Aspen/Poplar/Popple Ale Bowl


I’m settling back in after teaching a bowl carving class (not ale bowls) in the Plymouth, Mass. area with Plymouth CRAFT.  More about that great experience in another post before long. Meanwhile, one of the tasks on my list today is to package up this horse head ale bowl and get it on its way to a customer.  This one is another personal size ale bowl, about 11 inches long and holds about 18 ounces.

I carved it before the class, but from the same species of wood that we worked in the class this weekend.  Around here we call it bigtooth aspen, which is one of the poplars — in fact it’s scientific name is Populus grandidentata.  By the way, what we do call poplar here is not a poplar.  Anyway, it seems that this aspen is usually called popple or poplar in Massachusetts. Regardless if I have that all right or not, it is a white-yellow wood with undramatic grain that is nice to carve. Some of the students asked about painting possibilities and one of the options we discussed was artist’s oils.

For this bowl I thinned artist’s oils with flax oil to create a consistency somewhere between a stain and a paint.  The blue-grey color is a mix of a few shades, while the top is titanium white (which is non-toxic if you were wondering.)  After it had dried I did the chip carving.  Then I treated the whole bowl, inside and out, with flax oil, followed by a mix of flax oil and beeswax.  The rubbing and buffing afterwards results, in sharply raised areas, in the subtlest rub-through of the paint, which I liked in this case.

Just one of many options for the twelve new bowls that were carved this past weekend.

This entry was posted in ale bowls, bowls, paint, patterns, trees, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Aspen/Poplar/Popple Ale Bowl

  1. Hans says:

    Hello David, nice bowl and nice storyline! I was wondering if you were using a raw flax oil and how long drying would take. I learned that the raw flax or linseed oil may take a few months to dry and that the ‘boiled’ version usually contains unsafe metallic stuff in it.

    Thanks for the reply, Hans


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Good question, Hans. I’m going to give you a much longer answer than you probably wanted, so sorry in advance. I don’t use modern so-called “boiled” linseed oil. As you stated, manufacturers have added heavy metal drying agents to it to speed curing. At the risk of telling people what they already know: “Flax seed oil” and “Linseed oil” both are the oil from the seeds of the flax plant, the same plant that provides the fiber for linen. There are a variety of subcategories within the safe type of flax/linseed oil, differentiated by everything from how the flax was grown to various safe refinements performed on the oil to aid in curing (e.g. oxidized and polymerized). It is too involved to discuss in a comment box, but the bottom line is I have tried all of those variations and I have found them all to work fine. I have found heat to be the biggest factor in curing time. After oiling a bowl, I put it in the sun on hot days, in front of the wood stove, or in a little light bulb kiln I made for drying chair rungs. Wipe off the excess before it begins to cure on the surface or you will be sorry. Linseed oil is very resistant to removal once cured. That’s why we want it to cure in the surface rather than on the surface. I usually use heat for a day or so, and the surface is completely dry and oil-free within a week certainly. I’ve used bowls and spoons right away after that (and have gone on to use them for years) with no problems.

      Just to cause more confusion, here is a small sample of some of the variety of flax seed products that are out there today. This one is simple, and works fine in my experience. Drying may be a little slower.

      Allback has both raw and boiled linseed oil, but it is truly boiled in the old sense of the definition — no heavy metal dryers. They also have a linseed oil and beeswax mix.

      Tried and True makes great stuff, and they provide lots of information about how and why polymerized linseed oil works. They have straight oil, and their original finish is a blend of polymerized linseed oil and beeswax.

      But don’t get overburdened by the details. All of these flax/linseed products will work fine. But it can be a deep subject if one wishes to explore.


  2. Frederik says:

    hi Dave,
    another unbelievable beautiful bowl.
    I really love how the chip carving stands out from the blue/ gray on the underside!


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