I had this past weekend off, and I made the most of it, turning a total of five bowls, all from green wood. I slept in until 10:00am on Saturday. I had a quick breakfast and headed down to the shop. The first bowl was a result of a co-worker giving me a section of a Japanese Cherry. It still had the bark on the outside and I was inspired to turn a natural-edged bowl. I also wanted to try my hand at a deep vessel. It wasn’t incredibly difficult hollowing out the bowl, but the confined space doesn’t make sanding easy. Nonetheless, I am pleased with the shape and end result.
From the same cherry, I turned a small, thin-walled bowl. The walls are less than 1/16″ thick. When I turned the bowl, the wood had a high moisture content. When I finished shaping the bowl, I put it into the microwave for a minute then, wearing gloves to avoid burning myself, formed the round rim square.
The next bowl I turned was of Black walnut. I had a nice big blank so I decided to turn a wide bowl. I started with the rim and worked my way down, shaping the bowl as I deemed appropriate. I often let the grain and colour dictate the final shape. Once the shaping was finished, I sanded the bowl and parted it off. I sat it on a pile of green shavings to let it dry slowly. When I uncovered the bowl, the rim had warped to a smooth, wavy shape. I could not have been more pleased with the end result.
The wood used for this bowl is unknown. It is creamy white, and has a blue-purple stain at the center. This pattern is consistent throughout all the blanks I got from this tree (thanks Ralph). By this time, the light has long since disappeared and I decided to have some fun (correction: more fun) and try a different style bowl and a different technique. Most bowls I turn have the grain running from side to side.
This bowl, however, has the end grain running from top to bottom. Once I mounted the block on the lathe and trued it up so that it was round and balanced, I killed the overhead lights and turned on a single articulated fluorescent task light. I worked quickly to shape the outside to a gentle curve, then moved to the inside. I quickly wasted out the bulk of the inside, then moved the light so that it was shining on the outside of the bowl.
When a wood is green (has a relatively high moisture content) and is fairly thin, it appears translucent. By noting the brightness of different areas of the bowl, I can very accurately gauge the wall thickness. I took light cuts until the light was shining through evenly, then parted the bowl off. Time for bed – it’s well past 10:00pm.
Twelve hours later, I was back in the shop to turn another bowl. This bowl is an excellent example of how I let the wood determine the final shape of the bowl. I chose a large chunk of black walnut and cut it round on the bandsaw. As I trued it up on the lathe, I realized that there was a void in the tree which meant that there was bark further towards the middle.
My first objective was to remove all traces of bark. Sometimes bark is desirable. But not this time. After the bark had been eradicated, I re-evaluated the bowl. I had a large amount of sapwood (the lighter coloured wood) on what would become the lower half of the bowl. I realized that I would have to either get rid of the sapwood entirely or use it extensively to make it seem intentional. So I gauged the highest point the sapwood extended and made that the middle of the bowl.
I have become partial to flared sides, so I decided to stick with that. A narrow base meant more sapwood exposure in this case without any bark or other defects. A wider rim seems to make the bowl seem more open – like it has a greater capacity. I also like to cut a shallow bevel on the bottom of the bowl it makes it seem lighter, almost as if it is floating. Once I had defined the outside of the bow, I turned my attention to the insides. I tapered the walls from a razor-thin (and sharp) lip to thick (1/4″) at the base. I finished off my sanding up to 600x and applied a sanding sealer before parting off.
This is what my shop looked like after 5 bowls had been revealed.