Steps for Turning an Open Bowl on Side Grain

  • Make sure any roadside log finds are worth bringing home. Are there extensive checks in the end grain? Is the bark loose or missing? Are there signs of insect activity or black stains indicating buried metal? Is the wood easily penetrated with a penknife or key?
  • Use caution preparing a bowl blank for the lathe. Stay out of the plane of rotation of the chain saw, and be prepared for trouble if you roll round stock through the band saw.
  • After cutting out your circular blank, chose the top of the piece (usually the side with no wane or cracks) and drill a hole for a screw chuck right in the center of the top. If you don’t have a screw center, you could mount the blank on a face plate.

Outside of the Bowl

  • Mount the blank upside down, with the bottom facing the tailstock of the lathe. Bring up the tailstock to support the blank and keep the screw from stripping out of its hole.
  • Face off the bottom and draw a 2- to 3-inch circle there.
  • Moving your bowl gouge right to left in a series of stepwise cuts, start cutting away the outside edges of the bottom of the bowl toward the scribed circle, which defines the foot. Make the foot from ½ to 1 inch tall.
  • Return to the perimeter of the blank and true up the sides and top.
  • As you cut, keep the gouge rolled 45 degrees in the direction of the cut and the butt of the handle by your hip. Move your whole body as you go from the bottom toward the rim. Try to take off 1/8 to ¼ inch with each pass. Don’t push too hard. If vibration/ bumping sets in, lighten up and let the sharp edge take remove any roughness.
  • Turn the side profile to your liking, looking over the emerging bowl to check the shape rather than focusing exclusively on where the tool is cutting.
  • Check to make sure the bottom of the foot is flat and the sides of the foot are parallel.

Inside of the Bowl

  • Unscrew the blank and remount it rightside up. You’ll probably have to fiddle with it a bit to get it to run true (i.e., without much wobble).
  • Start hollowing from near the center by making small arc as you move down. Keep the tool rolled 45 degrees in the direction of the cut. Try to take off uniform amounts with each pass. Lighten up and/or adjust the tool roll angle if you encounter rough going.
  • Keep making arc-like passes as you gradually move out toward the periphery. Stop when you come within ¾ inch of the outside rim and when the sides are ¾ inch thick. Use calipers to ensure that the sides are uniform.
  • Decide to continue or put aside for drying.
  • Moving in 1- to 1 1/2- steps, pare down the side to final thickness. After one step is finished, try not to return to that step.
  • After the cutting is over, turn down lathe speed to sand; work vigorously.
  • Reverse-mount the piece on a jam or vacuum chuck and finish the foot ______