Help! I am trying to make a wooden bowl into a sink

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Forum topic by entropy posted 02-26-2009 01:22 AM 35938 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View entropy's profile


5 posts in 3623 days

02-26-2009 01:22 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question finishing refurbishing

I am redoing the tile around my tub and one thing has lead to another. I have decided that I want to make a vanity and am cutting up our bathroom tower cupboard( with a Fein multimaster that my step dad loaned me to help with the grout removal), I don’t really have any real tools yet with the exception of a hand saw,drill and some chisels but my problem is that I want to use a very nice large wooden bowl as a vessel sink on top of the vanity I’m attempting to build. The problem is that I have had everyone and their cousin tell me that you can’t use a wooden bowl for a sink and yet I’ve seen beautiful wooden tubs. So any advice as to how I should treat the bowl for a bathroom sink application would be really great!!!!!Thanks,DanaLisa

-- Dana New Jersey/Maine

15 replies so far

View Gary Fixler's profile

Gary Fixler

1001 posts in 3585 days

#1 posted 02-26-2009 01:40 AM

I think a wooden sink is fine. You just have to use a more waterproof wood that can handle it, like teak, or bamboo. Here are some examples of both. I guess if you want to use something more typical, like oak, or maple, you’d have to seal it extremely well, to the point where you’d essentially encased it in plastic. You’d probably want dry wood so it doesn’t rot (ferment?) inside that shell. It’s extremely hard (from what I’ve been reading lately) to seal wood entirely. It always wants to absorb or release moisture, but it must be possible. Boats are made of wood, with heavy coatings that seal them in. Decks are sealed against heavy rain (though it does wear away the seal, which must be reapplied ever couple of years). You can put something wooden in a Ziploc bag and throw it in a pool for a long time, and it won’t get wet. I’m curious to hear what other, more experienced people have to say on this topic, as I’d like to weatherproof certain projects, too, and if it there are sealers good enough for a sink’s daily use, they’d be more than enough for my needs.

-- Gary, Los Angeles, video game animator

View JuniorJoiner's profile


488 posts in 3644 days

#2 posted 02-26-2009 01:44 AM

i really doubt anyone on here is going to disagree with what you have been told already.
there are different types of wood you can use and finishes to make wood last longer when exposed to water, but nothing really works that well, or is that reliable to use for such an application in your home.

you want your house to outlast you, and putting in a wooden sink would mean you would be replacing it with something more suitable in a considerably short amount of time. or worse, it would leak and cause rot or mold and you end up replacing the whole bathroom and anything below it .

the only thing i can think of to make it usable for a sink is to have a plate glass sink put inside it. even then it may still rot .

good luck

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View gbvinc's profile


628 posts in 4150 days

#3 posted 02-26-2009 01:47 AM

If you listen to people telling you what you cannot do, you will never get anything done. Wood has been used to hold water throughout history. The type of finish you use might be driven by the type of wood you make the sink from. For instance, Teak has natural water resistant properties, where pine might benefit from a durable finish like bar-top. I am not sure what was used for a finish, but I have seen many wood tubs and sinks in my travels. Usually in cool cabin, with somekind of bar-top like finish on them.

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3597 days

#4 posted 02-26-2009 02:00 AM

I do not have direct experience with this, but for sure digging the web you’ll find somebody already made this. I would say, the sink must be waterproofed with an oil treatment or some heavy epoxic finish.

By the way, I found this paragraph that can give any insight:

Wooden Sinks
Apron or “farmer” sinks are making a comeback and wood is one of the big surprises, especially teak. These sinks are usually waterproofed with an oil-based sealer. Vessel sinks with a urethane coating are great for bathrooms because there is no contact with hard objects such as you would get with a pot in a wooden kitchen sink.

The big point to made about wood is not to let water penetrate the fibers or the look will fade and its life will be cut short. But properly maintained wood is the show-piece of the home.

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Tony Z's profile

Tony Z

205 posts in 3994 days

#5 posted 02-26-2009 02:19 AM

Go to this site and check out the ‘Topographic Sink’ under the ‘Objects/Installations tab on the left side:

-- Tony, Ohio

View cabinetmaster's profile


10874 posts in 3762 days

#6 posted 02-26-2009 02:43 AM

I wonder what they used for a finish on that sink? Amazing. And I wonder how long it will last.

-- Jerry--A man can never have enough tools or clamps

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 4097 days

#7 posted 02-26-2009 03:25 AM

clear fibreglass cloth and two part epoxy resin… like a charm

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Tony Z's profile

Tony Z

205 posts in 3994 days

#8 posted 02-26-2009 03:29 AM

There’s a description and a great photo of it on the back of the new Fine Homebuilding. It’s finished with 3 coats of epoxy and 5 coats of urethane. It’s a scale replica of the Vermont valley the artist grew up in. The topo dimensions were fed into a CNC to rough cut it and then she hand finished it. The pic on the magazine looks awesome.

-- Tony, Ohio

View MsDebbieP's profile


18618 posts in 4364 days

#9 posted 02-26-2009 05:38 PM

I recently saw a show on retreats and the one place had a tree trunk as the bathroom sink. It was gorgeous. Don’t know how they did it though

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View ShawnAllen's profile


28 posts in 3656 days

#10 posted 02-27-2009 05:21 AM

Wooden sinks are not impossible, and given the normal use of a standard sink is to be used essentially as a splash basin, I think the advice proffered here will stand you in good stead:
a) water resistant species
b) good finish
c) don’t soak things overnight in it :)
d) it (probably) won’t last forever

If you choose a bowl style, then if/when it fails you can “easily” replace it, unlike an integrated unit style.
A quick random google (dunno if links are allowed..);jsessionid=2AF334507AD89BE0E61B27FB93568BB0

some info – may be bull or not:

Now, having said all that.. maybe you could consider/convince SO to use a glass vessl mounted on a wood vanity, instead of the all-wood thing..? An original design, but the craftsmanship is not mine own:
Wood vanity glass vessl

That’s a maple cabinet with “brazilian cherry” inset, resin finish.

View buffalosean's profile


174 posts in 3591 days

#11 posted 02-27-2009 05:35 AM

I worked in colorado for awhile. there was an old craftsmen out there that built vanity tops out of logs and carved the sink bowl into it. He finished it with resin. I wish I had a picture to show you some of his work. After a lifetime working in the trade, this man was a true master craftsmen.

I see no reason why you couldn’t do it

-- There are many ways to skin a cat...... but, the butter knife is not recommended

View leonmcd's profile


204 posts in 4175 days

#12 posted 02-27-2009 03:54 PM

What about plain old white oak. If it will hold wine for years it should hold water occasionally. I have a retired white oak wine cask that I’ve used as a planter outside setting on the ground for several years now and haven’t seen any ill effects.

-- Leon -- Houston, TX - " I create all my own designs and it looks like it "

View scott shangraw's profile

scott shangraw

513 posts in 4273 days

#13 posted 02-27-2009 05:54 PM

I have done a art show with a guy that makes Mesquite wood sinks and has done so for a few years.He uses many coats of Waterlox finish .Go to there web site I think it is and you will see a few examples of sinks there.I have been wanting to make one of my caved vessels into a sink myself some time

-- Scott NM,

View Chuck B's profile

Chuck B

12 posts in 3614 days

#14 posted 02-27-2009 06:52 PM

A friend from WoodTurners Resource made these 2 I hope this helps.


wood bowl

This is a special commission I am working on…an actual sink for a guest powder room. The house is being custom built and they wanted one of those sinks that is a bowl that sits on the counter only instead of glass they wanted wood. After discussing it with the architect, this is what we decided on. Ambrosia Maple, 12” dia x 3” tall. The drain flange and tailpipe nut are recessed and drilled through the bottom of basically a salad bowl. The bowl is 1/4” wall thickness throughout. I am still working on the finish, it’s a new one for me. System Three “Clear Coat” finish, it’s a penetrating epoxy resin that once cured (a couple of days in a room 70 degrees) is waterproof.

I think we just found a new solution to all of those “oops” bowls we all have! It was kind of weird putting a hole in the bottom of a salad bowl on purpose!

wood bowl 2

This is the second sink I have done for the same designer/client. Claro Walnut, 13 1/4” square x 3 1/4” tall. The bowl is 11 1/4” diameter with a 5/8” vertical transition into a 2 1/4” deep bowl. The foot is round, 10” dia. x 1/4” thick. SOAKED in Mahoney’s walnut oil (still wet as shown here) and now it’s buffed back to a very natural polished finish with Mahoney’s Walnut Oil Wax.
At 18 3/4” on the diagonal, I had 5/8” between the corners and the lathe bed…now that was fun.

-- Chuck, Mostly a woodturner

View carlbigman's profile


17 posts in 3583 days

#15 posted 03-11-2009 04:33 AM

Hi all,

I did extensive research into various woods and their properties over 18 years ago when I had my own small woodworking business in my basement.

Teak is always a good choice around water and even stands up around the salt water of the ocean, too. I think it may stand up well to soap and water and bath salts or bath crystals of all types, too. That’s why many boat trim pieces and even hulls are made of Teak. Teak is so known for its’ very oily resin that literally seals its’ own grain, but it is also top-coated with a durable, high-luster finish to enhance the esthetic beauty of the grain and bring out a more glossy patina.

I recall that Oak was often used for crude buckets and such that were designed to just hold water as the open-grained micro-structure of the oak actually drinks in some of the moisture and swells joints shut for a reasonable water-tight seal. Lapstrake style boats are also made with oak planking for the same reason, as well as the decks of countless old larger sailing vessels like Schooners and Yachts. Oak is used for many purely utilitarian uses like those, and there are a few subgroup types of oak to try with varying grain structures and resinous content, too. If you want an excellent wood for making a unique laundry tub or old style country wash-tub/bath-tub, oak may be your choice, but not if you want a more showcase type of bathroom sink in a ultra-modern chic home, at least not without lots of additional sealing in the basin and visible areas themselves, if only for aesthetic reasons. Oak may require more upkeep and periodic reconditioning than Teak would…... more fuss. Many times any Oaken water vessel was traditionally banded together with metal rings or broad strips such as in barrel construction from an old-time cooperage. If you do band your basin with metal trim you may also have to choose a metal that is not as readily corrosible, which may also drive up the cost of your project.

You can do some internet research yourself into examining other potential woods and I can suggest that you seek the most closed-grain and resinous wood that has no toxins in it. Many woods are toxic, either because of their toxic resins or their hard micro-structure that can tear a man’s lungs apart and cause a terrible and potentially fatal lung disease similar to asbestos, fiberglass, ceramic, berylium, or other hard particulate matter as small as 5 microns or so. As a rule, it is not good to ingest any substance at all, even wood dust/paper dust, even from something as common as pine over the years, during typical sawing and sanding operations. A dust mask or full respirator should always be considered to be a vital necessity in any woodshop during any operations that make the finest particulate sizes.

I do also remember that “Blackwood” was perhaps the most deadly wood to work with due to the extreme toxicity of its’ poisonous resin’s many compounds, some that could even be absorbed through the skin alone and at the least cause health problems, and at the worst may utterly kill in the long term or repeated exposure cases. I’m not sure if those same resins were a cumulative poison or not, I don’t remember 100% for sure, but I think so. That would NOT be a good choice for any such application that anyone may bathe in or draw water to drink or cook or wash dishes in!

The hardest known wood on earth is known only by its’ Latin name of Lignum Vitae. It has virtually no commercial or industrial applications as it is too rare, hard to work, and costly. That’s why it has never been given a common name and is only known by its’ Latin genis. It is toxic due to its’ hard, dense micro-structure as well as having fairly toxic resin. The U.S. Navy used it in WW II to make huge silent propellers for submarines as it is totally impervious to water. It also is the wood that has the highest specific gravity, which makes it very, very heavy and with a very, very dense micro-structure. It was said to be very abrasive and perhaps harder to cut and machine than most steel alloys! It was far quieter on sonar than any other propeller materials giving a great detection distance advantage to U.S. submariners. Brass and Bronze tend to resinate and sort of “ring” with vibration as their tensile properties make them to move around because of plastic deformation, where that dense hardwood was a more muffled and deadened flat sound where its’ micro-structure was actually better supported and more rigid than many metals due to its’ unique congenital geometry. Even if enemy sonar could barely hear it, at first they didn’t know at all what they were hearing and therefor not sound a general quarters alert sooner.

I used to use a good reputable dealer in New Hampshire called “Highland Hardwoods” out of Brentwood, New Hampshire for obtaining any really exotic woods like Bubinga, Purpleheart, Zebrawood, Brazilian or Philippine Mahogany, etc. and you can ask their experts there to assist you with choosing just the right wood for such a project or any special applications. You can find them at:

Let’s all remember to work with caution and know fully what we are working with, in the line of raw materials, as well as in potentially harmful finishing products, too! I hope this helps a bit…... Carl

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