Going Natural #1: Natural edge bowls - how I do them

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Blog entry by jeffthewoodwacker posted 04-28-2009 03:50 AM 2654 reads 3 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Going Natural series Part 2: Finishing the project »

I turn a lot of natural edge bowls and vessels and have picked up many tricks over the years to make the process easier. I am also have made many mistakes – all of which I am glad to pass along.

The first thing that I do is select the wood that I plan on turning. This is a chunk of honey locust saved from the chipper service. This piece is 20 inches tall and 18 inches in diameter and will yield two bowl blanks.

A quick cut with the chain saw gives me two blanks for bowls. Before I fired up the chain saw I decided how the cut would be made.

I nail a 1/4” hardboard template to the bark side of the blank before I rough it out on the band saw. I have made up several templates of various sizes. These blanks are almost 14 inches across.

From the band saw each piece goes to the drill press and a 1” forstner bit is used to clear the bark away. This will prevent the drive spur from driving its way through the bark. It is close to being centered in the piece but I am not to fussy at this point.

I use a heavy duty four prong spur that mounts in my Nova chuck. This is a time saver as I will not have to knock a drive center out and put the chuck on the lathe. At this point I set my calipers to determine the size of tenon to turn when I reverse chuck the piece.

Blank mounted on the four prong spur and tail stock. I spend some time adjusting the blank to get it as balanced as I can. The initial turning will be at 600 rpm until I get the blank roughed out. I will take a look at my progress and determine if I need to move the blank around to achieve the best shape.

The outer shape of the vessel is almost finished and I have cut a tenon on the tail stock end to reverse mount the piece in the Nova chuck for hollowing. There has been no sanding done up to this point and I should be able to start with 180 grit paper and work my way up to 400 grit before I reverse chuck.

The hollowing is moving along nicely with this piece. My goal is to leave the natural bark edge on the piece. I will turn this down to 1/4” inch thick. If you look closely you should be able to see two “eyes” in the bottom of the vessel.

Close to being finished with hollowing out. I have filled four five gallon drywall buckets with shavings and still have a lot to clean up. The bark has held around the entire rim of the vessel! I will sharpen up my big scraper and do a few cleaning cuts to prepare this piece for finish. The plan is to brush on two coats of a 50/50 shellac/blo finish. I will let each coat dry well and sand in between coats with 800 grit sandpaper. The final finish will be two coats of high gloss Waterlox. Will update the blog as I get the finish on the piece.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

9 comments so far

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 4843 days

#1 posted 04-28-2009 06:07 AM

I really enjoy seeing your process, Jeff. I haven’t done any larger lathe stuff – just pretend-stuff on my mini lathe, so it’s good to see how the big boys do it. Some day I shall join your ranks. The bowl looks very nice. Do you have to peel away any lifted-up sections of bark, or do you leave them on in all their fragility?

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile (online now)


24650 posts in 5137 days

#2 posted 04-28-2009 07:10 AM

Nice post. I’m not a turner, looks like fun.

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Vince's profile


1334 posts in 4891 days

#3 posted 04-28-2009 07:20 AM

Are you going to let it dry out? Or did you do that already?

-- Vince

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27248 posts in 5283 days

#4 posted 04-28-2009 01:19 PM

Thanks for the blog, Jeff. This is a pretty straight-forward tutorial that even I, as a non-turner, could follow.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View Karson's profile


35300 posts in 5862 days

#5 posted 04-28-2009 02:27 PM

Jeff a great blog. Nice job on the detrails.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View mmh's profile


3701 posts in 5184 days

#6 posted 04-28-2009 05:33 PM

Nice blog! I appreciate the documentation, as it really makes one appreciate the final product. Please show more.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5708 days

#7 posted 04-29-2009 01:53 AM

Nice turning. I like waterlox as a finish also.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View woodchic's profile


841 posts in 4819 days

#8 posted 04-29-2009 04:22 AM

Hey Jeff….thanks this is great!!

Robin Renee’


-- Robin Renee'

View peruturner's profile


317 posts in 4824 days

#9 posted 04-29-2009 05:31 AM

Great turning made few of those in olive wood,for many years keep up the good work

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