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Making a bowl - 5 months distilled to 3 minutes

Updated: Dec 2, 2021

I thought it might be interesting to some to see a quick summary of the process of making a bowl.

Making a bowl starts in the woods, for me it's usually Ashridge Estate timber yard where the rangers help me select and collect a felled tree.

The foresters at Ashridge do not harvest trees for profit but manage the woodland for the good of biodiversity and visitors. Trees are only felled if they pose a danger to visitors, to protect ancient habitat and restore biodiversity or because of damage or disease.

They have a lot of Ash at the moment due to Ash Dieback which is sadly decimating Ash trees throughout the country, so Ash is what I chose and this log contained dark heartwood which not all ash do, we call it 'Olive Ash'.

When I get my log home I chainsaw it up into bowl blanks and other shapes and sizes for my various products.

I turn the blank on my lathe with handheld woodturning chisels, there are an array of tools for different jobs but they generally do the same thing - cut the wood.

I shape the outside of the bowl first and cut a little foot, or tenon, into the bottom so my gripping chuck jaws can hold them to the lathe and I can then get into hollowing the bowl.

To hollow the bowl out I use sweeping motions from the outside to the centre, this makes short work of the wood and soon I am left with a bowl, I keep it a little thicker than it will be when it is finished to allow for any movement and warping as the bowl dries, here it is important to make sure the walls are equally thick so drying doesn't happen too fast in one area.

To dry the bowl I paint the end grain areas with some watered down PVA so they do not dry too fast and then I put it in a vaguely airy cupboard or box and weigh it every couple of weeks or so. A bowl this size will be way over a kilogram to be with and over time drops to a couple hundred grams, when the weight stops dropping anymore you know the bowl is dry enough to finish.

The bowl in this video took about 5 months to dry, Ash tends to dry quite fast because it has nice wide grain.

When the bowl is dry I correct the tenon first, making sure it is round and then make the outside of the bowl round and sanded from 120 grit to 400 or 600. I then turn the bowl round and re-turn the inside, again finishing by sanding.

I apply some hemp oil and let that sit in. In this video I applied my Hertswood Wood Goo to the bowl on the lathe.

I turn the little bit of the tenon that is left off and the remove the final bit with a knife.

Once branded and waxed the bowl is finished and ready for its new home.

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