Further down the bowl turning rabbit hole...

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Blog entry by Llarian posted 12-06-2009 09:24 AM 1879 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Yesterday marked the start of finally getting into bowl turning, something I’d been meaning to do for a while really. The whole pen making thing was as much accidental as anything else, since I got a bunch of pen kits with my cheap lathe, and it seemed a good way to pass the time and churn out some holiday gifts in the process. (I’ve actually sold a couple, amusingly, so I guess its a good time filler afterall)

However, I’d really bought the lathe to learn to turn bowls, and someday hollow forms. The projects here have been incredibly inspiring, particularly trifern’s gorgeous hollow forms. Someday I hope to be able to do something like that, but for now I need to figure out what I’m doing with face work in general.

I have a few blanks lying around that I’d picked up that’re more interesting, so I decided I’d load one up on the lathe and document the process.

I don’t have a bandsaw, so turning the square blanks yesterday was a real pain. Fortunately, these blanks were roughed into a circle, which really made a huge difference. I see a bandsaw acquisition in my near future.

This lathe was very clearly not built for turning bowls of any size. This 8 7/8” blank barely fit over the bed (10” swing? Right…) More to the point, its still somewhat green, which made my poor little 1/2hp benchtop very unhappy. However, it did the job, amazingly. I managed to get it roughed out in fairly short order. Its amazing how much easier it is to turn green wood than it is fully dried.

Outside roughed out, and onto my scroll chuck. I have some problems remounting the blank onto the chuck it seems. For some reason, I can’t get it to turn on the previous center quite correctly. I’ve tested the chuck, no runout. I’m guessing either I’m not squaring the tenon shoulders quite right, or I’m leaving an uneven flat section on the tenon that’s causing it to be a little skewed. Either way, this one wasn’t quite as out of balance when it got remounted as the subsequent on I did (and didn’t blog about, sorry).

And, rough turned to ~1” walls. I can see why people enjoy larger green blanks, working with the small 2” thick commercial blanks on my previous couple bowls was incredibly limiting. With decent blanks available on eBay and other places for not much more than the “exotic” and tiny blanks sold by Rockler and places like that, I can’t see myself turning anything other than domestic hardwoods again.

This blank didn’t feel quite a green as the seller suggested, it turned relatively dry, but I had another roughed bowl that was definitely green and I wanted to try the denatured alcohol soak drying method I’ve been reading about. So, into the bucket with my blank. On a side note, its incredibly hard to find denatured alcohol that isn’t >50% methanol. The crap sold at the big box stores and Ace is terrible. I ran down some good quality DNA at True Value, but its a lot further away from my house.

And, out of the bath! This looks like it’ll be a beautiful bowl if it doesn’t crack while drying and I managed to not mess it up when I do the final turning.

Wrapped up, dated, and labelled with its weight.

I’ll follow up more in a couple weeks once this has a chance to dry out a bit, but I’m looking forward to turning something more interesting than a 5×5x2 square blank! I can tell this is just the beginning of a long and fulfilling journey.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

8 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4154 days

#1 posted 12-06-2009 12:26 PM

great blog!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 4240 days

#2 posted 12-06-2009 03:24 PM

“We’re gonna need a bigger boat!”I mean lathe! Yup, you’ve definately been bitten. But ain’t it great, and fun. I love watching those long curls of wood go flying of your tool and wood, and yes turning green and dry wood are very different. I turn mostly dry wood now because it’s free for me. No waiting for it to dry either. But it can still crack. So out comes the sawdust and CA glue. Fill the crack and keep on going. Have fun pal. Nice post. Mike

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20451 posts in 3099 days

#3 posted 12-06-2009 07:11 PM

You will definitey know if the wood is green by the wter running down you face shield!
I have had many bowls crack after turning but they shrink 10% in circumference when drying so there is a lot of tension on that outer ring of wood. I have been told that turning a uniform wall thickness will help reduce cracking. Another thing to do when the wall get’s thin enough is to blow air through it to drive the water out. Spnning real fast does throw out quite a bit too.
I have not heard of the DNA soaking. Please let us know how it works out.
How much DNA do you put in the bucket with it? Do you completely cover it? I know that stuff evaporates pretty fast. I use it to thin shellac and you have to keep it covered.


Learn something new everyday!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3327 days

#4 posted 12-06-2009 09:42 PM

Well Dylan, you are certainly on the right track. It reminds me of when I started. I got the lathe and then the bandsaw and then the router and then the combi machine and then the….................You get the point. This is going to cost you a lot of money in the end, but I’m sure you will get a lot of enjoyment along the way. That bowl looks set to be really nice when finished up. As for myself I would probably drink the alcohol and leave the bowl to dry itsself out, but that is what diversity is all about. Thanks for sharing your journey.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View papadan's profile


3584 posts in 3362 days

#5 posted 12-06-2009 09:54 PM

Gotta get a bandsaw! LOL My garage was where I built street rods. sold the last one I built and a couple days later stopped at HD for something. A guy was doing a demo on a Ridgid wood lathe, and I couldn’t help watching or more than an hour. Went home and assembled the lathe I bought. Started playing with it and found I needed a couple other things to go with it. Ended up screening in my woodworking shop to keep flies and skeeters out while I worked wood. LOL

View jeffthewoodwacker's profile


603 posts in 3797 days

#6 posted 12-07-2009 02:33 AM

I can see you building a wood drying kiln out of an old refrigerator in the near future.

-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4154 days

#7 posted 12-07-2009 01:27 PM

PapaDan – that’s funny !!! lol

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Llarian's profile


128 posts in 3600 days

#8 posted 12-07-2009 06:06 PM

Jim: The bowls are completely covered in the alcohol bath for 4-12 hours, depending on thickness (I did about 6 for these). I have them in a home depot bucket with a gasketed lid to keep the alcohol from evaporating.

The outside and rim get wrapped in absorbant brown paper to keep them from drying too quickly, but the inside is left exposed. They get left upside down on a drying rack for airflow until the weight stops changing, or until they stop smelling like alcohol. (The weight method makes more sense to me).

No cracks so far, and they are definitely getting lighter, each dropped a few oz overnight.

-- Dylan Vanderhoof - General hobbiest and reluctant penmaker.

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