How To Turn Wood Bowls
30 July 04

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Wooden bowls are popular as everyday serving options or for special occasions. The wooden bowl can be ornate or simple, depending on the maker's preference. The time-honored tradition of bowl turning has regained popularity in recent years. Many woods can be used for creating beautiful pieces of art for bowls used as table centerpieces or even vessel sinks. The possibilities are vast once the basic skills required to turn a wooden bowl have been mastered.

Locate the center on the bowl blank. Use a ruler to draw a straight line from corner to corner. The point where the lines intersect is the center of the bowl blank. Look the bowl over carefully. Determine which side would look best as the top and bottom of the bowl. Pay attention to knots, grain patterns, and the general aesthetics of the bowl blank when making this determination.

Use an appropriately sized drill bit to drill the side of the bowl. The drill bit should be slightly smaller than the chuck screw attachment. Drill deep enough to accommodate the chuck screw attachment.

Use a compass to draw a circle from the center of the bowl blank on both the top and bottom. This circle will indicate the perimeter of the bowl. Saw some of the excess wood on the outside of the circle off the bowl blank with a band saw.

Insert the screw into the chuck on the lathe. Lock the spindle. Thread the bowl blank onto the screw in a counterclockwise direction. As you thread the bowl blank, turn the tail stock crank to keep a moderate amount of pressure on the bottom of the bowl. Once the bowl blank is completely screwed onto the screw attachment, tighten the tail stock against the bottom of the bowl blank and lock the tail stock base.

Position the tool rest appropriately 1/8 inch from the highest point on the bowl blank. Lock the tool rest and mount in place. Turn the lathe on a slow speed setting. Use a bowl gouge to begin rounding out the bowl blank. As the blank becomes smaller, continue to move the tool rest in closer. When using a gouge, the rest should be just above the center point on the bowl. When using a scraper, the rest should be just below the center point on the bowl. Shape the bowl until rounded to your satisfaction.

Reposition the bowl blank in the lathe and set the tool rest up in order to flatten the bottom of the bowl blank. Use an appropriately sized scraper to achieve the desired flatness and shape on the bottom of the bowl blank.

Reposition the bowl blank in the lathe and set the tool rest up to begin hollowing out the inside of the bowl. Flatten the face of the bowl and pay particular attention to the smoothness of the edges. Start hollowing out the bowl using a bowl gouge. Make sure to keep the sides curving smoothly and the bottom of the bowl flat. Once the inside of the bowl is hollowed out to the desired curve, you may stop the lathe and remove the bowl. It is best for beginners to finish the bowl by hand off the lathe. More experienced turners often apply a finish while the bowl is spinning at a high speed on the lathe.