Home         Articles Page


This article was published in the August 2012 (#38) edition of  Woodturning Design.

Necklace as a 15 page pdf

Video BookmarksTurning Beads  Making a Single Loop Bail  Making a Double Loop Bail  Making a No-Flip Pendant Hanger



Ever since I took a class at Snow Farm on making glass beads I've thought about trying to make a necklace of wooden beads.  It took me quite a while to get around to trying, because I wanted to use a CA finish. I thought CA would be most sweat resistant of home applied finishes, so I wanted to have access to the entire bead (even the ends) for turning and finishing all at once.  After all, multistep finishes in multiple portions of a small item quickly becomes a drag.


Early on I figured out I had to use some kind of mandrel, or at least mandrel-like system, but finding one that gave me complete access and wouldn't slip took several attempts.  Glass beads of similar size are made on a 1/8" mandrel, so that gave me a target size.  The system described in this article uses a two piece amndrel, with each piece tapered on the end.  The bead blanks are drilled through before turning, but with a drill smaller than 1/8".  The tapers are forced into the smaller hole by extending the tailstock.  This widens the entrance of the hole to around 1/8" and gives a lot of firm contact area between the mandrel and bead to drive without slippage.


This article will first talk about design considerations, and then describe making the bead drive.  Actually turning the beads is just spindle turning, and there's a lot to cover in this article, so that will be brief.  Next comes making a eccentric capable backup plate to turn a pendant for the necklace.  Using a backup plate allows you to turn eccentrically without turning a lot of air.  Although you could shape the edges of the pendant off lathe I'll also describe a contour jig for turning the edges of the pendant.  It is also eccentric capable (although my wife, at least, is a fan of symmetrical pendants).


It's a lot to cover in one article, but I'm not a fan of having to wait two months for the next installment when I read an article, so I've made it fit in one by sticking to essentials and using several composite pictures to keep the size down. The necklaces are fun to make, and my wife says they really get a lot of attention, so I hope you'll try them.

Design Considerations

You can probably buy plain matte oval or wooden beads at a craft store for around 5 cents each, so the first design consideration is to make them different than that so they're worth the trouble.  A glossy CA finish is a good start.  You could go with different shapes (although not with sharp edges), highly figured wood, laminated stock, or even borrow decoration techniques from lace bobbins.  I've concentrated mostly on shape.  I often get a case of new tool syndrome, and my early beads featured the undercutting I found I could do with my mini-beading tools or shear spear.  The beads in this article are simpler with just beads, but even their design is somewhat tool driven, featuring the deep cleavage I can get by regrinding the shear spear radically to around a 20 degree point.


Size matters.  It's as much trouble to turn a small bead as a large one, and the larger beads offer look more dramatic.  But large beads don't drape around a neck well.  The compromise is to use large beads (about 1-1/4" long) for most of the necklace, with shorter (3/4" long) beads at the ends.  Weight isn't much of an issue, most people who pick up the necklace are surprised at how light it is.


The pendant features a dome which can be pierced or otherwise adorned and some eccentric arcs.  My wife, at least, likes the sides to be symmetrical, but I made this cool eccentric capable contour jig to shape the sides.  So I compromised by keeping the pendant symmetrical with some eccentric decorative cuts.  Other than staying in the general size range you can try most any design you can dream up for the pendant.

Bead Drive

The bead drive is a two piece mandrel.  The end of each mandrel piece is tapered on for half inch at the end to grip the bead.  Tapers hold pretty well--think about the Morse taper on your lathe.  When I first tried this I used a taper reamer to taper the hole in the beads, but found it to be an unnecessary complication when working this small.  It's a much more user friendly system if both ends are mounted, but since not everyone has a One-Way tailstock center or other user adaptable system, I'll first describe making an un-fixed mandrel that can be used with any cone tailstock.


Begin by making a taper drive for the headstock.  Cut a piece of round steel stock about 2" inches long and mount it in a drill chuck mounted in the headstock.  If you don't have two drill chucks (well, you could buy another, think how much faster a drilling sequence on multiple items would go) mount the steel in a collet chuck or the like.  If you have neither just mount the steel in your drill chuck and file--it will just be a little harder to keep it uniform.  You want stock that's a little bigger than 1/8".  5/32" or 3/16" will work fine.  Drill rod would work best as it should be straight, although you can also use a section of 12D common nail with a little more work.


A combined drill and counter sink works well for putting a dimple in the end of the steel so you can use tailstock support when tapering, because it's short and rigid and doesn't deflect.  However at working length the steel rod can deflect.  Solve this problem by choking up on the steel as in the top image of Fig 1.  Turn on the lathe at a slow speed and advance the combined drill and countersink just enough to form a dimple for the tailstock.


Now remount the steel far enough out so that you won't be filing your chuck.  Bring up a cone tailstock center for support.  Turn on the lathe at a moderate speed (not fast, but not so slow that you end up with non-round steel).  Try for about the same amount of taper as there is on your Morse centers but don't be obsessive--there's a fair taper range that will work.  If you can't use tailstock support because of lack of two drill chucks use a narrow file such as a triangular file and choke up more than in the picture.  File until the narrow end of the taper is about 1/16" as in the bottom image of Fig01.


Fig01:  On the top, using a combined drill and countersink to dimple the end of the steel.  On the bottom after filing the taper.


To make an unfixed tailstock taper if you don't have a One-Way tailstock center (or other tailstock that allows for homemade attachments), make another taper just like you did for the headstock taper.  Then cut the steel about 1/2" beyond the tapered part (enough straight  steel that you can grip it in your drill chuck) and grind it flat on the thick end.  Chuck it in your drill chuck with the tapered end in the chuck and a small combined drill and countersink in a chuck in the tailstock.  Turn on the lathe at a slow speed and advance the tool to form a recess for the tailstock cone as in Fig02.  The countersink part of the tool is the same 60 degree slope as most cone centers so advance the tool further than required for just a dimple until the whole end is countersunk.


Fig02  Countersinking the base of the unfixed taper with a combined drill and countersink.


To use the headstock taper with the unfixed tailstock taper, chuck up the headstock taper in the drill chuck and a cone center in the tailstock.  Place a bead blank with an under-sized central hole on the headstock drive.  Insert the unfixed taper in the other end of the bead and bring up the tailstock into the countersunk end.  Then advance the tailstock to seat the tapers in the bead as in Fig03.  As the tapers advance they grab and slip with a sound that sounds close to wood cracking (which is a potential, but so far rare event for me).  Then turn on the lathe to turn the bead.  If it slips (roughing and parting tool cuts are the most slip producing) tighten up the tailstock.  To remove the bead after finishing it, back off the tailstock and pull the bead off the headstock taper.  There isn't much to grip on the unfixed taper so you probably will have to use pliers to remove it.  This is an ugly but necessary compromise.  If you make the taper longer, perhaps with a countersunk wood end that gives you enough purchase to remove by hand, the length will make it less likely to run true.


Fig03  A bead blank mounted with the unfixed tailstock taper.



Making a fixed tailstock taper makes the bead drive both easier to use and run truer.  To make one prepare a taper blank as you did for the headstock taper by inserting it choked up in a drill chuck and creating a centered dimple with a combined drill and countersink.  Now prepare a wood holder that mates with your adaptable tailstock.  The traditional way to do that with the One-Way tailstock is to drill and tap (either with a tap or the tailstock center itself) a wood blank.  Since I just wrote an article on using matching tapers I made a wooden taper to replace the center point.  I've also done it the other way, so I know either way will work fine--just make it long enough to have a half inch or solid wood behind the metal tapered mandrel so it doesn’t break through.  Which ever way you do it, mount the blank on the tailstock and place a cut off nail in the hole in the tailstock body so it can't rotate.  Insert the tailstock in the headstock taper as in the top image of Fig04 and wrap masking tape over the nail so it doesn't fall out.  Mount your drill chuck in the tailstock and chuck up a combined drill and countersink.  Turn on the lathe at a moderate speed and create a centered dimple by advancing the tailstock as in the middle image of Fig04.  Now remove the combined drill and countersink and mount a drill that is the same diameter as your taper blank.  Advance the tailstock to drill about 1/2" as in the bottom image of Fig04.


Fig04  Three steps in mounting the fixed taper blank in the tailstock.


Replace the drill chuck in the tailstock with a cone center.  Put a short piece of masking tape on the lathe bed and put drop or so of CA glue on the tape.  Roll the last 1/2" of the un-dimpled end of the metal in the CA glue and use the tailstock to push the metal taper via the dimple into the drilled hole as in the top image of Fig05.  This will help seat it accurately.  Back off the tailstock to insure it did seat accurately and doesn't move, then re-engage the tailstock in the dimple.  Give the glue a few minutes to set.  Then file the taper, shown in the bottom image of Fig05.  It's helpful, although not essential, if both your headstock and tailstock tapers are more or less the same.  One way to check this is to back off the tailstock and place the tapered parts together.  If the headstock taper points parallel to the lathe axis then the tapers are the same.


Fig05.  Two steps in seating and filing the fixed tailstock taper.


Since I just wrote an article on making tapered tenons, I also prepared a wooden Morse taper for the headstock and created a taper drive for it following the sequence of making the fixed tailstock taper.  It's smaller in diameter than a drill chuck so it doesn't get in the way and there are no finger unfriendly serrations.


Turning Beads


Turning Beads Video

Prepare your bead stock.   It should suit the size beads you want to make.  3/4" square is a good place to start.  Cross cut the to the length bead you want.  3/4" to 1-1/4" is a reasonable starting point if you don't have a firm design in mind.  Drill centered holes in the blanks either on the drill press or the lathe.  I used a #35 drill, but anything the point of your taper will fit in that's moderately less than 1/8" will do.  Make extra blanks.  Even if you draw out your design, it may look different when turned so be prepare to do a little doodling on the lathe.  Turning the beads is just spindle turning so I'm not going to describe step by stepturning the beads, but will just mention a few things.


Mount both parts of the bead drive on your lathe as in the top image of Fig06.  Then advance the tailstock to drive both tapers into the bead blank as in the bottom image of Fig06.  Experience will tell you how hard to drive it in.  It does make disconcerting noises as it seats, but I've cracked very few (well actually just one)--just the same it would be prudent to pick a strong wood to start.  If it slips just advance the tailstock a bit more, or lighten up your cuts.


Fig06  Mounting a bead in the bead drive.


The bead drive is metal and unfriendly to lathe tools.  However you can still trim the entire ends of the bead with your skew.  Start with the usual skew technique and then as you near the drive, push the skew forward a bit so that the point ends up on top of the bead drive taper as in Fig07, rather than the cutting edge.


Fig07  Trimming the end of a bead without dulling the cutting edge of the skew.


If you can't manage the cut in Fig07, don't like the skew, or one of your tapers is wobbling a bit, you'll leave a short uncut edge.  Don't worry about it, but go ahead and finish turning and sanding your bead.  Then back off the tailstock taper.  With luck the bead will stay on the headstock taper, if not, put it there.  Sand the exposed end of the bead (320 will be good enough if the uncut end is paper thin) as in Fig08.  Reverse the bead and sand the other end of the bead.  Reverse the bead again, re-engage the headstock, and apply finish is you want to do that on lathe.


Fig08  Sanding the end of a bead while it's on just one taper.


I wanted to use CA glue as a finish because I thought it would be the most resistant to body oils and sweat (not to imply that your significant other actually sweats) of the finishes that can be applied at home.  There are many ways of applying CA finish, probably because none of them work overwhelmingly well.  I was applying finish to a bead with deep beads and got a build up of glue in the groove between beads.  I grabbed a small piece of paper and used the edge to pull it out.. Some random synapse fired and suggested using waxed paper instead of linseed oil for lubrication in the first place.  So I tried it and it worked pretty well for small items.  I folded a small piece of waxed paper to make it a bit stiffer, and put some medium CA glue directly on the waxed paper near the folded edge.  Then I just applied the glue and used the waxed paper to spread it around and smooth it out with a light touch, as in the top of Fig09.  I kept my hands away from the glue by holding the paper on the ends away from the glue, but of course gloves would be more prudent.  The finish looked pretty good right off application, but a bit plastic, so I sanded it lightly, applied another coat, and sanded that lightly.  Alas, Joe Herrmann tells me I've re-invented the wheel.  If you already have a preferred method of applying CA by all means use it.


Fig09  Applying CA glue as finish with waxed paper and the result.


It's not necessary to use CA glue as the finish.  Spray lacquer would probably be almost as resistant to body oil and perspiration, and applying finish off the lathe would make the turning go a lot quicker.  If you want to try a spray finish take a scrap board and drill some holes in it.  Stick a bamboo skewer in each bead.  You can hold and spin the bead with the bamboo skewer while you spray on the finish.  Then place the skewers in the holes while the finish dries as in Fig10.  Follow the instructions on the can for number and timing of coats.  If your finish ends up with drips and runs after a day you can pop them back into the bead drive and level the finish with some fine sandpaper.


Fig10  Beads mounted on skewers for spraying held in a scrap piece with drilled holes.


If you want your bead finish to look polished rather than plastic buff them out with a Bealle buff.  Again a bamboo skewer works wonderfully as a holder--but don't depend on the skewer alone unless you want to play hide and seek--keep another hand on the other end of the bead as well as in Fig11.


Fig11  Buffing a bead with the aid of a bamboo skewer.


Eccentric Capable Backup Plate

The back and face of the pendant will be turned using a backup plate that can be mounted dependably centered or eccentrically.  I'll give dimensions that work for my One-Way Stronghold chuck, but aside from the backup plate diameter you may have to adjust the size of the parts to fit your chuck.  The idea of the design is to have a round tenon to mount the plate when centered. The sides of the jaws grip an add-on rectangular piece for eccentric work.  Ideally the tenon disc should be large enough to contact a good proportion of the jaw faces when mounted eccentrically.  This will require a fair amount of jaw protrusion, but the backup plate will hide the jaws from your hands.


Start by cutting blanks for the backup plate and tenon from 1/2" plywood or other stable material as in Fig12.  Scribe the circles on the plywood with a compass and be sure to mark the centers.  The tenon diameter should be 3" (or what fits your chuck).  The backup plate blank should be 6".  Scribe the diameter of the tenon on the backup plate to help you locate the tenon for assembly.  Cut out the discs on your bandsaw.  Mark three equally spaced holes on the tenon at a radius of 7/8" from the center.  Now drill and countersink at these locations for mounting screws (7/8" would be a great length, or 1" with a little grinding later).  Also drill a smaller starter hole for a screw at the center of the tenon disk.


Fig12  The blanks for the backup plate and mounting tenon.


Mount your chuck on the lathe and fully close its jaws.  Pin the tenon to the chuck with a cone tailstock.  Turn on the lathe and turn the tenon true with a bowl gouge as in Fig13.


Fig13  After turning the rim of the tenon true with a bowl gouge.


Remove the tenon from the lathe and screw it to the backup plate body, using the circle you scribed earlier as a guide, as in Fig14.  Mount the assembly in your chuck and true the rim of the backup plate true as in Fig15.


Fig14  After mounting the tenon on the backup plate.


Fig15  Turning the rim of the backup plate true.


To make the Backup Plate capable of eccentric mounting, cut a rectangular piece of sturdy hardwood such as maple that it 3/4" wide by 7/8" deep and 5" long.  You may have to vary these dimensions for a smaller chuck.  If you cannot open your chuck far enough that there is 3/4" between the sides of adjacent jaws you'll have to make it narrower.  If there is not slightly more than 7/8" of space between the top of the chuck body and the top face of a jaw when mounted then you'll have to make it shallower. 


Make a mark at the center of the 3/4" face, and another mark 1-1/8" towards one end.  Drill a body hole for a screw and both marks and then countersink the holes.  Temporarily attach the eccentric arm to the backup plate with 1-1/2" screws as in Fig16.  The screw in the middle of the arm goes into the center hole in the backup plate tenon.  The other screw allows the arm to be mounted at any angle.


Fig16  The eccentric arm mounted on the backup plate.


Turning Pendant Face

Cut a hardwood rectangular pendant blank 2" wide by 4" long by 3/4" thick (the finished thickness will be less than 3/4" thick, but it's easier to thin everything on the lathe than to plane filler wood to less than the standard 3/4" it comes as).  Remove the eccentric arm from the backup plate and mount the backup plate in your chuck on the lathe.  Cover the face of the backup plate in extended release (blue) masking tape.  Turn the lathe on at a slow speed and gently and the surface of the tape with medium abrasive, then make a pencil mark at the exact center as in Fig17.


Fig17  After prepping the backup plate for blank mounting.


Remove the backup plate from the lathe.  Draw a diametric line through the exact center you marked in the last step.  Draw two lines parallel to and 1" away (or half the width of your pendant blank) from both sides of the diametric line.  Draw a line perpendicular to these lines that is 4-1/2" away from where the diametric line intersects the rim.  Be careful with these lines, as they indicate the placement of the pendant blank and allow reasonably constant dome thickness.


Place masking tape on the back of the pendant blank (pick the smoothest face or sand it smooth first).  Gather the things you'll need to attach the pendant:  a rectangular piece of 3/4 filler board (3/4" pine) and a hot-melt glue gun as in Fig18.  If you have a thing against hot-melt glue you could use relatively expensive medium CA glue or use wood glue and wait for it to set, but hot-melt is really the best for this application with its fast set time and gap filling properties.


Fig18  The set-up to attach the pendant blank to the backup plate.


Apply hot-melt glue to the taped back of the pendant blank and place it on the backup plate where indicated by the layout lines drawn in the previous step.  Now cut the filler pieces.  You don't have to use blue tape on then because you don't have to remove any hot-melt glue on them after use--they're just thrown away.   The filler pieces will be added in pinwheel fashion so that when mounted you'll usually be turning downhill to the grain.  Ignore the impulse to mount the first piece all the way across the backup plate against a side of the pendant as this will make the last piece harder to measure.  Place the left corner of the filler stock against the right corner of the pendant as in the left image of Fig19.  Hold it in position there while you flip the plate over and trace the rim of the backup plate onto the filler.  Remove the filler piece and before you saw away the traced line, write "g" on the face with the line so you know which side goes down.  Cut out the filler piece on your bandsaw, then use hot-melt glue to glue it down in the same position as you traced it.  Pick a fresh left corner of the filler and hold it in the corner made by the pendant blank and first filler piece as in the right image of Fig19.  Trace the rim, cut out the piece and glue it on as before--remember, you are filling in the circle here so you don't have to turn air, not making a jam-chuck.  Allow a little space from the sides of the pendant so you'll be able to flip it later without re-glueing all the filler pieces. Repeat for the last two pieces to finish filling in around the backup plate.  Mount the backup plate in your chuck.


Fig19  Two steps in applying filler pieces around the pendant blank.


Fig20  The backup plate after applying the filler pieces and mounting on the lathe.


Use a small bowl gouge to reduce the thickness of the pendant/filler to 5/8" as in Fig21.  Whilst the blue tape & hot-melt mounting is quite secure, it may not survive a catch, so it would be prudent to cut from the inside out, lessening the chance of a catch when starting a cut on the irregular rim.


Fig21  After reducing the thickness of the pendant blank and filler to 5/8".


Use a pencil to indicate a 1-1/2" diameter circle on the pendant blank.  Then start hollowing the inside of a dome this diameter with a small bowl gouge as in Fig22.  Try to leave the dome between 1/8" and 1/16" thick at the center.  You can't measure this directly, but you can measure the depth of your cut.  I use a small homemade gauge visible at the bottom of Fig22.  It's nothing more than a rectangular piece of wood drilled and tapped to 1/4x20 thread in the middle, some 1/4" nylon all-thread, and a standard 1/4" nut as a jamb nut if I care to lock it in position.  The nylon is gentle on wood so I can use it with the lathe running.    I set the depth of the gauge at the rim.  To test depth, place the end of the nylon at the bottom of the dome--the distance between the surface of the rest of the pendant and the body of the gauge indicates how much further to hollow.  Sand the pendant back with progressively finer abrasives.  Apply finish if you wish to finish it on lathe.  I did not particularly enjoy trying to use CA on such a large object, nor did my nasal passages if I forgot to turn the dust collector on first.  The pendant probably does not come in contact with skin as much as the beads when worn, so spray lacquer will be fine.


Fig22  After hollowing the back of the dome.


Use a narrow putty knife and mallet to separate the smallest filler piece and the pendant blank from the backup plate as in Fig23, and then remove the backup plate from the chuck.  Remove any tape from the pendant blank.  Draw a circle or otherwise mark the dome position on the front side of the blank, as you don't want to re-mount it upside down.  Then cover the already turned back of the pendant blank with blue tape.  Remove used tape where the pendant was mounted on the backup plate and apply fresh blue tape as in Fig24.  Paying attention to the orientation of the pendant blank, remount it and the smallest filler piece on the backup plate.


Fig23  Removing the pendant and smallest filler piece from the backup plate.


Fig24  The set-up to remount the pendant to the backup plate.


Remount the backup plate in your chuck.  Pencil in a 1-1/2" circle to indicate the base of the dome.  Now make a V-cut on the line and then reduce the material outside the V-cut to about 1/2" thick with a small bowl gouge as in Fig25.  You may also wish to taper the top of the pendant by cutting a taper near the rim.  Now use the bowl gouge or shear scraper to round the top of the dome as in Fig26.  Sand with progressively finer abrasives and apply finish if you wish to finish on the lathe.


Fig25  After making the V-cut and removing outer material


Fig26  After sanding the dome and background.

Remove the backup plate from the lathe and attach the eccentric the eccentric arm to the back so that it is approximately aligned lengthwise with the lower right corner of the pendant.  Then remount the backup plate in the chuck.  The eccentric arm goes in between adjacent sides of the jaws as in the left image of Fig27.  You can slide it back and forth for the amount of eccentricity you desire.  Use a pencil on the tool rest and hand turn the lathe to see the placement of a turned arc as in Fig28.  If the arc will mar the the bottom of the pendant, you can also tilt the backup plate moderately in the chuck as in the right half of Fig27.  Once you're satisfied with the set-up, tighten the chuck very securely. 


Fig27  The backup plate mounted eccentrically in the chuck on the left, and also tilted on the right.


Fig28  After penciling in the placement of the arc.


Rotate the lathe by hand to make sure the backup plate isn't hitting anything.  Reduce the speed setting of the lathe considerably and turn the lathe on.  You can then increase the speed to a comfortable setting and cut the arc with a mini-cove or V-tool as in Fig29.  Sand the groove if necessary, and apply finish to the arc if finishing on the lathe.    Increase the eccentricity and repeat all the steps to cut a second arc as in Fig30.


Fig29  After turning the first arc.


Fig30  After turning the second arc.


Remove the pendant and all the filler pieces from the lathe with a narrow putty knife and mallet.  At this stage you could call the turning done and use a scroll saw or band saw to cut the blank to a slightly beveled diamond or other shape and sand the edges off lathe.    After piercing it would look like the pendant shown in Fig31.


Fig31  A mahogany pendant with the sides cut at a 5° bevel and sanded off lathe.


Contour Jig

The contour jig has a rectangular area that is held between the sides of the jaws of your chuck, as was the eccentric arm for the backup plate.  This lets it slide from side to side so that both edges can be cut at the same time to yield symmetric results, or the edges can be cut independently to add asymmetric details or quite different contours.  The pendant blank is held on the tongue of the jig with blue tape and hot-melt glue with tailstock support.


To shape the edges of the ornament on the lathe make a contour jig.  Start by cutting a 2" thick by 4" wide by 5-1/4" long block of sturdy hardwood such as maple.  Layout cutting lines on the top and right side as in the top of Drawing A.  You may also print out a full size version of Drawing A, fold it on the indicated line, and temporarily attach it to the block.  The completed layout is shown in the top image of Fig32.  The jig is sawn out on the bandsaw.  First stand the blank on edge and make the cross cuts as shown in the bottom of Fig32.  Now, again on edge, make the rip cuts, as shown in Fig33.


DrawingA as a pdf 



Fig32  The layout for the contour jig and after the on edge crosscuts.


Fig33  The contour jig after the on edge rip cuts.


Tape the large top piece back in place as shown on the top image of Fig34 to restore the cutting lines for the contour jig tongue.  Make cross cuts on the sides and then the rip cuts.  Last round over the end of the tongue as in the bottom image of Fig34.


Fig34  After taping the large cut-off back on, and the completed contour jig.


Turning Pendant Edges

The top of the pendant should be turned first.  You can speed things up by removing the top corners of the pendant on the band saw.  Drill a 1/8” hole crosswise near the top of the pendant for stringing it into a necklace.  Cover the top surface of the contour jig tongue and the back of the pendant with blue tape and lightly sand the tape to remove the coating and help the glue adhere better.  Use hot-melt glue (or another glue if you have a thing against hot-melt) to glue the pendant to the contour jig tongue.  The bottom of the pendant blank should butt up against the jig and the blank should be centered on the tongue.  Fig35 shows the set-up for attaching the pendant.


Fig35  The set-up for gluing the pendant to the contour jig.


Mount the contour jig in your chuck between the sides of the jaws as in the top image of Fig36.  If you want symmetrical sides (and I think it best to start with that) adjust it so that the dome is centered.  Once adjusted, tighten the chuck securely.  Bring up the tailstock for support, but don't crank hard on the tailstock or you may dislodge the pendant.  Turn on the lathe at a very  slow speed and increase it to a comfortable speed.  Use a spindle roughing gouge to round over the contour jig tongue as in the bottom image of Fig36.  This only needs to be done the first time you use the jig. 


Fig36  Mounting the contour jig in the chuck and rounding over the bottom of the jig's tongue.


This mounting will cut contours between the middle of the dome and the top of the pendant.  Switch to a gentler tool such as a detail spindle gouge and continue to remove stock until you start cutting the sides of the pendant.  At this point it's a good idea to check and make sure that the dome is centered by ensuring stock is being removed equally on both sides of the dome.  If needed, adjust the setting by sliding the jig sideways in the chuck.  Continue with light cuts until the sides are shaped as desired except for a tailstock nub as in the left image of Fig37.  Sand the sides with progressively finer abrasives.  Now remove the nub as in the right image of Fig37 and sand the tip.  Apply finish if you wish to finish on the lathe.


Fig37  After turning the sides above the dome of the pendant and after removing the tailstock nub.


Since the jig is capable of eccentric cuts, why not add some eccentric details?  Slide the jig slightly towards you in the chuck so that only the right side of the pendant will be cut.  Gently cut with a mini-cove tool to wrap the arcs around the right side as in Fig38.


Fig38  After eccentric detail cuts.


Remove the pendant from the contour jig with a narrow putty knife or pry it off by hand.  Then remove the contour jig from the chuck and clean off any used blue tape on both jig and pendant.  You can again remove the corners of the pendant on the band saw-this was not done earlier to increase the area for gluing when turning the contour of the top half of the pendant.  Apply fresh blue tape to the tongue of the jig and the back of the pendant and sand lightly to promote good glue adhesion.  Glue the pendant on the jig with hot-melt glue so that it is centered on the tongue and the tip butts against the back of the jig.  The tongue should be glued on past the dome.  Remount the jig in the chuck, again centering the dome, and bringing up the tailstock for support as in Fig39.


Fig39  The pendant mounted on the contour jig to turn the bottom of the pendant.


Using gentle cuts with a spindle roughing gouge, cut to the desired shape, leaving a nub for the tailstock.  Sand the sides, then remove the nub and sand that area as in Fig40.  Slide the jig towards you and make a couple of small detail cuts with a skew or tool of choice as in Fig41.  Remove the pendant from the jig and remove any blue tape.


Fig40  After turning the sides of the pendant below the dome.


Fig41  After making eccentric detail cuts.


Finishing and Assembly

You could enhance the dome in any fashion you like, such as eccentric cuts, inlay or carving.  I chose to do piercing.  It is difficult, because you can't measure it directly, to turn the dome thin enough that the dental tool derived high speed air carvers will handle it easily.  So Instead I used a spiral scroll saw blade.  This is an ordinary scroll saw that's been twisted into a spiral by the blade manufacturer.  It cuts a wider kerf and cuts in any direction and will easily handle thicker stock than an air carver.  It will work well in any scroll saw that takes unpinned blades.  The  spiral blade will also work just fine, if a little slower, in an ordinary hand fret saw frame.  The nice thing about the spiral blade is that it will cut a kerf as wide as the entrance hole required, so the holes are well disguised.  Also, since it isn't spinning at 400,000 rpm it doesn't burn the edges of the kerf.


You could draw a pattern or just cut randomly.  Drill #60 access holes in the dome, then thread the blade through the hole and cut your pattern.  Fig42 shows piercing the dome with a spiral blade and fret saw.  After piercing, you can clean up the bottom of the dome with light hand sanding with fine sandpaper.


Fig42  Piercing the dome with a fret saw mounted spiral scroll saw blade.


If you haven't finished the pedant on the lathe, hold it with a scrap of fine wire through the hole drilled for stringing the pendant, and apply multiple coats of a spray lacquer or the finish of your choice.


You could use the eccentric backup plate and contour jig concept to make tree ornaments such as the one in Fig43.  I used an 8" backup plate, with the same eccentric arm for this ornament.  The contour jig was the same except for a 5-1/4" long tongue.


Fig43  A tree ornament based on the pendant technique.


Assemble the completed components into a necklace.  I've run out of space to cover this, especially as there are lots of ways.  You could string the beads onto a cord and separate them with knots.  You could buy a ready made necklace and add the beads.  You could form wire into links.  Briefly I used round nose piers to put a loop, or bail, at each end of a short piece of silver plated 18 gauge copper wire through each bead, and then connected the wires.  I'll add a short on line article or video for the latter.  You could pick up one of many books on wire jewelry, such as Totally Twisted by Kerry Bogert, or search on YouTube for “making a simple wire loop”. Fig44 shows the completed necklace, strung with wire components.


Fig44  The completed necklace

 Single Loop Bail

Double Loop Bail

No-Flip Pendant Hanger



Bead Drive:

5/32 steel rod

Optionally CA glue & small pieces of hardwood



3/4" x 3/4" x 1" to 1-1/4" bead blanks

3/4" x 2" x 4" pendant blank


Backup Plate:

3" and 6" plywood discs

7/8" x 3/4" x 5" hardwood

3/4" pine for filler wood


Contour Jig

2" x 4" x 5-1/4" hardwood



Extended release masking tape

Hot-melt glue and gun, or other adhesive

Various grit abrasives

Finish of choice





Drill chucks


Scroll or Fret Saw with #0 Olson spiral blade

Spindle turning tools depending on bead pattern chosen

Small bowl gouge & other faceplate turning tools



David Reed Smith lives in Hampstead, Maryland.  He welcomes comments and questions via email at  This article, in a possibly expanded form, will be available along with 60 or so other articles on his web site: