Round Walnut Bowl: Follow Up

This post is the follow up to the one I wrote a few months ago on the early stages of carving this walnut bowl. After the bowl dried, I did some reshaping and refining of all of the surfaces inside and out. There is a contrast of textures, the smoothest being the wide exterior band below the rim. For that surface, I progressed from spokeshave, to card scraper, to a little final smoothing with very fine sandpaper (400 and 600 grit). The other surfaces are straight from the edge tools, as usual.

The requested inscription, AMOR VINCIT OMNIA, was a factor in the overall design. I considered the length of the inscription and the circumference of the bowl: a short phrase on a long line. A bit like a little kid hugging Santa Claus. In this case, larger/taller letters would fit the given length better in general, so I made room for them, generally.

I wanted to work out the spacing and the design of the letters on paper. The top of the band is narrower than the bottom, like a section of a cone. I took a direct approach to figuring how that band would translate to a flat surface by taping pieces of paper in a sort of ring tightly around the surface. Then I ran a finger around the top and bottom edge, leaving an imprint in the paper. After unwrapping it, I laid my train of papers on the bench and traced the arcs onto tracing paper then started sketching letters until I had a design and spacing that I liked.

This time, I set up my drawing board on the low bench. I wrote about this convenient break-down drawing board in another post.

There’s what I came up with.

I cut out that band, rubbed the back side of the letters with a soft pencil, then wrapped it around the bowl to transfer the letters. Ultimately, the pencil lines are reasonably firm suggestions; it’s where the cutting edge stops that counts.

The cutting edge in this shot belongs to a v-tool. On larger letters like this, I often remove much of the bulk from the letter with a mallet and v-tool before moving to knives, chisels and/or gouges to varying degrees depending on the circumstances. Carving the large letters on this bowl required constant adaptation to the changing grain orientation around the bowl. I carved another round bowl with lettering in this same orientation a few years ago, but that lettering was on a much smaller scale, which made a big difference.

In the above shot, the O was cut into “normal” side grain, but the transition toward end grain begins right around the bend.

This shot is looking directly into the end grain. The grain orientation can be completely different in adjacent walls of a single letter. I was pulling my hair out at times, but the lessons learned will be more useful than the hair.

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13 Responses to Round Walnut Bowl: Follow Up

  1. Douglas says:

    As always David, lovely design beautifully executed!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michael Meister says:

    “All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.”

    -Henry David Thoreau

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Barry Gordon says:

    Fascinating as well as merely(!) instructive!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Skip Florey says:

    Beautiful bowl David. Taking the arcs from the paper around the bowl is brilliant👍
    Appreciate the instructional tidbits that you provide.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trefor Parry says:

    Wonderful artistry! I always look forward to your posts. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eric Goodson says:

    The contrast in surfaces, from the tooled to the scraped and sanded, is striking.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ouidavincent says:

    Hi Dave:

    Does that bowl have a home?


    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  8. John Reed says:

    Love the smooth background and letters combined with the tools marks on the curved section below. Spectacular work David.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Rob Thornton says:

    Hey Dave, As always your work is so inspiring! I do look forward to your posts. Perhaps you can help me. I want to put a shallow relief carving around a wide rimmed bowl. Before attempting a “final”/real bowl I need to practice on a rounded surface. What wood can I practice on that will give me good experience without causing undo frustration?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Hi Rob. If you’re suggesting the outer surface of the rim (as opposed to a wide upper surface), then I would suggest starting with a plank the same thickness of the rim and cutting an outline from it that is the same size and shape of the rim. It will provide you with the same grain orientation that will be present in the bowl. The most effective practice would probably be in the same wood as the bowl because if it differs greatly, it could require a different approach in some respects. On the other hand, practicing in something like basswood would allow you to focus on certain aspects of technique and design in a relatively easily worked wood. I guess if you are planning to carve the upper surface, then you could just lay out a couple circles to represent the rim on a board and then go to it. A practice board is a good idea.


  10. nrhiller says:

    Absolutely gorgeous, and it’s really helpful to see how you figured out the curve for the lettering layout.

    Liked by 1 person

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