I turn a lot of natural edge bowls and vessels and have picked up many tricks over the years to make the process easier. I am also have made many mistakes – all of which I am glad to pass along.
The first thing that I do is select the wood that I plan on turning. This is a chunk of honey locust saved from the chipper service. This piece is 20 inches tall and 18 inches in diameter and will yield two bowl blanks.
A quick cut with the chain saw gives me two blanks for bowls. Before I fired up the chain saw I decided how the cut would be made.
I nail a 1/4” hardboard template to the bark side of the blank before I rough it out on the band saw. I have made up several templates of various sizes. These blanks are almost 14 inches across.
From the band saw each piece goes to the drill press and a 1” forstner bit is used to clear the bark away. This will prevent the drive spur from driving its way through the bark. It is close to being centered in the piece but I am not to fussy at this point.
I use a heavy duty four prong spur that mounts in my Nova chuck. This is a time saver as I will not have to knock a drive center out and put the chuck on the lathe. At this point I set my calipers to determine the size of tenon to turn when I reverse chuck the piece.
Blank mounted on the four prong spur and tail stock. I spend some time adjusting the blank to get it as balanced as I can. The initial turning will be at 600 rpm until I get the blank roughed out. I will take a look at my progress and determine if I need to move the blank around to achieve the best shape.
The outer shape of the vessel is almost finished and I have cut a tenon on the tail stock end to reverse mount the piece in the Nova chuck for hollowing. There has been no sanding done up to this point and I should be able to start with 180 grit paper and work my way up to 400 grit before I reverse chuck.
The hollowing is moving along nicely with this piece. My goal is to leave the natural bark edge on the piece. I will turn this down to 1/4” inch thick. If you look closely you should be able to see two “eyes” in the bottom of the vessel.
Close to being finished with hollowing out. I have filled four five gallon drywall buckets with shavings and still have a lot to clean up. The bark has held around the entire rim of the vessel! I will sharpen up my big scraper and do a few cleaning cuts to prepare this piece for finish. The plan is to brush on two coats of a 50/50 shellac/blo finish. I will let each coat dry well and sand in between coats with 800 grit sandpaper. The final finish will be two coats of high gloss Waterlox. Will update the blog as I get the finish on the piece.
-- Those that say it can't be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.