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Woodturning: My First Bowl Answered

Just wanted to post pix of my first bowl, it's turned from endgrain green wood, either Chinese Tallow or Chinaberry, I forget which, found it on the roadside. Finished with wax, it is now slowly drying whilst wrapped in brown paper, hopefully it will dry without cracking.


Cool! I don't think I have ever seen Chinaberry wood so I came across these wood turned bowls that shows one done nicely in walnut stain. Looks like he mounted a stump onto the lathe. How big is the bowl? I know some people would need to glue up blocks to get a useable salad bowl size. Kinda scary if you have a big chunk of wood spinning around...

You can set up a piece of wood on a lathe, and let it spin while standing off to one end or the other, and if anything is going to fly off, it won't hurt you.

I only have a a mini lathe so the bowl is about 8 inches in diameter, I'm limited to ten inches ~sniffle~. Chinaberry is a weed tree down here, sadly, about a week before I bought my lathe, a neighbor took out a large camphor tree, gorgeous orange heart wood and I didn't take any. There's a tree service on the way to my wifes work, I'm going to see if they'll let me take from there waste pile.

Don't worry, size isn't everything... ;-) Here in the Big Apple, trees infested with the Asian Longhorn bettle must be taken down. They just cut and chop up these 50 year or older sycamore trees and put them on the curb for trash pickup. I wish I had some milling stuff just to rescue the wood.

Chinese or Siberian Elm cures with very little cracking, and is a weed tree here in Colorado. It has short leaves, about two inches long, football shaped with sawtooth edges. You can pick up branches after a wet snowstorm, and dry them by just putting them away somewhere dry for one year for each inch of diameter. Elm is a little coarser than some woods like fruitwoods, but much easier to cure.

Forget the rant. The bowl is beautiful and I just want to hold it and feel the smooth finnish. Beautiful work.


10 years ago

Heh. Shortly after we moved into our current house, one of the large live oak trees in the yard fell. More or less onto the house. Rumble, rumble, crash, no power. DARK. ... Now, the way insurance works is that they pay to remove the tree from your house, but they don't pay to get the remains of the tree removed from your yard. So I offered up "free firewood" on the work mailing list, and someone there suggested that I contact the "East Bay Wood Turning Club"; and I did...
So early in the morning on the agreed-upon day, a bunch of these GUYS (mostly rather elderly by my standards of those days) show up with trailers and trucks and chainsaws. And they're like chortling over this tree that made a good effort toward wiping out my house. "wow", they say, "this is really great!" (apparently it's normally difficult and expensive to get a big chunk of oak...) And before you know it, most of the wood is gone. Not only did it save me a bunch of money, but it put an entirely different perspective on the whole event...

Let's see...a bearing from a railroad switching yard turntable and a giant electric motor from a diesel-electric locomotive, plus lots and lots of steel tubing, creates an enormous lathe...

Crane lifts entire oak tree into lathe...lots of guys with hatchets and machetes attack the trees...


I should stop thinking before someone gets hurt.

Don't laugh too hard. There are some pretty F-ing huge lathes out there, used to do things like turn the drive shafts for large ships...

Large lathes tend to go pretty cheap at used machine auction sites. But you have to figure out how to move about 10 tons from america's former industrial heartland to some place that has room and power for it. For instance, here's a 24x120 lathe for less than $10k


10 years ago

Good Job. That bowl looks much nicer than my first one. If you haven't done it already I would join a local woodturners club. It's a great way to get cheap wood and good turning advice. Have fun and keep turning.


10 years ago

Hey, I finally got around to post my bowls - come check it out!

I'll probably add a little more text over the next couple of days. I just wanted to get it in before the upcoming flurry of Maker Faire posts. ;-)

I love wood turning. I forget most of the technical terms - but you spun that on the outside-part of the lathe, right? I've made replacement banistors and legs for a small stool I built. I'll see if I can get some pictures up.

I'm not quite sure what you mean, so... This is my lathe, I clamped a piece of tree about 10" long by 9" diameter between the head and tail stock, at low speed I roughed it round and squared the ends. I then removed the wood and screwed the faceplate to it, returning it to the lathe I rounded the piece with the tailstock in place, then raising the speed I shaped the bowl. once the bowl was shaped I removed the tailstock, moved the toolrest and bored down into the bowl with a gouge, then I proceeded to remove anything not shaped like a bowl, finished with a scraper and sanded.


10 years ago


Two hours start-to-finish seems blazingly fast, for your first bowl. Did you have someone teach you how to do it, or did you just learn from a book or video?

I did my first bowl(s) only two weeks ago. Just looking for a bit of free time during daylight to take some nice pictures.

One drying trick our instructor recommended was to microwave the roughed-out bowl, for 30-second bursts at a time. This actually dries the wood very evenly, from the inside out. And if you do get a crack at that stage, at least you haven't spent all that time finishing it for nothing.

Mine are black acacia - lovely color. The bigger one unfortunately developed a little crack (didn't have time to nuke that one), but heck, it has plenty of "character" to pretend that's intentional (made from a crotch, with a couple of nice knots, and a piece of "natural edge" showing on the rim). ;-)

Wish I could afford the money, space and time to have my own lathe, even just a smaller one. I did find someone at work who "inherited" one when his brother got married, and doesn't know how to work it. <rubs hands>

I'd love to see your work when you can, definitely snap up that lathe if you get the chance. I love the zen aspect, I'm absolutely incapable of thinking of anything else while turning, it's proved to be a great means of relaxing, esp. after school and with finals next week.... My only education has been youtube videos, blogs and some 19th century books courtesy of google books. I turned this chalice after school today, the sanding marks are from my wife coming home early and wanting to go out to dinner.

chalice 002.JPGchalice 003.JPG

Nice! Don't see too much in terms of sanding marks. But of course, if you've made it yourself, you know where all the defects are, even if other people don't notice them! :-) This wood looks nice and smooth - perfect for something as fragile as that chalice. Seems like you managed to get the wall fairly thin. Did you dry the wood before turning, or was it already fairly dry when you found it? Sanding is easier on dry wood, but turning can be more enjoyable on wet wood (nice long shaving, rather than lots of sawdust...) My second bowl, the large knotty one that I had to finish in a hurry, occasionally felt more like I was working a jackhammer rather than a zen meditation, but yeah, I know what you mean... I don't think I would be able to "snap up" my colleague's lathe, and I wouldn't have any space to put it in my wall-to-wall-carpet, 2BR apartment anyway. But I might be able to use it in exchange for sharing the vast store of knowledge I've accumulated during the single weekend wood turning class I've taken. ;-)

There's a reason my house has no carpets ;-) I have only three rules in my marriage, no apartments, no HOA's and no more cats. No, this wood is WET, I could almost take a handful of shavings and squeeze water from it. These logs were cut 3ish weeks ago, and I slapped paint on the ends to prevent splitting. These chinese weed trees are very rapid growing, so they're a "soft" hardwood.

pretty good, how long did it take you to hollow out the center. Make sure to where a mask whenever you do stuff like that, the wood particles at that volume arn't good for your lungs. LOOKS NICE! (gunna put any mineral oil on it or anything like that?)

I always wear a respirator while woodworking, the whole project, from chainsawing the log to finishing took a little under two hours.

definitely a nice item of wood... I hope it stay pretty uncracked, it looks good like that.

. Good job. Good enough that I have a hard time believing that's your first one. ;) . Do you plan on staining it? Leave it natural?

Leaving it natural, my personal preference in most wood. let us say "my first bowl that didn't catch and fly off the lathe" ;-)

We made a sport out of that... after someone managed to get one of the tools solidly ebedded in the wall, noone could get it out so I used the lathe as a winch which was fine until the object was loose, then the lathe spun up a bit and near got us again... Basically the guy had somehow managed to screw up perfectly... However using a paddle shaped bit of wood and pennies we made a great game...

Wow, that looks great! I love working with wood. The possibilities are endless!

Congrats! looks good. I've always wanted to try turning, but never had the tools