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Posted March 2022

Turned Hearts as 6 page pdf


Turned Hearts


I’ll admit I have a thing for making things all on the lathe.  I guess this was just an experiment, at first, to see if I could all-turn a heart, but I thought it looked more interesting and three dimensional than a scroll sawn heart looked.  It does require several mountings, but none of the steps are difficult.  On the plus side you get to make two at the same time, because the method uses a split-turning technique.  It does require being able to mount a sphere eccentrically but if you don’t have that capability Aux Chucks shows how to make the needed two-center chucks.

The article will show how to make hearts at three levels of difficulty as shown in Figure #1:  Plain, with an arrow, and with a curved tip.  This does interrupt the flow as I’ve only gone through the steps once, with options, rather than having a really long article.

Figure #1 

Figure #1: Three degrees of difficulty.

Briefly, first a blank is made with a temporary joint.  This is then turned into a sphere.  Holes for a lanyard (and optionally the arrows) are drilled using an eccentric sphere chuck.  The sphere is mounted using an eccentric cup center to turn the V at the top of the heart.  Then the bottom of the heart is turned using the sphere chuck either axially or eccentrically.  Optionally the arrow is turned.  The sphere is split apart, and a hole is drilled into the back using a beveled PVC pipe segment to lighten the heart and allow a lanyard to be attached.

Prepare the Blank

The photos follow making a strip for multiple blanks. Cut two pieces of wood that are 3/4” thick by 1-1/2” wide.  It’s easier to sand the inner surfaces, which will be the backs of the heart, of the blank before turning.  Cover the inner sides with original blue masking tape, then lightly sand the tape with medium grit sandpaper to increase the joint strength.  Spray the taped surfaces with 3M #77 spray adhesive as in Figure #2.  You could use a different glue, such as dots of CA glue or regular wood glue, but this method provides compete coverage without a long cure time.

Figure #2 

Figure #2:  Prepare a temporary joint using blue tape.

A disadvantage of spray adhesive is you only get once chance to position it correctly.  Rather than using a release agent such as waxed paper, I used my bandsaw table and fence.  I placed one blank-half glue side up on the table up against the fence.  I placed the other blank-half against the fence glue side down, made contact with one end of the other blank-half, as in Figure #3, and lowered the blank-half down.  Then I clamped the halves together briefly to assure complete adhesion as in Figure #4.

Figure #3 

Figure #3:  Bring the blank-halves together.

Figure #4 

Figure #4:  Clamp to ensure good adhesion.

Mounting a blank with a temporary joint with the joint centered on the joint risks splitting the blank prematurely.  Here are a couple of methods to avoid that:

Method One:  End Caps

Cut your blank 2” long, or 1/2” longer than the size heart you want.  Then cut two end caps 3/4” square and 1/4” thick as in Figure #5.  Use double stick tape to fasten the end caps more or less centered on the ends of the blank as in Figure #6.  Clamp across the caps as in Figure #7 to set the tape.

Figure #5 

Figure #5:  Prepare to mount end caps.

Figure #6 

Figure #6:  Mount end caps.

Figure #7 

Figure #7:  Clamp briefly across the end caps to ensure good adhesion.

Find or cut a block of wood that is the same (3/4”) thickness as the wood you used for the half-blanks.  Place both the blank and the block on a flat surface and use a pencil to mark along the top of the block as in Figure #8.  Rotate the block and mark again until you’ve marked from all four sides as in Figure #8.  Then use an awl to make a dimple where the lines intersect as in Figure #9.

Figure #8 

Figure #8:  Use a block of wood and pencil to mark the center of the block.

Figure #9 

Figure #9: Use an awl to make a starting dimple.

Then mount the blank between centers.  I suggest using cup centers.

Method Two:  Clamping the Blank

Cut the blank 2-1/2” long, or 1” longer than the heart size.  The blue tape will be visible between the blank halves.  Mark the center of the blank on the joint line with a pencil.  Clamp the blank-halves together and use a cutting awl or small drill to make a centered dimple as in Figure #10.  Leave the blank-halves securely clamped together and mount the blank between cup centers on the lathe as in Figure #11.  Once mounted with the clamp on, the rims of the cup centers will keep the blank-halves together for turning.

Figure #10 

Figure #10:  Make a centered dimple with the blank-halves clamped together.

Figure #11 

Figure #11:  Mount the blank between cup centers while clamped together.

Turn a Sphere

Mount the blank between cup centers on the lathe as in Figure #12, being sure to engage the center pins of the cup in the starting dimples before adding pressure.  Turn the blank round, and mark the extents and center of the sphere as in Figure #13.

Figure #12 

Figure #12:  Mount the blank between cup centers.

Figure #13 

Figure #13:  Turn the blank round.

Reduce the diameter of the nubs as in Figure #14.  This makes it easier when turning the sphere as you won’t have to worry about hitting the centers. 

Figure #14 

Figure #14:  Reduce the diameter of the nubs.

Turn the blank into a sphere as in Figure #15.  The sphere has to be true enough to mount in a sphere chuck, but as the sphere will be turned into a heart, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  Sand the sphere as in Figure #16.

Figure #15 

Figure #15:  Turn a sphere.

Figure #16 

Figure #16:  Sand the sphere.

Mount the sphere chuck in the centered position in your 4-jawed chuck.  Using the tailstock cup center as a guide, press the sphere into the sphere chuck as in Figure #17.  Then use original blue masking tape to secure the sphere in the sphere chuck as in Figure #18.

Figure #17 

Figure #17:  Guide the sphere into the sphere chuck with the tailstock cup center.

Figure #18 

Figure #18:  Tape the sphere into the sphere chuck.

Turn the nub off as in Figure #19.  You do not have to sand the area where the nub was, as this area will be removed in later mountings.  Mark the center of the sphere axis with pencil before removing from the sphere chuck.  Repeat for the other nub.

Figure #19 

Figure #19:  Remove the nub.


Drill Holes

It’s best to drill the holes while the sphere is still entirely round so that the chuck holds it well and aligned the way it needs to be.  If you are not including arrows, you can probably skip this step and drill holes for the necklace cord off the lathe, by placing the blank in the sphere chuck (or a short piece of 1” PVC pipe with the rim bevel towards the inside) on your workbench and drilling with an electric drill and 1/8” drill bit to about the center of the sphere. 

Pick one of the marked centers where the nubs were and designate that as the top of the heart.  Measure 3/16” perpendicular to the plane defined by the temporary joint from the center in each direction.  You’ll note in the photos that the temporary joint doesn’t quite go through the center.  This partly because for these photos I was using a method to find the center of the blank that wasn’t precise, and partly because I’m not an AI using CNC,  Make a similar pair of marks about 45 degrees away from the top of the heart as in Figure #20.  Make dimples at the marks with an awl as in Figure #21.

Figure #20 

Figure #20:  Mark the sphere for drilling.

Figure #21 

Figure #21:  Dimple the marks with an awl.

Mount the sphere chuck in your 4-jawed chuck in the 3/16” eccentric position.  You can use a cone tailstock to help align the sphere by placing the tip in the dimple on the sphere.  The hole you are drilling should be on the other side of the line you drew on the chuck for maximum eccentricity.  The plane defined  by the temporary joint should be parallel to the lathe axis as shown in Figure #22.  Insert a stub drill or combined drill and countersink in your tailstock and start a hole as in Figure #23.

Figure #22 

Figure #22:  Mount the sphere in the sphere chuck for drilling.

Figure #23 

Figure #23:  Start the hole.

Mount a 1/8” drill bit in your tailstock.  Mark for a drill depth of 3/4” on the drill bit with tape.  Then drill the lanyard hole as in Figure #24.  Repeat for the other lanyard hole.

Figure #24 

Figure #24:  Drill the lanyard hole.

Move the tape on your 1/8” drill bit so it’s set to drill 1-1/2”.  Using the same method, align an arrow hole.  Again, the hole should be on the opposite side of maximum eccentricity, and the plane defined by the temporary joint should be parallel to the lathe.  Make a starter hole with a stub drill and then drill through the sphere for an arrow hole with a 1/8” drill as in Figure #25.  Repeat for the other arrow hole.

 Figure #25

Figure #25:  Drill arrow holes.

Turn Top of Heart

Mount a cup center so that it’s 1/4” eccentric.  You can use a foam padded flat center attached to your tailstock center.  Mount the sphere between the cup and flat tailstock center so that the temporary joint is aligned with the maximum eccentricity line, and an imaginary line through a lanyard hole and the center of the sphere is at a right angle to the lathe axis, as shown in Figure #26.

Figure #26 

Figure #26:  Mount the sphere between cup and flat centers.

Now turn a V-groove as in Figure #27.  As the cut is on an eccentric mounting, it is difficult to see The V well enough to make the next widening cut.  You can help make the cut more visible by highlighting the cut with a spotlight from a flashlight or the like.  You can also try placing white or black paper on the lathe bed beneath the cut.  Additionally, you can make the V-cuts with a pyramid point tool or my shear spear  which are more forgiving of minor misalignment at the start of the cut.  Stop the lathe frequently to see how deep the cut is.

Figure #27 

Figure #27:  Make a V-cut.

Now round over the tops of the v-cut as in Figure #28.  Again, this is easier with a pyramid point tool.  Then sand the V cut as in Figure #29.

Figure #28 

Figure #28:  Round over the V-cut.

Figure #29 

Figure #29:  Sand the V-cut.

Turn the Heart Bottom

Symmetrical Tail

For the simpler symmetrical tail, mount the sphere chuck in your 4-jawed chuck in the axial, or non-eccentric position.  Insert the sphere into the sphere chuck.  You can use a cone tailstock center, or a small drill bit in a tailstock mounted drill chuck to help align the sphere so that the mark you made when removing the bottom nub is aligned with the lathe center.  You could also use a Sphere Alignment Center.  Use blue tape to hold the sphere in the chuck with the tape only minimally on the sphere as in Figure #30.

 Figure #30

Figure #30:  Mount the sphere in the sphere chuck.

Depending on how far the sphere fits in the sphere chuck, and you may need to hold the sphere in position with a padded flat center as shown in Figure #31, to turn the middle of the heart.  If you do this, don’t forget to sand before taping the sphere in place to turn the bottom point of the heart.  Leave the flat center engaged so the sphere doesn’t shift position until you’ve taped the sphere in the chuck.

Figure #31 

Figure #31:  If needed, turn the middle part of the heart using a flat center.

Turn and sand the point of the heart as in Figure #32.

Figure #32 

Figure #32:  Turn the point of the heart.

Asymmetrical Tail

To turn an asymmetrical tail, mount the sphere chuck in you 4-jawed chuck in the eccentric position.  Align the sphere so that the plane defined by the temporary joint of the sphere intersects, or points towards, the line indicating the maximum eccentricity of the sphere chuck.  Bring up a flat center to hold the sphere in place.  Then turn the middle portion of the heart as in Figure #33.  Then sand the middle portion.

Figure #33 

Figure #33:  Turn the middle part of the eccentric tail.

Tape the sphere in place and then back away the flat center.  Finish the cut—this one is sort of an ogee—as in Figure #34.  Then sand the lower portion of the tail.  It’s difficult to give a recipe for turning eccentric tails, partly because there are so many options.  You can follow the first cut by rotating the sphere 180 degrees and making another cut.  You can use a variable eccentric chuck set to a greater eccentricity so you don’t have to worry about the cuts overlapping.  The best thing is probably to play with it and try different variations.  You might want to practice with plain sphere so you don’t ruin a bunch of prior work while you experiment.

Figure #34 

Figure #34:  Finish turning eccentric tail.

If you’re feeling lucky you can turn the eccentric tail without using the flat center to hold the sphere in when turning and thus not have to do it in multiple steps.  Do use the flat center to hold the sphere in the sphere chuck and apply tape.  As the tape only serves to hold the sphere in the chuck, and not to absorb lateral forces, you can turn through the tape.  Since the sphere is mounted eccentrically only a small portion of the tape will actually be removed.  Do make light cuts.  Sand lightly as well or you may have trouble with tape adhesive residue.

Turn Arrows

In the photos I’m using 3/8” maple dowel for the arrows.  A small tuning square would work just as well.  As my dowel is slightly oversize I used #1 jaws in my 4-jawed chuck.  A collet chuck would be more finger friendly.  The arrows parts are turned without tailstock support.  As long as you keep your cuts light and turn the end furthest from the chuck first you won’t need a tailstock.

Mount the dowel in your chuck so that a little more than how long you want the arrowhead to be is protruding from the jaws of the chuck as in Figure #35.  Turn the exposed dowel to the maximum diameter of the arrowhead as in Figure #36. 1/4” is a good size for 1-1/2” hearts.

Figure #35 

Figure #35:  Mount the dowel in the chuck.

Figure #36 

Figure #36:  Turn to maximum diameter.

Turn the head of the arrow to a point.  Then reduce the shaft just behind the head enough so that you can undercut the head slightly as in Figure #37.  Then turn the shaft of the arrow to 1/8” as in Figure #38.  Sand the turned arrowhead, then it off the dowel.  Lastly flatten the arrow’s head to a slight taper from the shaft to the point on a sander.

Figure #37 

Figure #37:  Turn the arrow’s head.

Figure #38 

Figure #38:  Turn the arrow shaft.

Remount the dowel in the chuck with enough protruding to form the rear of the arrow.  Turn the exposed portion to the maximum diameter.  Mark out the extents of the fletching.  Reduce the tip to 1/8” and undercut the back of the fletching.  Turn the front of the fletching to a taper as in Figure #39.  Turn the shaft to 1/8” diameter.  Sand the rear part of the arrow and cut it off from the dowel.  Flatten the fletching with a sander.  Then use a small saw to cut a notch in the back tip of the arrow.

Figure #39 

Figure #39:  Turn the fletching.

Figure #40 

Figure #40:  Turn the shaft.


Split the temporary joint of the sphere.  You can use a utility knife, or a putty knife and mallet, or perhaps better, start the split with the utility knife to keep the putty knife from skidding away from the joint.  Do not place your fingers in jeopardy below the blade.  If you want to make the heart into a pin, you can glue a jewelry finding on the back of the heart.

If you want to make a necklace you need a way to fasten the heart to a cord.  Drilling a hole into the back of the heart that intersects the lanyard hole will suffice.  To do this it helps to have a way of holding the heart as if you try to hold it by hand it will likely spin and hurt your fingers.  Take a short piece of 1” PVC pipe and turn an inward facing bevel on one end as shown in Figure #41.

Figure #41 

Figure #41:  Turn a bevel on the inside of 1” PVC pipe.

Place the heart in the beveled end of the PVC pipe and tape it in place with a wide piece of blue tape, or two crossing pieces of blue tape, as in Figure #42.  Then use a 3/8” drill bit to drill a hole into the back of the heart as in Figure #43.  Check to make sure that the 3/8” hole intersects the hole drilled for the lanyard.  Tidy up the swarf around the hole.  If you didn’t sand the wood before making the temporary joint, sand the back of the heart by rubbing it back and forth on sandpaper held to your work surface.  Glue the arrow pieces into the drilled holes.  You can support the heart with a bamboo skewer placed in the lanyard hole and apply several coats of spray lacquer.

Figure #42 

Figure #42:  Tape the heart into the PVC pipe.

Figure #43 

Figure #43:  Drill a 3/8” hole into the back of the heart.

Cut a piece of waxed cotton cord long enough to make a lanyard.  Tie a knot in the middle of the cord.  Thread both ends of the cord though the lanyard hole starting from the inside.  You may find it easier to use a piece of fine (28 gauge?) brass wire folded into a loop to draw the cord through the hole.  Alternately you can harden the last half inch of the cord with CA glue and then cut a bevel on the cord.  Form an adjustable lanyard by tying each end to the other cord with a slip knot.  The completed heart is shown in Figure #44.

Figure #44 

Figure #44:  The completed Turned Heart necklace.