Midnight Woodworking


Turning bottle stoppers from firewood

I have had my wood stove for about nine years. Every year I go out and cut up downed trees for wood to help heat my house. Last year, we took down a silver maple tree in our own front yard. So that is what we were heating the basement with this year.

My one wood pile got hit really hard by what I think were Powder-post beetles. They bore into the outer layers of green wood looking for something to eat.

They ran rampant through this batch, but when the wood dried out and the weather got cold, they seem to have moved out.

As I was bringing in some wood to burn a couple of weeks ago, I started looking closely at some of the pieces. There seemed to be a lot of water staining around the penetrations and some of the maple had some really wavy grain. None of this wood was big enough for making boards, but they might be interesting to use on the lathe. I decided to take a few pieces into the shop and cut them up on my bandsaw.

The first piece that I cut really surprised me. Major staining and striping that was a direct result of water getting into the bug holes.

The stains really highlighted some of the wavy grain, as well.

Some of the more striking pieces were set aside for my son to make pens out of, mainly because I cut them too thin, not realizing what was on the inside.

But the larger chunks, I prepped for my wife to turn into bottle stoppers.

Even the bark inclusions might be an interesting feature.

Since these are bandsaw cut and none of the surfaces are quite square, I decided to just clamp them up and use a forstner bit to give me a flat face.

Then, without removing the block from the vise, I drilled a pilot hole through the center of that face.

This leaves me with a hole for my tap, that is perfectly perpendicular to the flat face.

I have a tap and bushing combination bit for my lathe. The bushing is sized for a different size bottle stopper, than what my wife is using so I turned an additional bushing, out of cherry. This new bushing matches the diameter of the bottle stoppers that she has.

My wife screwed the blank onto the bushing/tap and brought up the tail stock for more support while she roughed out the shape.

Once the shape was roughly defined, she parted off the waste, and removed the tail stock.

The next step was to cut down to the final shape and size.

Then on to sanding and finishing.

She applied some Shellawax friction finish for the instant gratification of a quick shiny surface. I will apply some lacquer later for a more durable finish.

Not bad looking for an old chunk of firewood.

We unscrewed the finished piece and installed a bottle stopper to check the fit and make sure my bushing was the correct size. Looks good.

When we were at the Baltimore Woodworking Show back in January, my wife found the Stainless Bottle Stoppers company. Their stoppers were all made in the USA and they seemed to have very competitive pricing. She bought ten to start, each a different size and shape.

For her second stopper, she chucked up one with a large bark inclusion, just to see how it would fare.

Surprisingly, not a problem. She just sped up the lathe and didn’t have any problems cutting around the gap.

She made a couple that had come cracks, so I mixed up some quick-set epoxy to stabilize them.

We decided that the inclusions were too sharp to leave open, so we decided to try some inlay powder.

We started by mixing some Lapis dust with the epoxy.

We dribbled it in the cracks and used some tape to try to keep it in place.

We did two with the Lapis, then tried some ground craft glass.

Not sure how well this will work, but it is just fire wood after all…

The Lapis was just powder, so I knew it would cut and sand well, but I tested the craft glass on sand paper first. It seems to sand easily and not shatter, so we will keep going with the experiment.

The Lapis cut well and looked pretty good.

But when they were both sanded, they dulled a lot. Looking back, the cheap epoxy may have been more of the problem. It seemed to soften with the heat from sanding. I will have to try recessing the glass below the surface and covering it with better epoxy. I think the glass will look better with all the sharp edges still in tact. Next time…

I used some finish nails to hold the tops for finishing, then sprayed them repeatedly with a semi-gloss lacquer.

The inlay does not pop out, but it does not look bad either,

My wife also experimented with some multi-colored laminated blocks that she bought as well.

I cut up a piece of maple that was heavily figured without the water staining, for her to turn.

It turned out really neat too. If you rotate it in the light it looks almost holographic.

Final step was to epoxy the tops to the bottoms.

Here are just a few of them. I just ordered ten more stoppers for her to make.

Winter is coming to an end and I have all of this fire wood just sitting there unused…

One comment on “Turning bottle stoppers from firewood

  1. jakestoolscool
    March 25, 2018

    Very cool, they came out beautifully. Thanks for sharing.

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