out about 1/4” and tighten the set screw.  Buy or make a 1/2” locking collar.  You can buy one from an Industrial Supplier.  You can make one from any material that will take threads.  If you use non-metal materials use a long (5/8” or longer) setscrew or thumbscrew with lots of thread engaged.  Possibilities include drill rod, plywood with a metal cross rod to take threads, steel pipe filled with wood, solid PVC, PVC pipe filled with wood, etc.  Put the locking collar on the cutting tool. This completes the cutting tool.


Figure #4:  Roll on foam for the handle.

Soft Setscrew

The cutting tool must be able to slide back in forth in the swivel post, and the swivel post must be able to turn in the tool rest banjo.  With steel on steel, if the fit is loose enough to allow movement then it’s loose enough to rattle about.  This problem can be solved by using a setscrew that allows for movement.  I tried several things.  I bought some ball end setscrews and they worked, but the hardened ball marked the softer steel post and tool cutter.  I tried drilling into the end of a bolt and inserting a pad of UHMW.  This worked nicely, but the UHMW pad doesn’t last long.  I tried turning a UHMW rod to 3/8” and cutting threads on it with a die, and this worked okay, but the threads were oversize, and worse, it snapped off after a few uses.  The best solution seems to be threaded nylon.

You can make the soft setscrew out of a nylon bolt, a nylon thumbscrew, or threaded nylon rod.  I used 3/8x16 nylon bolts because that’s what the banjo on my Powermatic takes and because I had two.  If you have thumbscrews and want to preserve the thumb operated part, you can chuck up the thumbscrew by drilling and tapping a wood cylinder and using a lock nut.  Then mount in your chuck.

The head of my nylon bolt was not finger friendly, so I cut it off.  Mount the threaded nylon in a chuck (collet chuck or #1 jaws of a 4-jawed chuck) and turn the nose round as in the top image of Figure #5.  I found that the nylon did not thread easily into my tool rest banjo, particularly the portion where I had extended the threads with a die.  This was either because the threads the banjo were gunked up, or the nylon threads were oversize, or both.  If you have the same problem, then you can “chase” the threads a little smaller.  Select a small triangular file.  Turn the lathe on in reverse at a slow speed (this way the file will run off the end of the rod instead of into your chuck).  Bring a corner of the file into the bottom of the threaded rod a few times as in the middle image of Figure #5 and test the fit.  If you used a cut off bolt or threaded rod you can add sliding crosspiece.  Select a reasonably sized nail.  Select a drill bit slightly larger than the nail and drill through the nylon about 3/8” from the unrounded end.  Cut the nail to the length you want and insert it through the hole in the nylon.  Wind a narrow strip of duct tape around the cut end to serve as a retainer as in the bottom image of Figure #5.


Figure #5:  Make two soft setscrews.

Swivel Post

First determine how long the swivel post should be.  Measure the distance between the top of the Banjo and the lathe center.  Measure the length of the tool rest that can be inserted in the Banjo.  The length of the swivel post would be:

(post length) = (Banjo to lathe center) + (tool rest post) + (3/4” for set screw) – (1/4” adjustment room)

Cut a steel rod of the same diameter as your tool rest post to this length.  Drill rod or cold rolled steel from the hardware store will do.  Lightly bevel the ends with a grinder as in the top image of Figure #6.  Make sure that the post will fit in your banjo.  If it does not you can mount the post in a chuck (#1 or base jaws), turn the lathe on to a slow speed, and use a file to reduce the diameter.  Any flat file will work, but did you know that you can get files especially made for use on a lathe from industrial suppliers?  A low angle lathe file doesn’t  have teeth on the edges, and the teeth on the faces are at a steeper angle.

Mark the post 3/4” from one end.  Mount it on your drill press table.  Use a combined drill and countersink or other centering drill to start a hole as in the middle image of Figure #6.  Then use a 1/2” drill bit to drill through the post as in the bottom image of Figure #6.


Figure #6:  Cut the post to length and drill a hole for the cutting tool.

Mount the post in a chuck on your lathe with the drilled end out.  Use a combined drill and countersink to start a hole in the end of the post as in the top image of Figure #7.  Then mount the appropriate tap drill (5/16” for 3/8x16) and drill through the end of the post to the previously drilled hole for the cutting tool, as in the middle image of Figure #7.  Lock the lathe spindle and mount a mini-tap guide in a drill chuck in the tailstock.  Engage the appropriate tap by advancing the mini-tap guide and cut the threads by turning the tap as in the bottom image of Figure #7.  You could leave the spindle unlocked and mount the tap in the drill chuck and advance the tailstock while you turn the chuck, but it’s less accurate and more bother than using a tap guide.


Figure #7:  Drill and tap the end of the post for the soft setscrew.

Mount the post in your tool rest banjo and try the fit of the cutting tool.  Unless you drilled an oversize hole it will be too tight.  Use a round file to slightly enlarge the hole as in the top image of Figure #8.  Check the fit frequently until the cutting tool slides in nicely as in the bottom image of Figure #8.


Figure #8:  Adjust the fit of the cutting tool in the post.

Slide a locking collar (bought or homemade) onto the post.  Insert the cutting tool and the soft setscrew to hold it in place.  Place a center in the headstock.  Now adjust the locking collar on the post so that the cutting edge of the tool bit in the cutting tool is at the level of the point on the center in the headstock as in Figure #9.  For these photos I made a post for my Oneway 1018 because I already had made and modified a post for my Powermatic.  The Oneway used a bolt and pad in the banjo and it was easier to just drill and tap a hole for a soft setscrew.


Figure #9:  Adjust the locking collar so that the cutter is at the center of the lathe.


I tried several ways of holding the overlay blanks for turning, particularly the convex turning.  I used the blue tape method to hold the blank on a hemisphere mandrel which is great if you’re trying to match the curve by eye.  But when cutting out shapes from the blank this isn’t needed and is needlessly involved.  I tried making plywood auxiliary collets (patterns in reference) for my 4-jawed chuck but these required close attention to blank size.  Making a pair of spacers for the 4-jawed chuck turned out to be quicker to use and more tolerant of blank size variations.

For the first (for concave cutting) spacer, select material that is about 1/8” less than the jaw height of your #2 jaws (mine are 1/2” high).  Cut out a disc slightly less than 2” in diameter by cutting on the inside of a 2” circle drawn on the stock.  Optionally insert a rare earth disc magnet flush with the surface near the rim to hold it in place while chucking up blanks.

Now cut a 2-1/2” disc out of 1/2” or 3/4” plywood.  Mount it in your chuck using the spacer and turn it to a thickness that is 1/16” less than the jaw height of your chuck as in the top image of Figure #10.  Mark the center of the disc.  Draw right angle lines through the center.  Draw a 2” circle centered in the disc.  Draw lines parallel and 1/16” away to both sides of the right-angle lines outside the 2” circle.  Now cut on the parallel lines and inside the 2” circle so that you have little tabs every 90° on the disc.  The tabs will fit in between the jaws of your chuck and ensure the concave rim of the blank registers properly on the spacer even if the blank is slightly over or under size.  Optionally add a magnet to the tabbed spacer as well.  The bottom image of Figure #10 shows the completed spacers.


Figure #10:  Make spacers to aid in turning the overlay blanks.

Turn the Overlay Blank

Rather than trying to measure the thickness of the overlay blank while turning I decided to let the thickness of the stock I started with determine the thickness.  For common 80mm (just about 3-1/8”) shatterproof balls, and a 2” blank, the concave side of the blank will be hollowed to 0.36”.  So, a blank that is 0.5” thick will end up being about 1/8”.  I’m sure there’s a formula for the height of a spherical cap, but it was easier for me to just draw it with my CAD program.  The drawing can be found in the references.  The 2” diameter of the blank and ~1/8” thickness is just what I liked, so of course you can use whatever diameter and thickness you prefer.  However, thicker blanks are heavier and will make the ornament hang tilted unless you put a design on both sides.  Usually only one side can be seen of an ornament hung on a tree.

Prepare a 2” overlay blank either by cutting a disc on the bandsaw or an octagon on table saw or bandsaw from 1/2” thick stock.  Use the plain 3/8” spacer to mount the blank in your 4-jawed chuck with #2 jaws as in the top image of Figure #11.  Turn as much of the blank round as you can without hitting the jaws with your bowl gouge.  Use a pencil while the lathe is spinning to make a small circle at the center of the blank as in the bottom image of Figure #11.


Figure #11:  Mount the overlay blank and turn it round.

Remove the tool rest from your banjo and mount the hollowing jig.  Calculate how far the nose of the tool bit should protrude from the swivel post. The radius of the concave side of the blank must match the radius of the ball, which for 80mm ornaments is 1.56”.  Subtract the radius of the swivel post, which for a 1” post is 0.5”, giving a protrusion of 1.06”.  For other size balls or posts:  Protrusion = (Radius of ball) – (Radius of post).  Snug up the soft setscrews to remove slop.  Use dial calipers to set the lock collar on the cutting tool so that you have the correct protrusion as in Figure #12.


Figure #12:  Set the protrusion of the cutting tip.

Make a spacer that you can put between the locking collar and the swivel post that is as deep as you want to cut (0.36” for a 80mm ball and 2” blank).  Cut a rounded end slot rather than just drilling a hole so you can slip it off without removing the cutting tool.  There’s a pattern in references.  Slip the spacer between post and locking collar, advance the cutter as far as it will go, and snug up the soft setscrew.  Now adjust the banjo so that the cutter tip is in the center of the circle on the blank and the cutting tool shaft is aligned with the axis of the lathe as in Figure #13.  It’s generally easier to lock the banjo without disturbing the alignment if the banjo is more or less aligned with the lathe axis and the slide that locks it in place is at least midway towards the far end.


Figure #13:  Align the jig.

Remove the spacer between locking collar and post.  Adjust the soft setscrews so that you can move the cutting tool in and out and swivel the post without them being sloppy.  Now hollow the blank.  Starting near the center cut towards the center by swiveling the post.  Swivel the post back out and advance the cutter slightly and cut again.  Continue until the locking collar nears the post.  You can turn the cutter to a shear cutting position and continue to hollow until the locking collar is flush with the post.  If, due to slight alignment errors, you reach the edge of the blank before the locking collar is flush with the post, continue cutting or the radius of the blank won’t match the ball.  Figure #14 shows cutting the hollow in the top image and the completed concave side of the blank in the bottom image.Fig14

Figure #14:  Hollow the overlay blank.

Remove the blank and plain spacer from the chuck.  Insert the tabbed spacer with the tabs in between the jaws as in the top image of Figure #15.  Mount the blank in reverse in the chuck as in the bottom image of Figure #15.


Figure #15:  Reverse mount the overlay blank.

Use a small gouge, optionally followed by a shear cutting tool such as a pyramid point tool, to round over the blank.  Be careful not to hit the jaws with your tools.  The top image of Figure #16 shows the rounded over blank.  If you are doing a pattern other than the sun you can stop cutting at this point and sand the blank smooth.  If you making the sun, then make a V-groove where you want the sun to stop and the flames of the corona to begin.  I used a 1-1/4” diameter sun.  Round over the edges of the V-groove and then sand the blank smooth as in the bottom image of Figure #16.


Figure #16:  Turn the convex side of the blank.


Draw the sun pattern on the turned overlay blank.  Begin by orienting the blank the way you want it on the ball.  If you turn your own ball, then orient it to match the grain direction.  Draw a pencil line vertically through the center of the blank.  Measure down 1/2” from the rim of the sun (not from the tips of the rays).  Measure out 1/4” and mark on either side of the line from the 1/2” point.  Measure up 7/16” from the rim of the sun and mark on the vertical line as in Figure #17.  The marks are where to drill for the eyes and an access hole to cut out the mouth.  Or just draw a face you like.


Figure #17:  Locate hole placement.

But what if you want to try one of the other patterns in references (or one of your own) and think you can’t draw?  It is rather difficult to transfer a paper pattern to a surface curved in two dimensions without ending up with a wrinkled mess or ending up with a headache from trying to figure out how globe makers cut their maps.  Here are some things you could try:

Draw a grid on your pattern and your blank.  The easiest grid would be vertical and horizonal lines through the center, and then halfway to the rim of each.  Then copy the pattern a square at a time.  This will at least keep things in proportion.

Print out the pattern and cover the paper with clear packing tape.  Put the old-fashioned blond masking tape over the pattern you want to copy.  Lightly sand the masking tape so that it will accept pencil marks better.  Then trace the pattern.  Remove the tape and cut out the circle (or just the patterned area plus a margin for the crescent moon, for instance).  Masking tape (except for clean edge variants) is crepe paper (slightly wrinkled) with adhesive on one side and a coating on the other.  Smoothing out the wrinkles allows it to adapt somewhat to multiple curves.  You can gently stretch out the middle of the circle to a dome with your fingers (practice first).  Then place centered on the blank and smooth it out starting from the center.  You may end up with a few wrinkles that you’ll have to interpolate between.

Kitchen paper towels are also somewhat wrinkled.  You could tape one ply of a white paper towel on the pattern and trace it.  Then remove and gently stretch the middle to a dome (practice first).  Cover the blank with masking tape and spray the towel with adhesive and attach.

If you want distinct crisp lines to cut to you can try printing directly on masking tape or paper towel.  This method assumes you have an ink jet with a single page feed.  Make a carrier by covering a sheet of printer paper with blue tape.  Apply blond masking tape on the area where the pattern is.  Or tape on a small section of single ply paper towel. Remove the pattern and apply as in the previous sections.

You can also use crepe paper rolls.  The streamers I’ve seen aren’t wide enough.  But I found rolls (or folded sheets) online—20” x  8’.  Crepe paper has deeper wrinkles and adapts better to curves.  Although I did manage to feed just the crepe paper through my ink jet, using a carrier sheet would be more reliable.  Make a carrier sheet out of a sheet of printer paper.  Use double stick tape (I used the kind made for drop cloths) in a T shape, across the lead edge and down the center of the printer paper.  The roll crepe paper is a little hard to see through to trace.  You can make a make-shift light box by clamping a light in your vise and placing a pane of clear plastic over the vice.  To apply the crepe paper, stretch the middle gently with your fingers.  Apply masking tape to the overlay for ease of removal.  Then use either spray adhesive on the crepe paper or smear out a thin layer of wood glue on the masking tape if you want a window of repositionability.

Drill and Saw

It looks better if holes are drilled radially (particularly if you use the holes for eyes).  It’s also nice to have the blank supported right under the drill to avoid breakout and stressing the blank.  This is easily done by clamping a hemisphere with the same radius as your ball to your drill press table centered under the drill.  As I habitually keep a cross vise on my drill press, I clamped the hemisphere using the same square tenon I used to mount it to my chuck for turning.  The left image of Figure #18 shows the hemisphere mounted on the drill press.  Chuck a 5/32” drill bit in the drill press and drill holes at the marks for eyes and mouth as shown in the right image of Figure #18.


Figure #18:  Drill holes for eyes and mouth.

Now complete the pattern.  Draw recurved eyebrows that are tangential to the top of the eye holes.  Then draw the mouth and cheeks.  I think it looks better if the flames, regardless of style (you can see several styles in references), vary.  So, I just made lines at 8 points (North, Northeast, East, etc.) to serve as a rough guide.  Figure #19 shows the completed pattern.


Figure #19:  The finished pattern.

When sawing, just as with drilling, it’s better if the cut line is radial (multiple pieces fit together better if you yearn for Orbtarsia).  And if you tried sawing out the sun’s rays with the middle of the blank unsupported some of the rays would surely break.  There isn’t room under the top arm of the scroll saw for an entire hemisphere plus the overlay blank and your fingers.  My set-up has a total height of about 1-1/4”.  I’ve mounted a spherical cap on a magnet impregnated piece of Masonite for ease of mounting.  For limited use blue tape on both surfaces and CA glue would work fine.  Saw to the center of the spherical cap first with a medium blade (say #7) so you know where to locate the cap on the table.  The top image of Figure #20 shows the spherical cap mounted on the scroll saw.  If you don’t have a scroll saw you might be able to make the cuts with a fret saw and a vise mounted bird’s mouth, but I haven’t tried.  You could also carve the eyebrows and mouth and cut the rays with a fine-toothed band saw and a supporting spherical cap temporarily attached to the blank.  You could also buy a scroll saw.  It’s a nice tool for making fine controlled cuts.  I’ve had access to one most of my life and I can testify that I’ve never felt an uncontrollable urge to make a baroque clock or painted geese silhouettes.

Use the drilled access holes to make the interior cuts for the eyebrows and mouth as in the bottom-left image of Figure #20.  Then cut the rays as in the bottom-right image of Figure #20.  Figure #21 shows the sun after the sawing is complete.


Figure #20:  Sawing out the pattern.


Figure #21:  The sun after sawing out the pattern.

Erase any left-over pencil marks.  Optionally do a little carving with a small blade around the eyes, eyebrows, mouth, and cheeks as in Figure #22.


Figure #22:  The sun after a little detail carving.


A 3/8” turning square, with a little scraping on the corners or driving through a sizing plate, fits nicely in a 1/2” collet.  You could use #1 jaws on a 4-jawed chuck but that’s not as finger friendly.  Mount the walnut or other dark wood turning square with about 1” exposed.  Turn the exposed portion down to near 5/32” diameter (this is good and non-scary skew practice if you’re not confident using one).  Turn a taper on the end as in the top image of Figure #23.  Select a drill sizing gauge (or drill a 5/32” hole in a piece of steel).  Put a finger on the 5/32” hole so you know which one to use and push it onto the turned taper.  This will create a 5/32” shoulder on the taper as in the bottom image of Figure #23.  Turn the rest of the exposed portion to 5/32” diameter using the shoulder as a guide.  Optionally use the drill gauge on the entire turned portion.


Figure #23:  Prepare the eye stock.

Round over the end of the eye stock and sand the end.  Use a 1/16” parting tool to cut a groove where the eye will end as in the top image of Figure #24.  How long to make the eye depends on the thickness of your sun but doesn’t need to be precise.  It only needs to be long enough to hold as a non-stressed glue joint, and not so long that it protrudes out the back and keeps the concave side of the sun from fully contacting the ball.  Now finish cutting off the eye with a small skew.  Place the skew horizontally on the tool rest with the long point down.  The right bevel of the skew should align with the back of the eye.  Hold the eye with fingers of your other hand and push the skew straight in as in the bottom image of Figure #24.  This will cut off the eye without an annoying stub on the end which might protrude beyond the back of the sun.  If you don’t feel confident with a skew just cut off using a narrow parting tool and trim off any stub if necessary.  Repeat to make a second eye.


Figure #24:  Shape and cut off the eyes.

Insert the eyes into the sun so that they protrude slightly on the convex face.  You should be able to adjust the position of the eye by covering the eye hole with a finger on the convex face so the eye doesn’t go flying out while pushing from the back with something small and round like a bamboo skewer.  When you have the eyes positioned equally place a drop of CA glue on the back of the eye to glue them in place.  Figure #25 shows the sun after adding the eyes.


Figure #25:  The sun with eyes.

Finish and Attach

You can finish the overlay using whatever method suits you.  I used a brushed on coat of lacquer based sanding sealer followed by spray lacquer to finish the overlays.  I used different methods to hold the overlays for drying.  For pieces with openings, such as the sun, I used tapered dowel inserted in the opening.  For overlays without openings, such as the moon, I used blue tape on a dowel.  I wound tape about half overlapping the end of a dowel and made slits in the exposed tape and bent the segments outward.  The dowels would then be held in a block with holes as shown in Figure #26.  Hot melt glue and dowels would also work.  Generally hot melt sticks more aggressively to the object it’s applied to, so there would be less need for clean up on the overlay back if the hotmelt was applied to the dowel.  For very small pieces I just attached them to a piece of blue tape.  I folded a piece of blue tape almost in half, leaving enough sticky side out to attach the piece and the rest non-sticky to use as a handle.


Figure #26:  Holding the overlay for finishing.

To glue on the overlay, I used either my sphere chuck or a piece of PVC pipe as a rest.  With most shatterproof ornaments there is a visible vertical seam you can use as a reference to align the ornament while it’s on the rest.  Place the ornament on the stand so that the seam is parallel to the edge of the stand.  Place some dots of CA gel glue on the back of the overlay.  Then place on the shatterproof ornament, make sure the alignment is correct, and apply a strip of blue tape to hold it in place and apply moderate clamping pressure until the glue cures as in Figure #27,


Figure #27:  Glue on the overlay.


If you flip off the cap on a shatterproof ornament you’ll find a small stud that you can use as a tenon to hold on the finial.  Cut or sand down the stud to just about the widest part so you won’t have to drill as deeply into the bottom of your finial.  Measure the major diameter of the stud.  This diameter is usually the same for a single batch of ornaments but it’s safer to measure.

Cut a turning square that is 1-1/4” x 1-1/4” x 1-1/8” long.  Mount the finial blank in a chuck so that about half of the blank protrudes as in the top image of Figure #28.  In the photos I’m using a square collet auxiliary chuck, which can be found in references, but #1 jaws and a spacer in a 4-jawed chuck would also work.  Turn the protruding portion of the blank round and make a small penciled circle at the center of the end of the blank to help align the hollowing jig as in the bottom image of Figure #28.


Figure #28:  Mount the finial blank and prepare it for hollowing.

Make a spacer for the hollowing jig that is 1/8” thick (or 0.3” if you want to leave the finial square at the bottom.   See the gallery in references for variations).  Mount the spacer between the post and the locking collar.  The protrusion of the cutter from the post (before inserting the spacer) is the same as for the overlay, as it is determined by the diameter of the ball.  The finial, being smaller in diameter than the overlay, doesn’t need to be cut as deeply, so its spacer is narrower.  Align the hollowing jig with the tip of the tool bit in the center circle of the blank and the tool handle aligned with the lathe axis as in the top image of Figure #29.  Now hollow the base of the finial blank as you did the overlay blank by cutting from the outside in.  The bottom image of Figure #29 shows the hollowed finial blank.


Figure #29:  Hollowing the finial blank.

Mount a drill bit that matches the maximum diameter of the shatterproof ornament stud in a tailstock mounted drill chuck.  Use a piece of tape for a depth guide.  Drill a mortice in the finial base as in the top image of Figure #30.  I make ornament hangers out of spiraled 20 gauge wire which usually fit well in a mounting hole drilled with a #51 drill bit.  Since I use this size on the lathe a lot, I made a Morse taper to hold a #51 drill bit.  Drill through the finial with a drill bit that will work for the hangers you use as in the bottom image of Figure #30.  This will allow you to mount a hanger as well as align the blank for the next turning step.


Figure #30:  Drill mounting holes in the finial.

For another ornament project I made a spindle mounted hemisphere mandrel.  A chuck mounted one would also work.  You could finish the base of the finial and use #1 jaws and a spacer, or an auxiliary collet to reverse the finial.  But using the hemisphere mandrel allows you to see and turn the entire finial at once, which is why I prefer it.  Pin the finial blank to the mandrel with a cone tailstock center in the hole drilled for the hanger as in the top image of Figure #31.  Then turn the finial to the shape you like as in the bottom Figure #31.  You can apply finish to the finial on the lathe or off.


Figure #31:  Mount and turn the finial.

I like ornament hangers made out of spiraled 20 gauge brass wire.  There’s a loop on the end so they don’t prick your fingers.  The spiraling work hardens the brass so they don’t loose shape.  They’re permanently attached so they don’t get lost from year to year.  And this year I found that if I flattened the spiral it gave a nice “chain” look to the hanger.

Bend a 3” piece of music wire to an L-shape, slightly more than 90°, about 1” from an end.  Insert the long end in an electric drill.  Cut a piece of 20 gauge brass wire about 7” long.  Bend the wire in half and clamp the ends in a vise.  Insert the short leg of the L-shaped music wire and apply moderate tension as in the top image of Figure #32.  Turn the drill on and spiral the wire to your liking as in the middle image of Figure #32.  Remove the spiraled wire from the vise.  Bend the wire to a question mark shape using a rod or dowel about 1/2” in diameter.  Twist the loop on the end into the same plane as the question mark shape with pliers.  Now flatten all but the last 1/2” of the hanger using an anvil and a hammer as in the bottom image of Figure #32.


Figure #32:  Form a hanger.

Place a drop of glue on a disposable surface and dip the end of the hanger in the glue.  Then insert it into the finial.  Test the fit of the finial to make sure it fits all the way on to the ornament tenon without gaps under the finial base.  Then place dots of gel CA glue on the finial base and inside the mortice and glue the finial onto the ornament.  I suggest you align the plane of the hanger parallel to the plane of the overlay. You can rest the ornament on PVC pipe until the glue cures as in Figure #33.  If you only have an overlay on one side you can bend the hanger forward towards the overlay so that the ornament hangs perpendicularly.


Figure #33:  Glue on finial.


Patterns and other references are available at: