Cedar natural edge bowl

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Project by Alin Dobra posted 10-06-2007 03:07 AM 3083 views 3 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Cedar bowl, about 7” in diameter and 5” high. This bowl is almost not finished at all. It was sanded to 400 grit and then just waxed with a small amount of wax (I actually had to wipe most of wax off to make it look good). One of the reasons I do not want to put a hard finish like shellac on this bowl is because cedar smells so good and that would be lost if finished. Since the wood is bare, it is quite a pleasure to touch the velvet like surface.

An interesting thing about turning end grain bowls from soft woods like cedar and pine, is that it has to be turned exactly the oposite way oak is turned for example.

For oak, in order to turn the inside, the gouge has to cut from inside out. Any attempt to turn it with the bevel rubbing from out to inside results in severe chatter. If the bowl is thin, you will end up with it as pieces on the floor. The cut is rough if you cut from inside out but, once almost the final thickness is achieved, a scraping cut can be used to smooth up the surface. Some toolmarks will remain but sanding will take care of it.

For cedar, any attempt to do an inside to outside cut or a scraping cut will result in big problems. The wood will cut very nicely if you cut from outside in with the bevel. I usually turn the wood soaking wet (if it is not wet enough I spray water on it). Soft woods will become very flexible when wet and a particular precaution has to be taken not to destroy them: cut them about 3/8” thick throughout. Then, for the final thinning, you have to go in steps, 1” at the time. More precisely, you only go 1” in with successive cuts until you reach 3/16”-1/8”. Only then you move to the next 1”. If you thin it all the way, because of the waving the bowl will get destroyed. Once you move out of an 1” portion, you do not go back. Do not worry too much if you leave tool marks. Once the bowl is dry, it will be easy to sand (if it is cedar or pine; oak for example is atrociously hard to sand).

One interesting thing I noticed with cedar is that is dry in at most 1 day and it does not move any significant amount. For a thin bowl, it seems that cracking never appears (oak always cracks a little or a lot).

To get the particular shape you see, I experimented quite a lot. You will see it on a lot of my bowls.

One thing I want to mention for those of you who want to experiment with woodturning. Turning end-grain wood might seem hard but, since all you have to do is cut a piece of the trunk of a tree and put it on the lathe (no circle cutting, no lengthy preparation, etc.) is the easiest to experiment with. The most important thing—this set me back 6 months—is to use a sharp tool. Do invest in a good grinder and a jig to put the fingernail profile on the gouge. It is the best thing you can do to improve your woodturning.

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

7 comments so far

View lw mitchell jr.'s profile

lw mitchell jr.

5 posts in 4804 days

#1 posted 10-06-2007 03:36 AM

Alin,I have just started turning bowls after many yrs.After seeing your work,I will get me a piece of cedar.Very pretty bowl.

-- dubster-lowell,[email protected]

View CharlieM1958's profile


16289 posts in 5135 days

#2 posted 10-06-2007 04:39 AM

All of your bowls are quite beautiful. This one is my favorite so far.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Karson's profile


35229 posts in 5317 days

#3 posted 10-06-2007 06:01 AM

A great bowl. I enjoy the scent of cedar. I used to make children’s toys out of it and the customers all walked away smelling them.

-- 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 scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5244 days

#4 posted 10-06-2007 06:04 AM

Beautiful bowl, I love working cedar – great turning advice too!
Thanks for sharing.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5077 days

#5 posted 10-06-2007 01:39 PM

I’d love to see a video!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View mot's profile


4928 posts in 4953 days

#6 posted 10-06-2007 04:49 PM

Thanks for the info! Really neat turnings.

-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

View fred4999's profile


107 posts in 4401 days

#7 posted 12-02-2008 09:05 PM

I liked the bowl as well as your detailed explanation. I have not tried turning cedar end grain and will do so this weekend – thanks for the inspiration.

-- Fred, Georgia

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