First Bowl, Trial and Error

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Project by RoundestRock posted 07-06-2011 10:43 PM 1632 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So recently I’ve gotten into making wooden machines (more to come on that). This means making round parts and ultimately getting a lathe. Got the lathe with tools off of craigs list. Well I did the obligatory ‘make the square stick round’ as soon as I had it set up. What’s the second thing every new lathe owner does? That’s right, buy a blank and turn a bowl.

I think this was a Mora 5 X 5 X 3 blank. I turned one end round in my 4 jaw indi chuck. Then flipped it around and turned it the rest of the way round in the 3 jaw scroll chuck. I then hollowed out the large end (DON’T DO THAT FIRST!). Once I had that shape I went to work on the outside form. Not too much problem there. Then I flipped the bowl around and chucked it from the inside so I could finish the outside and the bottom. Things got exciting. I might have thrown that bowl 3 times before I got the bottom done. What I ended up with was a chewed up, vaguely bowl like, gouged and dented ‘thing’. I now also know I HATE the scew(sp?). To be honest, exactly what I expected for a first try.

Enter the finishing tools. I got to thinking I’d seen part of a turning video somewhere in which the guy used scrapers. I thought ‘what the heck’ and bought a cheep set at the local Woodcraft. I turned the lathe speed up and went to work. Scrapers are GREAT! Buy the time I scraped the hole thing down it looked almost like I knew what I was doing!

I then took the sand paper to it. I turned the lathe all the way down too lowest speed and started with 80 grit. Moving up in the smallest increments I could I worked my way all the way up to 0000 steel wool. I added 2 coats Waterlocks semigloss applied at low speed this more steel wool between each coat, then spun it in at high speed. It ended up as a birthday present for my wife. She loves it!

NOTE to all of you who insist on trying your lathe without lessons: cut outside in first, largest opening last. I tried the other way around with a very dry piece of walnut burl. It EXPLODED! My ruffing tool jumped out of my hand and cracked me over the knuckles. That was 2 weeks ago and I still feel sore. Better yet, suck it up and take a beginner lesson BEFORE you mash your hand!

-- I only WISH I could do this for a living. Problem is I don't want to sell anything I make!

6 comments so far

View hairy's profile


3004 posts in 4074 days

#1 posted 07-06-2011 10:54 PM

There’s no going back now. Be safe and have fun! That’s way better than my first.

-- Genghis Khan and his brother Don, couldn't keep on keeping on...

View branch's profile


1142 posts in 3696 days

#2 posted 07-06-2011 11:21 PM

hi great start for tour first bowl looks very good my first few bowl ended up as fire wood
and some still do but when you get the bug for turning there is no stopping you
stay safe keep the chuck tight if you don’t feel safe steep back and check everything again
fave fun and keep them coming


View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 3582 days

#3 posted 07-06-2011 11:52 PM

Nice !!!

-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View amagineer's profile


1415 posts in 3139 days

#4 posted 07-07-2011 12:19 AM

I think your bowl looks great! If you would have seen my first bowl, you couldn’t stop laughing, but that’s how we all learn. I look forward to your future turnings.

-- Flaws are only in the eye of the artisan!

View reggiek's profile


2240 posts in 3812 days

#5 posted 07-07-2011 12:34 AM

Nice job for a first run. Having been self taught on the lathe I can sympathize with the knuckles.

Having been turning for several years now….and watched/worked with several “pros” I have been able to correct most of my bad habits…I too would recommend a good course for a beginner….stop the bad habits before they become ingrained.

One of the biggies of bad for a turner is stance…..I don’t know how many times I’ve had to show a turner the proper way to address the lathe….It is not as complicated as a golf stance….but getting proper leverage…without straining…and maintaining balance takes a bit of care. Second bad habit is tool angle….too many less experienced turners try to either scrape the wood (tools too low on the project)....or else try to chip the pieces of by putting the tool way too high…..I could go on and on…but the message is the same as anything new….learn how to do it correctly first…don’t unlearn what you are doing wrong later on….

I always tell new turners…or wannabe turners….go to a woodworking store or night school that has classes….find a local turner club (American Association of Woodturner’s – AAW has a listing for every state)...or find a friend/mentor…. If you are too far from classes and without a local club….get one of the beginner level videos….or one of the books like Ellsworth on Woodturning…or Woodturning: A Foundation Course by Keith Rowley…there are tons and tons more…and all of them teach similar fundamentals (stance, tool angle, chucking, selecting blanks…etc…etc.).

-- Woodworking.....My small slice of heaven!

View Transition's profile


340 posts in 3085 days

#6 posted 07-07-2011 06:46 AM

Very nice first piece! The fact that your wife loves it is a big bonus. But now start the requests – “Hon, could you make a bowl for…”

If you are not going to take a lesson (Woodcraft has them), there are lots of videos on you tube and many articles on turning.

I stay away from steel wool. I used it on a chestnut bowl, and it turned the grain black. I was not happy!

I think Reggiek has your number on the tool angles. As for splitting bowls, Wear a face shield and learn to duck! And until you figure out how to secure your pieces, don’t turn anything too big. I have a hole in the floor…

I look forward to the wooden wood lathe!

-- Andrew, Orange County, CA -

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