DIY Network

How to Turn a Natural-Edge Bowl

Master wood turner Lowell Converse demonstrates how to turn a natural edge bowl on a lathe to make a stunning piece of art.

More in Home Improvement

turning a natural edge bowl on a lathe
  • Time

    2 hours

  • Price Range

    $1 - $50

  • Difficulty



Step 1: Mount a Wood Shape onto the Lathe

When drilling a hole for attaching the wood to the lathe, be sure to drill at least 1" into the wood for stability.

Note: The bark itself does not make a good connection between the lathe and the bowl blank.

Drive the spur center into the wood blank, then clamp tightly between the two ends of the lathe.

attach wood piece to the lathe

Step 2: Start the Lathe

Use a 1/2" bowl gouge to rough out the outside of the bowl on the lathe.

Next, start at the lathe at a slow speed to prevent shaking. Increase the speed in increments until the lathe reaches a comfortable working speed.

Step 3: Begin Gouging

Start gouging from the bottom of the bowl, then follow a natural shape (Image 1). Be careful not to push the tool into the wood. Instead, follow the tool across the wood as it turns.

Before finishing with the outer edge of the bowl, create a tenon on the end of the bowl so that the lathe can hold the bowl in place as the inside is gouged. Then, make a square shoulder so that the tenon will fit snugly into the chuck (clamp used to hold rotating tools or materials) (Image 2).

Step 4: Shape the Bowl

It's now time to remove and shape the inside of the bowl. Stop the lathe and remove the bowl, then remove the spur center from the lathe.

Mount a four jaw chuck in the spindle in place of the spur center. Place the bowl in the chuck and then tighten in place. The four jaw chuck grips the tenon (Image 1), like a drill chuck.

Place the tool rest in front of the bowl.

Push the tail stock away from the area where you will be cutting, by moving it away from the lathe for safety (Image 2). Then, remove the center from the tail stock.

Step 5: Finish the Inside of the Bowl

Use the same 1/2" bowl gouge that was used to shape the outside of the bowl to remove material from the inside of the bowl. Start with the inside of the bowl because there is not enough of a bite from the outside. Make sure not to get too close to the edge so you don't lose the natural edge on the bowl.

Finish the edge of the bowl before gouging too deeply into the center of the bowl. The mass in the center of the bowl will help stabilize the bowl as you finish the edge.

Once you get close to finishing the bowl, stop the lathe and use calipers to gauge the depth of the bowl.

Step 6: Complete the Bowl

To finish the bottom of the bowl, remove the bowl from the chuck and mount a bung (stopper) onto the chuck.

Next, bring the tailstock back to the work area and replace the center.

Place the bowl on top of the bung. Place a folded paper towel between the bung and the inside of the bowl to protect the bowl from scratches.

Center the bowl on the tail stock. Turn the lathe to remove most of the material from the tenon. Leave only a small nubbin, which will be removed when the bowl is taken off the lathe.

finish bottom of bowl