Weekend Projects – Sugar bowl

Monday 9 July 2018

Every kitchen needs a sugar bowl. Most importantly, one that will become a heirloom treasured by your family for generations to come. That is the thinking behind this series, carrying on from the simple salad bowl in the last issue. The piece should add utility, beauty and be a topic of discussion whenever you have company.

For this project you will need a beautiful piece of defect free highly figured cottonwood (Populus fremontii), or similar timber. This tree grows in abundance all over North America. Most craftspeople will not use it because of its abrasive nature to tool steels, and because it is tricky to cut clean. However, with all its negative attributes, it is hard to deny its beauty. My sugar bowl will also have an African blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) knob that is hand threaded to the lid. This will contrast nicely with the whitish wood and add special interest to the piece. Whatever wood you use, make sure it is pretty.

Tools used:

Thin parting tool

Modified scraper

32mm spindle roughing gouge

12mm bowl gouge

12mm beading/parting tool

10mm spindle gouge

16tpi thread chaser


Start with a very dry 150mm x 125mm end grain piece of timber where the 150mm is the diameter of the bowl and the 125mm is the height. Mount between centres with the end grain running parallel to the bed with a spur drive, and round the piece up with a 32mm spindle roughing gouge. Put a 40mm tenon 7mm deep on both sides


Put the base into the chuck and mark where to part the lid – one-quarter of the length of the piece


Part the lid off with a thin parting tool. Give the base a rough shape and hollow leaving about a 15mm wall thickness. Leave the project to sit for a day or two. This will help the lid and base to have a better fit over time


Returning to the project, finish turn the bowl with a 12mm bowl gouge. Sand the entire piece to 400 grit. Remove the base and measure the interior diameter


Mount the lid and transfer that dimension to cut the tenon to fit the base


Use a 12mm beading/parting tool to cut that dimension. The tenon will be 5mm in depth and be slightly loose, but not sloppy on the base


Use a 10mm spindle gouge to cut a sharp, coved surface with the smallest diameter that will meet perfectly to the base. With a 12mm beading/parting tool cut a groove 2mm where the lid will meet the base. This will let you know where the two pieces come together and it also provides a nice break in the coved surface


Finish the interior with a 10mm spindle gouge and cut a 12mm hole through the centre of the lid. This will be where the knob will connect


Make a jam chuck from a green piece of wood; this will hold the lid


Use a 10mm spindle gouge to finish the top of the lid. Make a slightly raised detail that is 40mm in diameter on the exterior and 30mm on the interior, which is 2mm deep. This is where the knob washer will sit. Sand the lid to 400 grit being careful to keep the crisp details


Now make a jam chuck from the same piece of green wood you used for the lid, remove the tenon, design the foot of the base and sand to 400 grit


Chuck a 35 x 35mm end grain piece of African blackwood. Cut the diameter down with a 12mm beading/parting tool to 30mm. Drill a 12mm hole in the centre. Sand the face and sides to 600 grit and part the washer off so it will be 4mm thick. This will sit proud on the top of the lid. To make the knob you need to round the piece to 20mm


The next step is to drill a 8mm hole 10mm deep to start the female thread. Cut a relief in the back of the drill hole to have a place to run the thread out with a modified scraper


Cut a chamfer on the front to get the thread started, then use a 16tpi chaser to accomplish the job


Once you have developed the female thread on the underside of the lid make a male thread chuck to shape the exterior of the knob – the knob should screw tightly


Use a 10mm spindle gouge to develop the finished knob, then sand to 600 grit


To make the screw that will hold the knob onto the top use a 30mm by 20mm African blackwood piece chucked with one-third of its length held in the chuck


Turn the bowl round and measure the interior of the female thread of the knob, which should measure 9mm


10mm and cut a stop where the thread will run out 8mm long. You also need to add a chamfer to start the thread


Develop the thread and check to see if it fits well into the knob. Cut the dowel down behind the thread so it just fits through the washer and lid. This will centre the knob onto the lid when threaded together


Cut it down so the thread will only extend 5mm above the washer. Check this by assembling the lid and washer and place it over the screw while it is held in the chuck


Flip the screw around in the chuck and secure it on the dowel


Part off the excess and make a domed surface with a 12mm beading/parting tool. Sand the domed surface to 600 grit. Now you have the washer, screw and knob finished. Finish with a light paste wax to polish each piece and then put them together. Use '0000' steel wool between coats


Now you should have the washer, screw and knob finished. Use a light paste wax to polish each piece and then put them together on your sugar bowl, which should be finished with an oil-based polyurethane. Brush on three coats with a foam brush and wipe off each coat with a paper towel so the finish won't build and look like plastic. Use steel wool between coats


Hopefully your finished piece has accomplished what you set out to do; creating a beautiful object that will be part of your family's daily life