End Grain bowl turning

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Forum topic by Tom Godfrey posted 01-25-2013 10:42 PM 7884 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Tom Godfrey

488 posts in 2169 days

01-25-2013 10:42 PM

Topic tags/keywords: end grain end grain turning bowls turning tip

Have a question for all you bowl turners. What are the pros and cons when it comees to end grain turning. I have done a few end grain bowls, mostly because I didn’t know any better. When I first started I just assumed that all bowls were turned end grain. A 10 diamenter tree trunk would give you a 10 bowl. Its a wonder I haven’t lost some fingers or part of my hands, face and no telling what else.
Most likely using the wrong turning tools and not knowing what I was doing. Happy to say I still have all my fingers and etc but think it was just pure luck.
Anyway what are the pros and cons when it comes to end grain turning?
Any help would be greatly appreciated. Things such as what is the best tool to use and etc.
Thanks in advance

-- Tom Godfrey Landrum South Carolina (

8 replies so far

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

3999 posts in 2227 days

#1 posted 01-26-2013 05:01 AM

Grain orientation of bowls is a matter of aesthetics. Different things happen with different grain orientation, and the techniques used are quite different. Scraping cuts, (cutters at or just below CL and held parallel to ground) are good beginner type cuts because if you are careful, they don’t tend to catch so badly. It’s not an aggressive cut, so it takes time to rough things out. But it is the fall back type of cut in difficult situations, like end grain cuts. Different things happen to the bowl when the wood expands and contracts depending on grain orientation. You can plan on it and make it part of your design. Pros and cons? Too big for this forum.

Now, that said, there are new style carbide cutters that are very quick and can be used in just about all situations. But they are very expensive for the good ones.

Your best bet is to attend a turning class or get tutored by a skilled turner who can guide you a LOT more thoroughly than you could ever read here.

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL One should always prefer the probable impossible to the improbable possible.

View wooddaddy's profile


13 posts in 2426 days

#2 posted 02-25-2013 05:45 AM

Tom, most end grain turning is in the form of boxes and pepper mills. Also bottle stoppers and similar small projects. I’m not a pro but mostly use easy wood tools carbide tools including their hollowing tools. Essentially, end grain work is considered hollowing. The great thing about end grain work, such as small boxes, is, it usually is not subject to the extremes of grain distortion(warping), as green rough turned bowls. Good luck and keep turning.

-- Floyd, PA

View Wildwood's profile


2305 posts in 2128 days

#3 posted 02-25-2013 12:53 PM

Google images shows both end & side grain bowls searching for end grain bowls. Over at woodcentral com poster wants to know about using his bowl saver on end grain. So end grain bowls not that uncommon.

Turning technique the same whether turning parallel or end grain. Some turners extol value of hook tools for cutting end grain. Have only used sharp bowl, spindle gouges and scrappers for turning end grain.

As a wood turner, you decide which way orient the grain to turn a bowl.

-- Bill

View John Voloudakis's profile

John Voloudakis

12 posts in 1931 days

#4 posted 02-25-2013 03:56 PM


Certainly no harm in doing a bowl endgrain. You can use the same tools, though the techniques may be a bit different to get a smooth cut. I’ve also found that using a screw chuck for initial mounting isn’t as secure as it is in faceplate orientation. One thing to note… turning endgrain means that a thin bowl is more likely to leak out the bottom, since the wood fibers in this orientation act as straws and will wick the moisture out. This is more pronounced in open-pored woods like red oak.


View Arthouse's profile


250 posts in 2643 days

#5 posted 02-25-2013 04:06 PM

Tom, end grain is the best if you have the right grind on your bowl gouge. It ’s the only way I turn because it give you a consistent color for staining and sanding and cutting. One must have alot of experience in this to not hurt yourself. One must also cut below the center to avoid catching the wood with the chisel and knocking it of center. Another trick is to turn and finish the bowl before you gouge the center it avoids of center movement . Good luck it took me three years and joining a wood turners club before I got it. But when you walk thru the fire of fear the end it always worth it. All this and Heaven too.

-- "The hand is the cutting edge of the mind but the wind and sun are the healing factors of the heart

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2279 days

#6 posted 02-25-2013 04:24 PM

One thing that makes a big difference is something you don’t mention, is the blank wet or dry?
If it’s wet, you’re in luck. If it’s dry, it better be a special piece of wood, or I’m using it for a door stop.
Tungston Carbide is a must when you’re getting close to finishing. I use Sorby Turn Master. They are good finishing tools, but I’d use a gouge or a scraper to do most of the hollowing so I don’t waste the edge on my carbide.
Every bowl you turn has end grain somewhere, just be careful and use the tailstock as much as you can.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View RussellAP's profile


3104 posts in 2279 days

#7 posted 02-25-2013 04:30 PM

Most bowls come off a tree facing you or outward, but some are cut like a carrot. I have a 8 or 10” Norfolk Island pine that was cut this way, which means the entire bowl is endgrain except the outside of it. It’s very wet so it should be okay to turn safety wise, but the tear out is going to be massive. Sometimes when they are really wet you just cant cut them neatly, you have to use scrapers and keep them sharpened about every 5 minutes or so.

I hope you have a good sharpening system, if not, I can help you get one cheaply because I just went through the process and have one that does a great job for me, very quick and easy.

-- A positive attitude will take you much further than positive thinking ever will.

View Knothead62's profile


2584 posts in 2954 days

#8 posted 02-26-2013 11:34 AM

If you are really serious about turning, add this to the list along with LJ,, for some great info.

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