Introduction: Lathe Turned Plastic Bowl

Picture of Lathe Turned Plastic Bowl

I found a bunch of this plastic in different shapes and sizes. Im not sure what the technical name for it is, but I have seen it used in many jigs at machine shops. I posted a forum topic questioning what it is here.
I had to try making a bowl.

Step 1: Chuck It Up on Your Lathe

Picture of Chuck It Up on Your Lathe

This piece already had a perfect recess for my chuck.    :-D
I mounted it and got it slightly round then went to work on the inside of the bowl.

Step 2: Hollow Out the Inside of the Bowl

Picture of Hollow Out the Inside of the Bowl

Move your tool rest to the proper distance/height to start removing material from the inside of the bowl.
I start most of my bowls by using a 1/4" drill bit in the center. Tape off the correct depth (the depth of the inside of your bowl) on the bit and using your tailstock drill chuck drill the hole. This gives you an accurate stopping point while hollowing.

I used a home made Carbide tipped finishing tool.

This stuff cuts nice. It seems easier to control at lower speeds but the higher speed gives the best finished cut, so mix it up a bit but be careful... When it does snag, it will whip the hell outta your hand at 1200 RPM. Not fun!

Step 3: Shape the Outside

Picture of Shape the Outside

Move your toolrest back to the outside and start shaping the outside the way you want...
I could have been a little less wasteful here, but I plan on making the leftover chunk into a lid for this.
Take your time here... While cutting you will get a nice ribbon shooting off toward your shoulder. This ribbon is on single continuous strand if you are holding the tool properly and it is sharp. This is what you want, one long ribbon like strand. but beware. that one long continuous ribbon will quickly snag and pull every bit of the ribbon back around the workpiece making a birds-nest looking mess wrapped tightly around the middle. so stop and remove this stuff often from your workbench and area. It will pick it up!!!

Take your time and go slow...
Once you get the proper shape of the outside, you may want to go back and thin it a bit on the inside. This is also a good tim to raise the speed and finish cut it... Do this for inside and outside of the bowl.

Step 4: Sand Your Work Piece!

Picture of Sand Your Work Piece!

Its the same sanding procedure as wood... start with around 80 or 150 grit and work your way up to at least 800.
It sands like an extremely hard wood, so again, take your time and go slow. The workpiece will get warm and even hot from the friction of sanding so let it cool down and check that your chuck is tightly holding your work often...
you could wetsand it further for a better finish, but i was happy with what i had....

Step 5: Polish It and Part It Off

Picture of Polish It and Part It Off

I used a plastic polish and wax... its done. The wife loves it and once again took it from me! It has a nice translucence to it with a candle..

Thanks for looking


debzam (author)2015-01-08

Beautiful. The glow is very appealing.

Make sure you know the plastic before you use it for food/microwave use. I can think of LOTS of things to do with that little jewel.

osurich (author)2013-11-20

Nice work. The link to the carbide tipped finishing tool doesn't work.

explosivemaker (author)2013-05-07

Very cool.

SlickSqueegie (author)2013-04-25


SlickSqueegie (author)2013-04-25

yes. Bowls are a lot of fun. I would have to say that ever since I bought this lathe, It has become my favorite shop tool.

andybuda (author)2013-01-18

that is art

SlickSqueegie (author)andybuda2013-01-18

Thanks for the great compliment!

andybuda (author)SlickSqueegie2013-01-19

can all the off cuts ever be reformed in to a block again to be reused?

SlickSqueegie (author)andybuda2013-01-30

i think this is possible, I wouldn't mind figuring out if it is possible and how I would do it....

ringai (author)2013-01-20

Very nice bowl. I really like the beads. Do you know about the the woodturning community on Google+?

SlickSqueegie (author)ringai2013-01-20

No, not familiar with it...

ringai (author)SlickSqueegie2013-01-23

If you have a google email account, activate google+ and then look on the left-hand side for Communities. Click there and search for wood turning. There are over 60 of us there now. There's some pretty decent work and some nice tips.

SlickSqueegie (author)2013-01-15

Yeah, thats what im reading.. It was snow covered when i found it all... I think there may be more there... I better go check before i miss out...

Dr Qui (author)SlickSqueegie2013-01-15

Indeed, from talking to an engineering friend he says you have found a small fortune of that stuff, it would be worth seeing if you can melt some of the shavings and cast a new block with, they certainly are clean enough.

SlickSqueegie (author)Dr Qui2013-01-17

I went back this morning picked up about 100 pieces of 1/2" thick clear 4-6" wide by about 2-4' long. They also had some laminated plastic with white aluminum laminate that were pretty large. Its very very rigid and very thin. But i picked up the last of those white plastics at the same time. I was pleasantly suprized to find this "log" of a chunk! Its about three feet long and almost 7" in diameter. It has to weigh close to fourty pounds.

Dr Qui (author)SlickSqueegie2013-01-18

just looked at some prices on eBay, that 6 1/2" stuff is worth upwards of about £265+ Sounds like you hit the once in a lifetime mother load, well spotted.

SlickSqueegie (author)2013-01-18

Thank you. yeah, but. Every bowl blank i have ever purchased has been expensive!

technovative (author)2013-01-17

Cool way to repurpose those acetal (delrin) cylinders, the bowl looks great. Great find BTW you've got a minimum of several hundred dollars worth of acetal there.

Thanks, I have tons of other ideas running through my head for this stuff!!!

SlickSqueegie (author)2013-01-11

Thanks, the candle does add a nice touch...
Yeah, It was next to a dumpster in the back of a local plastics supplier.

That is an awesome find :) You should enter this into the Holiday Gifts Contest!

The fiancé stole it from me.. Does it still count as a gift?

Haha! Yeah, still counts :)

Mrballeng (author)2013-01-12

Holy cow! That is a whole lot of staticky wisps of plastic. Great result! Favorite.

SlickSqueegie (author)Mrballeng2013-01-15

Here is a few more showing the mess it made!

SlickSqueegie (author)Mrballeng2013-01-12

Thanks mr balleng! Yeah it was quite messy!

craftguy (author)2013-01-14

I could be wrong but that plastic looks exactly like delrin. Which is awesome for you because it's not too cheap.

rickharris (author)craftguy2013-01-15


bajablue (author)2013-01-12

Your wife made the right decision. The bowl is too beautiful to be man-handled. ;-)

SlickSqueegie (author)bajablue2013-01-13

She said the same thing!
Thanks bajablue!

bajablue (author)SlickSqueegie2013-01-13

You picked a smart one... and you're welcome. ;-D 

scavanger (author)2013-01-12

Those turned out great!

Sure wish I could find a pile of plastic like that.

SlickSqueegie (author)scavanger2013-01-13

Thanks, check around for a local plastics company....

rimar2000 (author)2013-01-11

Beautiful! You could use it as a mortar, too.

SlickSqueegie (author)rimar20002013-01-12

Thanks Rimar,
Lol, everyone that has looked at it and held it, say the exact same thing!

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2013-01-11

That looks great! I love how it looks with a candle in it :) Do remember where you found all this plastic?

Nostalgic Guy (author)2013-01-11

Nice job it looks great.
Now I'm afraid I have to follow kelseymh's lead & pass on a few warning words.
I used to machine plastics for a living & while they can produce some beautiful results great care should be taken when cutting them, some will require a high temperature to produce vapour however others do not & the vapours produced by the most innocent looking plastics can have nasty results, believe me I have suffered the consequences more than once & it's no fun at all, always ensure the area you are working in is well ventilated.
It may seem like an obvious thing but I would also say NEVER SMOKE WHEN MACHINING PLASTICS, many of them when machined will produce a fine powdery swarf, when this comes into contact with a cigarette end the vapour produced is inhaled directly & once again can produce some nasty results, again I have personal experience of this, ask anyone who has suffered a dose of PTFE poisoning & they will tell you they wouldn't want to repeat the experience.


kelseymh (author)2013-01-11

That is a beautiful bowl! And the translucence works extremely well with the tea candle you put into it.

(putting on my industrial safety hat...)

Since you don't know (yet?) what material this is, I hope you don't plan to use this as a serving or eating bowl. Many polymer resins will desorb some of their components, or react with either acids or alkalis in different foods. The result can be small ring hydrodcarbons (like BPA) which can mimic hormones, or larger polycyclic hydrocarbons (PAH's) which are known and suspected carcinogens. You generally don't want to be ingesting those chemicals.

SlickSqueegie (author)kelseymh2013-01-11

Thanks Kelsey, No I don't plan on eating anything out of it.

About This Instructable




Bio: I've built houses, decks, custom cabinets, furniture of all types. Ive done furniture repair and restoration, residential and commercial remodels, restaurant seating and tables ... More »
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