From Firewood Log to Bowl (First Woodturning Project)




About: Weekly how-to project videos about #woodworking, metalworking, and more. #Maker. Created by Johnny Brooke.

I turned this chunk of firewood log into my first bowl on the lathe. This is my first ever woodturning project, and most certainly won’t be my last. Turning is one of the most rewarding woodworking skills I’ve learned thus far, and now every log I see seems to contain a hidden bowl. To see this process in action, check out the video above! Now, on to the steps!

Step 1: First, a Bit About the Tools Required for Woodturning...

Here are the tools I used on this project. Obviously, there are much cheaper versions of all of these items, if you are on a budget. From what I've heard, Harbor Freight's lathes are good for the money.

Step 2: Cut the Bowl Blank

Cut your log in half lengthwise, then cut a roughly square piece for one of the halves. Mark the center and mount your faceplate (these are generally included with your lathe, but you might need to purchase one otherwise). Make sure to use strong screws here, drywall screws don't have a lot of shear strength.

Step 3: Rough Out the Bowl

To start, rough out the bottom of your bowl. You want to bring the blank into round and then start to create the shape of your bowl. Remove as little material here as you can, otherwise you'll end up with a smaller bowl than necessary.

Once the bottom of round, cut a tenon and mount the bowl into your chuck jaws. Again, this might be an aftermarket item, depending on your lathe. I am using this SuperNOVA2 chuck.

With the bowl on the chuck, start to rough out the inside of your bowl. You want the outside and inside walls of your bowl to be parallel. Wall thickness is personal preference.

Make sure to check for cracks along the way, logs are full of them. If you have a large crack, you can stabilize it with epoxy.

Step 4: Smooth the Inside of the Bowl

Once you have the shape you want, take a few smoothing passes. Speed up your lathe and take very shallow passes. This should leave you with a nice surface, as long as your tools are sharp.

Next, sand the inside and sides of your bowl. This is the last time you'll have access to the inside of the bowl while it's mounted to the lathe, so make sure to be thorough here. I went from 120 to 600 grit sandpaper.

Step 5: Smooth the Bottom of the Bowl

Next, mount your bowl to a set of Cole jaws on your chuck. There are other ways to do this, but Cole jaws are pretty great for this type of task. Cut away the tenon you created in the previous step and then start to smooth the bottom of your bowl. If you make the bottom concave, the bowl will sit flat. This is important.

After you have your shape dialed in, go through the sanding process again. I started at 80 grit here since I had some more tearout due to the low speeds required of the Cole jaws.

Step 6: (Optional): Launch Your Bowl From the Lathe

I launched my bowl from the Cole jaws by accident. I was taking too heavy of a pass and the small chunk that was supporting the bowl in the tailstock broke free. This was a bit scary, and is why I ALWAYS wear a face shield.

Luckily, the bowl didn't shatter and I was able to fix the small crack from the fall with CA glue. Phew!

Step 7: Apply Finish and Admire Your Work!

I used a spray polyurethane for my finish, simple and quick, and then was done! Hope you enjoyed this Instructable! If you did, feel free to check my website for more woodworking projects. Thanks!

- Johnny



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    11 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I wish people would quit posting awesome lathe work like this..If I buy another tool for the shop my wife will cut me with a razor. Great job on the finished product. The one thing I can warn people is that if you intend to use these for food, use mineral oils, butcher block finish, or beeswax. be especially careful on using any oils containing nuts such as walnut. People with nut allergies can possibly get sick from those coatings (Usually more prevalent in the cheaper nut based oils).

    Its not worth the risk a mineral oil, butcher block finish, or beeswax will give just a good of a finish.


    2 years ago

    Neat bowl. Looks great. However, as I dont have a lathe, this will have to wait.


    2 years ago

    Good job, keep going.


    2 years ago

    Well done. I turned a lot of firewood into shavings just for the shear pleasure. Nothing seems so rewarding as the way the shavings come off of a somewhat wet wood. Enjoy it.


    2 years ago

    With such a nice wood lathe, I would have figured you would have chosen some hardwood for the bowl. Nice either way. I made a nice white oak bowl for my first lathe turning and that was 10 years ago now. Thumbs Up!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I figured this was good for practicing, plus I really like the blue hints in this beetle kill pine. Thanks!