A Hewn Maple Bowl

This might be my favorite bowl so far!

This was made from the other half of the maple crotch that my last bowl was made from. The crotch was split vertically, so that both halves had the fork in them. Looking at this picture now, I think there must’ve been two main forks, with a double fork on one side where the dark inclusion is on the picture below.

I started by cutting a flat-ish surface on one side and tracing two large overlapping circles on it. Then I used the chainsaw to rough out the the shape. I cut the corners to roughly round, then cut a taper on the bottom.

I really admire and aspire to be the guys who can do the whole thing from start to finish with only hand tools, but I don’t have the talent, time or patience to do it that way yet.

A prepared bowl blank
A prepared bowl blank

Once the blank was made, I made some initial rough cuts to the inside of the bowl with a chainsaw blade attachment for my angle grinder. After that I soon switch the the adz.

I felt like I was finally getting the hang of the adz with this project. I got the bowl to within 1/4 inch or so of its final dimensions with the adz before I felt like I was going to screw it up. The problem with an adz (or any tool) is that if you’re using it and go to far,  you can’t undo it. The adz uses a chopping motion, like an axe, and I just need to practice to get more control over the depth and precision of the cuts.

After the adz, I switched to the bowl gouge for the inside and the spokeshave for the outside.

Smoothing out the insides of the bowl with a gouge
Smoothing out the insides of the bowl with a gouge

You can see that by this time I got to the gouge had long abandoned the tidy double circle shape I had sketched out on the blank originally. Somewhere between the angular crotch grain, and getting it down to size I went astray.

On the one hand, I hope to someday be able to sketch a design and stick with it for a bowl, and be able to make the wood (and my tools) follow my intention. On the other hand, I love the more organic look that follows from following what the wood and happy accidents lead to.


A hewn maple bowl (bottom)
A hewn maple bowl (bottom)

This bowl was pretty tricky to get finished well for several reasons. End grain is always hard to carve or cut smoothly and this bowl had it in spades. Wood grain is like a bunch of straws bundled together. When cutting end grain, all those little straw ends want to stick up and tend to tear out.

Then, where the crotch comes together you get this part of the wood with interwoven grain. This make really neat ripple and shimmering patterns in the wood, but makes the wood extra dense and even more difficult to cut.

I was really hoping that this would be the bowl that I was able to finish without sandpaper and have it come out smooth, but between the end and cross grain, and my inability to get the razor sharp edge I wanted on my gouge, I ended up doing a finally smoothing with the random orbital sander.

Finally, I finished it with mineral oil and beezwax. I applied 3 or 4 coats over the course of a week, and used a hair dryer on the first coat to really heat the wax so it would absorb deep into the wood. The rest of the coats I would apply, then let it sit for a few days to soak up the oil and wax. Finally I buffed it with a dry rag.

A hewn maple bowl
A hewn maple bowl

The bowl is about 18 inches wide by 10 inches across, and probably 5 inches deep. I should’ve measured to be sure.

I almost always like the stuff that I make, otherwise I’d just burn it and make something else, but this is one of the first bowls that was actually a little bit hard to give away! I’m really happy with how it turned out and I hope that future bowls will turn out as well as this one!

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