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.

No need to embellish

I sometimes consider adding some sort of embellishment on my next project–a band of texturing or pyrography, perhaps.

And then I get something with grain like this…

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…and I realize that anything I could possibly add would be like gluing sequins on a lily; it would only detract from the beauty that’s inherent in the material.

Work in progress, American elm.

A plain elm milestone

Late last summer, my wife’s aunt had to have all of the elm trees on her property cut down because they had become infected with Dutch Elm disease. For some reason, the tree service left one stump intact (they ground up the rest of them), so I decided to see what I could make of it.

I sliced it into a couple of thick slabs, and then roughed out a pair of large bowls, which I placed in paper bags to slowly dry. (Letting wet wood dry slowly helps avoid the cracking and checking that happens when it dries too quickly.)

Here’s the first of the pair, which coincidentally, is the 100th bowl that I have finished.

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American elm is a lovely hard wood, with an interlocking grain that creates some interesting patterns that shift as you view it from different angles. (The technical term is chatoyance.) Here’s a look at what I’m talking about.

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10 3/8″ diameter, 2 3/4″ high. Danish oil finish.

American Elm bowl with crotch figure

American Elms are lovely trees that have been hit hard in recent decades by Dutch Elm disease, a fungal infection that has killed millions of trees in the United States. Our family farm had dozens of them in the woodlot and surrounding the yard, and one by one, they also succumbed. This bowl is from one of the last to go.

The crotch figure in this one looks to me as if the grain has been melted and sagged.

6 5/8″ diameter, 1 3/8″ high. Danish oil finish.