I didn’t want to do it – bowl turning by default

apple tree chunk


Over 30 years ago I made a couple of bowls from an apple tree. Delta lathe w/motor; round-nosed scrapers & sandpaper. Faceplate chuck & screws. the works. In the past 15 years or so, I have made about one or two dozen bowls per year, usually maple or cherry. Pole lathe, hook tools & gouges. I like making them, but have always been aware that to really do them justice I would have to dedicate more time to it than I was willing to take away from joinery… But the past week or two I have really had no choice. I don’t want to be a bowl-turner; but this apple tree is worth it. It was cut down in my neighborhood, and was en route to the dump.
apple tree


By this point, I have made about a dozen from the chunks I was able to get – it has clusters of either many tiny burls, or bird’s eye deformations. I’ve had the hang of the hook tool on the outside of a bowl for a long time, and now I’m finally getting to the point where I can work a hook tool on the inside too.  I’ll leave them to dry for a good long while, and then see later what they really look like.

I turn them on my spring-pole lathe; but I don’t really have any dedicated setup for bowls. I just shim the tool rest further out than usual, and go from there. Most of these are from 5-8″ in diameter.  I’m not usually one to go nuts over the figure & grain in wood, I usually want the straightest oak I can find. But this wood is really fun to pore over…

most recent apple bowls


detail apple bowl


apple wood


bowls thus far


I don’t have shots of me working at making these. Might try some at some point, but usually the photos are for joinery. I have two medium-sized hooks, that are based on an old Fine Woodworking article about hooks used by Wille Sundqvist. They work.

You’ve heard me prattle on about Robin Wood. For pole-lathe bowl turning, he’s the one to go to. See the videos he has posted, shot by his wife, Nicola. Her work is very well-done also. here she posted some nice diagrams of the stance, etc for using a hook.



6 thoughts on “I didn’t want to do it – bowl turning by default

    • Hi James
      These are the first bowls I ever made from such twisty, burly grained wood. If they crack, they are firewood. I will keep them buried in the shavings for a couple of months, then let them air-dry after that…
      we’ll see what happens.

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