The First Rule of Bowls

Many of you are familiar with the First Rule of Holes: “When you find yourself in one, stop digging.”

You might now know, however, that there is a First Rule of Bowls: “Never make a bowl bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.”

I broke that rule this morning.

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This is a bit different from the silver maple bowl from a couple of days ago. In that case, I broke the tenon broke off because the wood was not sound. In this case, I just cut too much out of the bottom of the bowl.

So now it’s a lovely natural edge American elm funnel. Or lampshade. I’m not sure yet.

And so it goes…

I had a silver maple bowl roughed out, cut from the same chunk of wood as one I wrote about a few weeks ago. I was a little concerned, though, because this one had a large bark inclusion in the bottom.

Well, I put it back on the lathe this evening, and started smoothing up the outside. It hadn’t warped that badly as it dried, and the wood was cutting nicely. Part of the bark came through to the outside, leaving a void that, although a bit tricky to work around, was a nice element in the look of the bowl.

On to the inside. That was a bit rougher. The bark inclusion was causing a lot of clatter as the gouge cut easily through that and then hit the much harder wood. But I was making good progress, and nearly had it ready to sand, when BANG!


The tenon on the bottom (which is how I grip the bowl in the chuck) snapped off. There was enough of the bark going down into the tenon, which weakened it too much.

I guess this one is bound for the firepit.

It’s not Manic Monday, but here are the Bangles

I’ve been turning for a bit over two years now, and have ended up with various scraps of wood that are too small for bowls, but too good to toss into the fire. What to do?

Make some jewelry. Bangle bracelets, to be specific. Here are the first three.


As with anything, it’s been a learning process. With the first one (American elm crotch, on the left), my main objective was to get it close to the right size for my wife. She doesn’t own many bangle bracelets because she has a hard time finding any that fit her well; most are too small. I was shooting for about 70 millimeters on that one, and came pretty close. It fits well, but I wanted to make one a bit wider.

That led to attempt number two (green ash crotch, on the left). I liked the width of it, but it seems visually “heavy.” And I got a bit sloppy with the sizing, and this one is just a bit too big.

By the time I got to number three (American elm, center), I was getting more comfortable with the whole process, and I added a refinement: a sizing gauge. This was just a wood disk that I turned to be 69 millimeters diameter. Then when I was shaving down the inside of the bracelet, I was shooting for a hole that my gauge disk just barely fit into. So on that one, I feel like I got the size, the width, and the overall profile about where I like it. More importantly, I got it where my wife likes it.

Tricorn #2

This is the sister bowl to the other oak tricorn bowl that I posted a few days ago, turned from the other half of the log. I always like it when I can create a pair of bowls like this. (I managed it with a pair of my earliest natural edge bowls, which have mirror-image bark inclusions in the base.)

Bowl_104-2_1024x575This one is a bit larger than the first one: 11 inches long, 9 1/2 inches wide, and 3 1/8 inches high at the highest point. It has a Danish oil finish.


First hollow forms

I had the good fortune this weekend to attend a hands-on turning class led by Trent Bosch, a well-known turner and wood sculptor. Here are the fruits of that class: two hollow forms turned from green ash.

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They’re about 4 1/2 inches diameter and about 4 inches tall. #1 (on the left) has kind of an amphora shape (minus the handles) with a rounded bottom, so it rests on it’s side. The photo doesn’t show it well, but there’s a little curl figure in #2 on the right. (It’s just a smartphone picture that I snapped this morning after I finished sanding and applying some Danish oil.)

It’s going to be a while before I do some more of this sort of thing. Turning hollow forms requires some tools I don’t have yet. Unless there’s some angel out there who’d like to gift me with some?