“Turning” Without a Lathe

IMG_5314Months ago, I had a certain passage of poetry tumbling around in my head, and I envisioned it on a bowl.  But the bowl had to be round, and here I sat without a lathe — sort of.

Actually, I do have a couple.  Years ago, I built a a spring-pole lathe after reading Mike Abbott’s Green Woodwork — Working Wood the Natural Way.  I’ve had a lot of fun doing some spindle turning with it, but it sits disassembled in the basement, lacking the space to keep it set up in the shop. Plus, it’s not set up for bowls, let alone something 16 inches in diameter, like this bowl.  My other lathe is a mini-lathe I got for my son to use, but he is on to other things and it sits in the corner gathering dust.  So no lathe, or turning skills, up to the task.


Sculpting the exterior of the walnut bowl with an adze. The small circle represents the bottom.

So, I stuck with what I know best, and started chopping away at a walnut log with an axe. After hewing the upper and lower surfaces flat, I struck a circle with the compass and hewed to it with the axe. Then I hollowed the bowl portion and sculpted the exterior with the adze.


The bottom of the bowl after working with the travisher.



I refined the adze work with a travisher that I made years ago.  If I recall, I bought the blade from Country Workshops, but they don’t sell them anymore. Of course, the wood is still green at this point.


Sculpting the wide rim with a drawknife.





The wide upper rim was easy to shape with a drawknife.

After leaving the bowl to dry wrapped in an old sheet for a few weeks, additional refinements could be made.  Due to the nature of the poetry passage, I wanted a strong tooled texture to the rim, but an absolutely smooth, even surface to the interior of the bowl.  An unusual task for me.  Time for a card scraper.

Marking a curve on a scraper.

Marking a curve on a scraper.


I started by grinding a curve to the edge of a square scraper after marking a line with a Sharpie and a flexed ruler.  I actually made three in increasingly tighter curves while I was at it.  This one is a more shallow arc than the one I used for the bowl.


A custom card scraper refines the interior of the bowl.


After honing the edge and turning a burr, I was ready to refine the surface inside the bowl.  A sharp scraper will cut delicate shavings, and I was surprised at how well the surface took shape.  It was necessary to smooth the scraped surface with some light sanding with very high grit paper, so I submitted to that task. Thankfully, it was relatively quick, thanks to the effectiveness of the scraper.

In the photo, it is clear that the scraper is ground slightly tighter than the bowl surface.  In use, it is tilted forward a bit and flexed, resulting in a good match.

I’ve now done more work on this bowl, including the lettering.  I’ll be able to share some photos of the finished bowl soon.

This entry was posted in adze, axe, bowls, holding, layout, Lettering, tools, Uncategorized, walnut and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to “Turning” Without a Lathe

  1. Keith Green says:

    Love this guy’s stuff. Your favourite wood, too.




  2. Patsy Selman says:

    Well Mr. Dave i’am amazed at the work that you come up with . You have a really good imagination , Thank you for posting the things that meen a lot to you . Looking forward to the next. ( Phil ) at Timber Buckets. W . Va


  3. Pingback: The Secret Sits | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

  4. Steve Tripp says:

    Started reading your blog from the beginning and just reached this point as I was wondering if carving round bowls is really “a thing”. I am now looking for the piece that will become my first carved round bowl. Thank you.


  5. Pingback: Mr. McInturf and the Card Scraper | David Fisher, Carving Explorations

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