Canadian Woodworking

Hanging flower vase

Author: Paul Ross
Published: October November 2002

This little project can be done with minimal experience and be completed in a short time.


I first saw these vases as miniature brooches with a pin on the back of the vase so that it could be fastened to a blouse. I enlarged the piece and added a suction cup so it can be attached to a window or mirror. I also add a plastic tube to hold water. Now the piece will function as a real flower vase.

You will need: a piece of wood approximately 2”x 2”x 6” and a suction cup and a vial (as shown in photo 1 below). You can pick suction cups up at a dollar store. They come with a metal hook, which can be easily removed. The plastic tube or vial can be purchased from a florist.

To start, mount the piece between centres. I use a “Stebb” centre, which gives me the advantage of being able to stop the piece without shutting off the lathe. The “Stebb” centre point is spring loaded, so you just have to back off the tailstock slightly and the teeth of the “Stebb” centre disengage, leaving the piece stationary. Another advantage of these centres is the multiple teeth, which give tremendous drive.

With a roughing out gouge and the flute in an upward position, move back and forth along the length of the piece, knocking the corners off the wood. (photo 2 below). Once you have taken the corners off, rotate the gouge on its sides and travel left or right. The flute should always trail the cut.

Now grab the even cylinder in a “Stronghold” chuck, using the tailstock to line up the centre. Then back off the tailstock, remove the centre, and put in a drill chuck with a sawtooth bit.

Drill the hole for the plastic tube (photo 3). Make sure you drill it a little more than the length of the tube because later you will cut the neck back. Take the piece out of the chuck and put it in a “jam” chuck in the “Stronghold”. This is basically a dowel the diameter of the hole that was just drilled. Reverse the piece onto the dowel (using the tailstock with slight pressure) for a friction fit to drive the piece.

Once you have completed the initial shaping with a roughing out gouge, then refine the shape with a ½” spindle gouge (photo 4). Be sure not to undercut the diameter of the hole, otherwise your piece will end up in two. Use calipers to judge the thickness of the neck to allow for the tube (photo 5). If the fit on the “jam” chuck is not quite enough to drive the piece, then use this little trick: tighten up the “jam” fit with paper towel (photo 6).

Cut on a slight angle, on the end where the hole is. To get a clean cut, use the toe of the skew and, with the toe on the rest, tip the skew slightly towards the wood. Start with the handle of the skew, drop down and simply lift the handle and the toe will fall into the wood, taking a slicing cut. The key to this cut, as in most turning cuts, is light, clean cuts. Better several little cuts than one disastrous one. If this end cut is done properly with the skew, there is no need to sand this section (photo 7).

Now do the other end (tailstock). Perform the same cut with the skew, removing the centre of the tailstock and nipping the tip of the piece. I sanded using “J-flex” abrasive, starting at 180 and working through 240 – 320, ending with 400. You could use any of several finishes on this piece. One possibility is a friction polish, which is fast. If you are using finishing polish and the wood does not have an extremely tight grain, you might want to seal the wood first. This will produce a base on which to build the finish. One of my personal favourites is melamine. To use this as a sealer, put on two or three coats, cutting back with “0000” steel wool and then, on the final application of steel wool, dip the wool in a high grade paste wax. Let the wax dry and then buff the piece. I have also used spray lacquer, first with a sanding sealer, and then two coats of lacquer. It makes for a very durable finish.

Cut the top of the neck on the bandsaw (photo 8) in the shape of a curved “vee” (or the shape of tulip petals). You will have to hand sand this section. The final step is to drill the hole in the back to accept the suction cup. Use the drill press with the piece held in a wooden “vee” block so it doesn’t roll. Either a small dab of cynoacrylite or epoxy will hold the suction cup in place. Your hanging, wet, flower vase is now ready to be attached to your favourite window or mirror with a small bouquet of fresh flowers.

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