Project Tutorials


Turned mushroom
Cross section of real mushroom

My method for turning a mushroom may vary from the approach some other turners take but this works the best for me and I will explain why.

I first went looking for real mushrooms for an example to start with. All the mushrooms in my woods have a thin cap even if it curls all the way back down to the stem so I hollow the under side of the top. I am using a fresh cut limb for the wood and the thin top does not split as it dries as a thick section might. This also lets the top warp and twist itself to more resemble a natural mushroom.

There are many variations to try with a mushroom shape and this is just a simple project to start out.

Spindle gouge and swivel tip tool

Turning a mushroom doesn't require any special tools but if you have a tool like this swivel tip one you can use it undercutting the top if you find it easier than using the spindle gouge.

Blank between centers

I start with a fresh cut limb of whatever diameter is handy between centers. The fresh wood may warp and lean when it dries but I think that adds to a more realistic looking mushroom. I used the pith center on each end for center points to start the turning.

Close up of turned tenon

I turn a tenon on one end to fit in the chuck. Turn the tenon short enough so; the outer edges of the chuck jaws are the stopping point for the wood and not the tenon itself.

Tenon in chuck jaws

The tenon in the chuck. The outer surface of the jaws should seat against the shoulder, not the tenon in the bottom of the chuck. This is the largest diameter and gives the most lateral support.

Roughing gouge cuts

Rough the wood round but remember to leave bark for the outer edge of the cap if you want it natural edged. This is a 3/4" spindle-roughing gouge I am cutting with.

mushroom top profile start

This is the roughed profile with a bark edge left intact. Leave some extra wood for support during the undercutting of the cap since this is endgrain and could be broken if too much pressure is applied to it while undercutting.

I turn the cap on the headstock side of the lathe for a couple of reasons. First, because I am right handed and it is a lot easier and more comfortable to undercut the cap with my right side to the lathe. Second, the cap is the largest diameter and heaviest section on the turning. If I wanted to turn the stem really, thin so it could bend while drying the drag from the tailstock could twist the stem in two. Having to apply pressure with the tailstock to hold the cap up can also cause the stem to bend while turning.

Spindle gouge cut under mushroom cap

I use my 3/8" spindle gouge to turn the stem and cap. With a sharp gouge, I can cut against the grain direction and still get a good surface right from the tool. The flute of the gouge is facing toward the stem and I am cutting from the edge to the center.

Swivel tip tool cut under cap

Another way to undercut the cap is with a swivel or angle tip tool like this, pulling from the stem to the outer edge.

Turning the stem under the hollow cap

Once the under side of the cap is done the transition area between the stem and cap needs to be blended together.

Light shining through the hollowed cap

Using a light to check how even the thickness is throughout the cap. Fingers would work well enough for this also but when you can see a uniform glow throughout the wood it is an even in thickness.

All that is left now is to continue turning the top until parted through. Wet wood does not sand well but sand now if you want and then hand sand when the wood is dry. A finish I save for later when the wood has had a chance to dry.

Top view of cap with light shining throughs

Another view of the top after parting through that shows the pith centered over the stem with the light shining through the cap.