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Home > Turning a Box Elder Bowl


One of the difficulties of turning large bowls is that initially the 'blank' is not balanced. So, when you turn on the lathe motor with the blank attached (photo 1), regardless of the speed it is turning, the machine will move, make noise, intimidate you and other things to cause you to be very cautious and expedient. You want to 'settle it down' quickly by using the appropriate tool to make the diameter round. Caution: do not be in its radial path for at this stage 'any thing that can go wrong will go wrong, Murphy's Law'. I call this first stage: 'Taming the Beast'. After settling it down it is straightforward. When you reverse the bowl on the lathe to do the inside, a similar situation will arise initially due to the imbalance but it will not be as drastic. Sharp tools are a necessity and 'forcing it', needs to be discouraged.

I use a Shopsmith lathe with some modifications. Actually I have two Shopsmith motors attached to the 4 steel horizontal poles that make up the apparatus (can be viewed in a few of the photos above). One motor maintains the bandsaw, an absolute necessity when turning bowls and the other motor is for turning the wood blanks, as in the photos. The increased weight to the whole system, having two motors attached provides more stability during the difficult initial turning of larger bowls. I also have modified the legs of the whole system.

For turning tools, I only use Robert Sorby brand. They maintain their sharpness and are comfortable in your hand. I sharpen my own tools as necessitates.

Upon completion of the turning process, I store the bowl in plastic bags, inside cabinets, drawers or other enclosed areas to ensure that the release of moisture is very slow. I usually store them in this manner for 3- 4 months or more. One cannot be in a hurry if you are turning wood bowls!

If you have questions about a particular step, please email me. Thanks for viewing.