Firewood to Natural Edge Bowl





Introduction: Firewood to Natural Edge Bowl

About: Just Buildin' Shit

So for this project I used a piece of firewood that had the fewest cracks in it from my pile outside. You want to make sure your wood is dry or else it will split and crack once you turn it. Video of finished product:


- Any sort of log that is dry (I used Firewood)

- 1/4" Dowel

- Piece of scrap wood( for Lathe faceplate mounting)


- Lathe

- Assorted Turning Tools

- Forstner bit

- Assorted Sandpaper

- Bandsaw

- Drill and Bits

- Wood Glue

- Paper Towels

- Finish of your choice

Step 1: Cutting Out Pieces

So you are going to want to cut out your main body piece that will later be hollowed out on the lathe. However keep in mind that if you are going to want to be able to reach a tool down into the bowl and if it's too deep it will be very difficult to do so. If you have a bandsaw use it, all i had was a hand saw and it does the trick. However I borrowed a friends to cut the top piece which I made about a 1/8"-1/4" in. thick. However it is totally personal preference how thick you want it to be.

Step 2: Boring/Drilling

Before we can put our log onto the lathe we will want to securely mount it to a faceplate. To do this grab a scrap piece of plywood and cut it to a square. Now glue it to the log and try as best you can to get it onto the center. Now screw the faceplate onto the center of the piece of plywood once it has dried. However since your log is not a perfect circle you will have to play around with mounting the faceplate. This took me a quite a few tries, but when you get it close to the center it will make a much better bowl.

Now to get the bulk of the work out of the way we will use a forstner bit to bore out the log to your desired depth, but don't make the bottom too thin. So used a tapered chuck and put it into the stock in the lathe and lock the stock down. Tighten the forstner bit it with a chuck key and make sure everything is secure before you turn the lathe on. Now turn on your machine and slowly start to bore out the log. Go very slowly and clear the chips constantly. Every time you run out of forward movement stop the machine and push forward the stock and then keep drilling. Also your wood will burn, it is inevitable because the bit is so big and just creates so much friction. The smoking and burning is not a bad thing because we will fix it later with gouges. However the slower you go the less burnt your wood will be and use a very sharp bit too.

Step 3: Turning and Sanding

Now comes the fun part turning. This can take a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it it becomes a lot of fun. However it can be very dangerous so be cautiuos and take your time. The first thing your gonna want to have are sharp tools, this is key because otherwise they will catch the wood and not cut. The tools I used were the skew and a round nosed scraper, these are pretty common and versatile tools. Now to get started remove your stock and slide on a tool rest onto your lathe. Place the rest as deep as it can go into your log, but without hitting your log either. Now turn on your machine and steadily start to even out the bottom and the sides. Make sure to get rid of all the burnt wood we created while drilling out the log.

Once you have turned your log to your desired shape and dimensions it is time to start sanding. You are going to want to keep your log on your lathe to speed up the sanding process. Start with 60 or 80 grit and work your way up. Be sure to always have fresh sandpaper or else the friction from the clogged paper will create a lot of friction and polish your wood making it hard to sand, also you could possibly burn it too. Also to sand the bottom I taped a bit of sandpaper to the end of a piece of scrap wood so I could safely reach into my log and sand. But for the walls of your project, just use your hands to hold the sandpaper while the lathe does all the work for you.

Step 4: Swivel Lid

Ok now use the thin piece of wood you cut on the bandsaw and sand it smooth. It would be nice to have a drum sander because it would be done in a minute. However not all of us have that luxury and hand sanding does the trick too. So just use some elbow grease and sand away until it feels nice and smooth.

Now for the drilling, cut your dowel to about a 1/2" long. Now securely tape your lid to where you want it to be on the log. And carefully drill down through the lid and into the side of the log. Then glue the dowel into the lid with a very small amount of glue. Then check to make sure it swivels ok.

Step 5: Finishing

Now unscrew the face plate and using a handsaw or bandsaw cut off as much of the plywood block as you can. Then sand all the remaining glue off until it is all smooth and level. Then hand sand everything with a fine grit sand paper and finish with your choice of finish. I used paste wax which is a simple rub on finish and looks and feels nice.

Now your done !!!!



    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest
    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest

    22 Discussions

    Also works as a secret safe.

    Maybe bury green pieces in sawdust to reduce cracking.

    If you have a bandsaw instead, you could make it into a bandsaw box. That is what I thought it was when I first saw the picture.

    Lovely bit of work, if you left the end (lid) outside surface rough (chainsaw finish) you could use this as a handy hideaway for keys etc incase you are ever locked out (similar to the fake rock key safes)

    1 reply

    Nice Job!

    I did this for a friends wedding. Except the log I used was about 13-14" in diameter. They wanted it for people to put the cards in.

    I used a 3" Forstner bit to bore out the inside then finished up with a chisel. The inner Diameter was about 12" and smoothed using a drum sander chucked into my Drill.

    Thought you might enjoy the picture.

    1 reply

    Nice idea and result with this box.

    You could fill the crack with a mix of saw dust from the wood and glue, PVA will work. I use saw dust and 'super glue' to fill cracks. It will make the box safer when turning and stronger in the end.

    For a forstner bit that size no more than 200rpm would be recommended, larger the diameter the slower speed used. Slow speed means NO burning of the wood. I use about 300rpm with a 50mm forstner bit, it looks like you have a 100mm hole here so 150-200rpm sounds better.

    What would you use a skew chisel for here? Put the weapon down! A deep hollowing tool is more appropriate i think.

    1 reply

    I used a skew chisel for the finishing of the inside because it is easier to reach in and it's point is sharper. Also it is much less likely to catch the crack than a roughing gouge or a round nose scraper.

    What kind of wood is that?

    What type of glue works well gluing the log to the face plate?

    thanks! this could make a cool little stow-away for matches etc. near the fireplace

    1 reply

    Sorry I don't know the type of wood, I just pulled it from my stack of firewood. And for gluing the face plate on use just normal wood glue(Titebond 1).

    If you soak green wood in anti freeze for at least a week, I prefer a month or 2 then when the wood dries out you will have less chance of it cracking.

    Neat and skilled job.

    Turning logs can be a lot of fun. I used to make mushrooms out of pieces up to 12" in diameter. Easy turning, though cracking was indeed a problem, though the cracks can also be filled with wood filler after a year of weathering, and then paint the whole piece (mushrooms come in a lot of colors.) Arthritis has put an end to my turning (sigh), or I would do an instructable.

    There are a number of techniques to help reduce the splitting and cracking of even off the tree green wood if you have patience. People have had success with soaking in soap, commercially made wax colloids, and even denatured ethanol (gets to be very expensive.) Microwaving (don't use the one you use for food.) Also, slow controlled drying in paper bags over 9 months works well. There are a lot of good ideas in Michael O'Donnell's book "Turning Green Wood." Steve Russel also has about 50 tutorials covering all aspects of turning, including boiling partially turned green wood at

    If you do turn green wood, be sure your ways are dried, cleaned and oiled after every turning session even if they are stainless steel.

    There is a lot of info that can be googled.

    I'd just like to point out, that if turning green, the wood won't really crack and split while turning, it will do that while drying afterwards. Actually, for a project like this I'd even prefer turning a green log, then drying it out (way faster when turned) and finishing. If you have some fancy substances it's even possible to soak it while green to avoid splitting entirely.

    3 replies

    Thank you, I forgot to specify that. And yes you are right, turning with an already dry piece makes with cracks is tricky and a dangerous process. But I did not have access to a green piece of wood

    In no way am I telling that green is safer, I've had both green and dried pieces of wood fly past my head mainly due to inproper technique, so as long as one keeps a proper form - no real safety issues should arise. Aside from that I admire your ability to keep it in a single piece with that crack.

    I've been wanting to make one of these for quite awhile now. I am going to use my drill press with a forstner bit to hollow it out and clean it up with a gouge. I'm always thinking about a good place to hide a door key outside. This would be pretty inconspicuous after it has weathered.