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  • Writer's pictureAnne Zaug

How to Turn a Bowl in 10 Steps


Step 1 - Plane the top of the bowl (peeling cut)

  • Mount your blank between centers with the top side of the bowl facing the tailstock

  • Tool rest – perpendicular to the lathe bed (parallel to the face of the bowl) and slightly below center

  • Handle down, flute open (facing the ceiling)

  • Wing of the gouge is in line with the live center With your left hand pushing straight down, hold the tool against your body and shift your weight between your left and right foot while floating the tool back and forth taking off the high spots. You do not need to push the wing into the blank.

Step 2 - Make a recess

  • Bring tool rest up so you are cutting at center height

  • Cut two “scoops” by closing the flute to enter the cut and opening it as you make the cut.

  • Thumb on the tool rest to prevent skidding

  • Don’t go all the way to center

  • Use a bedan to cut the recess

  • Place the handle of the bedan over the handwheel of the lathe

  • The tool should be facing downhill

  • Fingertips of the left hand on top of the tool

  • Cut into the corner of the circle you made above

Step 3 - Round the blank (Roughing Cut)

Knock out the live center and attached your chuck to the lathe. Attach your blank using the recess you created. It helps to tighten it slightly then pull in the tailstock to firmly push it into place while you fully tighten the chuck jaws. Make sure you are expanding into the recess.

Never round between centers or without your tailstock.

  • Tool rest parallel to the lathe bed

  • Spin the blank to make sure it won’t hit the tool rest

  • The tool rest height should be set so that the center of the gouge is at the center of the spindle

  • Thumb in the flute, fingers wrapping around gouge

  • Feel parallel to the lathe bed

The bevel on the nose of the gouge should point in the direction you want to go.

Pull down on the tool with your left hand and push the gouge across the blank using your right hand. Shift weight in your feed to move the gouge instead of using your arms. Make this cut, moving your tool rest in as you go, until the blank is round.

Step 4 - Rounding the corners

Use the same peeling cut that you used in step one to level off your cutting surface.

  • Tool rest perpendicular to the lathe bed

Round the corners

  • Tool rest perpendicular to the lathe bed

  • Tool parallel with the lathe bed

  • Thumb in flute, fingers over top

  • Gouge half open

  • Push straight ahead with your right hand

  • Left hand pulling tool onto the tool rest

Repeat this cut a few times.

Step 5 - Make the outside curve of the bowl

Retighten chuck as wood can change over time

Remove your tailstock

Tool rest should be perpendicular to the bottom curve of your bowl that you created in step 4

  • Thumb in flute, fingers over top

  • Start the cut with the handle of your tool over the lathe bed

  • Begin the cut with the flute closed and then open slightly as you push the gouge around the outer bowl while swinging the tool slowly towards your body

Step 6 - Cut a tenon

Aim the bevel on the nose in the direction the cut needs to go

Close your flute at the end of the cut

The shoulder should be narrower than the width of the chuck jaws

Step 7 - Flip over and Hollow

Secure using your tenon. This should be a tight fit. You should not be able to slip a piece of paper between your bowl and the chuck jaws.

Level out the surface of the bowl using the peeling cut.

Then, use the “V” cut to create some space for hollowing.

  • Tool rest is perpendicular to the lathe bed

  • Thumb on the tool rest to prevent skidding

  • Fingers wrapped over the gouge pulling down

  • Tool should be in line with the lathe bed

  • Flute half open

  • Once you get a bite into the wood, push towards the center, creating a V

  • Repeat until you have a nice sized space in the interior of the bowl

Once some bulk has been removed:

  • Start with the flute closed to bite into the wood and open it as you progress into the bowl.

  • Stop when the lathe handle reaches the outside rim of your bowl.

  • Leave v-shaped rings at the bottom of the bowl for easy hollowing later.

Step 8 - Shape the rim of your bowl

Use either a bottom bowl gouge, bowl gouge or negative rake scraper to shape the rim of your bowl

Step 9 - Smooth bottom and blend into your 40/40 cut using the bottom bowl gouge

Use the bottom bowl gouge to smooth the bottom of your bowl

  • Sharpen gouge at 60 degrees

  • Lower tool rest slightly

  • Place the pad of your hand on top of the tool pushing down

  • Do not grab the tool in any way

  • Start in the center making small, even cuts

  • Flute starts closed and opens as you progress through the cut

Step 10 - Remove your tenon/Shape the bottom of your bowl

I use a vacuum chuck to remove the tenon but you can also use a jam chuck, cole jaws, a sander or simply turn the tenon into a foot on your bowl.

If you'd like to see me walk you through this step by step in one video, you can watch that here!

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