Introduction: Holiday Themed Wooden Bowls

About: Project videos and tutorials that show the creation of home decor and furniture. I specialize in DIY woodworking, building custom items for clients, friends, and family, showing a variety of woodworking tools…

It’s that time of year again. It’s when woodworkers scurry into their shop and make a bunch of wooden gifts for people because we’re too cheap to buy stuff from the store! I’m kidding of course. Everyone knows that we really give wooden gifts because they’re fun to create and we can make them as unique as we want. Plus, it never hurts to use up some of that scrap wood that’s laying about the shop.

Today’s project is how to make wooden bowls with the router. I really like making these. I’ve done several for family members in the past, but I haven’t made any Christmas themed ones. To start, I made a few printable holiday themed templates. You can download these for free from my website and make your bowls at home! The only thing that I ask in return is that you do a good deed for another person. Could be a compliment or help them with a problem. It’s the honor system so I trust that you will 😊.


Here are some of the tools and supplies that I used, along with the free templates that you can download:

Step 1: Create a Template

I printed my drawings out and spray glued them to a piece of particle board. This will give me a template that I can use to make as many bowls as I want. At the bandsaw, I cut out my pattern, staying as close the line as possible. I was then able to glue the particle board back together where the bandsaw blade cut it. A little sanding along the inside edge and I had the perfect template to start batching out bowls. You can also use plywood or MDF for your template. I had a bunch of spare particle board so that’s what I used.

Step 2: Attach the Template to the Workpiece

I decided to use cherry to make my bowls. I took a board that was approximately 2” thick and milled it down until it was flat. I screwed my template on top of my board. This lets me remove and attach the template multiple times and it always registers in the right spot. Make sure that you recess your screw heads. You don’t want them sticking above the surface of the template because you may bump into them with the router. Also, don’t put screws where the bowl edge will ultimately be. I placed mine as far away from the bowl as possible.

Step 3: Drill Away the Waste Material

I traced my shape onto the cherry board and unscrewed the template. I don’t want to carve out that entire bowl with a router bit. It will take forever, plus it’s a lot of stress on the bit. Instead, I removed most of the waste at the drill press using some forstner bits. I set the depth of the bit so that I have about a 1/4” thick bowl bottom. Make sure you check this because you don’t want to accidently drill too deep and go through the bottom of the bowl. Once the waste is drilled away, I screwed the template back onto the cherry board.

Step 4: Route Out the Bowl

I needed a way to clamp my bowl to the workbench. If you are using a large board then you can probably clamp it far enough away from where you’re routing so that the router doesn’t bump into the clamps. Since I’m working with a smaller board, I screwed a piece of particle board to the bottom of the bowl, ensuring that the screws were outside of the bowl area. Now, I can clamp the particle board to the workbench and my board stays in place.

Here's a super useful tip: Attach a piece of plexiglass to the bottom of your router. I bought a piece from Home Depot and drilled some holes so that it can be screwed to my router base. It took about five minutes to do tops. Now, I have a big router plate so I don’t have to worry about the router accidently tipping and falling into the bowl. Also, since it’s clear I can see through it and ensure that I didn’t miss any spots.

Routing out bowls is messy work so I urge you to wear safety glasses and a respirator. I’m using a 3/4” diameter bowl bit in my router. It has a bearing at the top so it rides along the template. As you route further down into the bowl, the bearing will begin riding on the interior face of the bowl. You don’t have to use one of these bits. You could use a spiral or straight bit along with a router bushing. Instead of having a curved bottom, your bowl will have sharp interior edges. I made a bunch of passes with the router. I don’t like to take too much material off at a time. I kept routing until I removed the marks left by the drill bit in step 3.

Step 5: Cut the Outside Shape

With the bowl’s inside carved out, now you can cut the outside shape. There are a few ways to do this. I made the downloadable templates so that they have an interior and exterior. You could have glued the template to your bowl material (in my case the cherry board), then attached your particle board router template on top. When you unscrew the router template, you are left with just the outside lines of the bowl template. Another way is to use a compass and trace around the bowl. I like the walls of my bowl to be about 3/8” thick, but this is completely up to you.

Regardless of the method, the next step is to go to the bandsaw and cut it out. You could also use a jig saw for this. I like to cut as close to my line as possible without cutting inside it. Then I sanded the sides of the bowl sides until I reached my line.

Step 6: Apply Finish

Once the bowl was sanded, I applied a hardwax finish. I’m starting to use these finishes on more projects. I like the look they provide and they are really easy to apply. I love how my bowls look. If you give this project a try let me know how it turned out in the comments below!

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