How to Turn a Wood Bowl on a Lathe How to Turn a Wood Bowl on a Lathe

What You'll Need
Wood blank
1/2 inch bowl gouge
Heavy scraper
Band Saw
1 1/2 inch

Wood bowl lathe turning is a skill which requires patient, careful work, but results in beautiful pieces for both use and artwork. Though the process can become very complicated as the turner gains more mastery, a simple bowl can be produced by following a few straight forward steps.

Step 1 - Find the Center

Find the center on both the top and the bottom of the wood blank and use an awl to punch a dimple mark. For an unusually shaped piece, use a centering tape to frame out where center is located.

Step 2 – Rough Rounding

Use a compass to draw the largest complete circle possible on both sides of the blank. Trim away any excess wood outside the circle with a Band saw to improve balance. Check the blank for any knots or defects which are now exposed.

Step 3 – Mounting

After installing the wood screw on the chuck following the manufacturer instructions, make sure there is no wobbling when the lathe is on. Reposition if necessary. When there is no wobble, lock the spindle. Hold the starter hole against the wood screw and bring the tailstock around to the other side. Insert the live centers point in the dimple of the awl mark and lock the tailstock base.

Step 4 – Threading the Blank

Thread the blank onto the wood screw by applying pressure and turning the tailstock. Begin threading the blank onto the wood screw by turning it clockwise while still turning the tailstock handle to maintain moderate pressure. Continue to turn the blank until it is fully threaded onto the wood screw. Position the tool rest 1/8th of an inch from the highest point on the blank and lock the tool rest and banjo into place.

Step 5 – Shaping the Bowl

Use a low speed and a traditional bowl gouge for the initial rounding. If the blank is badly out of round, use a heavy scraper to remove high spots. Keep the toolrest parallel to the wood but adjust as needed for the tools; scrapers just below the centerline, gouges just above. Begin to shape the bowl by angling the toolrest and sloping the bowl.

Step 6 – The Bottom

For the bottom of the bowl it is important to follow the manufacturer's instructions for shaping information specific to the chuck. Tapers, dimensions, and recess depths help the chuck to fit snuggly and hold the bowl in place. Turn the bottom surface flat and begin shaping.

Step 7 – Hollowing the Bowl

Flatten the surface being hollowed first, then using small cuts lightly begin cutting away the interior. Small cuts offer greater control and are safer, so resist the urge to take deep cuts. Straight sides and a flat bottom should be concentrated on. The depth of the sides and bottom are easy to underestimate causing the tools to break through and destroy the bowl. Work slowly and carefully.

Step 8 - Sanding

Sand the interior and the lip of the bowl to remove any gouge marks and smooth the surface.

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