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This article was published in the July 2016 edition of More Woodturning

Hemispherical Ornament Stand as 4 page pdf


Hemispherical Ornament Stand



Just because they’re often called tree ornaments doesn’t mean they can only be hung on a tree.  For instance, I habitually give ornaments to friends and family, and some of the older ones don’t put up a tree any more.  If there’s an ornament you’re particularly proud of you might want to keep it out year round.  If there’s an ornament you’re not so proud of you might want to keep it out where you can see it to remind yourself to work on improving it.

This article shows how to make a hemispherical ornament stand.  It’s got a fair amount of heft to it so you won’t have to add weights for stability.  It has a simple design so as to not compete with your ornament.  You can cut and even finish the base before it’s turned round for convenience and safety.  And you get to make two at once.

Briefly a turning square is cut on a 45 degree angle and then reassembled with a reinforced temporary joint.  It’s turned into a sphere using the shadow method (or whatever method you prefer) with finials at each end.  Wire is twisted together to make the hanger and inserted in holes drilled in the finials.

Preparing the Blank

Start by cutting a 5” long piece of nominally 3” x 3” turning square.  Three inch turning stock can be hard to come by, and it doesn’t matter for the design if it’s a little undersize.  For instance, the blank I’m using for the photos is 2-3/4” square Apple.  Find the mid-point of a face of the blank and draw a 45° line through it as in Figure #1.

Figure #1

Figure #1:  Draw a 45° line through the mid-point of the blank.

Cut the blank in two on the 45° line.  A table saw cut results in the nicest surface, but if you use a bandsaw you’ll just have to sand a little longer.  Finish the cut surface (which will be the bottom of the ornament stand) to your satisfaction at this point.  Obviously, from the next photo, I was over easily satisfied.  Cut a 1” or so piece of a sturdy nail or dowel.  Tailstock pressure exerts a lot of shear force on what will be the temporary joint.  The nail or dowel keeps this force from breaking the temporary joint.  If you do want to add weight to your ornament stand, drill a hole large enough for the weight, such as lead fishing sinkers, and choose a dowel to match.  Find the mid-point of both cut faces and drill a somewhat loose hole for the nail at both mid-points as in Figure #2.

Figure #2

Figure #2:  Drill holes for a temporary joint reinforcing pin at the mid-point of both diagonal faces.

To create the temporary joint, cover both diagonal faces in original blue masking tape (not edge lock).  If you used a bandsaw for the diagonal cut and did not sand it smooth use “rough surface” masking tape.  Lightly sand the masking tape to remove the surface coating for better glue adhesion.  Cut a piece of poster board (or cereal box cardboard if you sand off most of the printing) the size of the diagonal face and poke a hole through it for the dowel or nail.  Apply a thin coat of wood glue (or dot with Ca glue if you’re in a hurry) to both taped surfaces.  Then assemble the temporary joint with the poster board in between the taped surfaces.  This type of temporary joint is as strong as a traditional Kraft paper joint but requires almost no clean up.  Clamp the joint together until the glue cures as in Figure #4.

figure #3

Figure #3:  Create the temporary joint with blue tape and poster board.

Figure #4

Figure #4:  Clamp the temporary joint until cured.

Turn the Sphere

After the temporary joint glue cures, mount the blank between centers.  Turn the blank into a cylinder as in Figure #5.

Figure #5

Figure #5:  Turn the blank round.

Print out the shadow sphere pattern in Drawing A.  It will more dependably print true to size if you download the pdf from  The pattern will lay flatter if you attach it to poster board or other thin substrate with spray adhesive or a glue stick.

Drawing A

Drawing A:  The Shadow Sphere Pattern.

Set up the Shadow Sphere Jig as in Figure #6.  See references for how to build one.  Mark the center of the blank so that you can line up the center of the blank with the center of the pattern.  Adjust the height of the light and the platform so that the shadow of the cylinder matches the diameter of the pattern.

Figure #6

Figure #6:  Set-up the Shadow Sphere Jig.

If you choose to use another method to turn the sphere, then I suggest that you first mark the center of the blank.  Measure the diameter of the cylinder, and mark the centered diameter on the cylinder.  Make parting tool cuts to define the diameter to the size of the finials—about 1”.  Then turn to a sphere using the method you prefer.

 Start turning the square by cutting diagonally at one end until the shadow of the cut is tangential to the circle of the pattern ending at the cylinder for the finial with a spindle gouge as in Figure #7.  Then round over until the shadow matches the pattern circle as in Figure #8.  A light cut with a shear scraper such as a pyramid point tool will reduce sanding time.  Then repeat for the other half of the sphere as in Figure #9.  Fine tune the quirks at the junction of the sphere and finial.

Figure #7

Figure #7:  Cut a diagonal tangential to the pattern circle.

Figure #8

Figure #8:  Turn a half sphere.

Figure #9

Figure #9:  Turn the other half sphere.

Turn the Finials

You can use the shadow method to turn the finials, but there’s no particular advantage in doing so.  Measure out and mark 1” from the sphere at both ends.  Make parting tool cuts just outside the marks to a diameter of 3/8” as in Figure #10.  Then turn half-coves at both ends as in Figure #11.

Figure #10

Figure #10:  Define the finial end location and diameter with parting tool cuts.

Figure #11

Figure #11:  Turn the half-coves.

Sand the sphere and half-coves.  If you want to use friction polish do that now as in Figure #12.  If you have a suitable sphere chuck and want to use it to remove the nubs and drill for the hanger wire, then remove the turning from between centers.  If not, the reduce the nubs, remove from the lathe, saw them off by hand, and sand the ends.

Figure #12

Figure #12:  Sand and optionally polish the turning.

Before you can drill a hole for the wire hanger you have to know what size hole to drill.  So make a small sample to test with.  Bend a piece of 3/8” rod into an ell shape and chuck it in a drill.  Double over a 6” or so length of 14-gauge copper wire (or whatever wire you wish to use) and clamp the ends in a vise.  Use the ell in the drill to twist the wire into a spiral.  Measure the diameter of the wire and select a drill that is that diameter.  Make a test hole in end grain and check the fit as in Figure #13.  Adjust if necessary.

Figure #13

Figure #13:  Check the fit of spiraled wire in the selected hole size.

Insert the sphere in the sphere chuck (see references) and use the tailstock center to center the finial.  Secure the sphere with blue masking tape as in Figure #14.  You may have to reduce the size of the nub on the other end so that it will fit in the end of the lathe spindle.

Figure #14

Figure #14:  Mount the sphere in a sphere chuck.

Part off the nub and dimple the end of the finial to help center the drill bit as in Figure #15.  Then drill a mounting hole for the wire about 3/4” deep as in Figure #16.  Then sand and polish the end of the finial.  Repeat for the other finial.

Figure #15

Figure #15:  Part the nub and dimple the finial end for drilling.

Figure #16

Figure #16:  Drill a mounting hole for the wire.

Finish the Ornament Stand

Remove the sphere from the chuck.  Split the temporary joint with a putty knife, mallet, and foam cushion as in Figure #17.  You may need to split from more than one side because of the joint reinforcing pin in the middle.  Try to carefully align the putty knife on the poster board part of the temporary joint to avoid denting the edges of the base.  Keep all fingers above the edge of the putty knife.  Peel off the tape and poster board.  Even if you’ve applied finish on the base you should fine the surface unharmed unless you left the temporary joint assembled for weeks.  Figure #18 shows the completed bases after splitting.

Figure #17

Figure #17:  Split the temporary joint.

Figure #18

Figure #18:  The completed pair of bases.

The length of hanger wire you need depends on the size of ornament you wish to hang.  I suggest starting with 30” of wire.  Double the wire over and clamp in a vise.  Use the 3/8” diameter Ell shaped rod and a drill to twist the wire into a spiral and form the hanging loop at the same time as in Figure #19.  Twisting the wire forms a more interesting texture than just using a heavier single wire.  It also work hardens the wire so it will hold its shape better.  The hanging loop looks better if it is adjusted so that the top of the loop is in line with the twisted wire as in Figure #20.  You can use either needle-nose pliers or looping pliers, shown in Figure #20, for this.  The looping pliers give perhaps a slightly better result.  An alternate way to create the hanger wire that doesn’t require a 3/8” ell piece is to double over the wire so that one end is 3” longer than the other.  Clamp the ends in a vise.  Use any size ell wire you have or even the drill’s chuck to twist the wire into a spiral.  Cut off any loop or untwisted ends of the drill end of the wire.  Trim the shorter wire of the vise end of the wire to where the spiral stops.  Then use looping pliers or a 3/8” rod to form a loop from the longer wire.  I suggest going around the loop twice.

Figure #19

Figure #19:  Twist the mounting wire into a spiral.

Figure #20

Figure #20:  Bend the hanging loop to align with the spiral wire.

Cut the untwisted end of the wire off.  Form the mounting wire into an arc either by hand or by bending around a round object such as your lathe motor.  Insert the hanging wire in the hole drilled in the base to check the arc.  The ornament stand will be most stable if the hanging loop is over the middle of the base.  Once you’re satisfied with the arc and length of the mounting wire, use CA glue to glue it into the mounting hole drilled in the finial.  Figure #21 shows the completed pair of ornament stands.

Figure #21

Figure #21:  Completed ornament stands.


For the Shadow Sphere Jig see: and

For sphere chucks see: and the variation in: