I’ve been wanting to have some bowls to keep around as examples of forms that are aesthetically pleasing, yet more straightforward in execution than other bowls I make. One consideration is size. These bowls range from 14-18 inches long, 7-9 inches wide, and 3-4 inches high. That size and proportion is ideal for starting out with an axe and an adze.
From left to right, these bowls were carved from tulip poplar, red maple, and sassafras. Through a few other photos, I’ll share some thoughts on some of the design elements. And the paint is just an option you could easily forego, but I had fun with it. That’s just one example of the endless variations possible.
Using a relatively soft hardwood encourages bold, yet crisply cut surfaces. The hollow was finished with paring cuts with a sharp bent gouge.
The open pores of sassafras aren’t ideal for a bowl used with liquids, but it would serve well as a fruit or bread bowl.
The shape of the exterior tapering down to the narrow handles makes for relatively simple axe work. Decisive cuts with a gouge refine the surface and leave a distinct ridge flowing from the points at the end of the foot through the ends of the handles. Very few tools are needed; Even the leaf design on the foot was carved with just a knife.
The sides of this blue bowl flow to the corners of the handles without flaring back out in an s-curve, and the end walls slope simply in a slightly convex curve mirroring the interior hollow. A lip under the handles adds a little more challenge. If the handles were extended the form of the end walls could be adjusted, resulting in a shallower slope, easier to cut.
The surface was painted with artists oils, a base coat of brighter blue, followed by a much thinner coat of very dark blue which was rubbed back.
The form of the yellow bowl is a bit more complex. The end walls are s curves from foot to handle and scooped out beneath the curved handles, but still not as dramatically as they are in other designs. The exterior surface is fluted, but in this case they are carved relatively loosely and freely with the gouge. Again, painted with artists oils.
The necklace around the rim really catches light and shadow. It’s made up of smaller chip cuts from a knife, rather than the more demanding design I’ve done many times, most recently on this just-finished walnut bowl:
It makes a lot of sense to start with a relatively simple design and strive to execute it well. Even if you’re beyond starting out, there’s plenty of challenge, beauty, and joy to be found in these forms.