Bowls and Lidded Boxes

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Project by HappyHowie posted 12-20-2016 09:20 PM 1871 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

When I asked my children what they would like for a Christmas gift this year, my daughter Jenny was the first to respond. “I would really like you to make me a wooden bowl”. This request became my challenge. I had only turned two bowls previously. Those were done nearly a year ago. I guess the one I gave to my step daughter that lived near my Jenny was “good enough” to become presents this year.

I had already purchased several bowl blocks and I even had several larger blocks that I intended to turn into lidded boxes. I would use those plus a few more that I would purchase from my local Woodcraft store in order to make bowls and lidded boxes for gifts this year.

As usual I underestimated the amount of time it would take to make these eight items. I had intentions to make seven bowls and three lidded boxes. That would leave me a couple of extras. I was wondering why I hadn’t bought the eighth bowl blank when I had gone back to the store for more supplies. I should have, but in the end I realized I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Making this many bowls and lidded boxes at one time has become a great learning experience and a chore. I have seen my techniques at turning improve; one bowl at a time. I have become more secure standing over my lathe; able to decide shapes and curves as I approach each project. I have also improved my sharpening techniques with my Tormek jigs and water grinder machine.

Even though I had recently turned a lidded box test piece from Douglas Fir, I decided to turn all of my bowls first before beginning any lidded box. I thought the bowl turning would help me gain experience and techniques that would be needed for fitting the lids on the bases, etc ; and it did help me.

The bowl blocks I have owned the longest and stored in my shop were wenge and lati hardwoods. They were sold as a pair. The price was seductive. I bought it thinking the wood was cheap and it would help me gain experience in turning. What I did not know was that the wenge was going to test me to my limits. Its grain was so open and difficult for me to turn; to make its surfaces and curves smooth, no matter how fine a cut, or scrap I made. Its grain was impossible for me to tame.

On the other hand, I loved the grain in the lati hardwood. It was easy to work with and its grain and color was beautiful. Other hardwoods I discovered were also very nice to turn: bubinga, Brazilian cherry and African mahogany. The ambrosia maple was soft and easy to work with but its end grain was as difficult to cut smoothly like I experienced with the wenge’s grain. However, for the ambrosia maple it was just the end grain that was the difficult part. The rest of the wood was easy to work with.

My biggest disappointment was losing the block of bloodwood I was turning. This wood’s color and grain was fantastic! It was so beautiful. I was excited with its prospects, but while turning the inside of this bowl it fractured. I was trying to be very careful. I think now that in the few days I had been turning this wood that it dried enough to create small cracks, checks. Maybe those more experience woodworkers here could tell me more about bloodwood and what to expect from it. My guess is that being a desert tree that it can dry out very quickly and become brittle. For now that beautiful broken piece of bloodwood is a paper weight in my shop. I figure that I was a lucky man not to get hurt. I also have become smarter, or more experienced or wise enough to know when to quit. You know: “if it feels dangerous to you, then it is”. I have had a serious accident and I do not want another.

It is a great feeling when you can fit a lid onto its base and know that it fits snuggly. You made it that way. It works.

I know I have much more to learn about turning bowls and boxes. I plan to join the local turning club that meets monthly. Seeing and watching very experienced turners I am sure will be a big help for me. For now, I am going to take a few days to rest. I have been worked to my limit. These many bowls and boxes have beat me up; cut me up, and bruised me up. I need to heal for awhile.

-- --- Happy Howie

13 comments so far

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4151 days

#1 posted 12-20-2016 09:33 PM

This is a beautiful collection of bowls and boxes.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View ronstar's profile


673 posts in 4995 days

#2 posted 12-20-2016 10:24 PM

You’ve been busy! Nice group of turnings you have there!

-- Ron, Northern Illinois

View HappyHowie's profile


485 posts in 3229 days

#3 posted 12-21-2016 02:49 AM

Thanks guys. I am feeling my age, though. I am worn out…

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


485 posts in 3229 days

#4 posted 12-21-2016 03:03 AM

My bloodwood bowl was looking very nice…

My check occurred while I was turning the inside. Of course, these kind of things come all of a sudden…

I had resharpened my bowl gouge before continuing to remove material from the bowl’s inside when the check caused the bowl to almost completely come out of my Nova four jaw chuck. At first I though I could salvage what I had left.

However, upon closer inspection I discovered how lucky I was. Lucky that I wasn’t hurt. I counted at least seven cracks. You might be able to detect these cracks in the photo below. They may have been there prior to me gouging out the center. Anyway, I counted myself lucky and decided not to press my luck any further.

I began to wonder if cracks in bloodwood is typical for this species of wood from a desert tree in the Land Down Under,,. It is a shame. It was such a beautiful wood, It had such a beautiful grain…

-- --- Happy Howie

View ralbuck's profile


6780 posts in 3550 days

#5 posted 12-21-2016 04:10 AM

Great work.

Great story.

Great designs too.

-- Wood rescue is good for the environment and me! just rjR

View bushmaster's profile


4148 posts in 3567 days

#6 posted 12-21-2016 04:52 AM

Nice wood and workmanship on the bowls and boxes.

-- Brian - Hazelton, British Columbia

View mikeacg's profile


2049 posts in 2342 days

#7 posted 12-21-2016 10:56 AM

Very nice! It is good to see how the turning brings out the beauty of the grain in the woods you used! I can’t wait to get my lathe up out of the basement and set up in my new shop so I can try some of that turny stuff myself…
The bloodwood bowl would be a good candidate for a carving project! I’d hate to see it go to waste after all the work you put into it already…

-- Mike, A Yooper with a drawl,

View Ivan's profile (online now)


17049 posts in 4152 days

#8 posted 12-21-2016 11:42 AM

Pretty nice collection, even greater thing – you made lot people happy for hollydays.

-- Ivan, Croatia, Wooddicted

View doubleDD's profile


10799 posts in 3327 days

#9 posted 12-21-2016 09:53 PM

Beautiful bowls and boxes. Great job bringing out the grain.
Wood blanks are expensive. Start looking for trees being cut down and grab yourself some stock.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View jeff's profile


1403 posts in 4749 days

#10 posted 12-22-2016 12:06 AM

Your bowls and lidded boxes came out nice.

-- Jeff,Tucson,Az.

View HappyHowie's profile


485 posts in 3229 days

#11 posted 12-22-2016 02:01 PM

Ivan, I think they will be happy. I know I am. My daughter Jenny seems most pleased. Of course, she is the one that requested bowls this year.

I hope you are doing well…

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


485 posts in 3229 days

#12 posted 12-22-2016 02:13 PM

DoubleDD Dave, if I started looking for tress, I know what that would lead to… I would be wanting a larger lathe, a new chainsaw, larger chucks, and more chisels. All that might be a great adventure. It would also introduce me to turning wet wood, partial turnings, storage, waiting for the bowls to dry, etc. All that hopefully would make me a better turner.

I am planning to join the local turning club starting in January. I think the club in this valley and the club down south probably have some of the world ’s best turners. I asked why Utah became such a big center for turning? The answer was simple: Dale Nish.

-- --- Happy Howie

View HappyHowie's profile


485 posts in 3229 days

#13 posted 12-22-2016 02:32 PM

I remember attempting to turn wood back in my junior high woodshop class. I was having a terrible time. Of course, our shop teacher was too busy controlling the troublemakers, the chisels and plane blades were dull, and simply I was afraid to make mistakes… I didn’t think I would ever attempt turning again.

How did that change? My neighbor Susan invited me into her garage. Her husband Jim, who I liked very much, had passed away. She said Jim recently bought this and I know he would like you to have it. It was still in its unopened box: a JET mini-lathe. I said: “Oh, Susan why don’t you give it to one of your sons, or grandsons? They would treasure that it was their father’s or grandfather’s.” She answered “No, Jim would love you to have it.”

I had already told another neighbor that I was a terrible turner. I wasn’t planning to put a lathe in my new garage woodshop, but there one was. I bought a stand for it and some chisels. After turning two small bowls I gave the best one to Susan. I told her: “When I get better at turning, I owe you another bowl.”

Last night I visited my local Woodcraft store where I bought another wood blank. Rosewood. The guy that helped me said: “Yeah, when you turn this wood you will see its grain will present a beautiful cat’s eye pattern.”

I hope I can turn it well. I am hoping this new bowl with be the “better turned bowl” I promised Susan.

-- --- Happy Howie

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