diy project: wood bud vase and salt dish


I canʼt deny I was a little hesitant with this monthʼs Design*Sponge theme of flowers. Sure, I have some houseplants around, but when it comes to flowers – Iʼm usually mowing over them. Though, to fully embrace Mayʼs theme, I started thinking… What would I make my Mom for Motherʼs Day in a kind of “middle-school shop class” style?

Iʼve had some interesting apothecary-type glass bottles laying around from an impulse purchase at American Science and Surplus, and some rough Walnut stashed in the shop. What if I use them both to make a small flower vessel centerpiece? Maybe I add a little salt cellar to it as well? This project goes much easier if you have the right tools, but could be accomplished with lesser machinery with some modifications. —Matt

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • A belt sander with heavy grit paper
  • Orbital or palm sander with finer grit paper
  • Drill press and forstner bit
  • OSMO finish
  • Soft cloths


1. From my rough of walnut, I cut a piece off and started some rough sanding on the belt sander. You can use a palm sander, but itʼs certainly going to take longer. I started out in a conventional shape, but decided to experiment with some facets and angles… just free-form sanding, but making sure my surfaces are all flat. You have lots of ways to experiment here – all square edges, angles, facets, live edges, bark edges… you can pretty much try anything. Rough sand with a heavy grit (60-80) to get the general shape you want.

2. From there, I mounted the block on the lathe to cut a cellar out of it. I know lathes arenʼt readily available in most homes, but you can carve this with hand tools, or even just drill out a surface. Maybe drill out a surface for a ceramic salt cellar to be placed in it? If youʼre turning on the lathe, make sure you do it a the slowest possible speed. Since the carving is not centered, itʼs going to wobble for sure.

3. Once having the cellar shape cut and sanded on the lathe, I used my drill press and a forstner bit to cut the vessel holes. Measure your vessel and cut a hole just slightly larger. Decide how deep or high you want them sitting… and you could even angle them in for an interesting look. Please be careful if youʼre using a hand-held drill and a forstner bit… they usually get unwieldy very quickly.

4. After all my cuts and holes have been made, Itʼs time for finish sanding. This is the part I always want to rush, and it pays to relax and go slow. The more sanding you do, the better your surface will feel. I used my orbital sander with grits from 120, 180, 260, and 320. By then, youʼre getting wood incredibly smooth, and I further worked the surface with a hand sanding block and 400 grit ultra-fine paper. With that last pass, youʼve got VERY fine dust everywhere, so make sure you either blow it all off with compressed air, or use a tack cloth to clean the wood.

5. After sanding is complete, you can apply some finish. Since this will be touching something edible, make sure you pick a food-safe product. I have been using OSMO lately and I think itʼs great. Itʼs low VOC and made from vegetable oils and waxes. Apply some OSMO thinly with a soft cloth and follow up with a clean cloth. Then just let it cure for 12 hours.

6. Once cured, you can buff for a little more shine.

7. Lastly, add your favorite finishing salt, and pick a small flower or twig from your yard to complete!

  1. Shanthi says:

    Lovely post and thanks for sharing. Very much tempted to try but uhuuuuuuuuuu impossible, I cannot create – I can only ADMIRE :-)

  2. kimberly says:

    WOW!! So lovely! you need to team up with Mark and sell these at The Meadow :)

  3. Maggie says:

    Such a great idea!
    I like that this one’s a good “boy” project, too. You don’t see much “boy” DIY unless it’s some type of major construction.

  4. Ariana says:

    This is SO lovely! Oh, to have a wood workshop at home…

  5. Matt says:

    Thanks everyone, glad you like.

    @kimberly – that’s where I bought my salt for this project! The Meadow is great.

  6. Jo Chopra says:

    If I were your mother, Mark, I would be so thrilled to receive this. (Mark, even though I’m NOT your mother, I would be thrilled to receive it.)

    What a wonderful idea!

  7. Matt, you never cease to amaze! You better keep your eyes on this one, I might come over and steal it! ;)

  8. Phrag E says:

    So nice. I love it.

  9. Elke says:

    Matt, this is beautiful- I live near a spice shop & have become a bit of a salt junkie. What if you made a cellar with 4 holders for salt? I’m looking since my table is over run with small white bowls…. Wish I had a lathe.

  10. Looks great, I’m jealous of your lathe :)

  11. rosekraft says:

    The warm brown tones of the glass and walnut work so well together – then the white flowers and salt just make the whole thing sparkle!

  12. Thanks so much for the article. Also, just wanted to say keep up the great work on your article and blog in general. Really great lay out and design.

  13. Matt says:

    Thanks everyone, happy to have you reading!

    @Elke, I know what you mean, I walked out of the salt shop with five to try! I might experiment with some multiples… I have some wood, just have to find the time!

  14. you can make so many beautiful and useful things!

  15. Mary says:

    I really like this idea since I’m forever saving little glass bottles if they come into my possession – especially if they look medicinal.

  16. melis' says:

    what is this for?

  17. Sanch says:

    Anyway you could be persuaded to make another for sale? This is the perfect gift for the impossible to buy for woman. ;)

  18. pinky says:

    i’m i wrong if i say i’m so jealous of you right now…but i will say it anyway…
    you are so lucky to have all the fancy drills and gadgets….how does one not get jealous then ??? my God looks like this “feeling’ is stuck in my head ,,,lol

  19. Ike says:

    I’m interested in how you mounted this onto the lathe. Did you use a chuck? Glue? I’ve pretty much had bad results with any sort of mounting except for screws, which either leave holds in the bottom or result in substantial waste wood to be cut off. Thanks! It looks great!


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