Make a Bowl Out of a Log Part 1





Introduction: Make a Bowl Out of a Log Part 1

The only thing I like better than turning bowls out of wood, is turning bowls out of free wood! Throuought the summer trees fall down. Im constantly looking for nice pieces carelessly thrown out. 
The only bad part about it is they are always wet. Wood has a high percentage of water stored in the trunks and can take years and years to dry in log form. 
I let my logs dry outside off the ground I put a tarp over them to keep the rain off, but other than that they sit for a year. At that point you should see a natural split forming in the ends. I used a hatchet and sledge hammer to speed up the job following the natural split. I usually get two nice half logs. Then using a hand saw , chain saw or bandsaw cut them into the bowl blanks. Try and keep the length a little longer than the width of the log half.

Step 1: Prepare and Mount Your Blank

The blank needs a way of being mounted to your lathe. This can be done a hundred different ways. I use a 3" (stock) faceplate that came with the lathe as well as a Nova G3 4 jaw chuck. 
The first thing you need to do is prepare the face of the cut side of the log for turning. Just get it as flat as possible. Then center your faceplate on the log and using a center punch mark the holes needed to screw the faceplate to the blank
remove the chuck and drill your holes. The depth of the hole will vary depending on the length of screws you use. Note: do not use dry wall screws for this. Only use wood type screws!
After the holes are drilled it's time to mount it to the faceplate. This is as simple as screwing it to the blank. Then mount it to your lathe.

Step 2: Rough the Outside and for the Recess for the Chuck

This is the fun part, and makes the shop very very messy. It's also a time consuming part but that's ok crank up the tunes and find our groove!
Start by roughing the outside of the bowl. Make it as round as possible. At first you need to start your lathe speed out very very slow... Otherwise the stuff on your bench will dance all over the place. The vibrations can be violent!
After you get the outside basically round , work your way to the bottom(bark side) of the bowl. 
once you get it flat and all the bark removed and good solid wood to work with, form the recess for the chuck jaws to grip into. 
I make it abou 2" in diameter and about 1/4" deep. That usually makes for a good solid tight grip on the bowl. nothing worse than having it come off the chuck.

Step 3: Remove the Faceplate and Mount the Chuck

Remove the blank  and faceplate from the lathe and unscrew the faceplate. Then mount your chuck to the prepared recess nice and tight.
when you re-mount the blank on the chuck and run it on the lathe you will most of the time see it wobble. Just clean it up real quick with a few light touches with your gouge. And proceed to set up your toolrest to the top of the bowl.

Step 4: Rough Out the Inside of the Bowl

Remove all the wood from the inside of the bowl leaving about 3/4" wall thickness.

Step 5: Pack It Up and Wait a Couple Months

This wood is wet, with about 14-15 % moisture content and needs to dry for at least a month probably two before I can finish it. So bag it up in a brown paper bag with its own shavings tightly packed all around it. After a month open the bag and let it breath for a weak and then close it back up for another month.

Stay tuned for part II
thanks for looking.



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    this is so cool! I want to try this but i,m a woman,doesn't matter i'm gonna try this!

    May be 5 years since you posted this but how'd you get on? I'm a woman and I've just started a furniture design course at the age of 46. I'm loving working on the lathe and so proud of my first bowl made from mahogany and finished with bees-wax.

    Who cares if your a woman? None of us (hopefully) are sexist. As long as you have the tools, fire away!

    I agree with SlicksQueegie it is extremely addictive but it can be done to a certain extent on a budget at first.

    I would recommend that look for a night class in wood turning or someone who has a wood lathe to try it out first, you do have to have a certain feel for the wood and not everyone does. This also means thee are unused wood lathes in garages everywhere so check Craigs list, gumtree, eBay etc.

    If you do show a talent for wood turning then it is worth spending the money on a chucking system like the G3 as a good chuck is both safe and expands your capability.

    I hope you do give this a go as it is a fantastic hobby.

    There are a lot of women turners out there... But I will say it is a pretty expensive hobby. And extremely addicting...

    What type of lathe do you us

    Thank you, but it's not finished yet... Hardest part yet to come...

    Yeah I agree, the hardest part is to come. Its very hard to open the bag up and find that the wood has cracked or warped real bad. I have had a few real nice pieces crack because i left a knot to near the edge or the wall were just a shade to thick at the bottom etc.  But that also makes it fun to see if you can coax something  beautiful out of a stinky old log.

    I have had poor success with wind fall logs as I am beginning to think they probably developed many stress fractures in the limbs that got broken in the storms that felled them.  I hve had much better success with log that where felled by a chainsaw

    I must try that paper bag full of shavings trick, i use a cabinet in an earth floored shed to season my green wood pieces.

    Is a moisture meter a good investment as i was thinking of buying one, I just bought a G3 chuck myself they are now sensible money i got mine for £89 delivered on eBay, they where silly money when I first got the lathe.

    You say you timber is about 14% moisture content is that not quite close to that of seasoned timber? I turned fresh sawn pine last year and it was so wet I had a pine fresh beard for about a week from all the resin I got splashed with.

    Good luck and keep on spinning.

    A moisture meter is a good tool, I got 1 from ebay last week for $20.
    The G3 is an OK chuck but I think the Supernova 2 is way better for just a few $$ more. The chuck key on the G3 can be a pain where as the super nova has a hex key that is easier to use.Any Nova jaws are compatible with either chucks as well.