Here's a small bowl I made from interlocking layers of birch plywood. I designed it using Poser, Blender and Autodesk 123D Make, then used a laser cutter to precisely cut all 40 of the pieces.

The bowl stands at about a foot in height and, despite being very light, is sturdy and extremely well balanced so it won't topple over when filled.

You can now buy a kit for this bowl on the Instructables Store. We're making these ourselves at the Instructables Lab, so supply will be limited!

Step 1: Modeling the hand

Picture of Modeling the hand
Poser 2.jpg
Poser 3.jpg
The first step was to model and pose a hand to act as the bowl's base. For this, I used a piece of software called Poser by Smith Micro. Poser is a 3D modeling package that specializes in modeling and animating human bodies. It comes with a library of basic figures that can be easily posed using a very intuitive and beginner-friendly interface. I used one of Poser's default hand models.

When posing the hand, I had a few things to bear in mind. Obviously I wanted all of the fingertips to touch the ground at the same level so that the bowl would stand upright. I also had to think carefully about the way I splayed out the fingers. The fingers needed to provide as broad a base as possible while also looking natural and comfortable (Poser does nothing to stop you contorting its models into grotesque and unnatural positions, so this is trickier than you might expect).

A more subtle issue was to do with how I knew the model would eventually be sliced when I exported it into 123D Make. I knew from the outset that I wanted this bowl to made of radial slices converging somewhere around the base of the palm. This meant that I had to position the fingers so that they all roughly pointed straight outward from the same spot (so that each finger would contain a slice of plywood). Any major misalignment would make slicing the model impossible. This is an excellent example of how crucial it can be to visualize the entire design process of a project before you even start modeling.
gamalaser9 months ago

Good Idea

JustinSw1 year ago

Hi PenfoldPlant,

Awesome design / Project.

I'm with everyone else below, would love to build my own. But the link to the store does not work, i assume that this is no longer available to purchase the kit.

As with others would love to get the final laser cut files, or dxf files for this project.

Have downloaded your eps, and pdf files. but they seem to be an earlier version than you final design.

Would be happy to pay for files, if need be.


xChamp1 year ago

Hi PenfoldPlant,

I'm really impressed by this design, not only the creative idea to mend a bowl to a hand, but also how slim and how natural looking the design is.

I would like to build my own, but it seems that the template for the laser cutter from step 3 isn't the final form. That and I can't get a link to the store where i can purchase a kit to build one ; thus me having 2 questions :

  • Is the kit a pile of already cut-out sheets of wood, or is there a simpler PDF file i can buy to laser cut it myself?
  • WHERE can i purchase such a product?
Thanks a lot !
hello sir I really wanna take this file .

If you can send me this file, Please send me e-mail with this file

I am Korean^^ my e-mail address is ( iyuk0318@naver.com)

Many Thanks
metalsteve2 years ago
Before I start i want to say fantastic job on the bowl. I love it.
I recently cut out and assembled the files both card and wood. The bowl looks more like one of your previous attempts and not the finished product. It just topples under its own weight and is much lower than the image above. Is this right?
hohum2 years ago
Very nice looking art! congratulations on this accomplishment.
Danny14333 years ago
Thats handy
LOL at the caption, imagine what a nightmare this would be to cut by hand.
ccrome3 years ago
Excellent! I just made mine with my home made CNC router. Works pretty well on that with a 1/8" bit. I rearranged to fit my sheet size better, but overall, a very cool build.


GainEnergy3 years ago
Love this brilliant project! Thanks for sharing!
bsolo3 years ago
Hi PenfoldPlant,

Really like this project! WOW!

Do you know what Autodesk plans to do with 123D MAKE after it expires next month???

ewilhelm bsolo3 years ago
Check out the online version of 123D Make:
bsolo ewilhelm3 years ago
Hey, thanks! Tested it. Works pretty smooth.

Still has a ways to go before we can do a project like the Hand Bowl.

Radial slices, please. :)
ewilhelm bsolo3 years ago
We're working hard to get an online version of 123D Make released. Since it's currently Mac-only, I suspect this will make lots of people happy.
Half way there! The online version is UP!!! It still has MANY limitations from relative to the MAC version. Also the import function seems to not function. I couldn't load the stl from the ible. But for the sample stl files it works great.
Stackable layers only for now it seems
No radial slicing
No orthogonal slicing with gaps.
But still a great step in the right direction!!!
I tested the on-line version. Pretty nice. The import DOES work. It says files are limited to less than 5 MB though. Shouldn't be too much of a problem for simple objects.

I'm hoping to see that radial function there very SOON.
bsolo ewilhelm3 years ago

I am Mac-only AND not on-line in my workshop. So, an on-line-only version would create a huge obstacle for me to be a 123DMake user. UGH! Not so happy. To me, that's like having to borrow tools from someone else every time I need to use them. I would like to request that stand-alone copies be made available as well.

I really do like 123DMake and looking forward to the "radial" function.

Is there a place where users/makers can discuss 123DMake? The Autodesk blog does not seem to be very active.

amjad8310013 years ago
Did you recrete this particular project in to a SW assembly or did you create a slicing interface for SW?
i re-created the same project in solid works, just to play around before making it actually.
send me you email address
O.O can I have a copy?
EPS files hate me.
Please ......how?
paintphone3 years ago
Its like Thing from the Adams Family !
jayko6573 years ago
After looking at the EPS files...I noticed that there are multiple pieces just...floating...like a small triangle or 2 that looked like it's supposed to be a part of a different piece.
Also,some parts are disturbingly thin in some places...is this supposed to be right?
amjad8310013 years ago
Author - Can you also upload the EPS or DXF file which has elongated arms, i understand after making the Model that it is the smaller one which you have uploaded.... Thanx
old.bodger3 years ago
Impressive! Do you have the files as DXF's?

amjad8310013 years ago
Can anybody help in giving the assembly instructions, the pieces are marked with numbers though it looks complicated to assemble, please help....Thanx
accuproto3 years ago
I'd like to make one in S/S either polished or Glass Bead Blasted.
accuproto3 years ago
You wouldn't happen to have these files in DXF format would you?
god i want one DA LASER to do leather working with
Keep an eye on our contests - I'm sure we'll be giving a laser cutter away again at some point...
yeah the did a while ago but so many entered that already had one or had access to one and were able to do far more advance things that drew in more attention
Kind of like this bowl as an entry in the shop bot challenge! :P
bajablue d0vr3 years ago
Penfold is an Instructables' resident.  As such, he can enter any Contest, but  he cannot win a prize. This is true for all Instructables employees.

Projects like this raise the proverbial bar... and they deserve a wide audience. 

They are intended to educate, encourage and motivate... not to mention mind-boggle simple folks like me! ;-)

d0vr bajablue3 years ago
Ohhhhh....... I didn't realize he was an employee of Instructables. But yes, this certainly does do all that you mentioned. Well done good Sir!
So this is a $45,000 laser cutter?
paqrat3 years ago
This is beautiful, in a grotesque and fairly disturbing way. I think one in a metal finish would also be impressive.
PenfoldPlant (author)  paqrat3 years ago
A metal one would be great, but our lab laser cutter isn't up to the task of slicing through metal. Maybe one day we'll upgrade to a super powerful laser cutter or a water jet cutter, though...
Perhaps the wooden one could be painted with a conductive paint and electroplated or electroformed.
PenfoldPlant (author)  CatTrampoline3 years ago
I'm going to take that as a compliment. Thanks!
It was meant as one :-)
d0vr3 years ago
Very cool project. Now to just go find where I put my laser cutt.. oh wait. How much weight can this hold by the way? I'd love to see a photo of it in action so to speak.
PenfoldPlant (author)  d0vr3 years ago
Good idea! I've now posted an action shot in the first and last steps of the Instructables. It's fairly sturdy!
Jeff Yates3 years ago
Loving this.Don't suppose you could add the OBJ and STL files. I'd like to play around with it in Solidworks.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Jeff Yates3 years ago
Sure thing! I've uploaded the STL file of the finished bowl (Hand Bowl 6.stl) to Step 2. Let me know how it goes!
bitsy1133 years ago
I would buy one of these! I could see this in one of those expensive artsy catalogs!! If you ever decide to sell one (@ a reasonable, not artsy price) let me know! Very talented!!
PenfoldPlant (author)  bitsy1133 years ago
Thanks, Bitsy! We're actually selling these already on the Instructables Store. Check it out!
Great plans. I can make this with my homemade CNC router (FLA design) using 3/32" router bits, it actually makes a cleaner cut that with laser.
But I noticed that the drawings have little bits that get cut off and confirmed from the pictures you took of the laser cut sheet. Did you correct this or do you jest let these little pieces fall off?
Thanks again for a great post.
PenfoldPlant (author)  francismolloy3 years ago
I actually just let most of the small piece fall by the wayside, as they weren't very significant to the finished model. If I felt they were large enough, I either edited the vector file just prior to laser cutting or I glued them back on afterwards.

If you do try to make your own bowl with a CNC machine, I'd be fascinated to see how it turns out!
popunonkok3 years ago
I just want to reask "bsolo"s question so that you dont miss it. =)

"Do you know what Autodesk plans to do with 123D MAKE after it expires next month???"

Really nice work.
I have a CNC mill and some designes could defenetly be milled with that.
PenfoldPlant (author)  popunonkok3 years ago
Eric's already stepped in to address this, but I think the plan is to release an online version of 123D Make that will work on PCs as well as Macs.

If you try this out with a CNC mill, please let me know how it goes. I'd love to see the outcome!
Really like the look of this piece, would love one in my dining room. There's a local high school with a laser cutter that I might be able to use. Thanks for including the files.
I've also got something of a fascination with hands, after working in Spain I created a series of drawings based around my hand and an old tree stump. This then spurred me on to create a Dali'esque landscape.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Nemesis2010773 years ago
Cool, I'd be curious to see your own hand-related creations. Do you have any pictures?
Spooky! I was told using bleach on the black laser cut area reduces the burn look,worth a try, glad you are on the team.
PenfoldPlant (author)  stephenfitton3 years ago
Thanks for the tip, Stephen. I'll give this a try and let you know how it works out.
emptymag3 years ago
Wicked awesome, Crazy Cool, Freakingly face grabbing impressive! One of few. Thanks!
PenfoldPlant (author)  emptymag3 years ago
Freakingly face grabbing impressive is what I generally aim for. Thanks!
Wow! Very cool... interesting, attractive, intriguing...

I'd like to cut a Hand Bowl in 1/4" plywood using a scroll saw.

I don't know how to use the .eps files... Any chance you could post printable .jpg or .bmp files? (or tell me how I might use the .eps files to print them)

PenfoldPlant (author)  sawtooth19533 years ago
I've uploaded a PDF image to Step 3. You should be able to print this out without much trouble. However, the shapes are designed to be used with 0.2" plywood so you'll have to either:
a) Find some 0.2" plywood
b) Print everything 25% larger and use 0.25" plywood.

Good luck and let me know how it turns out!
SinAmos3 years ago
Umm. This is freaking awesome, except for the cost of entry. Where do I get my 3D laser printer/cutter?
PenfoldPlant (author)  SinAmos3 years ago
Laser cutters are actually becoming more and more common, particularly in colleges and schools. Failing that, hackerspaces and companies like TechShop will often let you use their laser cutters for a very small fee.

Another option is online laser cutting services such as Ponoko, who will cut out vector files from a variety of materials and send them to you by mail.
Taerzik3 years ago
Cool! Definitely a conversation piece.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Taerzik3 years ago
Yep, people have certainly been commenting on it!
studleylee3 years ago
Very Cool !!111
PenfoldPlant (author)  studleylee3 years ago
:-D Glad you enjoyed it!
Very cool first of all. Second, is there software like 123D for windows?
Thanks and keep up the fun and creative good work!
PenfoldPlant (author)  asbestosfriend3 years ago
At the moment, 123D is only available for Macs. However, I'm told that a shiny new online version is in the works. The online version should be able to run on Macs and PCs without you needing to download any software. Hopefully it will be available later this year.
bajablue3 years ago
In a word: INCREDIBLE!
PenfoldPlant (author)  bajablue3 years ago
rimar20003 years ago
PenfoldPlant (author)  rimar20003 years ago
Thanks, rimar!
Otterkins23 years ago
Absolutely stunning! I'd like to see this constructed out of coloured clear acrylic sheets. Blue or red sounds nice. A few criticisms here though. First of all, you need to show the order in which this was assembled so us mere mortals don't wind up trying to make it and then find that we've leftover parts that we can't fit in to the structure because we've proceeded too far along in the construction. Secondly, your EPS files are not compacted enough so there is enormous drop-down waste. I'd re-do those with each part "nested" so there is less waste. Truly a mind boggling 'ible though!!!
This is a very beautiful work of art!
mikeasaurus3 years ago
Having seen this hand sculpture in person I can say that it haunts my waking dreams, I mean that in a good way.
PenfoldPlant (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
Glad to hear it, buddy.
Awesome, but whats with you and hands? Remembering your snow hand , just as cool - oh second accidental pun of the day...
PenfoldPlant (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
Actually, I think I've probably made creepier hands...

I'm not sure what it is about them that draws my attention so much. I think it's a combination of their highly recognizable shapes, their importance in my day to day work and my generally tactile way of thinking about construction. That and my hand fetish, of course.
Jayefuu3 years ago
That's incredible. Good work! That software looks amazing too, looking forward to having a play with that.
PenfoldPlant (author)  Jayefuu3 years ago
Yep, it's all pretty cool stuff. We're all looking forward to having you here making awesome things!
brainsfried3 years ago
that is pretty amazing!
PenfoldPlant (author)  brainsfried3 years ago
Cheers, glad you enjoyed it!