How to Turn a Bottle Stopper

Making a bottle stopper is quick and easy. It's a great use of small
pieces of exotic wood and it makes an impressive gift.

A few considerations when making stopper designs:
* How will it look in the bottle not just in a display or on a table.
* Stoppers do not need to be tall to be attractive. Check out the
glass and stone designs on the Stopper Gallery Some are almost flat and look great.

This first method is for using the A301, threaded, style bottle stopper base.
Click here to see the process using the B302 style bottle stopper.

Click here to see how to make the knit cap stopper that fits over the neck of the bottle.

Mount a blank (approx. 2"x2"x2.5" long) in your jaw chuck and bring up the tailstock (tailstock is not always necessary, it adds stability) and round as much as possible close to the chuck.

Shape the bottom sides, make a small starter hole for the drill bit and cut the indentation for the stopper to fit inside. I like to sand the bottom and put a little finish on it so I don't need to cut close to the mandrel to finish the bottom edge.
This is a "marker" I use for the diameter of the recess; put the nub in the starter dimple you make for the drill and press it to burn the circle.

Use the stub bit as there's less chance of it wandering when it hits hard grain. Use a 11/32" or 9mm bit and drill the hole 5/8" deep; the stud on the stopper is 1/2" so the 1/8" further allows more glue room. You can purchase the stub drill bit here.
Continue to turn the bottom and cut a 1/16"-1/8" deep recess 7/8" diameter then cut a dimple as a guide for the drill bit. The recess eliminates trying to get the wood a perfect diameter (if it's a mm off, it looks like you tried and missed) it also eliminates an obvious glue line Even if you cut the bottom perfectly flat, wood always moves and there could be gaps where moisture and dirt can accumulate. I like to turn some of the intended design before inserting the mandrel because most of my turnings are about the same diameter as the neck of the bottle. That's a personal taste, and I like the turning sitting as close to the bottle as possible. I also turn several blanks to this point before removing the chuck. *note: if you use #2MT-B mandrel, you can leave the chuck on the lathe and insert the mandrel in the jaws as shown here.
This is a close up photo of stoppers that were done about 8 months ago. There were absolutely no gaps between the wood and the stopper tops. As you can see, the wood has moved and it makes it look like I didn't do a good job. With the stopper set in a tiny recess, this would never happen. We want your work to look beautiful forever............or at least 20 years!
The mandrel can be threaded into the wood either by hand or by inserting it in the tail stock and turning both the head stock wheel and the tail stock by hand for even threading. Mandrel purchasing information is here.
The wood is removed from the chuck, the chuck removed from the lathe, the mandrel inserted into the head stock spindle and the tail stock brought up for support. Be sure your spindle is clean so the mandrel seats, also the mandrel has a 1/4" x 20 tpi thread for a draw bar.
Using a drawbar helps keep the mandrel tight in the spindle while turning. A piece of 1/4" 20 tpi all-thread rod, a piece of wood with a washer and nut tightened up to the hand wheel after threading into the back end of the mandrel.
Turn final design. By the way, this finished design is a bit different than my original plan in the picture above because there was an crack that needed to be turned out. It is the same wood, the color variation is from lack of photographic skills.
Finish sanding and holding a rag with oil on with the lathe running fast. After a few minutes you can just take it to the buffing wheels using the mandrel to hold it. Then simply unthread the mandrel and insert the stainless bottle stopper.


 Finished!    Notice the stopper base is almost the same
diameter as the bottle top. It creates a comfortable or more appealing appearance.


     These are mandrels you can make to use in a jaw or scroll chuck for turning stoppers. Round a waste block, drill a 23/64" hole right through, insert a 3/8" x 16 tpi lag or carriage bolt but do not glue yet. Be sure the bolt is running true. If it isn't, I have a step on both sides and adjust the block in the jaws so the bolt runs true then re-turn the step. When that re-turned step is reversed into the chuck, it will run true then glue the bolt. Turn the wood to any shape just be sure the bolt protrudes 1/2" to 5/8". Note: if the bolt runs true, these are great, if it doesn't, it can be very frustrating. I just toss them and start with a new piece of wood!

The process for using the B302 style stopper can be done two ways:

You can do the exact steps as above, after you remove the mandrel, run a 3/8" drill bit in the hole to remove
the threading then glue the stopper into the wood or turn the whole stopper in the jaw chuck as shown below.

   Mount a blank (approx. 2"x2"x2.5" long) in your jaw chuck and bring up the tailstock (tailstock is not always necessary) and round as much as possible to the chuck.
   Use a 3/8" drill bit instead of the 23/64" and leave the wood in the chuck.
   I turn the bottom and cut a 1/16"-1/8" deep recess the diameter of the stopper (13/16") then cut a dimple as a guide for the drill bit. The recess eliminates trying to get the wood a perfect diameter (if it's a mm off, it looks like you tried and missed) it also eliminates an obvious glue line Even if you cut the bottom perfectly flat, wood always moves and there could be gaps where moisture and dirt can accumulate.
   Bring the tail stock up to turn the design, it does help with vibration. It's not shown in the picture but I do use the tail stock.
   Just before finishing turning the top and parting off, sand and apply oil finish. You should just have a small nub to sand smooth. If you have my mandrel or a homemade one, the turned stopper will fit snug enough to be able to hold it if you use the buffing wheel. I've had a stopper or two fly because I didn't have a firm hold on it!


 Finished!