Bowl Processing


With many people being newcomers to the world of woodturning, and come with questions about bowl turning and drying roughed out blanks, I figured it was time to post something about how I go through the process. I may not be "right" about my process, but it's the way I do it anyway. Ask 10 turners about turning a bowl and you'll get 15 different answers.
So here goes......
First off, please allow me to state that the Alcohol Drying Method that I've adopted was developed by Dave Smith, a fellow woodturner.

1 - This is a Pecan bowl blank that I needed to get roughed out and thought I'd use it for this article/process of showing how I go through the process. It's just over 19" in diameter and weighs around 40 pounds since it's wet wood. It's mounted to a 3" faceplate with good steel screws and I also slide up the tailstock to provide that "captured" security while spinning a heavy bowl blank on the lathe. I used my 5/8" bowl gouge to rough it out on the outside and worked on getting my rough form of the bowl.

2 - This is what I've finished roughing out the outside and bottom of the bowl. I've also since slide the tailstock out of the way and turned off the small stub left where the tailstock was holding the bowl blank. I've also turned the tenon on the bottom so I can mount it to my Super Nova Chuck. I use a tenon as it's difficult to crush a tenon (as also stated by Bill Grumbine on his DVD). I used to mount via a recess and expanded the chuck jaws into the recess, but I began cracking bowl blanks that way, so I went back to the tenon process and haven't had a problem since. You CAN apply too much pressure on the tenon and it will snap the tenon off if you get a catch while turning. So apply clamping pressure but not so much to where you start really crimping the wood. That's too tight.....back it off just a tad.


3 - This is after I've removed the bowl and reverse mounted it on the Super Nova Chuck and hollowed out the inside of the bowl. Now...I do use the tailstock while working the inside of the bowl as well. I then slide the tailstock out of the way and turn away the "spindle" that's left from where the tailstock was. I then use my 3/8" bowl scraper to flush and smooth everything out on the insde of the bowl.


4 - Shows the bowl all roughed out on the outside and the inside and still mounted to the Super Nova Chuck. It's now ready to be removed from the chuck.


5 - Here's the freshly turned bowl blank now setting in it's 24 hour home of an alky bath (Developed by Dave Smith). Notice that it's not fresh alky. Black Walnut and other dark woods will turn the Alky dark like I call it my Alky Tea.


6 - Here's the bowl getting ready to come out of the alky bath at about 24 hours later. Don't pay any attention to the color of the outside of the wood. It all turns away when finish turning the bowl.


7 - I have a piece of 6" metal ducting that I now place my alky wet bowls on the air dry for about 20 minutes or so before wrapping in newspaper. You can speed this process up a great deal if you will take a rag and dry the outside of the wet bowl blank and wait about 1 minute before you start wrapping it in newspaper


8 - Here's the bowl turned upside down on top of 2 sheets of newpaper ready for the wrapping process. I use 1" wide masking tape for the tape of choice. It's cheap and works well.


9 - This is the bowl wrapped up as far as the newspaper would reach. I just fold it up around the bowl snugly and tape it all in place.


10 - Here's the bowl all wrapped up and labeled as "Pecan 4-6-06". I always write the wood type on the outside so I know what TYPE of wood I have drying as well as the date I took it out of the Alky bath. You see, I don't weight any of my blanks. I just leave them on the drying rack for 21 to 31 days, unwrap and finish turn. I'm not in such a hurry that I need to weigh it before I know I can turn it. Leaves me more time to spend at the lathe that way.


11 - and Yes....the final pic - I then flip the wrapped up bowl over and use a nice sharp knife and cut out the center section of the newspaper so air can get to the inside of the bowl and allow it to dry and let the rest of the bowl to dry through that "port" more slowly.


I then place the bowl Upside-Down on my drying rack so sit there and behave itself for 21 or more days before I unwrap it. If I'm not going to finish turn it right away, I then stack it upside down on top of two other bowls so air can continue to circulate around it. That way it can dry more if it wants to and later down the road? I have a big stack of dry, roughed out bowl blanks to choose from. This way, the bowl will keep for YEARS since it's dry now and ready for finish turning. Keeping green or wet wood for long periods of time can prove to be wasteful as it will sooner become firewood than a chosen bowl blank. choice is to rough it, dry it, and stack it until I'm ready for the final turning of my bowls.

I hope that this explains things some and provides you with ideas about your own process of rouging out, drying, and storing your own bowl blanks.

Thanks for reading.

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