China Huckleberry Bowl

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Project by Alin Dobra posted 05-18-2008 08:10 PM 2267 views 3 times favorited 21 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This bowl is promised to my wood provider (a guy that owns a tree service in town that is nice enough to call me when he cuts something interesting). The interesting thing about this bowl is that it is only 3/32” thick and it is one of the few bowls on which I tried a new finishing technique. The new finishing technique (see below) produces a high shine on the piece. Notice the reflection of the base on the top in the first and third pictures.

Super shiny finish
I read somewhere on the web but tried only on few pieces that automotive finish rubbing compounds can work well on wood. To get the finish, I first apply 3 coats of General Salad Bowl Finish (I think sprayed shellac works as well) and when it is fully cured I rub it with 3 grits of polishing compound. It seems to work very well but the sanding job has to be perfect. This finish will show the smallest imperfection and transform a nice bowl into a horrible bowl if any scratches are present. This is especially a problem on the end-grain bowls I make since the end grain is merciless. I usually sand to 800 grit or higher.

Dimensions: 10” X 10” X 2 1/2”
Wood: China Huckleberry
Finish: General salad bowl finish rubbed
Estimated time to completion: 2 1/2H

Thanks for looking,

-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

21 comments so far

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4388 days

#1 posted 05-18-2008 08:25 PM

Once again, impressed beyond words.

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4401 days

#2 posted 05-18-2008 08:27 PM

Thanks Rikkor.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Canexican's profile


108 posts in 4190 days

#3 posted 05-18-2008 09:38 PM

Wow! awsome bowl…


View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 4241 days

#4 posted 05-18-2008 09:55 PM

I don’t know much about projects that are turned, but I assume the polish is done on a lathe too. I guess you could do this on other projects too, but it would be tough on the arms since the lathe can’t do the work. Very nice work!

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 4246 days

#5 posted 05-18-2008 10:07 PM

Very… very… very nice…

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View jjohn's profile


390 posts in 4227 days

#6 posted 05-18-2008 10:13 PM

To be sure of what you are saying about the finish, which by the way looks better then anything I’ve done to date. You used a salad bowl finish ? and then rubbed on a car compound wax. Please give a more detailed explanation of how you made this sheen. IT IS AWESOME!!!

-- JJohn

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4281 days

#7 posted 05-18-2008 11:41 PM

wow that is an impressive bowl. i like the form of it and the finish really makes it leap out at you. great job!

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4401 days

#8 posted 05-19-2008 12:27 AM


Thanks for the comments.

MokieMojo, it turns out that all my woodturning projects are finished off the lathe. The reason is that I only turn green wood and it is soaking wet when I’m done turning. I do some sanding on the lathe but the last sanding step and applying the finish is done off the lathe. I sand using the newwave sanding system on the drill press and I spray or apply the finish by hand. Doing a good sanding job on endgrain is atrociously hard, though. I see no reason why the rubbing compound would not work on anything made out of wood and it is embarassingly easy to apply.

JJohn: it seems that, to get a good finish, you need perfect sanding then a decent application of a hard finish like shellac or polyurethane based finished (lacquer works also) and then you need to rub the finish. Some people refer to this last step finishing the finish. The car rubbing compound is simply miraculous. It doesn’t seem to matter too much how I rub as long as I start with a medium-coarse compound, then a fine followed by superfine. A lot of serious research that has never put into any wood product went into the finishing compounds for cars. Everybody has a car and a lot of people like to show off with it.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View brianinpa's profile


1812 posts in 4236 days

#9 posted 05-19-2008 01:49 AM

Holy *&^%! That is an amazing finish. Thanks for the tip concerning the rubbing compound. Every time I long onto this site, I learn or see somthing new that I have to try, and this is today’s lesson.

-- Brian, Lebanon PA, If you aren’t having fun doing it, find something else to do.

View darryl's profile


1795 posts in 4839 days

#10 posted 05-19-2008 03:49 AM

that is beautiful!
your son must be disappointed that he didn’t get this one for his collection!

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4280 days

#11 posted 05-19-2008 04:58 AM

Outstanding form and finish. How do you dry your pieces after turning them? Thank you for sharing.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4401 days

#12 posted 05-19-2008 05:32 AM

Darryl: My son already has pieces comparable to this to his collection. He actually has a very good eye and asks only for interesting pieces.

Trifern: The trick I use with my bowls is to turn them soaking wet but get the thickness around 1/8” (below 3/16 in any case). The wood then dries in 1-2 days since all by bowls are end-grain. On some species, you see wild bending (see my other projects for some wild ones).

Brian: thanks for the comment. Try even the coarse rubbing compound (5$ at autozone) and you will be amazed.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 4280 days

#13 posted 05-19-2008 02:16 PM

I am sure the end grain rings help hold it together and the trick is to turn with as even thickness as possible so it dries at an even rate. What ratio of your pieces crack while drying?

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4401 days

#14 posted 05-19-2008 05:47 PM

Trifern: if I am patient and indeed get the thickness uniform (bottom included) almost none crack. The trick is 1/8” or less though (but more than 1/16). Some types of wood like cherry are already cracked at the pith but the crack does not expand and I usually fill it with a little epoxy. A much bigger problem is loosing my concentration and going through the side walls or through the bottom. For the goblets, the problem is breaking the stem (the smallest catch anywhere breaks the stem due to inertia, stopping the lathe is also deadly, and lots of other things).


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View Raymond Dersch's profile

Raymond Dersch

38 posts in 4179 days

#15 posted 05-19-2008 05:54 PM

That is a beautiful piece of art.

-- A King, realizing his incompetence, can either delegate or abdicate his duties. A Father can do neither. -Marlene Dietrich

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