Acorn Turning and Burning
by Curtis Turner
Round Rock, TX
Note: Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Sometimes inspiration strikes in strange ways. This simple acorn with a burned cap is one such example.
I have no idea why I needed to make this. I have made many acorns over time. However, I never
burned the cap.
A turned acorn requires a small amount of material. This project is something that can be done after
work as an easy way to relax or practice your turning skills.
I turned my first acorns a number of years ago as a gift to my wife. The acorns, along with a small
matching bowl, represented our two boys at the time. The acorns symbolize how a child can grow,
much like how a tiny acorn can develop into a mighty tree. I turned additional acorns as our family
grew. We now have 4 acorns and the matching bowl is full! So, no more room for acorns.
Let's Get Started
I purposely selected a small blank that would show off the burned cap. In this case, I used a maple blank
about 6-7" in length. Any small blank could be used.
Once the blank was turned round, I began shaping two acorns. It is not important to turn two at a time, I just did
this to use the entire blank. I turned these acorns free style, in other words, I did not use layout lines or
calipers. You have plenty of leeway to develop the acorn just by eye, no pattern is needed.
I used a roughing gouge initially, followed by skews and spindle gouges to complete the turnings. I of
course used a parting tool to create the stem.
I made these ones slightly larger than most acorns I have turned. You can turn yours any size you like.
Once they were mostly completed, I used a wire to burn in a black line to define the cap from the body.
I did this while there was sufficient wood connecting the pieces.
I did not want to turn the stem (or the tips) to the final diameter. The wire is held down with enough pressure that it may have
been possible to snap the stem (or tips), if turned to the smallest diameter.
After burning the lines, I turned away as much of the tip as possible. I reduced the stem to an
appropriate size to complement the acorns.
I used a pocket knife to carefully carve away
the remaining waste at the tips.
Then I used a thin, flexible saw to separate the two acorns.
I sanded the acorn, paying more attention to blending the tip into a smooth point.
Burning the Cap
The cap can be colored with dye, stain or paint. The cap can also be turned out of contrasting wood.
However, I did this project simply because I "needed" to burn the cap of an acorn.
I used a wood burning pen designed for shading. The burner was used on a high setting. I simply used
the pen to lightly brush the surface until I achieved the desired appearance.
I did not press hard with the pen. My goal was to develop a warm brown tone, not charcoal black. I used the pen
to build the shade I wanted, which meant blending and re-shading some areas.
I chose not to apply a finish, but a finish of your choice could be added if you desired one.
Now I just need to sit back, enjoy my work and wait for inspiration to strike again!
Curtis is a former President of
Central Texas Woodturners
, a member of the
American Association of Woodturners
, and a member of
Fine Woodworkers of Austin
. Curtis teaches and demonstrates nationally for Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. He also teaches for TechShop. He owns a studio where he teaches and works. Curtis lives in Central Texas with his wife and four young children. Take a look at his website at