By now you should have learned about the tools and safety steps for bowl making. We're getting really close now!
First: Watch a pro turn a bowl
This video shows the entire bowl prep and turning process. We're starting it where you'll start: with the bowl already on the lathe. As you watch, notice that he switches back and forth between bowl gouges and scrapers. Depending on your teacher, you may or may not use a bowl gouge. One of us only uses scrapers, and the other primarily uses bowl gouges. Both get the job done and we'll show you the differences along the way.
Video: Turn your first bowl
Your turn: Step-by-step guide
This page could save a trip to the ER. Read carefully.
I never worked with a power tool of any kind before 2017. It was scary working on a machine that can take your hand, or at least a finger, off if you're not careful. Other bad stuff can happen, which is why you need to pay attention to the basics. Any time you start to get bored, just ask me for some first person examples of stuff not to do.
Meanwhile, here are the basics. Please memorize them. The ER room will thank you.
That's the short list. There's a lot more to know, we tend to learn it over time. But you can jump ahead by reviewing the official word from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety.
When you make a bowl, you're using a lathe to turn a piece of wood around very fast while you use scraping tools to shape the bowl and polishing tools to finish it. This process is referred to as "turning a bowl."
To turn a bowl, you'll use a wood lathe, a chuck to attach your bowl blank to the lathe, and various cutting tools to shape the bowl.
Here's a look at the basic tools.
Just in case you need a better name than 'that thingy' to describe a part of the lathe, here's a diagram. For now, you just need to know that your bowl goes on the headstock spindle. When you turn the motor on, the lathe spins your bowl around so you can shape it.
Chucks: two ways to attach the bowl to the lathe
The chuck holds your wood on the lathe while you're turning the bowl. There are two types of chucks, ones made out of a piece of wood and others made out of stainless steel. Which kind you use depends on whether or not you're ready to invest in your own equipment. Most beginners start with a wooden chuck, as shown on the left below. If you start making a lot of bowls, you'll find it helpful to have a metal chuck you can use over and over.
Cutting tools: remove wood to shape and finish the bowl
There are a variety of specialized turning tools. But you only need a couple to make a bowl.
Lots of retirees take on new hobbies. Women frequently take up needlework, jewelry making, and lapidary. I look at the work they do, and a lot is beautiful. But I don't know what I'd do with the stuff I make. Without kids or grandkids, I have to pawn stuff off on friends and neighbors. So, I wanted a hobby making useful things that don't scream "God, Robbin really is OLD."
Happily, a few years ago a friend introduced me to making bowls on a wood lathe. It's a perfect fit and I've become an addict. Here are some projects from earlier this year.