Christmas Ornament – Inside Out Turning


Every year I want to make a Christmas ornament, but for whatever reason I don’t ever get around to making one. I’m changing that this year and who knows, I might make this a tradition. The thing I struggled with the most was the design, which I’ll get into later, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a simple tree or snowman or if I wanted to do some sort of finial ornament. I ended up deciding on an inside out turning, which I’d never done before. Did you watch the video above? You should. I thought it turned out nice.

Christmas Ornament


Inside out turning sounds interesting in of itself, but the process is a little out of the ordinary. To start with, you first need to create a turning blank. You can get really fancy with this part of the project with segments and such, but I decided to use four pieces of wood the size of an ink pen.

I wanted to create some visual interest by mixing up the wood with alternating Purple Heart and Padauk. Keeping it simple, but visually pleasing was the goal here. The final shape was something I wasn’t sure about. I knew I wanted something tapered on both ends, but honestly I just stopped turning once I reached a shape I liked.

The openings was another aspect of the design I wanted to pay attention to. From a design standpoint, I tried more than anything to align the points of the openings so it looked symmetrical. In the end, I am happy how it “turned” out.

Christmas Ornament

The turning blank

Making the turning blank was the part of the project where I could have gotten really creative, but I chose to keep it simple. I basically used four uncut pen blanks, but I mixed it up a bit by adding two different kinds of wood as I mentioned.

The first thing I did was figure out the right placement of each piece and mark the outside corners. Marking the corners lets me know where those corners are during the process of preparing the blank. Knowing ahead of time that I would be flipping the pieces inside out after turning the center down I went ahead and planed the outside edges. To be able to put the blank on the lathe for the initial turning I had to clamp and use double sided tape to hold the pieces together.

Hose clamping the blank

I couldn’t use glue in this step because the individual pieces of wood have to be separated after the initial outside turning so that the planed sides could be glued together to create the see through effect.

turned center

Inside out turning blank

My next step after the glue dries is to put it back on the lathe and turn the final shape of the ornament. The bigger you make the blank, the more creative you can get. Since this was my first inside out turning I wanted to keep it fairly simple.

Turning blank glue up

Turning blank glueup

Inside out turning blank

Once I reached a good shape I started trying to clean the surface up by making very light passes with my finisher carbide turning tool. I had to be careful not to take off too much as the center, the open areas, would break.

Turning the shape

The point or bottom of the ornament was a delicate area as I turned it down to almost nothing. In fact, if you watched the video, you may have noticed that I showed how flexible the point became and right after that it broke off.

turning the point

applying finish

Woodturning break

It wasn’t a big deal that it broke because it would have gotten cut off anyway, but if it would have made it without breaking I could have and would have applied the finish while on the lathe. Actually, that’s what I was doing when it broke loose.


Hardware and finish

The design of the ornament ended up resembling a traditional Christmas light bulb, but that wasn’t the intent. One end was pointed, which is the bottom and the top had more of a flat spot. The flat area on top was perfect for an eye bolt to be installed that would allow a string or ribbon to be attached.

All I did for the eye bolt was drill a hole slightly smaller than the eye bolt screw itself. I could have very easily drilled a larger hole and held the eye bolt in place with epoxy if I didn’t have the right sized drill bit.

drilling for the eye bolt

Once the eye bolt was installed I could apply the finish.

installing the eye bolt

On this project I intended on using a friction polish while it was spinning on the lathe, but I had to resort to rubbing on a finish. Since I had to rub on the finish I decided to use a butcher block oil, which actually worked pretty good. The last thing to add was a ribbon to hang it from.

Christmas Ornament

What did I learn

Wood turning is something I’ve done before, but I learned from this project that if you try something new and outside of your comfort zone you just might surprise yourself with what you can do. I don’t consider myself a fine furniture kinda guy just yet and I have a hard time telling myself that I can do things I’ve never tried.

The real truth is that I can do anything I set out to do, but it’s the standard at which I compare myself to that I start to doubt myself. I think that’s a big part of the lack of creativity in one’s self. If we all just try one thing we think we can’t do, we might just discover a new found skill or even the confidence we’ve been needing.

Phew… I didn’t mean to get all deep and stuff and I certainly don’t think this project was anything near being complex, but I do think it was a project that allowed me to think differently in a good and creative way. Give this project a try and post it somewhere online. Be sure to tag me, so I can see it. I’d love to share it.

finished ornament


Frank Howarth Christmas ornament

Credit: Frank Howarth

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Tools I use:

Tools Used In This Project

Shop Attire:

• Shop apron/vest, Atlas 46:

• Hats/shirts:

Lathe Tools:

• Lathe, Jet:

• Full face shield, Honeywell:

• Mid size easy rougher, EWT:

• Mid size easy finisher, EWT:

• Mid size easy detailer, EWT:


• Drill and impact 20v, Porter Cable:

• Drill and drive bit set, Kobalt:

Gluing, Finishing and Accessories:

• Glu-bot:

• Wood glue, Titebond III:

• Butcher block finish, Howards:

Clamping and Accessories:

• Spring clamp 9 pc set, Bessey:

• 6.5″ woodworkers vise, Irwin:

Measuring, Marking and Layout:

• 6’ nylon tape measure, Milwaukee:

Hand Tools:

• No. 5 bench plane, Stanley:


• Safety glasses, 3M:

• Fire extinguisher:

• First aid kit:

Video Equipment and Electronics:

• DSLR camera and mic, Canon/Rode:

• Camera battery pack, Canon:

• Tripod, Manfrotto:

• Backpack for laptop (modified for camera):

• Memory card, 64gb:

• Memory card waterproof case:

• Laptop, MacBook:

• Network Attached Storage, 6TB:

Other tools I use

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