When Desiree and I got this unique hand-made wooden bowl as a wedding gift from Desiree’s Uncle Jon, I couldn’t help but stare at it, trying to figure out how he made it. That was before Desiree’s dad introduced me to a tool called a lathe.
A lathe is a tool that spins wood so it can be shaped with hand wood-carving tools such as these:
While visiting Desiree’s folks in Texas several years ago, her dad (a former shop teacher) showed me how to use his lathe. He put a piece of wood on it for me and let me try shaping it. The first thing I made was a baseball bat… okay, I admit it was a really small version of a baseball bat… more like a club. But I found it to be a fun, relaxing hobby that can turn ordinary pieces of wood into useful and beautiful creations.
Desiree’s dad bought a used lathe that he gave to me a few years back. I’m not sure if it was really for me, or if he just wanted to make sure there was a lathe up here in Utah to keep him occupied when visiting his kids. :) Either way, it’s been a fun tool to have.
Last Saturday I made a bowl from this large piece of wood leftover from a deck job:
I used a tape measure and table saw to roughly square-up the piece of wood.
I sanded one side flat. (This side would end up being the bottom of the bowl).
After chopping off the corners with a miter saw, I attached the lathe mounting plate with some screws to the smooth, sanded side.
Next, I mounted my wood blank to the lathe and positioned my tool rest.
Now it was time to turn the lathe motor on, spin the wood, and round off the wood blank using my hand tools. This is about the time you hope the light bulb turns on with an idea of what shape to make the bowl.
Once the outside of the bowl was shaped, I was ready to start hollowing out the inside.
Unfortunately, the wood I was turning had some cracks in it that finally gave, and the top part of my bowl flew off. Luckily, no teeth were lost, and I had another large piece of wood to throw on the lathe from a tree stump and this one was sent to the fire pit pile.
Here’s my second piece after shaping the outside of the bowl. I put a few more curves on this one. (It’s all about the curves with lathe woodworking).
Once I was satisfied with the outside shape of my bowl. I carved out the inside.
Calipers such as this can be used to measure the thickness of the walls of a wood bowl.
Finishing up the inside of the bowl…
I sanded the whole thing down with rough, medium, and then fine grit sand paper to smooth it off. The lathe makes sanding easy. You turn it on, and just hold the sandpaper against the bowl.
The lathe also makes applying a finish to a wood bowl easy. Just turn it on and press a rag dipped in stain or oil against it. Many different finishes can be applied to wood bowls. I’ve even used olive oil for some I’ve done. For this one, I applied a brown stain with a rag, then a clear coat with a spray can. Here’s how it turned out:
Smaller pieces of wood can be glued (with wood glue) and clamped together and then turned on a lathe for a little different look. Here are some of the lathe creations I’ve enjoyed making over the past few years: