Limits encourage creativity. This is evident in many aspects of life, such as when a resourceful home cook manages to create a splendid meal from the few things left in the cupboard. Or when an aging athlete expertly adapts his game in consideration of new physical realities.
The limits in this case were established by a rough walnut log from my neighbor. Good neighbors are important. And we’ve been fortunate to have really good ones since we moved into this house nearly a quarter century ago. So a couple weeks ago, when neighbor Mark Cianci brought me some walnut logs from a tree that had stood behind his motel, the motel built by his father over fifty years ago, I wanted to make the best of it for a little gift.
The two photos above are actually the other side of the log from which I carved the bowl, or I guess it’s more of a tray. The tree had been standing dead. The sapwood had rotted in many spots, the wood was dry and cracks had been migrating in from the outside.
Once I hewed out the bit of twist and got down to some sound wood, it was clear this was going to be a long slender bowl. I shaved the blank with a gentle arch across the top and started to lay out the shape of the bowl with some long arcs forming the sides. I drew these by flexing a metal yardstick and tracing along it. Forgot to take photos of that.
With a bottom this long, I had to make extra sure it was truly flat, so as I progressed with a hand plane, I checked for twist with winding sticks, sighting across the edges from a kneeling position to check for parallel. Mine are just a couple leftover lengths of stock molding with the edge of one darkened with a sharpie for contrast.
I hogged away most of the material from the interior with an adze, then started to form the corners of the interior. To chop the dry end grain, I dusted off a heavy 1/2″ mortise chisel I had rescued years ago.
Nothing fancy here, just trying to get the bulk of the material out of the corners.
The same for the junction of the interior side walls and bottom. You can see the marks resulting from working with the #8 or 9 gouge (keeps the corners from digging in) downward from the line above, then across the grain from the side to eventually meet and form the corner running the length of the interior. After the general shape was there, I switched to a gouge of a more gentle sweep and continued paring all of these surfaces and tidying up the junctions, leaving a bottom of a 1/4 inch thickness, or so.
After laying out lines on the bottom reflecting the shape of the top and the taper of the interior side walls, it was pretty simple to remove the material from the outer walls with a drawknife. The smooth surface contrasts with the textured interior.
I made two sawcuts at each end to remove the majority of the wood from beneath the handles (sort of making a chunky rabbet), then finished by sculpting with a gouge.
After carving some chamfers to ease the edges, I played around on a practice board with a few gouges, then quickly added the family name on the handles. This is just a combination of some simple gouge chips; straight down for the initial cut, then follow with an angled back cut to take out a crescent chip. The Cs are from a #8 20mm gouge. The A and N are from a #6 20mm gouge. The I’s are from a #6 14mm, dotted with a little #9.
Here are a few more photos of the finished piece:
The dimensions are 24 1/2″ long, 5 1/2″ wide, and 1 5/8″ high. The size of those giant apples makes the scale a bit deceptive. Finish is pure linseed (flaxseed) oil.
After I was done and measured everything, it struck me that you could make this same piece from a two foot chunk of 2×6. So, if you have one laying around, have at it. you don’t need an adze, and you can easily adapt what tools you have available.