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Build It | Christmas Ornaments

Host Kevin O’Connor meets general contractor Tom Silva in the workshop playing with his new favorite toy—the lathe. Tom demonstrates how he uses it to turn custom wooden holiday ornaments perfect for the tree or give as a festive gift.

General contractor Tom Silva turns the barn into Santa’s Workshop and asks Kevin O’Connor, Richard Trethewey, Jenn Nawada, Mark McCullough, Mauro Henrique, and Ross Trethewey to help him turn, paint, and hang Christmas ornaments out of scrap wood.

Creating custom wooden ornaments can be done using an array of wood types. Tom suggests using scrap wood, although you can use better quality wood for fancier ornaments. All of the pieces should be relatively square-shaped.

How to Make Wooden Ornaments Using a Lathe

Follow these steps to make your own holiday ornaments using scrap wood on a lathe.

  1. The first step to any lathe project is to cut the wood to be square. It should have the same depth and height. The length can be either long or short, but with the other two sides square, you will be able to ensure it spins on the lathe safely and correctly.
  2. Set the rip vent on the table saw to a pre-determined length, and run the scrap wood through the blade where appropriate.
  3. Now, it’s time to set up the lathe. First, measure and mark the center of the wood with a square. Remove the spur from the lathe and hammer it into position with a rubber mallet. Insert the spur into the lathe and slide it into position until it’s against the spindle. Then, power on the lathe at a low speed to ensure the piece turns correctly. Tom increases the speed once the wood is secured correctly. Now, it’s time to start turning.
  4. Tom turns on the lathe using a roughing gouge until the square block is rounded.
  5. Once the block is rounded, switch to a parting tool, which helps round out the edges and gives the ornaments their details.
  6. Sand the ornament using a smaller lathe.
  7. Clean up the ornament and paint them using either a drill press or drill driver (or by hand).
  8. Finally, drill small holes in the ornaments to thread string through to hand on a Christmas tree.


Tom turned the Christmas ornaments using scrap wood he had from other projects, though he suggests that any pieces of wood that’s square will be easy to turn into an ornament.

Tom used a REVO 12|16 110V, which is manufactured by Laguna Tools.

The tools Tom used to actually turn the rolling pin can be found at any specialty woodworking store.

To sand the ornaments, Kevin used a combination of 220 grit sandpaper and a 12|16 ½” 120V midi lathe manufactured by Rikon and can be found at most specialty woodworking stores.

The rest of the team painted the ornaments and hung them to the tree using hook eyes. Both of these items are found at most craft stores.

Woodcraft provided expert assistance with this project.

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