Introduction: Making a Bowl Without a Lathe

About: A wife, mom, and maker, making heirloom quality wood artwork for the bold home.

Sometimes I enjoy working on projects that can really be completed within just a couple of hours. For me, those projects are generally bowls or shallow dishes. Since I do not have a lathe in my shop, I utilize my angle grinder and a series of attachments to carve the bowls and dishes. This post walks through the process of making a bowl as well as highlights a few different finishing techniques I enjoy using.

Step 1: Tool Choice and Start of Carving

I have had the most success power carving using just a small 4.5-inch angle grinder and a series of attachments from King Arthurs Tools. For bowls, I always start with roughing out the exterior of the piece first. To do this, I use the course Holey Galahad attachment from King Arthurs Tools. This attachment removes material quickly in a highly controlled manner. The holes in the attachment wheel allow you to see the work through the wheel while working. Once the exterior shape is roughed out its time to switch to the interior.

Step 2: Interior & Exterior Carving

With the outside of the bowl being formed and not having a lot of flat surface to sit on, I use a series of clamps and scrap wood to hold the piece in place while I work on carving out the interior of the bowl. I use the course and medium holey Galahads for this process. Then I use the King Arthurs Merlin II to do more of the finesse work on finalizing the shape of both the outside and the inside of the piece. You need to stay aware of the overall thickness of material left so you don’t carve through and create a hole. I stop frequently while carving to feel the surface and to gage the thickness of material left. Once I am happy with both, then it’s time to sand.

Step 3: Sanding a Bowl

It has taken some time to arrive at a method of sanding a bowl or really any curved surface, without a lathe and without doing it by hand. To sand curved projects, like a bowl or shallow dish, I use the King Arthurs Tool Guinevere sanding system. With its flex shaft and attachments, it makes really quick work of sanding. I sanded the outside up to 180 grit and the inside up to 320 grit. The reason for the difference was based on how I was finishing the outside versus the inside of the bowl.

Step 4: Shou Sugi Ban

For the exterior of the bowl I decided to go with a Japanese technique called Shou Sugi Ban. For this technique you burn the wood. By burning the wood, you are actually protecting it from deterioration, pests, UV rays and such. I just used a propane tank and torch kit that I picked up from the hardware store. After burning the wood, I removed the loose bits of char and got the surface to a smoot gloss like finish by using a 240 grit Nyalox flap wheel brush with the Guinevere flex shaft sanding system. By using the 240 grit I was able to remove the char and create texture without basically removing all of the charred wood.

Step 5: Dye, Dye, Dye!!!

For the internal part of the bowl I wanted to increase the contrast with the now blackened exterior of the bowl. So, I chose a bright orange dye to apply. I did thin the dye down with some water so it wasn’t applied so thick.

Step 6: Final Finish

After the dye had completely dried, I applied a couple of coats of Howards Feed ‘n’ Wax which is just a blend of orange oil and beeswax. This just helps to provide an extra shine to the piece and give the whole piece a little extra protection. Plus, it smells delicious.

Step 7: Conclusion

This entire project was completed in just 2.5 hours. It was super fun to be able to start from raw material and get to a finished product in such a short time. Plus, the opportunity to combine several finishing methods on one small end result was fun to experiment with. Make sure to check out the video to see the whole process in action.

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