Cherry natural edged bowl from a whole log.

Projects 5

Cherry natural edged bowl.


How to make a natural edged bowl.

​Of all the things that can be made on a lathe I think natural edged bowls have to be in the top 3 of everything I have ever made on my lathe, they are quite marvellous to look at, interesting and enjoyable to do once you understand the way they are made. Not at all difficult to do with a little practice and gaining the knowledge to know where you should be cutting. There are basically 4 types of natural edged bowls, the easiest of these to do comes from a log that has been halved lengthwise giving you a “D” shaped piece to work from, the second comes from a short piece of log left in the round, the third and most interesting comes from a piece of wood where the stem divides into two branches and a “Y” piece is created, and lastly, the forth comes from a piece of burr which by it’s very nature can be very irregular in thickness and shape. I will try to go through the method I use in all of these ways of making natural edged bowls. There are of course spindle turnings that also use the natural shape, one of which is the Mushrooms another could be a vase or a table lamp, some of these we may touch on later.

Hand tools required, 

​Parting tool, 3/8″ (10 mm) bowl gouge, 1/4″ (6 mm) bowl gouge, 1/4″ (6 mm) spindle gouge, 1″ (25 mm) skew and a pair of dividers.

Other essential tools required, a chuck with a set of dovetail jaws, not to big, about 45 to 50 mm in diameter, and most important, a pin chuck, the pin chuck is used first, for this bowl I used a 35 mm pin chuck.


This bowl is being made from a whole log, the wood I’m using is Native Cherry.



The Cherry blank, both ends cut to clear any end grain shakes. Cherry is notoriously bad for end grain shakes (cracking) during the drying, it needs to be dried very slowly if like this it’s still in the round, there does seem to be a limit to the diameter you can dry in the round successfully and that’s about 6″ or 150 mm in diameter after that it’s advisable to split the log down the middle creating 2 “D” shaped pieces of wood, they can then be used as half log blanks.

It’s been my experience to make the blank longer than the size of the diameter, this makes it much easier to do and gives you the option of a variety of styles. I would normally add an inch (25)mm to each end when preparing the blank, this log measured 5″ (125 mm) in diameter, so I made the length 7″ (175 mm), once you have cut it to length, check to see if the bark is intact all round on both ends, if it’s not it may be necessary to remove all the bark at a later stage.

​In order to be able to hold this type of blank a hole needs to be drilled in what will be the top of the bowl, this is required for a pin chuck to be used. On a small blank I would use a 1″ or 25 mm drill, on larger blanks I would use a 1 3/8″ or 35 mm drill. A drill press is also an advantage although it’s perfectly possible to drill the hole without one. Having selected which way up I want the blank for drilling, I would then mark out the centre both along the length and across the diameter, one other very important consideration is to get the two ends of your blank level before drilling, this will make the end product balanced and more pleasing to the eye.


You will notice that the blank on the drill press has a piece of wood under one end of the blank, this is required to make the two ends at the top level, some blanks may require an even thicker piece of wood to achieve the same result. You will also see the 35 mm drill bit poised over the blank ready to drill the hole.

​The blank with the hole cut, it’s 35 mm by about 1 1/2″ or 37 mm deep. The depth should be sufficient to hold it and almost as deep as the entire length of the pin chuck.



The 35 mm pin jaws mounted on my chuck, ready to receive the blank. Check your speed at this stage, somewhere around 800 rpm would be ok for this blank as it’s fairly well balanced, but a slower speed may be required where the blank you are using is less balanced, you can turn up the speed as the cut progress, a final speed of 1200 rpm should be ok.


​​The blank now on the jaws, make sure you push the blank right onto the pin jaws as far as it will go so you can feel the jaws hitting the bottom of the hole, now tighten the jaws, for this remember it’s expanding the jaws until they are tight against the wall of the hole. You should also see that the side nearest the chuck has an even distance from the chuck along it’s length.


​​The first cuts can now be made, start at the bottom using a 3/8″ or 10 mm bowl gouge, start to create a flat area on the bottom to take the chuck recess and also the foot of the bowl. Once that has been done you can start to shape the bowl  using the same tool working from the bottom to the top, the picture above shows the cuts have reached about half way to the top.



​​Continue to cut the outside shape until you reach the high point of the bowl working from the small diameter to the large, same tool, the 3/8″ bowl gouge, as you get nearer the top you will find the cuts getting less and less, this is where your control of the tool comes into being, don’t push against the wood try to let the tool glide through the wood leaving a fine smooth finish. The chuck recess can be worked next, after laying out the chuck recess with the dividers use a parting tool to make the first cut, go in about 4 mm then remove the middle with the 1/4″ (6 mm) bowl gouge, the dovetail inside the recess is now made, the skew used like a scraper will be quite acceptable for this job. I like to do all my final cuts with a very sharp spindle gouge taking very fine cuts over all the areas worked so far, start in the recess, then the foot and finally all the way up the outside from the foot to the rim with a 1/4″ (6 mm) spindle gouge, this should make the next stage much easier which is the sanding sealing and polishing, all of which I described in detail on the shallow bowl project, just follow the same routine.

​​Having completed the outside the bowl has been taken off the pin chuck and the jaws changed  to the dovetail jaws.


The chuck re-mounted on the lathe and the bowl blank now fitted onto the dovetail jaws, make sure it’s tight without over tightening, the jaws can mark the inside of the recess. The tool rest is also now positioned ready to make the cuts that will form the inside of our bowl, my speed is going to be 1200 rpm for the remainder of the turning.


The first cuts have been made using the 3/8″ bowl gouge, start from the hole in the middle and work back towards the outside of the bowl by taking each cut about 6-8 mm wide working from the high point down to the middle, this will be to the hole initially but as more wood is removed it will be to the centre of the bowl. The photo shows that point has been reached, the hole for the pin chuck has been removed as the inside is being shaped.


The inside shape now complete, as you work the inside it will be necessary for you to stop the lathe often just to check that the bark line is cut as evenly all round as you can make it, the thickness of the sides is less difficult to determine with this type of bowl because you can see the thickness where the bark is, and if that’s even then your bowls sides should also be even, just don’t go through the bottom, it’s now ready to sand.

The sanding process for the inside is slightly different to that on the outside or to a conventional bowl, in so much that the Powerlock system of sanding needs to changed for the wings of the bowl. The sanding of the inside up to the point where the wings start to appear can be treated just like any other bowl, so follow the information on sanding as for the shallow bowl.


Now how to deal with the wings, I still use the Powerlock discs but with a cut down  2″ (50 mm) holder and a used 120 grit disc, remove about 1/3 of the rubber round a 2″ holder and place a whole 2″ disc onto it, you will see that it makes the sanding disc very flexible, now if you can lock the shaft use the modified Powerlock holder and disc to sand the wings, be gentle with this try not to let it the disc dig in on any area, do one end then turn the bowl 180* and repeat on the other wing, do this with all three grades of sanding discs until your happy with the finish. Now unlock the shaft and run the lathe to blend in the sanding, use a 3″ holder and disc with a 240 grit disc and with the lightest of touch sand from the middle to the top gently, do this on the side furthest away from you, i.e. from the centre to 3 o’clock. Once you are satisfied with the sanding the sealing and polishing can be done, follow the information on sealing and polishing as with the shallow bowl. 




The finished bowl.

The wood is Cherry.

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