Carved Wing Bowls

Monday 9 July 2018

This article shows how you can make two projects, both with very different shapes, each using similar techniques to decorate them, but to very different effect. Both projects are challenging in their own way but surely that is a good thing if it helps to produce new, interesting work. Trying new techniques will also help you to push the boundaries and will make you more confident in a number of areas. Both pieces can be scaled up or down to suit the wood you have available or your lathe size.

The idea for the first piece came from the editor. What I have done is to change a few bits to put my own stamp on it, so to speak. I have always been keen to add texture to my work as long as it enhances the piece. The second piece I have been making during my demonstrations over the last six months. The idea came from preparing a square blank for an evening demonstration last year when I was trying to come up with some new ideas and shapes.

Each time I have made one I have gradually increased the amount of curve in each side until it worked well. The timbers I have been using for these pieces up until this project have been sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), maple (Acer campestre) and ash (Fraxinus excelsior). As I have used maple for the first project, I thought I would use a piece of yew (Taxus baccata) for the second. Most timbers could be used for either project. To make the bowls, in addition to the turning tools, you will also need an angle grinder and a carver.

Tools used: 20mm (3/4in) skew chisel, 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge, 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge, shear scraper and 10mm (3/8in) bowl gouge

Step 1

You will need a piece of maple measuring 100 x 100 x 280mm (4 x 4 x 11in). Mount the timber on the lathe via a screw chuck and use the tailstock for additional support

Step 2

Make the first few cuts using a 12mm (1/2in) long-ground bowl gouge to get the basic underside shape. Due to its shape, the only cut that can really be made is a shearing cut, cutting on the side of the tool with no bevel contact. At this stage, run the lathe at a speed of about 750rpm

Step 3

This is how the piece should look after the previously mentioned cuts

Step 4

Cut the dovetail using a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge. Grind the tool so it is slightly more pointed, specifically for making this type of cut. Lathe speed should be running at about 750rpm. The dovetail will be removed later

Step 5

Now onto some final shaping still using the 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge, but this time using bevel contact, working into the tight corner on the underside of the wing. Take particular care of the rotating wings here

Step 6

It is now time to cut the underside of the wings. The cut starts where the bowl form meets the wing and is a pulling cut working outwards, cutting on the side of the tool. Once you are happy with the finish on the underside of the wing, sand it using a power sander. Use 120, 180, 240, 320 and 400 grits. Ideally sand with the lathe stationary. The bowl form will be sanded once the dovetail has been removed

Step 7

Turn the piece round and mount on the earlier cut dovetail. Because the piece is still well out of balance, use the tailstock for extra support. Use the 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge to cut the wing thickness to about 12mm (1/2in) picking up the cut on the outer part of the wing and cutting into the centre

Step 8

Cut all four edges using an angle grinder with a chain saw-type cutter. The spindle lock should be on to hold the piece nicely secure. Start at the top and work down so you can see that the previous cut lines up with the next cut. Leave the wall thickness at about 12mm (1/2in). If there is any breakaway on the top face a further couple of passes with the gouge should take care of it. You will also need a rotary wire wheel to carve the area later

Step 9

Make a couple of cuts with the 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge to cut the wings to the desired thickness. At this stage, remove the tailstock and cut away part of the bowl form. Lathe speed is around 1,000rpm

Step 10

This is the shape you should have so far. Cut the top of the wing to give an equal wing thickness of about 6mm (1/4in) and a little bit of the bowl form cut out. Draw on the pencil lines – these will act as a guide to help you when carving and will ensure the cuts radiate to the centre

Step 11

Use the same tool on the top as you used to carve the edges. Keep the spindle lock on to hold the piece stationary and direct the angle grinder from left to right, working with the direction of the cutter. Keep this nice and sharp otherwise it will leave a burn line on this pale coloured timber

Step 12

Whenever I do this type of carving on my turning I usually go over it with a rotary wire wheel. Once again, keep the spindle lock on to hold the piece stationary and guide the rotary wheel in the direction of the carved flutes you are making

Step 13

Here is a close-up of the textured area after it has been wire wheeled

Step 14

It is now time to remove the rest of the bowl form. Firstly, use the long-ground 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge then swap to a short-grind version, which will help on the tighter curve at the bottom of the bowl. The inside of the bowl is then hand-sanded using 120, 180, 240, 320 and 400 grits with lathe speed at about 1,000rpm

Step 15

Here you can see a scrap piece of yew mounted onto a screw chuck, which will be turned to the shape of the inside of the bowl. This has to be a snug fit so that the bowl can be tapped on and will hopefully stay in place whilst the dovetail is removed

Step 16

The piece is now mounted onto the jam fit chuck. Use the tailstock at the beginning for added security. Use a 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge to shear cut a nice semi circular shape on the bottom of the bowl

Step 17

With the tailstock moved out of the way this small remaining plug can be removed using a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge with lathe speed at about 750rpm. The piece is then relying on the jam fit chuck. Some nice light cuts are needed so as not to disturb the fit. The underside of the bowl can then be hand-sanded using 120, 180, 240, 320 and 400 grits

Step 18

The next thing to do is to put a small foot on the bowl so that it tilts to one side. This is just a case of moving the bowl round on the jam fit chuck and bringing the tailstock up to hold it in place. At this angle, the bowl will not hold on its own on the jam fit chuck, hence why we have to make a small foot. Now you will need to make a couple of small cuts using a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge to produce a very small flat for the piece to stand on

Step 19

As the tailstock needs to be kept in place, this means that you need to remove this small plug with a 20mm (3/4in) skew chisel. This then needs to be hand sanded. My choice of finish was Danish Oil but other types of finishes could be used. Three coats will be sufficient, leaving it overnight between coats so that it will be thoroughly dry

Step 20

Here is the completed carved wing bowl complete with textured detail

square bowl

Step 1

Make a 180mm (7in) square x 55mm (2 1/4in) yew blank with a moisture content of 19%. Draw diagonal lines on the piece to allow you to drill a centre hole before mounting on a screw chuck. Measure in 20mm (3/4in) from the centre of each side and draw a curve from corner to corner. Cut these four sides on the bandsaw, then cut a dovetail using a 10mm (3/8in) spindle gouge. Shape the underside of the bowl using a long-ground 20mm (3/4in) bowl gouge, making shearing cuts, working from the centre outwards until you achieve the correct shape. Then, power sand the surface using an arbor and drill with lathe speed at 600-700rpm

Step 2

Turn the piece round and mount in on the dovetail. Now use a 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge to cut the required shape with lathe speed at around 700rpm

Step 3

Here you can see how the top has been cut with a nice curved shape similar to the underside. The four sides and the top face are now ready for carving

Step 4

You should now be part way through the carving. This is done in the same way as the previous piece. The spindle lock should hold the piece stationary so that you can work on it at the top left-hand side. The cuts need to be made working from left to right

Step 5

Cut out the rest of the middle – in two halves – using the 12mm (1/2in) bowl gouge. Leaving the plug in the middle helps keep things stable whilst making the cuts further out. Once you are happy with the finish of the first half of the bowl the same cuts are made to remove the centre. Increase the lathe to 1000rpm. Power sand the surface with 120, 180, 240, 320 and 400 grits with the lathe at 500rpm. To work on the base mount it onto a vacuum chuck instead of trapping it between centres. Centre it up using the tailstock and once it is running true switch the pump on, which will allow you to move the tailstock away. Completely re-shape the dovetail and the foot into an ogee shape. Once you are happy with the tool work hand sand using 180, 240, 320 and 400 grits

Step 6

Add a decorative burn line by pushing the edge of a small piece of Formica into the small V cut at the side of the foot, running the lathe at about 1200rpm

Step 7

Use a toothbrush to add the finish to the textured areas. Give the whole piece a liberal coat of oil and buff to a finish by hand with a clean cloth. Repeat this a few times until you are happy with the overall finish

Step 8

Here is the completed square bowl with carved and textured rim