Project Tutorials

Turning a Simple Bowl

Ambrosia maple bowl
Click image for larger view
Blank between centers

I call this turning a simple bowl because I am not using any special tools just bowl gouges and spindle gouges. The shape is a simple one also. I know that when you first start turning bowls trying to get the surface cut cleanly on the end grain areas can present a problem. Reversing the bowl to finish the bottom can also present a challenge.

I hope that this tutorial will help answer a few questions on turning a cross grain oriented bowl.

I band saw this blank round from a 3 thick slab of dry ambrosia maple. This is a 6 diameter blank. I have the center point of the blank marked where I used dividers to scribe the circle for cutting.

Chuck jaw contact on blank

The blank compressed between the chuck jaws and the tailstock center. Stuart Batty demonstrated this technique for our turning clubs. This technique works well for blanks cut from even thickness slabs in bowl and platter turning.

If you are using a swivel headstock lathe, make sure the head and tailstock align to each other or the blank could walk off the chuck jaws because of uneven contact pressure. This method of holding a blank between centers relies on the two points of contact being on parallel planes.

Start of turning

I start rough shaping the bowl shape from the tailstock end. I oriented the blank with the wood I want to be at the bottom of the bowl on the tailstock end on purpose. I have more room to turn down to a small diameter on the tailstock side than the headstock side. This makes turning the tenon for the chuck or faceplate easier.

Start removing the corner of the blank. I am using a side ground bowl gouge, 5/8 diameter shaft. Using a pulling cut with the gouge near horizontal and the flute of the gouge facing the direction of cut. The bevel of the gouge is not riding on the wood in this cut. The unevenness of the blank will need removed before the bevel can rub.

Rough cutting the outer shape

I have my left hand near the gouge tip and pull the gouge toward me.

Overhand roughing grip

Using an overhand push grip for a little more strength behind the cut. Put pressure down on the tool rest and steady pressure and control in the line of cut.

Roughing cut close up

Close up of the roughing cut gouge and wood contact. The shaving comes off the lower tip and side of the gouge depending on the depth of cut.

Lighter finishing cut

Taking a lighter finishing cut with the bowl gouge angled higher up on the blank with the bevel near the rubbing. The shaving comes off the lower tip of the gouge.

Finishing cut shavings

The shavings produced from the finishing cut. The finish cut is a shearing type cut and can produce fine tight curled shavings.

Torn end grain

The torn endgrain area of the blank left after using a heavy roughing cut with the bowl gouge. This area needs to be gone over with a freshly sharpened tool and light cuts to get past the depth of the torn grain.

Torn grain like this will not sand away. This area will always have a different look and feel to the rest of the cleanly cut wood if you try to sand instead of cut the wood fibers.

I am not trying to get the finished surface of the bowl at this point. After I reverse the bowl into the chuck jaws, I will turn the finished surface.

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