How to Turn a Straw-Stem Goblet

Updated on March 7, 2018
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I've always made my living as a carpenter. I spend most of my time building custom guitar necks and doing woodturning.

Try this fun woodworking project!

Turning wood goblets is a fun project to do. The best part is that you can go from a blank to a finished product in a short amount of time. Straw stem goblets are just a bit trickier than a normal wood goblet because the stem is so thin. It takes very little to break the stem. Most of the time, they are 1/8" thick. If you want to try turning one, it would be advisable to leave your stem a bit thicker for a first try.

I've heard of people leaving their stems 1/32", but I don't go that thin. A stem that thin will more than likely break the first time it's picked up.

1. Mount Your Blank

To start, find a blank (billet) and mark both ends like you see in the picture. I usually use an awl to get the center points started so it's easier to mount between centers.

  • You can also mount one end directly into your chuck like I did.

Using a roughing gouge or a bowl gouge, round the blank. If you wanted to, you could cut off the four corners before mounting the blank. This saves a little time, but I normally just turn the billet round.

2. Rough It Out

Once your billet is round, you can rough out the cup portion. Once you have your outside cup shape, it's time to remove the tailstock so you can hollow it out.

You can hollow out the cup portion of the goblet with several methods, but I prefer a 1/2" or 3/4" round-nose scraper. Keep it very sharp and take light, wispy cuts.

3. Stabilize It

Now that it's all hollowed out, sand the inside of the cup. You want to do this now while the stem is thick. Do it later, and you may not have a goblet at all.

Once your cup is all sanded, find a piece of styrofoam and jam it in the cup. Bring your tailstock back up and run your live center into the foam. This will keep the goblet stable while you continue turning. Some people use paper towels, but I find that styrofoam works better.

4. Do a Final Shaping

Do your final turning and sanding. Be very careful as your stem gets thinner. One slip now and you will definitely need to start over.

At this point, you're ready for the finishing details. If it's going to be a decorative piece, you can use any finish you like. If you plan on using the goblet, finish it with a 2-part epoxy finish such as system 3 clear coat.

Part the goblet off and finish the bottom by hand.

Ebonized Oak Straw-Stem Goblet
Ebonized Oak Straw-Stem Goblet

How to Choose the Finish

I don't always use the same finish on goblets. What the goblet is going to be used for dictates the finish that I choose.

  • If the goblet is going to be for decoration only, I prefer a lacquer finish due to its high clarity. The only problem is that if your wood is an oily exotic, a lacquer finish could fail due to the oil content in the wood. In these cases, I prefer to use an oil finish like Danish oil.
  • In cases where the goblet will be used, I'd suggest a 2-part epoxy to finish it, as it's the only finish that will hold liquid.

The general rule with finishes is that they are all food safe after 30 days.

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