Learn How to Make a Vase Using Nothing More than Coloring Pencils
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If you have a pile of spare colored pencils lying around, why not put them to use? Gather them all together and turn them into a piece of art — a magnificent vase.
Follow this simple guide to find out how.
But, before we get stuck in we will need some things first.
Tools and equipment needed
- Colored pencils (144 in total of assorted colors)
- Measuring jug (plastic)
- Rubber bands
- Clear varnish
- Clear liquid epoxy
- Plastic cylinder (thin-walled)
- Lathe sculpting tools
- Lathe woodturning hollowing tools
- Orbital sander
- Mini lathe
- Belt sander
- Lathe coring bit (or Fortsner bit)
- Compressed air blow gun
With all your basic materials and tools, in hand, it is time to get on with the build.
Step 1: Prepare the colored pencil block
The first step is to grab your coloring pencils and remove them all from their packaging. For this build, you will need 144 pencils in total, but this will vary depending on the size of the vase you want to build yourself.
Next, take your pencils and place them all within a plastic measuring jug. Keep adding, and tessellating, pencils until no more can fit without breaking them.
Alternatively, you can make a bundle of pencils by hand.
Secure the bundle of pencils with elastic bands, and remove it from the measuring jug. Then gently rotate the bundle so that the pencils fully tessellate.
Next, measure out around 0.15 lb (69 g) of epoxy resin. However, note that the amount you will need will be dependent on the number of pencils you plan on using.
Wrap the bundle of pencils in a plastic cylinder, and completely submerge the pencils. You can either use an old cylinder or make one using a plastic sheet and a scrap wooden base.
If the latter, secure the entire pencil-epoxy cylinder with elastic bands, or other material, and leave to cure.
Step 2: Start to carve the cylinder
Once the epoxy has cured, secure the colored pencil block within your lathe. Ensure that both the headstock and tailstock hold the block securely.
Turn on the lathe, and then begin to carve the vase. Your first objective is to remove the outer plastic container to expose the resin and pencils (pencil leads) below.
As always, ensure you wear hand, eye, and respiratory protection when doing this.
Remove any remnant pieces of rubber bands, etc, as you go too. With that complete, you can now begin to trim off the pencil nibs too.
You want the top of the vase to be as flat as possible.
As with the sides, trim off material until the top of the pencil shafts is exposed. Continue to trim material until a stepped level is created.
At this point, your pencil vase block should look something like this.
Remove the block from the lathe, and reattach it using the stepped base in the headstock chuck. It is now time to get on with the real woodworking part of the vase.
Also, secure with the tailstock once again.
Step 3: Begin to form the shape of the vase
Now start to shape the block as required. In this case, the top of the vase will feature a curving neck and sharp lip. You can form to whatever shape you see fit.
Continue removed material until you are happy with the top. Then continue to trim off excess material in the belly and base of the vase.
Add details like concentric rings, or ridges, as needed.
If you plan on woodturning a solid wood lip for the vase too, you can also shape that at this point too. Continue until the rough form of the lip is complete. This will be cut off as a single piece later.
If you spot any loose pencil leads, you can gouge them out and replace them with slithers of wood, or reglue the loose pieces. You could also fill any gaps with wood filler.
Step 4: Core and expand the inside of the vase
Now add a coring bit to your tailstock. Using it, begin to remove material from the center of the pencil block. Core out the center to the desired depth within the pencil block.
Use a variety of diameter corers until you are happy. However, ensure that the corer bit is not wider (or as wide) as the narrowest part of the neck of the vase, for obvious reasons.
Now continue to work the inside of the vase using a variety of woodturning tools. Widen the bore, or shape the rim from the inside as needed. Alternate with sandpaper at times to remove wood dust too.
Once complete, use some water, and a sponge or rag, to clean off any dust or other debris.
Next, add a light source to the tailstock of your lathe, and shine down the barrel of the vase. This will help you see what is going on as we continue to hollow out the vase.
With that setup, continue to work the inside of the vase. As before, use a variety of woodturning tools and sandpaper to complete. Try to follow the shape of the outside of the vase, if possible (or indeed desired).
Take your time on this stage, and be mindful of not puncturing the outer wall. At regular intervals, turn off the lathe and use compressed air to force out the sawdust, and other debris.
With that complete, give the entire vase a once over with clean water to remove dust and debris too.
Step 5: Complete the base
Now, turn your attention back to the outside of the vase. Begin to work, and shape the base of the vase. Add grooves, and curve to your own design and preference.
Once happy, begin to work the entire outside of the vase using sandpaper too. Get the surface as smooth as possible.
Use a variety of grades, as needed. Clean all parts of the vase once again using water and a sponge or clean rag. Work into any and all recesses to dislodge and remove detritus as best you can.
Once complete, gently begin to remove material from the very bottom of the vase. Continue until the vase is completely freed from the what remains of the pencil-epoxy block.
Once separated, clean up, sand, and polish the very bottom of the vase by hand or using an orbital sander.
Clean up the base, as with the rest of the vase. Leave the entire vase to now dry.
Step 7: Varnish the vase
With the main woodturning complete, we can now move on to treating the vase. Grab your clear varnish and apply it to all exposed surfaces of the vase, inside and out, using a clean rag and/or paintbrush.
Work the varnish into all recesses, especially inside the vase itself. Take your time to ensure you get an even and complete coverage of all exposed surfaces.
This will help preserve and protect your hard work. Once complete, give the vase a thorough visual check and spot varnish any missed parts.
With that, your DIY pencil vase is complete. You can now find somewhere prominent to display your genuine masterpiece.
If this project has given you the appetite for more woodturning, you will probably be looking for a new project. May we suggest a bathroom vanity?