As a long time Etsy seller we have found a lot of success in producing hand made items on our wood lathe. Customers are always looking for unique items to buy for themselves or as gifts and the lathe makes it possible to produce them quickly and at a profit. If you are looking to start selling your woodturning online or at craft shows here are 15 wood lathe projects that sell fast!
Note that many of these items are small in diameter so it is even easier to get started selling with only a small midi style lathe and a handful of tools. Typically I only use the bandsaw to break down the wood into blanks and the lathe to turn them. If you’re looking for a great lathe to get started take a look at our post on some of the best lathes available for beginner woodturners.
Wood Turning Projects for the Kitchen to Sell
The kitchen is always a great place to start when looking for new wood turning projects to sell. The pieces are often fairly simple to make and there are always buyers in this market.
Salt and Pepper Shakers
Salt and pepper shakers are an easy item to quickly produce and sell. We typically make them out of 6/4 or 8/4 stock, depending on the customer specifications, and can easily produce a set in under 30 minutes. Maple and walnut are our two most popular woods and a mixed set, maple for salt and walnut for pepper, sell great. You can also add some styling to the shakers with decorative lines cut or burned into the top to delineate between the two.
We use a 9/16 forester bit bit to drill out the bottom and these plugs to seal in the salt and pepper. The holes at the tops are then drilled out with a small drill bit and they are finished with a coat of wood butter.
Wood butter is a great, natural finish for items that will be used in the kitchen like bowls, jar lids, or salt and pepper shakers. It can be bought premade but is also very simple to make. We simply combine a mixture of 4 parts mineral oil to 1 part beeswax, slowly heat it on the stove until melted, and then store it in a glass jar.
Pepper grinders are a great way to show off a beautiful piece of wood due to their larger size. Spalted maple, laminated dyed wood, burls, and highly figured pieces will all be a show stopper and photograph amazingly as a pepper grinder. While the kits can be a bit more expensive than some other items the payoff will ultimately be worth it.
Pepper mills with eye catching wood can easily sell for upwards of $50 – $60.
Baking related items are hot sellers right now with so many people staying home and cooking. Rolling pins are no exception. This is one of those items where simple is often best as they are easy to make and sell. We primarily work with maple but will include some one off exotic species on occasion. Usually that is dependent on having an offcut that works well for to make a pin.
Pasta pins are typically thinner than traditional rolling pins so those are a good choice if working with a smaller diameter wood blank.
One thing to watch out for is the shipping costs if selling rolling pins online. Their heavier weight and length can make for more expensive shipping costs.
We love wood trivets as a way to use smaller offcuts of lumber from other projects. A 4/4 6″ x 6″ piece of walnut only takes 15 minutes to turn into a trivet on the lathe. While these items may not sell at a premium price they can be a good traffic driver to your online shop through good listing SEO.
Lidded boxes, or salt cellars, are a fun way to show off your woodturning skills. There are few things more satisfying when working on a lathe than turning a box with a perfectly fitting lid.
We love saving those special pieces of wood that may be too short or small for a lot of other projects and turning lidded boxes. They always photograph well and are quick to sell as buyers love showing off unique pieces like these.
One tip we have for turning small vessels such as these. Use a forsner bit to hollow out most of the inside then use a carbide scraper to clean up the rest.
Bottle openers are a great item to quickly make to build up your online inventory. These bottle opener kits are fairly cheap and use only a small amount of wood. This makes for a good profit margin for a product that can be easily batched out and takes up little space.
Honey dippers are a fun little project, especially for beginners, to get a feel for different tools. These are another great option to fill out your catalog of woodturning items for sale.
Using a thin parting tool is a perfect way to cut the grooves in the bottom of the dipper. It is also just a great addition to your woodturning tool set.
Jar lids are one of my secret weapons to drive traffic to our Etsy shop. Glass jars with wood lids are extremely in style right now and an entire woodturning business could probably be built on variations of this one item alone.
Some jar lid styles to consider producing include weck jars, mason jars, carafes, wine decanters and storage jars. Purchasing different jars in bulk and selling them with custom lids is a surefire way to attract customers.
Our Etsy shop typically has between 20 – 30 active listings at any one time. Many Etsy experts recommend maintaining at least 25 active listings as they think it is the magic number for Etsy to promote your listings in the search results.
To keep around this number we maintain a few smaller listings that are easy to batch out every month or two. Bottle stopper fit perfectly into this category. We actually keep a couple of bins near the bandsaw to save offcuts from other, larger projects that will work for these small items.
Keeping a few extra bottle stopper kits on hand makes it simple to batch out a few when we have an hour to kill in the shop.
Decorative Wood Turning Projects
Bud vases are small, decorative vases meant to hold small, dry flowers such as lavender. You can let your creativity run wild with these vases as they can be made in almost any shape or size.
Tall, slender vases with modern shapes tend to sell especially well right now. Luckily the slender profile means these can be turned with commonly available sized wood such as 6/4 or 8/4.
A drill chuck, which can be inserted into your tail stock, makes drilling a hole in the vase quick and easy as well.
Christmas ornaments are a fun way to add some seasonal variety to your Etsy shop. Turning Christmas trees on your lathe and attaching an eye hook to the top for easy hanging makes for a quick win.
Best of all these items can be made from cheap, readily available woods that are both quick to turn and favorable to your bottom line.
If you really want to spruce up your listings try using some milk paint to add a splash of color. Its rustic, matte finish is extremely trendy right now in the home decor space.
Artistic woodturning can go in 1001 directions. It can also open your creative mind and introduce new techniques that can be applied to your other, more commercial items.
We love browsing the wood turning galleries on the AAW website to get a taste of how folks are pushing the limits on what can be produced on a wood lathe. Segmented pieces are some of our favorites at the moment as they can be turned into truly phenomenal sculptures.
While it may take a bit more time and effort to the find the right customer for custom art pieces it can really help you to stand out in the crowd as a woodturner.
Functional Wood Turning Projects
These wood lathe projects all offer a personalized touch to connect with your potential buyers.
The rise in popularity over the last decade-plus of a certain wizard themed movie series has made wands a very popular item to sell. They can be made out of almost any reasonably hard wood and are a great chance to show off your creativity with decorative finishes and colors.
Wands will put your spindle turning skills to the test and we recommend getting familiar with your spindle roughing gouge and skew chisel. We tend to prefer traditional turning tools such as gouges, skews, and scrapers over the new carbide tools. While the learning curve is higher with these tools we feel the control they offer and improved finish ultimately makes for a more enjoyable turning experience.
Note that if you sell wands on Etsy or other online shops be very careful with your wording on the listing. Items using trademarked terms can and will be removed and your shop faces a permanent ban for repeated offenses.
Wood, or a combination of wood and metal, rings have become a popular option for couples looking to get a little more creative in their wedding ring selection. Luckily an entire industry has grown around this product making it easy to quickly start turning your own wood bands.
There are numerous sellers on Etsy who will sell metal ring blanks made from a wide variety of materials including stainless steel, damascus steel, titanium, carbon fiber, or ceramic. You then just have to turn your wood blank with the correct inside diameter to fit around the outside of the blank. Fun additions that sell well include using whiskey or wine barrel stave wood and adding inlays like guitar wire or crushed stone.
Some helpful materials to make your own wood rings include CA glue for gluing the wood to the ring blank and putting the final finish on the ring. Micro-Mesh sanding pads for sanding the ring to a glass-like finish. And digital calipers as your measurements have to be absolutely exact for the ring to fit together properly.
When I first started woodturning 20+ years ago pens and bottle stoppers were some of the first functional items I made. Out of all the woodturning kits available I’m not any have been around longer than the pen kits.
Luckily the market is always evolving and new, exciting kits are introduced every year to keep up with buyer’s demands.
Pens can be turned on almost any lathe with a well-centered tailstock and just a few tools. While the skew chisel is my tool of choice for turning pens they can be easily turned with carbide tools as well. Add in a pen turning kit and some wood blanks and you’ll quickly be in business.
Final Thoughts on Wood Lathe Projects that Sell Well
Selling your woodturning projects can be a profitable venture with a little research and work at the lathe. A few final tips for standing out amongst the Etsy crowd.
Invest some time and money to take good photographs. Compelling, high-quality images can be the difference between a customer willing to pay $20 versus $50 for an item. For our images we use the following setup:
- Nikon D750 with 50mm f.14 lens (this is a little overkill for a camera but it is incredible)
- Softbox Lighting Kit
- Graduated Photography Background
Learn good SEO practices for your Etsy listings. Make your titles as long as allowable and use terms that customers are searching for. Write a compelling description of your product and add a personal touch. Customers love knowing that there is someone actually making this product for them.
Promote your work! Even it is just to family and friends Etsy loves listings that are getting traffic and sales. An initial boost on new listings can catapult it to sustained sales and success for years.
Derek grew up woodworking in his father’s shop and has since gone on to start up a successful woodworking business on Etsy. In his spare time, you can find him mountain biking, skiing, or writing.