Making a 20" bowl

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Forum topic by DTrak posted 08-19-2019 05:45 PM 819 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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75 posts in 2010 days

08-19-2019 05:45 PM

Newbie question here. Can a lathe make a 20” bowl? The ones I have seen look smaller. Does it require a special extra large lathe? If so, any suggestions on what I should buy? thanks

10 replies so far

View jmartel's profile


9106 posts in 3063 days

#1 posted 08-19-2019 05:46 PM

Some lathes can do outboard turning, where it goes on the other side of the headstock. You then have a free-standing tool rest to use.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View RobHannon's profile


347 posts in 1443 days

#2 posted 08-19-2019 05:58 PM

Yes. Look at the piece to the right of Ashley Harwood on her homepage.

Something of that size is only realistic for a very serious woodturner, but 20” is not unheard of on a more common full size lathe. A large bowl may not be the best project to start learning to turn, though. My $.02 is take a woodturning class before shelling out a few grand on a big lathe.

View DTrak's profile


75 posts in 2010 days

#3 posted 08-19-2019 07:17 PM

ok, thanks for the feedback!

View Wildwood's profile (online now)


2906 posts in 3047 days

#4 posted 08-19-2019 08:06 PM

Its hard to store 20” bowls in most cabinets with 12 to 14 inch shelves. They do make great center piece on table with dry flower arrangements. Most turners sell bowls in 12” or 14” range and smaller serving bowls.

Now that should not stop you from buying a lathe with at least 24” swing if budget permits.

Thing haven’t mentioned before thinking about big lathes you should consider is your access to wood and how often will come across big bowl blanks. Depending upon your budget and access to wood either a 12”, 16” or 18” lathe might serve you better. Not a big fin of outboard turning although some turners have no problem with it.

If got the budget, strength to process and lift those big bad boy blanks go for it!

Just my two cents!

-- Bill

View gwilki's profile


362 posts in 2386 days

#5 posted 08-19-2019 08:45 PM

I have a Vega 2600, which can make a 26” platter/bowl. There are many lathes available with swings of 20” and more. As others have said though, this size may not be the best if you are looking to sell them, and not the best to start out on.

-- Grant Wilkinson, Ottawa ON

View mike02719's profile


266 posts in 4699 days

#6 posted 08-19-2019 09:50 PM

I would be concerned with the attributes of your lathe, such as speed, face plate, spindle size etc. At 600 rpms, the rim speed of a 20” off balance blank would be scary. If this is a one time attempt, do your best with what you have.

-- Mike, Massachusetts

View Wildwood's profile (online now)


2906 posts in 3047 days

#7 posted 08-20-2019 09:03 AM

Due to time and waste created turning large bowl blanks most turners resort to coring system or boring bars so don’t waste lot of wood and get more than one bowl out of a big blank. These tools don’t have the same limitations with reach over the tool rest you have with a bowl gouge plus don’t waste wood and get more than one bowl out of a large blank.

Coring systems more expensive and normally top out coring 18” bowls.

Boring bars started out homemade but think might fine one or two companies sell them can go more than 18”. Not for faint of heart due to skill require to be successful! Not sure if any turners still use them but could be wrong.

Think lot of turners that turn bowls for a living prefer coring systems today due to easier learning curve and safety.

-- Bill

View DTrak's profile


75 posts in 2010 days

#8 posted 08-20-2019 11:57 AM

Thanks for all the feedback. The reason I asked is I am trying to build this lamp that I have designed. Might be too hard.

View Wildwood's profile (online now)


2906 posts in 3047 days

#9 posted 08-20-2019 06:58 PM

The lamp you designed in not hard to turn basically talking about four pieces. You would need a skilled turner with larger lathe with ability to hollow thin or less than 1/4”. Might have more luck with smaller diameters. Don’t know any turners that would turn something like that for you unless involved big bucks!

The top or finial bowl turned thin, upside down closed form bowl or shade, and vase body, and base. The finial & base not much of a problem with conventional turning tools. Finding the right size lamp loader (weight) for the base could be an issue. Simple hollowing tools will take care of shade and base. Only issue is hollowing them thin enough for your purposes.

Had bunch of long leaf pine turned into lamps tops and bases hollowed to almost uniform thickness of 1/4”. The finial single piece drilled & turned.
My lathe only has 16” swing and although turning for lot of years only started hollow turning 4 or five years and still go thru sides now & then even with my laser assist.

-- Bill

View DTrak's profile


75 posts in 2010 days

#10 posted 08-21-2019 01:28 PM

Ok, thanks for all the info. I am thinking that this model is just too hard to prototype and I will sadly have to shelve it.

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