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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Making Bowls - Part 3

I made a bowl in the last installment. You can see it here if you haven't read it.
In this installment, I will show another option for mounting the bowl and getting the same job done.
I'll start just like I done the other bowl, marking center and marking a circle. Again, the circle, and cutting off corners is not absolutely necessary. It is a step I do though. I just prefer to start with a somewhat round blank at the lathe.
Also, especially for certain wood like this box elder I'm using for this bowl, I save the cut off corners for inlay pieces on pens at a later date.
I also need to point out that on this one I am marking all this on the top of the bowl instead of the bottom.
Next, I drill a hole with a forstner bit in the blank. I will use this hole to mount it on my chuck. However, if you do not have a forstner bit or drill press, this step allows another option. At this time, if you like, you can center a face plate and screw it to the blank. If you are using a face plate, you skip this and screw the face plate, with the blank attached to it, onto your lathe.
Whether using a chuck with the hole drilled, or a faceplate, with the blank on your lathe, round it and get it balanced the best you can.
After getting it round, you can go ahead at this time and shape the outside of your bowl. Notice that when doing it this way, the bottom of the bowl is pointed towards your tailstock instead of the headstock.
Next, you need to measure what size your chuck can accommodate and mark where the jaws will have to go at. You can do this with a tape measure if you need. I simply use my forstner bit that I usually drill holes with for my chuck. I put the center point of the forstner bit into the hole the tailstock center made before, and make a pencil mark on the outer edges of the forstner bit. This tells me where my chuck jaws will be able to go into.
Then, on the mark I made with the pencil, I'll make a cut into the bottom of the bowl, or in this case, my waste block. There is a variety of ways to cut this. You can use a small scraper, a diamond shaped parting tool, or I've even seen it done by making repeated cuts with a thin parting tool and another guy I seen who was real good done it with a quarter inch bowl gouge. I like to use a straight bit in my oland tool.
Then I reverse the bowl, using the groove I just cut, I mount the bowl onto my chuck.
And hollow the bowl.
You may notice I did not use a depth gauge to make a hole to depth on this bowl like I done the other one.
I wanted to show another way to measure it if you don't have or don't want to use, a depth gauge.
I have this little tool I use for this purpose, but you can use a second straight rule, or even a tape measure. Simply lay a straight edge across the top of the bowl and use a secondary measuring tool to stick to the bottom of the inside of the bowl and you can easily see how deep it is. Compare this to the overall thickness of your original blank and you can tell how thick your bottom is. When you start getting close to the final depth, stop and measure often, or you can easily turn through the bottom and turn a real pretty bowl into a real pretty funnel.
Sand and finish.
Flip the bowl into the flat jaws just like we done the other bowl.
And that makes a bowl too.
This bowl, if you use a faceplate, eliminates the need for a forstner bit or drill press. Then while turning, we eliminated the need for a depth gauge.
The point of this part was to demonstrate that, with a little thought, you can get by without having certain things. I'm making it easy on myself because I love me chucks. However, if you don't have a chuck, there are even tutorials online to turn bowls without that. If you're good at using a parting tool, you can mount a waste block thick enough to accommodate screw length, turn a bowl completely on a face plate, and then part it off and sand the bottom clean on a table.
Anything is possible. You are only limited by your imagination.
Just a couple more things.
Whatever tools and accessories you do have at your disposal, use them to your full advantage.
Here, the curved tool rests are not just for getting at those insides of bowls. They are really beneficial at making sharper curved on the outsides of bowls.
This is just one more way of giving a bowl more shape. If this was used on a tall vessel, you could reverse the curved rest halfway up and create an S-shaped profile. As I keep saying, possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Also, once you start getting techniques down, have fun and experiment with your materials. You'll be surprised at what you can some up with.
In the left stack, you see that piece of rose wood on top? It's missing a corner on the top and it is unevenly cut. We could mount this up and turn it down till that corner, where bark once was, is gone,
We can leave it as is and just turn an interesting bowl.
Just be careful when turning something like this and take light passes. You have to realize that you are turning air for part of the upper sidewalls. That means that for every revolution your lathe makes, your tool has to pass through open air while not touching anything as it goes across that missing patch of wood. It can be done. It just take practice and patience.
I hope I've helped someone with this blog series. It is hard to explain some of it with only photos. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take a class or get some one on one tutoring from another experienced wood turner. I did not have that option, so I understand if you can't either. In that case, watch some videos. You can see little things in videos that photos and words just can't explain.
Until next time my friends, happy turning!!!


  1. DIYaholic here....

    A great "Intro to Bowl Turning" tutorial.
    You did quite well without video.

    I learned a lot, that will I will be able to use for my first bowl. I really liked the long drill bit depth gauge!!!

    If it ever stops snowing here....
    I may get some shop time and WILL turn a bowl. Just know full well, that YOU provided a great deal of help & motivation!!!

    For taking the time to make this series....
    THANK YOU!!!


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