turning some bowls

November. At our museum, that means “swamped” as in, 2,000 school kids per day. So not much time for coherent thought, nor for photos. Lately I have been turning some bowls, now that it’s cool weather. Then the storm came through and a friend gave me some fresh cherry, for spoons and bowls. 

turning cherry bowl
bowls, cherry & plane tree

Here is an earlier post about bowl turning I did, has photos I have no time to shoot this week… https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/some-bowl-turning-2/

I have been re-reading Robin Wood’s book The Wooden Bowl.  http://robin-wood-gallery.blogspot.com/p/book.html

It’s excellent, well researched and well photographed. Got me to thinking about probate inventories and other 17th-century documents – so I pulled up some research files I have compiled that mention bowls, trenchers and other woodenware. So no more comment from me. Here goes.  


Paul S. Seaver, Wallington’s World, A Puritan Artisan in Seventeenth-Century London, (Stanford CA.: Stanford University Press, 1985)

“(1631) …the following June Nehemiah found himself unable to meet small debts owed to the chapmen who supplied him with additional wares…”the Lord sent customers” and his father helped with 30s.  Ten days later he and his father jointly bought a consignment of shovel trees and trenchers” (p.78)

Brian Dietz (editor) A calendar of the 1567/8 London Port Book, detailing imports in London, plus related documents. (1972) [these were online; http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=154 ]
[These lists are formatted thus: item, ship & home port, master, and place the ship sailed from en route to London.]
5 shocks thick trenchers   (1 shock = 60 pieces) Red Fox of Antwerp; Matis Sanders; Danzig

7 thou. Trenchers  John Baptist of London; William Hall; Antwerp

3 grs trenchers  Prym Rose of Milton; Harry Church; Antwerp
1 thou. Trenchers. Grace of God of Lee; Thomas Boyse; Antwerp
60 doz. small trenchers. Mary of Hamburg; Harder Grob; Hamburg
1 thou. loose trenchers  Hearn of London; John Davis; Rouen
50 grs loose penny trenchers. Phenex of Hull; Walter Hall; Rouen


from the Records of the Virginia Company, LXVI  The Cost of Furnishing the “Margaret”, July-September 1619:

“2 drawinge knives & 2 knives to make trenchers  3s”

From: Patricia E. Kane, Furniture of the New Haven Colony: The Seventeenth-Century Style (New Haven, Connecticut: New Haven Historical Society, 1993)
John Frizby, 1694, “dishturners tooles £1-10; Carpenters tooles £1-10;  a drawing knife & fro 4s; tennant saw 10s, halfe a crosscut saw 7s”

Jonathan Frizby, 1695, “Dishturners tooles £2,  a small broad axe 8s,  a square 6s, a pr of betle rings & 5 wedges 8s,  pr of compasses 3s,  3 augers jointer & plain 6d”

From George Francis Dow, editor, The Probate Records of Essex County Massachusetts, 3 vols., (Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1916)

1644, Hugh Churchman, Lynn; “…straw bed…one troffe with a cover and a little kneding trof, one tra, and other wooden dishes & trenchers 6s8d   2 chestes 4s   betle and wedgis, 2 axis, 2 sawes, 2 howes and other working towls 16s”

1666, John Fuller,  Ipswich, Massachusetts:

his coulters shares chaines tolles £5  the saw, his croscut
saw £1-10  noyn duson of trenshars 9s  wodden Chares £1-10
a tabell and 2 Joyne stolles £1-10  a box and four chestes £1-0  a trundlebed with all the apurtenansis there too £3-1  a cradle… a corded bed and a cufiring and 3 blankets, a boulster £4-10  a trundlebed, 2 Chares and a box £1  Trenshures unfinished 10s timber work £5  grinston 8s

inv. estate of John Fuller…after the marriage of wido Fullar…
four ald Aggrs, an adds and a hachit 12s  two old axe nales…
a Cros Cut saw 10s  four old wedges and a pare of betel rings 6s  a great Chare and some other old chares, a jont stol  three trundle bedsteds, one standing bedsted old 16s,  two old Chists and two boxes 11s

1667/8, Edward Wharton, Salem:  “2 tray makers adses, 3s”

from The Goods and Chattels of Our Forefathers 1539-1804 John s. Moore, editor, (Chichester, Phillimore, 1976:

1617:   the Treene vessels 1s8d    dishes, Trenchers with divers other Trashe 1s0d

1618:  eleven Wodden kannes, three dozen of trenchers, a tringe boule, a great Wodden boule….a wodden bottle, a wodden platter, a wodden pinte, …a wodden tray…

from Francis W. Steer, editor, Farm and Cottage Inventories of Mid-Essex, 1635-1749, (Wiles & Son, Ltd., Colchester, 1950):

1635:  in the buttrey:  one great wooden Dishe with other smale wooden Dishes and other implements 12d

1638:  3 Duzen of trenchers 9d; halfe a Duzen of wooden Dishes with other Implements 5s

1686:  one dozen of round trenchers and a dozen of other trenchers

from George Francis Dow, Every Day Life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:


appendix E, “Manufactures and Other Products Listed in the Rates on Imports and Exports…1660” Among the imports this abstracted list includes:  

“Trays of wood, (the shocke)”

“Trenchers, white (common sort) and red or painted”

from: Alden T. Vaughan, ed., William Wood, New England’s Prospect (Amherst, Ma.: University of Massachusetts Press, 1993) :

“…The horn-bound is a tough kind of wood that requires so much pains in riving as is almost incredible, being the best for to make bowls and dishes, not being subject to crack or leak.”  

[editor suggest that this is blue-beech, sometimes called hornbeam, horn-beech or hard beam. PF: possibly American Hornbeam, (Carpinus caroliniana) “blue-beech” or “water beech” – technically a member of the birch family, grows in the eastern half of the US. There is also an Eastern Hophornbeam, (Ostrya virginiana) “ironwood” that Wood may be referring to as well]

from: Jill Groves, editor, Bowdon Wills and Probate inventories from a Cheshire Township, part 1: 1600-1650 (Chesire, England: Northern Writers Advisory Services, 1997)

Edmund Simpson of Bowdon 1611

One dosse of grete rounde trenchers one doss of little rounde trenchers wth one doss and
2 square trenchers… framinge saw a handsaw, 3 Chessels a wimble 2 homers and a payre of pincens… one chiste and an Arke 6s8d

And the hawk, thanks David G for the correct Latin name:

buteo jamaicensis



4 thoughts on “turning some bowls

  1. Hi Peter, I was wondering if you could tell me of a place where I could find centers( I think that is how they are called) for a pole lathe I want to make??

  2. You are the only birder I know who is a woodworker. Do you take your birding as seriously as your craft? My wife and I are birders and we live in Baltimore.
    Be well,

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