“If it won’t hold soup, it’s art”


After 13 months of working on the Roubo bench I was in sore need of a palate cleanser before I dive into my next significant furniture build (which, for the curious, will be the boarded book case from the Anarchist’s Desk Book, in maple to match my staked desk). One of the things I’ve been interested in trying ever since I bought my lathe is bowl turning. With the generous advice and guidance of my good buddy Rich Wile (who also contributed the title for this blog post), I invested in a good lathe chuck and a couple of sets of jaws, and ordered some bowl blanks.


Over the past week I’ve turned two bowls in ash, and have found it to be a relaxing and entirely enjoyable process. Neither bowl is likely to win any beauty contests, and I’m going to do a little more work on both of them before I apply finish, but as a process it has been relaxing and has introduced an entirely new way of working wood while still producing (hopefully) objects of use. With both bowls I’ve not approached the lathe with any particular ideas or preconceptions, and have instead tried to achieve a pleasing form, ad-libing as I go. The second bowl blank looked solid in the rough, but turning it identified some deep checking and voids – no matter, as this will give me an opportunity to try some of the finishing ideas I have. Dr Moss is also excited about finishing and decorating some bowls. A family collaboration!


With the smaller ash bowl I plan to paint the outside with pink milkpaint, and finish the interior with further coats of Tung oil (I applied one coat after turning it to get an idea of how the oil would look against the grain), and give it to the Apprentice for use as a snack bowl. The larger bowl I will hollow out a little more, as the walls look a touch thick, and then oil the outside to emphasise the wild grain. The inside will then be painted with milk paint, and it will go in the lounge as decoration.


Each bowl took roughly 90 minutes to turn – is that fast for experienced bowl turners? I have no idea. But this is the first time I’ve taken rough timber to nearly-ready for finish in such a short time frame. As a form of instant gratification woodwork alongside my longer-term furniture projects, bowl turning seems quite attractive. And it also provides a means for quite quick experimentation, both in terms of form and approaches to finishing. Not to mention a useful way to turn offcuts into something useful. So I’m feeling quite excited by exploring this part of the craft. This blog won’t become a turning-focused space, but I am looking forward to becoming better acquainted with the lathe and exploring turning while I pursue furniture making and lutherie.


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