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Turned Paperweights (See the process)

A few years back I was able to pick up some 2½”-thick maple burl slabs from Josh Brower in western Iowa. With a few days of rainy spring weather, I finally found the perfect excuse to turn some shot-filled paperweights from this figured stock. The first step is to cut the body blanks to rough size on the bandsaw using a 3/8″ blade. Next, I use a Forstner bit mounted in a drill press to bore a 2” hole 2” deep in each where shown below. Keep the speed slow to keep the bit from overheating. See our Drill-Press Speed Chart for reference.


  Next, I mount a smaller piece of the same burl stock to an auxiliary faceplate. This will be used to plug the hole in the body.


 For the plug, I turn it to shape with a gouge as shown below.


I turn the taper until ¼” of its end fits snugly into the recess in the hole in the body as shown below.


 When the plug is just slightly oversize, it’s important to take a shallow cut, stop the lathe, and check the fit of the body onto the tapered plug. If more than 1/4” to 3/8” of the tapered plug slides into the hole in the body, simply use a parting tool to remove part of the end of the plug. I got too aggressive with one plug and the entire plug slid into the hole without making contact with the sides of the hole. When that happens, you simply part the entire plug off the auxiliary faceplate and start over. Once the body starts fitting onto the plug, I make a mark on the plug, as shown above, so I can measure now much of the plug fits into the taper. To get as much lead shot into the body, I want to minimize the amount of plug fitting into the body.

   Next, I put about an ounce of glue into the flat-bottomed hole as shown below.


   Then, I add a few ounes of shot,


Add a bit more glue,


Next, I slide the tapered plug into the hole and shake the plugged body to make sure the shot doesn’t rattle in the hole. If I hear a rattle I add a bit more shot. If I initially added too much shot, I simply remove a bit. Once a perfect fit has been achieved, I pour more glue on top of the shot, lightly tap the tapered plug in place with a mallet, and turn the assembly plug side down so the glue can seep down onto the plug.


Initially I used epoxy, but found that woodworker’s glue is just as good from a faction of the price. Next, I mount the assembly on the my lathe, move the tailstock in to postion for extra support, and turn the paperweight to shape.



Start to stop on the turning, 3 minutes 30 seconds. Next, I power-sand the project as shown below.


After hand-sanding the paperweight through 220-girt, I apply six coats of Minwax Antique oil, buffing between coats. Next I part the turning from the auxillary faceplate, put it in my four-jaw chuck fitted with the extra-long pins from Penn State, and turn and sand the bottom smooth as shown below.



Finally, I sign and apply finish to the bottom, buff the project with a buffing wheel. Shown below are a few of the finish paperweights.


Marlen @ WOOD

10 Responses to “Turned Paperweights (See the process)”

  1. I’ve never seen turned paperweights before, Pretty neat!!!!I may have to try this sometime…

  2. Marlin,
    Thanks for sharing. What use might those provide ? LOL

  3. Found this article to be very interesting and be a use full idea. Will be trying it in the very near future, Thanks for the idea. Luke

  4. Thanks for this great article! I always appreciate learning how to make new items. I will give this a try.
    Blessings, Susan

  5. I read some time back where someone used the state tree and then inlayed the state quarter for the paper weights.Otherwise the same instructions. Would be hard to gather all wood samples and quarters, but would be nice speciality gift.

  6. If you substitute a rare earth magnet for the shot and turn the top concave you can make a magnetic pin cushion that seamstresses and quilters go crazy over. Good job. Thanks Steve

  7. Great idea.Just got into turning a few months ago.Always looking for things like this to try.Thanks for the project!

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