The Craft of Wood-Turning


5675693Woodturning is a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe. Woodturning differs from most other forms of woodworking in that the wood is moving while a stationary tool is used to cut and shape it. Many intricate shapes and designs can be made by turning wood.

Wood turning is an art that dates back to 1300 BC when the Egyptians developed a two person primitive type lathe.  Thanks to electricity and modern technology the craft and tools used have evolved.

The process first begins with obtaining wood.  At Appalachia Urns, we never cut down trees to use for our vessels, but rather re-purpose a tree after it has come down in a storm or perhaps given to us by someone who’s had to do some excavating.  Wood for turning can also be purchased if one does not reside in an area where hardwoods are abundant.  In addition if one wanted to craft items out of exotic woods such cocobolo, purple heart wood and the like, those woods would need to be purchased from wood dealers.

The next part of the process is cutting the wood into manageable sizes.  Some turners will turn wood while it is green (not completely dry) and other will dry the wood fist.  Sometimes wood is soaked in a wood stabilizer to help with the longevity of the product.  Each artist/crafts-person of wood-turning often has their own preference.

The wood needs to be cut in a manner that the direction of the cut is suitable for the type of work the turners is doing, faceplate turning or spindle turning.  If cut on the incorrect direction this can cause tear-out which results in a damaged looking surface texture and would greatly reduce the value of the product.

Once wood is placed on the turning lathe, various gouges, scrapers, shavers are used against the wood to create the shape and desired surface.  Protective eye wear and respiratory equipment are recommended as the lathe is spitting out dust, wood chips and shavings.  Sanding then finishing are the final steps.  Some items can be left unfinished, others coated in a natural food-safe finish such as bees wax, while other preserved with a urethane finish.

This beautiful craft takes skill and artistic ability and can turn raw pieces of wood into amazing beautiful works of art.


wood turning tools (gouges)

Woodturning tools (gouges)

cherry wood turned bowl

Natural Edge Cherry Bowl


woodturned urn with black lacquer

Black Lacquer Accented Urn


Work… Service or Labor? 

Often our “jobs” are thought of as labor.  At Appalachia Urns, we like to re-frame the idea of labor into “service”, providing a heart-felt, quality product and service to our human family.  This human element is sometimes lacking in our busy society where quantity, numbers, speed is the underlying means of doing business.

Those in this industry are dealing with people at a very delicate time, (needless to say).  It is especially important that families feel compassion and genuine care, not just somebody “selling them a product or service”.  The compassion and care need to be genuine in true service.  Most folks can feel when it is merely an act to attain more business.

In spiritual life, we are to serve others, not just take from them.  Spiritual life does not only exist in the obvious ways of spiritual practice, but in all that we do including our work. Service will make you and the client feel good and adds good energy to our world … it is a win win!

Really being of service to our clients whether wholesale or retail is of the utmost importance to us. You will not find this type of workmanship or heartfelt service when you order your urns from an assembly line out of the country.  I am quite sure you will not find a personal note in your delivery as we include to our clients.  We enjoy connecting with our customers and share in their experience and hope to bring more joy, beauty, peace and compassion to their lives at a difficult time.

Whatever aspect of this industry you are in, please ask yourself if you are providing human connected, heart-felt service.  Doing so will make a difference on so many levels.

For families enlisting the services of a professional during this challenging time, I encourage you to seek out those who will offer you genuine service.  Arranging a funeral or memorial or making final preparation for a loved one is never easy, but working with people who care will definitely make a difference and help ease the process.

Below is what one of our recent customers had to say.  This dear person was making arrangements for his own service to be held in 6 months.  We found it very touching to work with Michael and admire his strength and composure.

Michael, Lexington, Kentucky

“Your gift to me arrived today. Yes, I paid a fee for an urn, and the pictures are good, but I am in awe at the beauty of this piece. There is a lot of love in that piece. The natural beauty and the way you brought out the grain, well it’s art!

I have decided that after my family spreads my ashes, in a location that my daughter and I have many happy memories of in Hawaii. I am going to donate this piece to my home town church in Michigan. When my father’s ashes we placed in the hole in the memorial garden, they were simply dumped from a plastic bag. Your treasure will become available to any member of the church who would like to use it. Your gift to me will go on giving.”

Thank you so much for sharing your work with my family!


We at Appalachia Urns encourage quality product & Service…not just labor.


About Hand-Crafted Work

latheHand-Crafted work is a combination of skill, talent, craftsmanship and passion.  It has a bit of an old timey workmanship feel to it. This type of work is somewhat becoming a lost art in our culture with the ease and low cost of mass produced items.Sure, if you are buying a hair brush, trash can or other “everyday items”, it makes sense to buy from your local department store. However, when it comes to the purchase of something to commemorate and honor your loved one, such as an urn, it is nice to take the time to find something a bit more special.

Each Appalachia Urn is crafted by wood-turning artist Robert Woods and takes about 12 hours per urn.  Smoky Mountain native hardwoods are carefully selected then turned on a wood lathe, soaked in stabilizer, worked on some more on the lathe, then sanded and finished with a high urethane to preserve wood.  Each piece is unique and a signed original.

Robert puts his heart, soul and creativity into each piece.  Being inspired to make urns, he calls these “Sacred Art Objects”.   Each piece is as unique as the individual you are memorializing.

It has been very special and fulfilling to assist families and funeral homes during this deeply felt time and to provide them with compassion and quality product and service.

Many individuals who buy an Appalachia Urn say things like:  “My loved one appreciated art, so this is very fitting”, and the like.  We also receive many comments about how our customers appreciate our compassion and sensitivity during this challenging time.

We hope that you will give us and other artists the opportunity to serve you and in doing so you will support hand-crafted, quality work.


Not Made in China

Wood Turning on the latheDeciding on how to rest cremains of your loved one is one of the most revered offerings you can do to honor someone special.

Do you know that most of the urns offered on line and sold by funeral homes are made on an assembly line in China or India?   Though some are very pretty, there is really nothing “special” about them.

Appalachia Urns encourages buyers to purchase and support hand-crafted, American made products, where much skill and care goes into the “sacred art of urn making”.  One of a kind urns are as unique as the individual you are memorializing.

You can’t get much more American hand-crafted than an Appalachia Urns.  Each piece is created by wood-turning artist Robert Woods at his workshop, in an old Appalachian tobacco barn.  From cutting a felled tree into manageable sizes, to turning/creating the urn on a wood lathe to the fine finish, these one of a kind, signed originals are a beautiful way to celebrate your beloved and crafted with the utmost care.

If you are in the market for an urn, we hope you will look at some of the hand crafted options that are available through various artists.