Roof Top Bowl


Most of us are familiar with the two usual orientations for bowl carving: working “upside down” into the bark side of the bowl (an innovation that Bengt Lidström was known for), and working into the flat split surface of the half log.  Even with the same form laid out on the upper surface, these orientations result in completely different three-dimensional forms.  By playing around with these initial surfaces, we can vary our designs in interesting ways.  One variation that I’ve tried this year is what I call, for lack of a better term, a roof top bowl.  Here is an example in alder.


The idea is to split the log to create an angle, rather than a flat, on the upper surface.  This could be done by riving off another piece of a half-log, going for the split-into-thirds, or even splitting into quarters.  For more information on riving into thirds, check out the latest newsletter from Country Workshops.  (As a side note, Drew tells me that they’ve just been getting in their long-awaited orders from Hans Karlsson and Svante Djarv.— fresh tools!)

I flatten the split surfaces before layout.  There is no single best angle, so go with what the log gives you and have fun exploring.  The result is a bowl with an upswept rim as with an “upside down” bowl, but with a peaked center that lends itself well to certain designs.


I chose to undercut the interior of the rim, but it would be simpler to have a narrower rim with no undercut.  I’ve indicated both situations with the dotted lines on the left side of the bowl cross-section in the top sketch.  And, of course, the exterior tapering flutes and all that are just another option.


This example is 18 inches long, 11 inches wide, and 5 inches high.

This entry was posted in bowls, layout, patterns, proportions, sketch, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Roof Top Bowl

  1. Michael says:

    Thank you David for offering more insights, and your generosity in taking the time to share your thoughts, methods and work – another triumph. No one has done more to make me want to get out there and work away at that timber.


  2. Tone says:

    Hi David, I wondered if you had any advice or insights to share on leveling the base of bowls, so they sit flat & cannot be wobbled or “bi-stable” (i.e. stable in either of 2 positions)? [Perhaps in a new article?].

    For some bowls, I experience no problems but for others leveling the base can involve a series of torments over week or months! It recently occurred to me that the base of a bowl I am currently working on – a large ash reverse bowl – is actually bowing out more as it continues to dry. Quite unwelcome as I have already carved a decorative design on the base (inspired by some of yours), thinking it dry.

    I previously made a similar bowl (large ash reverse bowl) for my own use (to hold tools on my work bench) which I left for months to stabilize before oiling. When I moved it recently I notice a outward bow of the base 😦 There may or may not be enough wood left in the base to plane it flat – but as it is for my own use I will probably just leave it as-is and see what happens.


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Yeah, I know what you mean. Good question. The base will continue to move until the bowl is completely dry (i.e. reached equilibrium moisture content) which may take up to a month depending on the piece. If I do the final surfacing before that point (and I normally don’t), I still wait to do the final flattening of the bottom. There may be a bit of minor movement over time, but not enough to be an issue. When I flatten, I just use a little block plane set very fine.


      • Tone says:

        Thanks David. I’ve tried various planes and card scrapers, they get there eventually but it can take a lot of time & effort, and sometimes careful analysis and marking of the base undulations. You also get to a point where the plane can no longer be used because it takes off too much material. However, I recently bought a modern new-old-stock little 60 1/2 block plane (Irwin – quality is not great, not flat or square, but it works well enough), so could try that. Meantime I came up with a quick, simple and effective technique, which is obvious once you think about it: I taped sandpaper (argh!) to a flat surface (the metal table of the 12″ used bandsaw I recently aquired, argh!) and rub the base of the bowl on that. It works extremely quickly & well. What could take hours nows takes only a minute of two.


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  4. Tone says:

    Never come across the “Roof Top Bowl” before, must try that – thanks for continued inspiration!


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  7. Bob Easton says:

    Coming to this article a couple years later, I discovered bad news, then good news

    The bad news (I thought) was that the link to the Country Workshops site fails because is gone.

    The GOOD news is that much of the material from that site was moved to Drew Langsner’s site.
    For the general archive, see:
    For the referenced newsletter, see:
    Now, we can learn to rive into thirds. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

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