Introduction: Salem Halloween Bowl

About: I have an unhealthy relationship with pallet wood. I make fast paced and entertaining build videos on my YouTube channel that are made for everyone, but with the ultimate goal to get the younger generations ex…

I spent a couple of October weekends capturing the scenes in Salem where they celebrate Halloween for the entire month! For those unfamiliar with the history of Salem (settled in 1626) and the Salem Witch Trials (1692). The bowl was turned from what was the branch of a 115 year old beech tree, which fell off the main tree at the Lyman Estate in Waltham, MA. The center of the bowl was infilled with a mix of red dyed epoxy and glow in the dark epoxy. I wanted to mix the textures up with the epoxy and give it a bit of a spooky look but I almost didn't need it with the black lines from the spalting. The bowl was finished with a linseed oil/beeswax mix.

Halloween scenery was recorded in Salem, MA and the music was even recorded live in Salem from LoveTAP. Go and give them some love!

Step 1: Materials & Tools


- Spalted beech log

- Scrap wood

- 2-part epoxy

- Glow in the dark powder

- Red dye

- Linseed oil/beeswax finish

- Candy corn


- Sawzall

- Compass

- Bandsaw

- Wood lathe

- Carbide lathe tools

- Hot glue gun

- Pull saw

- Chisels

- Lathe chuck

- Creepy Salem graveyard

Step 2: Materials and Preparing for the Lathe

I start the process by grabbing a log off of the log pile that everyone has in their backyard. My choice of specimen is a piece of spalted beech that came from a "small" branch of a ~115 year old beech tree. The branch fell off the tree during a storm and I was lucky enough to snag a few pieces. Down into the subterranean we go!

Unfortunately I don't have a chainsaw, but I do have a sawzall, so I use that to slowly but surely cut the log down to a more manageable size. Safety first kids! Keep your legs clear of the saw...

I decide to turn this one with the grain running parallel to the bed of the lathe -- makes it difficult to hollow out but I think it'll look cooler with the spalted grain that's in the wood. A compass is used to trace out a circle on the piece so I can cut off the odd bits. Protip: Try to keep any cut off fingers from cluttering your work space, it can be a serious safety hazard.

The log is then moved over to the bandsaw so I use the line as a guide to remove as much of the excess material as possible. That cut with the sawzall was just enough to get this piece to fit under my bandsaw!

Step 3: Rounding the Log

The log is then moved over to the bandsaw so I use the line as a guide to remove as much of the excess material as possible. That cut with the sawzall was just enough to get this piece to fit under my bandsaw!

Working my way back and forth across the piece, I bring it down to a round shape after knocking down all of the high spots. Protip: Always wear a face shield when operating your lathe, pieces have a chance of flying off and hitting you in the face... my what nice teeth you have Grandma!

With the blank turned down round, I take it off of the lathe and remove the faceplate. I decide that this needs just a little more flair then just a plain wood bowl, especially because I want to keep it a fairly simple shape to maximize the volume inside of it. I cut the bowl in half on the bandsaw and then mark out a zig-zag pattern and cut that out of the center.

Step 4: Adding Epoxy Layer

With the 2 pieces separated, I go ahead and start the process of connecting them back together and I want to use a mix of epoxy resins for this. I take a scrap piece of hardboard and fasten the blank onto it with copious amount of hot glue. I do the same with some scrap pieces of pine on the ends to make a sort of swimming pool for the epoxy.

I mix up the 2-part epoxy along with alternating glow in the dark powder in one batch, and red dye in the next batch to create a cool swirling pattern where each batch intersects with the next. I form a base layer about an inch thick first, which will be the bottom of the bowl, and once that cures I do the sides of the bowl.

To save from using too much of the expensive epoxy, I use some scrap pieces of pine to fill in the gap in the center of the bowl blank. You can see some of the eerie looking red dyed epoxy here, I really liked the look of that. Protip: epoxy heats up as it cures, hot glue melts as it heats up, these 2 don't mix, don't be like me.

Step 5: Installing the Chuck

With the big mess cleaned up, I cut down the scrap pine pieces that I was using as spacers and epoxy dams and mount the blank back on the faceplace on the lathe. I first true up the blank again because it has slightly changed shape during the whole 'hacking in half and pouring goop in the middle' phase of the project. Then I carefully cut a 1/2" deep hole in the bottom of the bowl, enough to mount my chuck to.

The chuck is mounted onto the head-stock of the lathe and the tail-stock is brought up to what is now the top of the bowl to help support it during the hollowing process. The patterns in the grain are getting me all giddy already

Step 6: Hollowing & Shaping

I get my face shield back on and start the hollowing process. Cutting into the end grain is pretty gnarly, but it's just a slow process getting the cut started and then working towards the inside or outside of the bowl from their, cutting into the side grain.

After most of the inside of the bowl is hollowed out, I can pull back the tail-stock and knock off the nub where it has been supporting the bowl. Then I can flip the head-stock around to help get better access to the inside of the bowl to finalize the hollowing. I also start shaping the rim of the bowl at this point. Protip: Those definitely real and not seasonal spider webs can and will get sucked up and caught in your spinning lather, do with this information what you will...

Once the inside is hollowed to the right depth and I've removed any sign of the spacer blocks inside the bowl, I can then start finishing the shape of the outside of the bowl. Initially, I wanted a bit more of a fancy shape to this bowl but as I turned it the bowl was telling me that it just wanted a simple straight shape so that the attention would be on the funky epoxy layer and grain rather than the shape of the bowl. So I ended up keeping the sides of the bowl straight and parallel while adding a slight curve to the bottom.

Step 7: Sanding & Finish

Now that I'm satisfied with the shape of the bowl, I can move on to sanding through the grits! The inside of the bowl took the most sanding because cutting into that end grain was pretty gnarly, but with a littler bit of persistence I can remove all of the tool marks.

I start with about 80 grit and sand up to 600 to get it nice and smooth. Protip: sanding creates dust, a dust mask will protect your snout from said dust.

Time for some finish! I used a linseed oil/beeswax mix to finish the bowl. It gives it a nice natural look with a slight shine when you buff the wax a bit, plus it's food safe. I wanted to keep it pretty close to the natural color of the wood because I thought it looked like autumn/my soul, dark and gloomy with some pops of life on a rare occasion.

Step 8: Glamour Shots

And of coarse, to wrap up the project we bring the bowl to the Salem witch cemetery to film some timelapses... naturally. I don't think you'll see a cemetery as densely packed as this one in October! Hindsight being what it is, the pattern in the bottom of the bowl really isn't visible from the typical viewing angle, and especially so when there is stuff in it. However, I think the swirl of the glow in the dark and blood red epoxy was spot on.

Quality control approves of the new feeding dish, and these new kibbles and bits give her so much more energy it's unbelievable #lifehack

Thanks for checking out the process and definitely make sure you check out the full build video, it shows not only the build process of this bowl, but also some of the fun sights and sounds of Salem in October!

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Halloween Contest 2017

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2017