The Lover’s Tree Vase is the perfect personalized woodturned wedding gift, and can also serve a center piece for the bride and grooms table at the reception. It invokes our collective nostalgia for young lovers who who seek to make their love timeless by carving their initials into a tree. We made this gift for our good friends who got married this summer.
Step 1: Prepare wood blank and tools
Materials and Tools
- Freshly cut branch (thick)
- Wood lathe
- Set of woodturning gouges
- Drill bits
- Fast drying glue
- Set of chisels
- Sandpaper (60-320 grit)
- Woodburning pens
- Danish oil for finish
Step 2: Turn the initial shape of the vase
Mount the blank to the lathe centering it as best you can. Our piece was a bit oval, which made turning it tricky because we couldn’t center the bulk of the wood with bark on it. The more round your beginning blank, the easier this project will be.
Then begin turning with your go-to bowl gouge (really the only gouge you need for this). Use the tail stock to support the piece as long as possible before you mount the bottom of the piece to a chuck and remove the tail stock. Be careful turning the edge of the bark, you want to make smooth shallow passes to avoid ripping out chunks of it.
Step 3: Cleaning up and hollowing the top of the vase
Next you want to apply glue to the exposed layers of bark so it will stay attached for the next steps. Use fast drying glue and a drying accelerator. Next, sand the outside of the vase (not the bark!) to a 220 finish. Cracks may have appeared while turning, if so use the glue to close them up as best you can before you move to sealing the piece with oil later.
Next you want to clean up the inside lip of the vase and hollow out the vase. You can do this in many different ways, including mounting a drill bit to the tail stock, or as we did using a drill to dig out the hole while the piece spins. We wiggled our drill bit to make the opening wider. The longer a drill bit you have, the deeper you can go into the piece. Be conscious as to the thickness of the walls when you are near the narrowest point of the vase.
Step 4: Carve and woodburn the letters
Separate the piece from the lathe and then use a circle stencil to outline the cut you want to make for your letters. After carving ours ended up a bit more like square than a circle. This is where you can add your own creativity by choosing a star, a heart, or any other shape as your outline. You can carve straight down through the bark, or you can cut at an angle like we did. This is a great opportunity to add your own design ideas!
When you get it to how you want it, just sand everything down to 220 and use glue if any of the bark loosens up around the edges of the frame.
Outline your letters in pencil and then carefully carve a shallow but wide groove. Carving out the letters creates a nice track that the woodburner pen can follow. This makes it much easier to create nice straight lines! Again here you can get creative stylistically on how you want the font of your letters to look. We are still beginners with woodburning, so we kept it very basic. Don’t push too hard when burning, rather push lightly and make multiple passes instead. It is always easier to add more darkness with more passes than it is to make it lighter again. When you are finished, make a quick pass with 320 grit sand paper.
Step 5: Apply finishing
Next up you can apply your favorite finish. We used danish oil because we prefer it, but just make sure you use something that seals the wet wood well. We waited too long to apply our finish and we had a couple small cracks appear near the pith (as one would expect). We layered in some glue and sanded over and it turned out ok. We recommend applying at least three layers of danish oil while sanding with 220-320 grit between each layer. Allow each layer to dry well before sanding and applying a new one.
Step 6: Wrap up your woodturned wedding gift!
You’re done! Next step is to find some beautiful dried flowers and package it in a nice gift box for the wedding or design a centerpiece for the bride and grooms table where it can be displayed. Whoever is the lucky recipient of this woodturned wedding gift will love it! We made this piece for our wonderful and artistic friends Tasia and Harrison to celebrate their marriage. We feel so honored to have had the chance to partake in their special day.
What special craft have you made as wedding gifts? What’s your favorite woodturned wedding gift you’ve ever made or received? Share in the comments below!