This patio skittles set makes a great outdoors, family game that is fun for all ages. While turning a ball may feel a little daunting, this is in fact a simple turning project that will challenge your work holding skills.

Watch Colwin Way in our Woodworking Wisdom demo or follow our step by step guide below to turn your own patio skittles set, complete with six pins and three balls.

View the plans

Click below for the project plans.

Prep your timber - Skittles

Start by roughing your blank down to a round. Next, cut the largest diameter to the measured size using a 6mm beading and parting tool and a set of external callipers to a diameter set to 70mm.

Repeat this process to the top of the skittle approximately 40mm from the tailstock end to a diameter of 60mm. Before shaping, take some of the the bulk waste out with a spindle roughing gouge.

Trim both ends with your parting tool to take away any uneven timber and to allow for any marks left by the centres.


Shape your skittles

You are now ready to start shaping. Round over the top of your skittle first before working on the neck. Using the bevel rubbing push cut, clean up the entire skittle.

Now the bulk of the turning is done, you can take the tailstock nib down further with the tip of your skew chisel. This will help when sanding these areas away in the next few steps.

Add any design you want at this stage. We chose to add a couple of black lines as decoration. These pencil lines can now be cut in with your skew. Then, using a wire burner, burn in the two cut lines to make them jump

Finish your skittles

You are now ready to sand. Start at 100 grit to 150, then work through 240 and finish with 400 grit. This is what the skittle should look like once the sanding is finished.

Using a sanding disc, sand the waste at both ends, making sure you keep the skittle flat on the bottom. Sand to a good finish with a fine sanding pad from a rotary sander or power sanding pad.

Prep and mark the ball

Hold the blank between centres and rough your down to a cylinder. Then set your external callipers and a set of dividers to 75mm.

Using a 6mm beading and parting tool, turn your blank down to 75mm and then clean back to your measurement with a spindle roughing gouge.

Using your dividers, mark the 75mm leaving the same amount of waste at either end, roughly 10mm. Remove this waste with your 6mm beading and parting tool

Next, measure and mark the centre of your blank.


Turn the ball

Start shaping the ball by taking the corner away at 45 degs. Then, round this corner with a 10mm bowl gouge using a push cut to give a burnished finish.

Repeat this process to the other side of your ball, down to, but not taking away your waste area. If needed, use a skew to further clean or round the ball.

Use your dividers to scribe a 75mm circle, cut it out and use it as a template for your ball. This will help create the perfect circle.


Using a piece of scrap wood, turn a hold point for your chuck, then taper and add a dish to the end. This will be a drive for your oak balls.


In the tailstock we used a multi head tailstock centre with a cup centre in it. Turn the ball 90 degs and hold between the two centres. Carefully turn away the two centre points from your ball.

Once again tidy any areas with the skew chisel in scraper mode.

The final finish

Next, you can sand to a good finish. You will need to stop the lathe and change orientation several times per grit to ensure the whole ball is sanded.

Once all the balls and skittles are made, you can add a finish. Remember the finish needs to be suitable for outside. We used finishing oil.

Cover each piece to saturation and, after about 30 seconds, wipe off any excess and leave to dry for 24 hours before lightly re-sanding with 600 grit and recoating with a second coat of oil.


And there you have your final set of skittles and balls.


Made it? Share it!

If you have made our skittle project, we would love to see it. Simply snap a picture and share on social media tagging @axminstertools. Find us on Instagram and Facebook.

Mastered our garden version of this game, then why not try our indoor, table version. Test your skills further by turning a resin sphere with our oak burr and resin orb project.