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Project: Turn a Doughnut


Wooden doughnuts can be used to add interest to a centerpiece for a table or they may be used simply as wooden rings to enhance a flower arrangement or other decorative display. The wood can be selected to give a variety of colors and textures, and the finish can range from matt to a full gloss. And best of all, they have zero calories, zero fat, and no cholesterol.


For a woodturner, the hole in the middle presents a bit of a challenge as far as mounting the blank is concerned. Jam chucking is not possible because there is no place to put the tailstock live center. Further, the inside of the hole has to be shaped and sanded. The method of turning a custom, friction-fit, jam chuck for each doughnut is not time-efficient if we plan to make a lot of doughnuts.


I use Cole jaws with an added clamping ring to hold the blank while shaping the center hole. Note that this forms a version of a doughnut chuck, which to me seems appropriate. At the end of this article, I describe alternative methods that do not require Cole jaws nor a scroll chuck with small step jaws.


Let the fun begin!


Brief Summary of the Procedure


1. Use a drill press and Forstner bit to drill a 1 3/8” hole in the blank.

2. Use a bandsaw to round the blank. Mount it on the lathe using a scroll chuck with small step jaws that expand inside the hole.

3. Turn the blank to its final diameter. Also, if necessary, clean up each face and turn it to its final thickness.

4. Shape and sand the outside edge of the doughnut. (Reverse the blank on the chuck if necessary.)

5. Shape and sand the exposed end of the hole.

6. Mount the blank in a doughnut chuck to shape and sand the other end of the hole.


In greater detail – Let’s do it all again!


Prepare the Blank.


My doughnuts are about 3.5” in diameter and 1.25”  thick. The hole in the middle is about 1 3/8” diameter. They look about right even though I didn’t consult any standards to arrive at these dimensions. This means that the blank should be about 4” square and perhaps 1.5” thick.


Use a drill press to drill the hole. This is easier and safer to do while the blank is still square because it is easier to hold. You can cut out the disk after you drill the hole, but mark the cut line first. Otherwise, you lose the center.


Begin the Shaping Process.


Once we have a blank with a hole through the center, we can begin forming the actual shape of the doughnut. Mount the blank on a scroll chuck by expanding a small set of step jaws in the hole at the center.


The first thing to do is turn the blank to its final diameter and  thickness. Then mark the center of the edge of the disk. Round over one corner of the disk and sand to completion.

Reverse the blank on the chuck and shape the other side. Form the contour where the center hole meets the exposed face. Sand.


At this point we much change the chucking method in order to shape the contour at the other end of the hole. This is where the doughnut chuck is used.


The Doughnut Chuck


The last step is to mount the blank in a doughnut chuck so the remaining contour at the center hole can be formed. To improvise the chuck, I added a clamping ring to a set of Cole jaws, as shown in the following.

The clamping ring is made of 3/4” plywood and is about 8” in diameter. Carriage bolts (1/4 – 20, 3” long) with wing nuts provide the clamping pressure. The Cole jaws are tightened enough to center the doughnut, but the buttons do not grip it well enough to hold without the use of the clamping ring.


After mounting the doughnut, finish shaping the exposed surface.

Apply a Finish.


My preference is to use a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax because it is easy to apply and gives a soft, non-glossy surface. (See article on this site.) You can use another oil-based finish such as walnut oil or tung oil and get a similar result. For a glossy surface, my first thought is to use wipe-on poly or lacquer and then buff.  


Disclaimer, because they look so good:  “Do not eat.”

Alternative Methods


No step jaws


If you don’t have a chuck with jaws that will fit inside the center hole, you can use, first, a screw chuck and, then, a mandrel to accomplish the same thing.


Before drilling the hole, mount the blank on a screw chuck, clean up the faces as necessary, and turn it to its final thickness of 1 1/4”.  Do not turn it to its final diameter at this point.


The screw chuck does not have to be elaborate. It can be as simple as a portable tenon that you simply screw to the blank. If the blank tends to rotate on the tenon (because the screw is not rigidly attached to it), sandwich a small piece of double-stick tape between the tenon and the blank.

After truing the blank and turning it to its final thickness, use a drill press to drill the 1 3/8” hole through the center. Then mount the blank on a mandrel to turn it to the final diameter and shape the outside.

This technique makes it possible to shape the outside but it does not allow us to  form the contour around the hole. For that we must use the doughnut chuck.


No Cole jaws


If you do not have Cole jaws, you can make a more traditional doughnut chuck such as that illustrated in the following photos. The 9” diameter baseplate is made from 3/4” plywood and is mounted on a scroll chuck using a glue block for a tenon. A faceplate will work just as well.


Note that a means must be provided to center the blank. I made a cradle from 3/4” plywood that fits onto a 1/2” dowel located at the center of the baseplate.

To make the cradle, jam a 4” disk of 3/4” plywood against a flat surface and form an inset tenon. Mount the disk on a scroll chuck, true up the edge, and drill a 1/2” hole all the way through. Finally, hollow it out to the approximate profile of a doughnut. It doesn’t have to be perfect.


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