Bowl from Dry Walnut

Wood is much easier to carve when it’s green, and you can get right to work with a large blank of fresh uncracked wood straight from the tree. Then you can let the bowl dry, stress and crack free, before making the final cuts. But if you lack green wood, or you just have a nice piece of dry wood that you want to carve, go for it. For example, the shape of bowls that Elia and I made from green wood in our video lessons, could also be made from, say, a 4″ x 8″ x 16″ block of dried basswood.

In this case, I had a deadline approaching for a small bowl, so I decided to work with a block of black walnut that I had set aside to dry in 2013. I had made some bowls from this tree back then, but I also squared up some pieces maybe 6″ x 8″ x 12″ and painted the ends, then stuck them up on a shelf in our shed. Nine years later, I pulled a chunk down and cut it in half lengthwise. Pretty short, but long enough, since the exhibition specifies that the piece has to fit within a theoretical 6″ x 6″ x 6″ cube. (I cut it close — the finished piece is 5 15/16″ long.)

I had been drawing some full-size ideas in my sketchbook, from various perspectives. Based on that, I took a white pencil and sketched a rough plan on the end grain of the block. Notice that my vertical center line is oriented in respect to the pattern of the growth rings rather than the flat surfaces of the timber. This sketch allowed me to make sure the piece would fit within the timber and gave me a basic idea of what wood could be split away.

I took a bunch of photos of the rest of the process on this bowl, so I organized it into three slideshows covering hollowing, exterior carving, and side panel carving, respectively. I don’t think these slideshows and captions will be visible in your email browser, so you’ll have to view them at my site. In several of the shots, you’ll see a vise that I discussed in a previous post. Here’s the first slideshow:

Hollowing Slideshow:

This mallet work draws a crowd. We picked up Meeko the cat at our local shelter a few months ago, and he and Chip have become good buddies and playmates. They both enjoy the grooming of Chip’s face and spending time in the shop.

And all three of us are fans of Nancy Hiller’s book “Shop Tails”. Meeko will have to read later; time to carve the outside:

Exterior Carving Slideshow:

Side Panel Carving Slideshow:

By the way: this bowl will be at the AAW Gallery of Wood Art in Saint Paul from March 27 to May 29. Then it, along with a bunch of other pieces from other folks, will be available through an auction at the AAW Symposium in Chattanooga, Tennessee on June 25. I have very little experience with this sort of thing, but they tell me there will be a preview for some days before the auction and the auction itself will be a hybrid live online/in-person event. I’ll make sure to post an update through the blog once more details are available.

This entry was posted in bowls, carving, holding, patterns, Uncategorized, walnut and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Bowl from Dry Walnut

  1. francedozois says:

    man that is a beauty–

    Liked by 1 person

  2. George Oliver says:

    Wow, I could look at that for hours. Just beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Skip Florey says:

    Hello Dave,
    Being in an area without green walnut and cherry, just to name a couple, I’m really glad that you showed us this project. I’m currently working on a “dry” cherry bowl and I’m having a difficult time with it. These techniques will help me not resort to non-traditional tools.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Holly Cory says:

    Gorgeous bowl and cute cat!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trefor Parry says:

    Another beautiful piece of artistry. Thank you. My apologies if you have covered this previously but have you written any articles on workholding….keeping the piece sufficiently well-clamped and immobile whilst you are working your magic? I really struggle with this. Any advice would be most welcome and many thanks.


  6. Bob Easton says:

    As always, simply GORGEOUS!
    The techniques will be handy to know. Whilst living in the northeast, I would find tree felling very common and had insanely easy access to a variety of hardwood logs. We moved recently to central Florida, to an area where tree felling is a rare event. Might have to use dry wood. …and the techniques you’ve shared. THANKS!


  7. Scott Kinsey says:

    Sometimes I just have to catch my breath and give my head a little shake. So so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alison says:

    The hollowing of the steep, short inside looks like it would be very challenging! This is incredibly beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jason T. Hutchison says:

    Thanks for mentioning the AAW gallery dates- I’ve admired your work online for some time, and now I can see a piece in person.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Marco says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the whole process and all the detailed pictures. There’s something about the flow on this one that I find incredibly attractive and satisfying. I especially love how the ends come back a little bit towards the center, just underneath the handles. Absolutely gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Drew Knowland says:

    The bowl is stunning, Dave! Your artistry continues to amaze and delight! Thank you for sharing, as always, how you approach different challenges in design and execution.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. restorersart says:

    So nice! The balance of the decorative features works really well: small facets on the bowl, the medium facets on the leaves, and the smooth planes of the side panel borders. The play of light on the leaves is really lovely, and strung together they evoke the walnut leaves brilliantly.

    But you know, with just a bit of tweaking you could have had a really nice ale bowl… ; )


  13. Larry F Boyer says:

    Totally cool!

    I have a couple really dry black walnut logs that i have made straight grained birds from – – inspired by Dave- – – and i have had to resort to cutting and drilling ends and middles cause the end grain is so hard I couldn’t make headway even with the sharpest drawknife or spokeshave.

    Very Very beautiful David

    Larry Boyer


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