205 – Twisted Candle Stand

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I recently made a Tilt-Top Table that features a turned post. Since many folks don’t own a lathe, I decided to come up with an alternative way to construct a post. I found inspiration in an episode of Woodworks from season 4. 402_pedestaltableDavid Marks made this awesome lamp stand with a spiral post. With David’s permission, I’m going to show you a variation of the technique that I learned from him. While Season 4 of Woodworks isn’t available just yet, you can buy Seasons 1, 2 and 3 right now at DJMarks.com. Both downloads and DVDs are available. And if you aren’t familiar with Woodworks, you seriously need to pick up a season or two!

My original goal was to simply show you the spiral carving technique. But it’s always more fun to actually make something useful, so I quickly shoe-horned the spiral pattern into a small candle stand. Aside from the spiral itself, construction of this candle stand is quite simple. So let’s dive in.

Prepare the Blank

The post blank starts at 2″W x 2″T x 8″L. While I give you specific numbers for laying out the spiral pattern, keep in mind that you might want to change these numbers to suit your tastes. You can have more spirals by diving the blank length by a larger number. Or you can have fewer spirals by dividing by a smaller number. You might also play with the start and stop point of the spiral, allowing it to transition back to square. It’s completely up to you.

spiral-routingTo bring the blank as close to a cylinder as possible, I use a large 1″ roundover bit taking multiple passes and sneaking the bit up a little bit at a time. If you take too big of a bite, the workpiece may tear out or kick back. Keep in mind with each pass, you are essentially removing your reference material for safe routing. This is why we can’t bring the blank into a full cylindrical shape. When finished, there should be at least a 1/4″ wide flat area on each side.

Using the method described in the video, lay out the spiral to your liking. Blue tape or even electrical tape works quite well for connecting the dots of the spiral pattern. Once the spiral is completely traced onto the blank, it’s time to sculpt.

Sculpting the Spiral

To sculpt the spiral, I’m using a Makita electric die grinder. The model linked to is the new version of the one I’m using. The die grinder accepts 1/4″ shanks and the bit I’m using is a 1″ carbide ball mill (or burr). Traditionally, this bit has been difficult to track down (as stated in the video). But I did a little digging and I found something comparable here.

spiral-ball-millUsing the die grinder, remove the stock between the lines slowly. The action is a lot like erasing with a pencil. Work your way down being careful to keep the lines intact. I like to work down in stages. During the first stage, I might only remove stock to 1/8″ depth at the very center of the spiral, but I’ll do this over the entire post. Stage two widens the “trough” while also making it deeper. The process continues until the spiral is at full depth (about 3/16″) and full width. By working the spiral down in stages, I have the advantage of course-correction when required.

Refine the Spiral

spiral-raspOnce the spiral is roughed out with the die grinder, I switch to a fine rasp for the finishing touches. The rasp not only smooths out the rough surface left by the carbide burr, it also helps finesse the final details. Using sandpaper wrapped around a round contoured sanding pad (or a dowel) I smooth the surface up to 220-320 grit.

The Base

The base and top of the candle stand are made up of small wooden disks. The top disk is 1/2″ thick x 3 1/2″ diameter. The bottom is actually a stack of two discs: one at 1/2″ thick x 3 1/2″ diameter and one at 1/4″ thick x 3″ diameter. The post is attached to the base and top via a small length of 1/2″ diameter dowel stock. 3 1/2″

The Finish

The finish is pretty basic: wiping varnish. I started with Minwax Satin Poly and diluted it about 50% with mineral spirits. I then wiped on a total of three coats over the course of a day and a half. Before the final coat, I sanded the surface with 1000 grit wet-dry paper. The final coat goes on smooth and pretty much stays that way.

The Verdict

This was a bit of a rushed design and I’m really not in love with the end result. But it works for now and it’s still a perfectly usable candle stand. If I were to make another one, the first thing I would change is the diameter of the base. It should probably be 1/2″ wider to help give the piece proper visual balance.

Category: Projects


  1. Loves me the technique – and the Shirt, YO!

  2. Marc,

    Very nice! I saw Roy Underhill do this once and he used a handsaw with a depth mark on the blade and cut to the lowest point of the curve. The helped to keep it consistent.

  3. Marc, this was really cool to watch even for this non-woodworker. Very cool technique props to you and David Marks!

  4. Brian June 28, 2013

    I can’t wait to give this a try! Thank you!

  5. Kris Smith June 28, 2013

    Looks like the ball mill you have, with the finer cut.

  6. Looking at the David Marks’ table there and I’m wondering how it would look if the cross section of the spiral continued into the bottom square section and the legs flowed right out of the raised parts. I don’t know if I’m describing that well enough. The legs would be coming out shifted 45 degrees from the way they are now.

  7. Very nice project and technique. I saw your previews on facebook and thought there would be a lot more involved. Thanks for taking the time to make a video on it.

  8. Sean Mancini June 28, 2013

    check this link it looks like they have one simular

  9. Jesse June 28, 2013

    The first time I saw david lay out and carve that spiral, my mind was blown; even though I have no desire to do a spiral carving.

  10. Hi Marc,

    It was interesting to see this technique for spirals. I wasn’t sure how much the technique was going to vary from how I carve my twisted legs, and as it turns out, the techniques are completely different. Nice demo.


  11. Sean June 29, 2013

    From a pure instructor perspective you’re really nailing it. Your respect and appreciation for your public, their varied skill sets, interest levels and knowledge levels is commendable. You’re a wonderful asset to the community and it’s been enjoyable to watch you grow in your talents as an instructor. Thank you Mark.

  12. Mark Allen June 29, 2013

    Awesome Video as always Marc! Ditto on the shirts, but where did you find the Star Wars one?

  13. dale halvorson June 29, 2013

    Great video Marc. I agree with you feelings on Woodworks.

    I am gonna see if I can ruin some wood trying this

  14. Andrew Levine June 29, 2013

    Hey Marc – What kind of epoxy is that? The kind I’ve used is a lot thicker. Thanks.

  15. Chris July 2, 2013


    What size and type of rasps do you recommend?

    IE grain and modelers or cabinetmakers

    Thanks, Chris

  16. roy July 6, 2013

    Rather than a ball mill, I use a core box router bit in my laminet trimmer. Just take very light passes. It works great and it’s fast. I’ve been useing it to carve spoons for years. And when you are not using the bit to carve you can use it for it’s intended use…making core boxes.

  17. Michhes July 6, 2013

    It may have been DJ Marks for you Marc but it was The Wood Whisperer for me!!

  18. Frank July 14, 2013

    As soon as you made the corn dog joke I fully expected a clip of you eating one. Or gnawing on a dowel or something. This may sound like a joke, but it’s one born out of a real frustration, and that is I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO MASTER THE ART OF POURING MINERAL SPIRITS OUT OF ONE OF THOSE CANS WITHOUT SPILLING AT LEAST A BIT! Seriously! What is the secret?

  19. Rock Breton October 23, 2013

    Hi Mike,

    I used similar technic to make a quite different candle stand. The result is interesting as you can see (I will try to send you pictures…)

  20. Mah Sho November 16, 2013

    I learned much from this man . I thank him.

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