Introduction: Peanut-shaped Bowl Using Cloth and Glue

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First of all, peanuts are not a mandatory part of this project, and neither is the peanut shape. Check out the next step for the technique I used for this bowl - it lends itself well to shapes that you cannot possibly make on the lathe. Then I go into the actual making of this bowl. And if you are into moving pictures, check out the video for this project.

So, let's dig deeper into "linothorax"!

Step 1: About "Linothorax"

"Linothorax" refers to a form or upper body armor the ancient Greeks used. The basic idea is to laminate (glue) several layers of cloth together to create a sturdy piece that is shaped to fit your needs. Cloth can be easily formed and bent, and the glue gives it strength. Oh, and whether using wood glue is historically accurate or not falls outside the scope of this 'ible.

The cool thing about it is that you can make any shape that you can get the cloth to fit, up to and including bends and kinks in the fabric. The glue will fill any voids and keep the cloth in place while it dries, so there should not be any kind of "clamping" necessary.

If you want to make lidded bowls or boxes like the one I made, there is one important thing to consider (spoiler alert - this technique does not do undercuts. The moment the surface of your form curves back on itself, you will have a very hard time getting the mold out of it to use as a bowl. That should not be a problem with forms made on the lathe, as long as you cut it open the way I did with this bowl, i.e. along a plane perpendicular to the rotation axis of the piece but intersecting it (if that makes sense. If not, check out the upcoming steps for what I mean).

If you are interested in the technique, you can read more about it in this Wikipedia article.

Let's move on and make the actual peanut bowl!

Step 2: Materials and Tools

Here are the materials and consumables you will need to make a peanut bowl:

  • a block of wood - to make the form from. I find wood to be the best material to make forms, but other things that you can get into shape will work as well (like modeling clay).
  • a bale of cloth - to make up the bulk of the bowl to be. It must not be waterproof because glue needs to be able to soak it. I used linen. Also, see the next step for some additional ideas.
  • a keg of wood glue - to make up the rest. Craft glue might work as well. Depending on what you want to use the bowl for, look into whether the glue is watertight. It might also not be food safe. I keep peanuts in my bowl because I am not going to eat the shells.
  • petroleum jelly - as a mold release. Other kinds of mold release might work as well, but I have no experience with them.
  • beeswax - used to wax the wooden piece, and probably superfluous.

And these are the tools I used (and the ones you can substitute for them):

  • lathe - to shape the form. You can substitute this with a number of other tools that I will list in the next step.
  • belt sander - for some additional shaping. Other kinds of sander will work as well.
  • table saw - to cut the piece open. Make sure you use something that you feel comfortable with, and that might not be the table saw.
  • plastic foil - or another cover to keep you from gluing things to your work surface
  • latex (or similar) gloves - to keep you from gluing yourself to the work surface
  • scissors - to cut things.

Step 3: Another Idea (or Upcycling!)

While new cloth works well for this project, you can easily make a bowl from old clothes or rags. In addition to being (most likely) free, doing this has some additional benefits. For starters, the one thing that the bowl I made lacks is color. I might still be able to paint it, but I quite like the natural looks of the linen.

But if you use an old t-shirt, not only will you get a bowl that has colors - rad colors depending on your preferred style - but you also get the chance to add any logo or image that was on your piece of clothing to the bowl. Add it to the last layer and make sure you do not need to cut into it, and you can give an old favorite a new purpose. It might even be possible to use it as the first layer and have it show up on the inside.

Beyond that, you can combine different fabrics to make patterns, from stripes over spirals to checkered patterns, the possibilities are endless.

But no matter how you want to challenge yourself, let's start making a peanut bowl.

Step 4: Turning the Shape (and Other Options)

Making this shape is pretty straight-forward. I put the block of wood (cheap fir in this case) between centers on the lathe, turn it round and shape it to look like a peanut. Well, looking at actual peanuts, I turn it into what someone who has only ever heard of peanuts would think that a peanut would look like.

In general, you can use any tool that you can shape wood with to make a "bowl base". I think the belt sander and the band saw are the best choices if you want something more elaborate and unusual. For examples, a heart-shape is fully within the realm of possibilities. Just make sure to avoid undercuts.

Here is a way to think about those: imagine your form laying on a flat surface, with the side that will be the open end of the bowl facing down. If you want to cut the form up in two like we do here, imagine it already cut along the intended plane. Now shine a bright light down on them from very high. Wherever the form casts a shadow, you have an undercut. Get rid of that to make your life a lot easier.

Step 5: Things to Consider (or Adding "Feet")

After doing the majority of the shaping on the lathe I cut off any parts that still stick out and use the belt sander (or another sander) to smooth out the ends.

Since this is going to be a bowl, I want to make sure that it will not roll away. To that end, I sand two flat spots on one side. Initially, I thought that what I sanded was too small, but in hindsight, the flat spot will actually grow bigger through the material you add and worked out alright for me.

Step 6: Cut From the Same Cloth (or More Preparations)

While it is easy to bunch up cloth and literally bend it to your will, cutting it into strips will make building up layers a lot easier. To that end, I just keep the cloth folded and cut off a few rows, which I then cut into more manageable lengths. Keep in mind (although I haven't told you that yet) that you need to cover those pieces with wood glue, so do not make them too big to keep the hassle down.

Now you might be wondering whether the dimensions of the pieces you use has any effect on the piece's stability. While I did not conduct any experiments regarding the strength of the end result, I think that as long as you have the fabric soaked with glue it should turn out fine and plenty sturdy for a bowl. You could probably achieve the same result by wrapping yarn around your form, provided you add the appropriate amount of glue to it.

If you really want to use this to make armor and wade into battle... I decline all responsibility and want to see pictures!

Step 7: Before the Mess (or Knowing What You Get Into)

Before we get down and dirty (literally), I recommend covering your workbench with something that does not stick to wood glue. I used plastic foil, which is probably the best option. You can cover it with old newspapers as long as you put the bowl elsewhere to dry and expect additional hassle to keep the paper from the bowl at times.

And since this will be a hands-on technique, requiring you to use your hands and really get "in there", you should also put on appropriate work gloves. I used latex gloves because I can essentially throw them away once they are crusted in glue, but using more sturdy gloves that you can then wash off should work as well.

But before we start smearing the glue around, there is something else that needs smearing.

Step 8: Getting a Little Messy (or Petroleum Jelly)

Wood is among the predominant things that wood glue will stick to. To prevent that, we need to add some kind of mold release to the wooden form. I did wax it while still on the lathe, but the reason I did not mention that before is that it probably was a rather pointless exercise, and is not at all necessary. I just enjoy waxing things on the lathe.

I used petroleum jelly here and applied a liberal amount to the whole surface of the nut. Other kinds of release might work as well, but I do not have much experience with the products that come as spray cans for castings and such. I did not want to take any risks either because if you accidentally glue your would-be bowl to your form, you might as well start over.

Now, let's pour some glue on the bench!

Step 9: Getting a Little More Messy (or the Liberal Use of Wood Glue)

This part of the process might sound familiar if you have ever done craft projects for kids with strips of newspaper and wallpaper glue (a great way to upcycle those energy-devouring old light bulbs, by the way).

You will need a lot of glue for this, so make sure you can easily access it. Pouring it right on the (covered) bench works well, and so would a wide bowl or a plate. If you can actually dip the cloth into it, then all the better! So take a piece of your fabric and soak it in wood glue. You do not need to make sure that every inch is completely covered - it will get more glue from other pieces, and if necessary you can always add a little more directly to the mold.

Place the piece on the form and make sure that it fits. The advantage of using strips is that you can put them on the form in a way that best fits the curves you need to get around. Then do the same with the next piece, and so on until you have covered the whole thing. Add a couple more for good measure, and then some more because you can. I did a bunch of layers on mine, let them dry, then I added some more. Err on the side of too many here.

As for technique, you should be able to flatten most kinks and bends with enough glue, and you can keep sturdy spots down with another layer added flat over the kink. You will most likely find that glue-soaked fabric is quite forgiving.

Give the nut a few days to completely dry before you move on.

Step 10: Cracking the Nut (or Getting Slightly Dangerous)

Now for the (next) fun part. Cutting the bowl in two. To that end, I marked the line I needed to cut using a felt-tipped marker and a spacer that I ran over the workbench to get a line of equal height at the widest area of my peanut. If your bowl has flat spots as feet, make sure that they are facing down here.

To actually separate the halved I ended up using the table saw. I will be the first to admit that this tool can be dangerous and that you should under no circumstances use it if you do not feel comfortable doing so. I ran the feet of my bowl against the fence and made sure to keep my hands as far away from the top of the blade as I could while still having a tight hold on the peanut. Using push sticks, while I generally recommend it, would not really be safe here.

I started making shallow cuts, raising the blade little by little, until it had cut through the cloth in the center of the bowl. I did not want to cut the thing completely in half because I think that would not help much in separating the sides of the bowl. Instead, I finished the cuts on the ends with a handsaw.

Then I used the gentle touch of a screwdriver to pry both halves apart.

Step 11: Making It More Pretty (or Less Ugly)

My saws left a kind of burr on the cut - short strands of fabric sticking out along the edge. I use scissors to get rid of them, which is easy along the outside of the curves and a little more tricks on the inside. A well-maintained craft knife should do the trick as well.

But as you can see in the pictures above, the cut face itself does not look pretty at all. To fix that, I add an additional strip of cloth along the edge and let that dry.

Step 12: Put a Lid on It (or... Actually Putting a Lid on It)

As a final touch, and actually what will make this bowl work as a lidded bowl or box, is the lip for the lid to fit onto. To that end, I first glue up a long strip of cloth that I fold once to make it more sturdy. Then I let that dry - it will still be flexible enough afterward.

Once the glue has set, I bend it to fit into the bowl, add glue and use clamps to keep it in place. The idea is that is will stick to the bowl all around, so a few more clamps might be necessary, as well as taking care not to put too much tension on any one spot.

If your strip is too long you need to cut it down, but be careful not to cut away too much. To have a well-closing bowl, it is better to have the lid overlap than to have an actual gap there.

Step 13: Finishing Up (or Be Done With It)

Give the bowl some time to dry before placing the lid on it for the first time. It might not fit too well, but that is okay. The cool thing about this material is that despite it being sturdy, you can still bend it into shape, little by little. Also, keep in mind that with a shape like a peanut, the ends might not be quite that symmetrical, so turning the lid might yield better results.

If you need to work on the lid be careful not to bend it too much at once. Work it in small increments until the lid fits, then let it sit for a bit so it can settle.

And that concludes the build of the peanut bowl! Fill it with peanuts to your heart's content. Or anything else, for that matter.

If you make a bowl using this technique make sure to share it via the "I made it!" feature below, and as always, remember to Be Inspired!

Epilog Challenge 9

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Epilog Challenge 9