Landscape Bowls

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Project by Threeseamonsters posted 12-21-2009 06:21 AM 5862 views 17 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was commissioned by my wife’s coworker to make five new bowls for her to give to her family as Christmas gifts. I was excited to create a series of objects around a similar theme, so I got to work. One good thing about creating 5 similar objects is that I can take all 5 objects through the same steps and save quite a bit of time. Finishing, for example, often takes me a few days… mostly because I need to wait for hours between applications and steps. I was able to dye and finish 5 bowls in the same space of time it normally takes me to do one.

I took pictures at a few different steps so that I could share the process I use to make a bowl.

I started with a Birch tree I found on my mom’s 40 acres of woods in Cambridge, NY. This tree came down in a big ice storm we had last November. I found a section of trunk about 9” in diameter.

I cut this section of log into 3 roughly-equal parts with a little 16” chainsaw.

I ripped each round in half to create 6 bowl blanks. I’ll be turning these in a live-edge configuration where the outside surface of the tree becomes the rim of the bowl. I end up stripping off the bark, so it’s not really a live edge bowl. But I like the gentle and swoop and curve that is created when turning green wood this way.

I round the corners off the blanks on the bandsaw to speed up the turning. You can also knock the corners off on the lathe pretty easily… but I chose those route.

Using a chisel, I clear away the bark where the spur drive of the lathe will engage the wood. This ensures a good bite into the wood.

Here is the blank mounted to the lathe between centers.

Here are the 6 bowls rough-turned. I do so much carving, sanding and polishing that it is a waste of time to get the outside of these bowls perfect at this point. I’m looking for rough shape. I’m also turning a tenon on the bottom of each bowl to fit into a four-jaw chuck to hollow them out. I do try to get the insides as perfect as can be off the lathe, because it can be really hard to sand these well. Notice, I’ve left enough material at the bottom of each bowl to carve three small feet.

Now, while the wood is still wet, I rough-carve the feet with a mini grinder fitted with a 2” carbide cutter. Before I move on to smoothing and sanding the feet, I dry the bowls in the microwave. It’s much easier to sand when the wood is nice and dry. I usually give each bowl 10 30 second sessions in the microwave with at least 15 minutes between sessions. Burning wet wood in the microwave is something you do only once because of the horrible smell.

Here are the 6 bowls carved, smoothed and sanded along with a test bowl i did as a color and detailing prototype.

At this point, I like to decorate the bowls with pyrography. The process burns a 1/16” V-groove into the piece which looks pretty sharp once it’s dyed and finished. These bowls are inspired by rolling hills and sky, so I created a pattern that wraps around… sometimes following the grain. A couple of them are a little more decorated, and the others less so.

Here they all are sanded to 400 grit and detailed. I also burned a series of tightly spaced ridges in the rim. I raise the grain with water and then lightly sand to 600 grit.

Here’s the same bowl finished. To get to this step, I soak the bowl in Lockwood’s Aniline Dye. For these bowls I used a mixture of Moss Green and Peacock Blue. Once dry I soak again. Then I apply dozens of coats of shellac in a simplified French Polishing technique. For these bowls I used a dewaxed super-blonde shellac.

Once the shellac is starting to get some body to it, I rub a mixture of Microcrystalline Wax and dry powder pigment into the grooves of the detailing. Here I used a turquoise pigment from Earth Pigments

Thanks for reading!

-- jn

16 comments so far

View OutPutter's profile


1199 posts in 5051 days

#1 posted 12-21-2009 07:26 AM

I almost passed over this one because it looked like just a green bowl. I’m glad I looked a little closer. You’ve apparantlly made a lot of progress since you posted that you were just starting out. Those bowls are very fine work! I’m sure you’re wife’s coworker got their money’s worth.

Merry Christmas,

-- Jim

View Roper's profile


1389 posts in 4774 days

#2 posted 12-21-2009 07:54 AM

hell ya very nice. thanks alot for the photos, i was wondering how you did the feet. keep them comin.

-- Roper - Master of sawdust-

View Dusty56's profile


11863 posts in 4749 days

#3 posted 12-21-2009 09:40 AM

Excellent turnings and blog ! The color is awesome as well : )

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View toyguy's profile


1755 posts in 4898 days

#4 posted 12-21-2009 02:02 PM

well done….. A great read on your technique. This was a very enjoyable post….... Thanks for the info.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 5308 days

#5 posted 12-21-2009 03:56 PM

Very nice turnings and finish.

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

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 4943 days

#6 posted 12-21-2009 04:25 PM

This was a very informative read. Thanks.

These are just stunning. Excellent work (but I like them natrual colored)


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View peruturner's profile


317 posts in 4423 days

#7 posted 12-21-2009 05:19 PM

Great bowls really outstanding work.well done

View Threeseamonsters's profile


66 posts in 4818 days

#8 posted 12-21-2009 05:30 PM

Thanks guys! I appreciate the feedback.

-- jn

View scrappy's profile


3507 posts in 4491 days

#9 posted 12-21-2009 06:11 PM

Fantastic bowls. Great job on the tutorial also. You are creating art, not just wooden bowl.

Keep it up.


-- Scrap Wood's the best...the projects are smaller, and so is the mess!

View mtkate's profile


2049 posts in 4386 days

#10 posted 12-22-2009 04:55 AM

Amazing tutorial. I learned a lot – and now I am thinking I should not be so quick to burn the birch! Beautiful bowls, so much work…

View cbass28's profile


9 posts in 4163 days

#11 posted 12-23-2009 08:02 AM

Beautiful work! Great job on the finish! Your pride shows!

-- Carl from La Pine, Oregon

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 4506 days

#12 posted 02-07-2010 03:36 AM

Fantastic bowls & thanks for sharing the foot technique.

View a1Jim's profile


118161 posts in 4638 days

#13 posted 02-07-2010 03:39 AM

Very cool and unique design and wonderful art.


View controlledturn's profile


27 posts in 4826 days

#14 posted 02-28-2010 04:06 AM

Wow, wonderful description, lovely colour and very nice bowls. Thanks for the details.

-- Cheers, Joel Elder

View revieck's profile


273 posts in 4131 days

#15 posted 05-23-2010 04:32 AM

Now that is nice work!!

-- Don't be at the airport when your ship comes in!

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