Around the Woods

Turning a Mushroom

"Mushrooms are popping up all over, turn yours today."

People like mushrooms. I am not sure why, but they are a steady seller for me at craft fairs. One of the reasons is that I turn a lot of small ones to sell at about $3.00 each. This means that I have to turn them fast and furious. This is good because after the first hundred or so a challenge is needed to keep the turning going. Regardless of the size, I like to have them all proportional, which to me implies a height of two to three times the diameter. Occasionally I turn one a little more squat or a little longer but generally within this ratio.

For a small mushroom I take a sapling and cut it into four to five inch long segments. wood turning mushroom image
I used to turn a tenon on the mushrooms, chuck them up and turn them, finishing off the cap on the lathe. Lately I find it just as easy and a touch faster to turn them between centers, pare off the top with a knife and cut the bottom on the bandsaw, and sand to finish. Here is one between centers, ready to go. I am not fussy about the piece being exactly centered since the sapling is not perfectly round and a bit off center lends character to the mushroom. wood turning mushroom image
I turn at about 2500 rpm. First I decide what the mushroom will look like as far as height and shape of cap and use the parting tool to mark the top and bottom. Two side by side cuts at the bottom of the cap leave room to work. wood turning mushroom image
Use a roughing cut to remove a lot of wood in a hurry. Roughing gouges are good as are bowl gouges or large spindle gouges. Here I am using a 1/4" Oland tool. First I outline the shape of the cap and refine with a skew or with the long bevel of the Oland tool. I like to stay with the one tool as much as possible for production turning. Leave at least an 1/4" tenon for the tail stock support. wood turning mushroom image
The stem or "stipe" is turned the same way. The cap is undercut using the Oland tool or a skew lying flat on the rest. It is not necessary to have the top very thin. Real mushrooms have a fairly thick top; small mushrooms rarely split; and big ones look better with a split or two, in my opinion. wood turning mushroom image
Having finished stipe and top with the Oland or skew, reduce the stem at the top with a 1/4" spindle gouge or skewchigouge or skew and remove the mushroom. wood turning mushroom image
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