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Project by Tom Godfrey posted 08-17-2012 04:00 PM 2383 views 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This is my first bowl and first burl bowl. This was a lesson learned. First I didn’t take off enough material to make it turn smooth. It was out of round and let me know it. Second lesson learned was never let the tool rest get to far away from the material. Ending up getting my right hand all scared up. Bleed some and hurt a lot but I am okay. I washed off the cut, poured some med on hand and went right back to work on the bowl.
Finished it up today with some Danish oil and then applied some Johnson furniture wax.
Turned out okay based on what I started with. The burl was bad almost all the way but was able to end up with this bowl.
As you can see there are worm holes and I kept the walls thick in order not to have a hole in the bowl. Decided not to make it any deeper since it wasn’t that big around. Have to wait to the little lady gets home today to see what kind of score I get. I have always told her tell me the truth not what you think I want to hear.

What kind of score do I get from you guys? Be nice but tell me the truth.

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina ([email protected])

19 comments so far

View grfrazee's profile


388 posts in 3426 days

#1 posted 08-17-2012 04:34 PM

I can tell you without exaggerating that this is better than my first bowl attempt. Mine was a live-edged oak goblet-thing that to this day I still cringe at the sanding marks. I was afraid to take too much off it for fear of it catching or exploding, so it was rather thick.

Burls are notoriously harder to turn because of the inconsistent grain. I find it works best to keep your tools as sharp as humanly possible (not talking surgeon’s scalpel sharp, but not dull by any means). As you gain experience, you’ll learn to tell the difference between sharp and not, and you’ll make trips to the grinder to redress the edge. Usually I sharpen my tools before I start a project because I don’t remember when the last time was (or conversely, if anyone else used my tools between when I did).

Along those lines, having the correct tools for bowl turning is also a plus. I didn’t know when I started the difference between a bowl gauge and a spindle gouge, and suffered many dug-in tools because of it. If you don’t have any, get a good flat-edged and round-edged scraper. They’ll help even out the gouge marks after you rough it out and lessen the sanding burden. Also, there are SO MANY turning tools, it’s ridiculous. Suffice to say, too many to cover in this comment, so take the time to do some research. I wish I had when I started, instead of ruining several good (read: expensive) blanks.

Hand placement is also something to keep in mind. I’ve been turning for almost a decade now and still manage to bang up my hands occasionally. One trick to mitigate the risk is to place your tool rest and then hand-turn the blank before hitting the power. That way you can see where the wood will go when you start turning and adjust accordingly. It should go without saying that wearing safety glasses is a minimum, and a full face shield is definitely recommended.

I haven’t done much with stabilizing burls, so I’ll let others comment on that. CA glue (superglue) helps in those cases, I do know that.

Other than that, the wood grain is awesome on the bowl, and I hope you can find some more for future projects. It’s addicting, it’ll drain your bank account, but man is it fun.


View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 4590 days

#2 posted 08-17-2012 04:46 PM

well thomas im n ot a turner, so i cant give you anything in that department, but i really do love the wood, it looks like one of the bowls , like a mortar and pestal…i hope yo know what i mean, the walls are thick, like the ones ive seen…......but i like it, it looks like a great chili bowl…put some kind of a handle on it and its a great chili bowl..i like the inclusion, it always says hey im a real piece of wood, i always wanted to be able to turn, but its not going to happen, keep at it…grizz

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View 58j35bonanza's profile


395 posts in 3979 days

#3 posted 08-17-2012 05:40 PM

Real nice job. I love the blood red color of the burl. Lol. Glad your ok. And keep turning. I am just learning myself and have came close to what you did.

-- Chuck

View MonteCristo's profile


2099 posts in 3475 days

#4 posted 08-17-2012 05:58 PM

Considering it’s your first bowl and it’s a burl, I think you should be very pleased. Although I am no turning expert myself, I would recommend doing some more straightforward bowls before going at burls, as burls can be very tricky and are best left until you get some experience under your belt. I have recently been turning some spalted maple chunks, which are similar in some ways to burls. I had one break in two along a weak spot while I was turning it – a nasty surprise to say the least ! Also, speed control is super important with these challenging pieces.

-- Dwight - "Free legal advice available - contact Dewey, Cheetam & Howe""

View bowtie's profile


990 posts in 3632 days

#5 posted 08-17-2012 06:16 PM

Very nice bowl, you really exposed some beautiful grain. Like me it sounds like you learn your lessons the hard way!

-- bowtie,.....jus passin thru....

View rilanda's profile


174 posts in 3441 days

#6 posted 08-17-2012 07:29 PM

Nice bowl Tom, I have never tried to turn a Burl, even the small ones are expensive over here, but I have made “square” bowls on my lathe and they can be a bit hairy, certainly had a few rapped knuckles. Take care my friend, keep everything intact; you need them for another day. but carry on with the turning, keep your tool rest as close to the work as possible, have long handles on you tools particularly on large pieces, and keep the sharp. Once again nice bowl, I hope you and your family are well; recent lathe accidents excepted.



-- Bill, Nottingham. Remember its not waiting for the storm to end, but learning to dance in the rain that counts. If you dont make mistakes, you make nothing at all.

View branch's profile


1142 posts in 4441 days

#7 posted 08-17-2012 08:55 PM

hi great job on your first turning you picked a hard one to start with it gets easier keep on turning
my first turning was more like a piece of fire wood full of chisel marks
looking forward to seeing your next turning

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

27002 posts in 4392 days

#8 posted 08-17-2012 10:16 PM

Sweet bowl, Tom. I love that wood , too!!!!!!!!!!
Worm holes add character. I have a bowl that has two of them that came through the bottom after it was cut free of the tenon and off the lathe. I just left them for the character it added!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View TerryDowning's profile


1153 posts in 3404 days

#9 posted 08-17-2012 11:14 PM

Nicely Turned especially for a first.

-- - Terry

View PapaS's profile


12 posts in 3574 days

#10 posted 08-18-2012 01:16 AM

Tom it looks like a great grain and pattern of vugs in the side. Out here we have some stone that is called Lysite Agate that has reds , browns ,whites, yellow and quart crystals in it that looks similiar to your burl. It polishes up to a high luster just like your bowl. Keep up the good work and don’t let it bight you.

-- PapaS, Casper, WY

View BarbS's profile


2434 posts in 5372 days

#11 posted 08-18-2012 02:02 AM

Working with burl is usually a challenge, but you did well on this one. Great job!


View harry1's profile


538 posts in 3571 days

#12 posted 08-18-2012 01:03 PM

Well young Thomas, you sure jumped in at the deep end, even now I wouldn’t tackle a burl after what I’ve heard about the hardness of them. Like me, it will take experience to attempt thin walls like Jim achieves. It’s turnings like Jim’s that make me determined to go thinner with each attempt. In summary my friend, I think you did remarkably well.

-- Harry, Western Australia

View EOD_Eric's profile


29 posts in 4514 days

#13 posted 08-18-2012 02:28 PM

Thomas, I have been turning for a few years now, but I still remember my first attempt at the lathe (plus my wife held on to the bowl and gleefully shows anyone that asks what I do in my shop). You did much better on your first project. Bottom line, you finished your first turning without permanent injury (I had the log come loose from my chuck and proceed to smack me in the chin, nose, eye and forehead, taking skin with it the whole way…I looked like I had been in a car accident…several safety lessons learned the hard way on that first attempt!).
I like the look of the wood and I understand why the walls are so thick…right call. You can try stabilizing punky/holely wood with CA glue if you run into that in the future, but it might affect the finishe depending on the wood and the amount of CA you use. Since you are starting, might I recommend that you go to green wood and just work on the fundamentals for a bit. Green wood is a little more easy to cut and foregiving with many of the mistakes a new turner makes.

View Tom Godfrey's profile

Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 3462 days

#14 posted 08-19-2012 01:34 PM

Thanks for all the nice comments about my first burl turning. Most of all thanks for the safety tips. I will take all the advice that everyone has given me and put it to good use. No one wants to get hurt and we all should appreciate advice from other lumberjocks.
I don’t plan on stop turning burls but I will make sure all safety advice is used. I have learned form this project and from each of you.
My hand is healing great. I am lucky in the fact that I heal fast. That tells me my health is pretty good. My body is doing its job on repairing my hand. I am also lucky that you guys care about my health as that means a lot to me. No matter what people say there are a lot of good people left in this world. Nice to be a part of this site where people care.
Thanks again.

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina ([email protected])

View Brett's profile


960 posts in 4045 days

#15 posted 08-21-2012 09:11 PM

You know what, Tom? You did real well. Especially for your first turning. How was the experience other than the wound? I love to turn. I am alot better than when I started but still not that good. I usually mess up on most projects and end up having to change something along the way. I have my first bowl here. Looking forward to seeing more turnings, and other projects from you.

-- Hand Crafted by Brett Peterson John 3:16

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