|Project by Threeseamonsters||posted 12-21-2009 06:21 AM||5006 views||17 times favorited||15 comments|
I was commissioned by my wife’s coworker to make five new bowls for her to give to her family as Christmas gifts. I was excited to create a series of objects around a similar theme, so I got to work. One good thing about creating 5 similar objects is that I can take all 5 objects through the same steps and save quite a bit of time. Finishing, for example, often takes me a few days… mostly because I need to wait for hours between applications and steps. I was able to dye and finish 5 bowls in the same space of time it normally takes me to do one.
I took pictures at a few different steps so that I could share the process I use to make a bowl.
I started with a Birch tree I found on my mom’s 40 acres of woods in Cambridge, NY. This tree came down in a big ice storm we had last November. I found a section of trunk about 9” in diameter.
I cut this section of log into 3 roughly-equal parts with a little 16” chainsaw.
I ripped each round in half to create 6 bowl blanks. I’ll be turning these in a live-edge configuration where the outside surface of the tree becomes the rim of the bowl. I end up stripping off the bark, so it’s not really a live edge bowl. But I like the gentle and swoop and curve that is created when turning green wood this way.
I round the corners off the blanks on the bandsaw to speed up the turning. You can also knock the corners off on the lathe pretty easily… but I chose those route.
Using a chisel, I clear away the bark where the spur drive of the lathe will engage the wood. This ensures a good bite into the wood.
Here is the blank mounted to the lathe between centers.
Here are the 6 bowls rough-turned. I do so much carving, sanding and polishing that it is a waste of time to get the outside of these bowls perfect at this point. I’m looking for rough shape. I’m also turning a tenon on the bottom of each bowl to fit into a four-jaw chuck to hollow them out. I do try to get the insides as perfect as can be off the lathe, because it can be really hard to sand these well. Notice, I’ve left enough material at the bottom of each bowl to carve three small feet.
Now, while the wood is still wet, I rough-carve the feet with a mini grinder fitted with a 2” carbide cutter. Before I move on to smoothing and sanding the feet, I dry the bowls in the microwave. It’s much easier to sand when the wood is nice and dry. I usually give each bowl 10 30 second sessions in the microwave with at least 15 minutes between sessions. Burning wet wood in the microwave is something you do only once because of the horrible smell.
Here are the 6 bowls carved, smoothed and sanded along with a test bowl i did as a color and detailing prototype.
At this point, I like to decorate the bowls with pyrography. The process burns a 1/16” V-groove into the piece which looks pretty sharp once it’s dyed and finished. These bowls are inspired by rolling hills and sky, so I created a pattern that wraps around… sometimes following the grain. A couple of them are a little more decorated, and the others less so.
Here they all are sanded to 400 grit and detailed. I also burned a series of tightly spaced ridges in the rim. I raise the grain with water and then lightly sand to 600 grit.
Here’s the same bowl finished. To get to this step, I soak the bowl in Lockwood’s Aniline Dye. For these bowls I used a mixture of Moss Green and Peacock Blue. Once dry I soak again. Then I apply dozens of coats of shellac in a simplified French Polishing technique. For these bowls I used a dewaxed super-blonde shellac.
Once the shellac is starting to get some body to it, I rub a mixture of Microcrystalline Wax and dry powder pigment into the grooves of the detailing. Here I used a turquoise pigment from Earth Pigments
Thanks for reading!