Category Archives: Projects

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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Maple Bowl with Walnut Handles

Over the last two weekends I made this bowl.

It’s made from a maple crotch, so there’s a big bark inclusion going right down the middle, and you can see the center rings from both forks, one on each side of the bowl.

It’s been a while since I did any turning, and I had to re-learn the right feel of how to present the tool on the work, especially with the bowl gouge when working the inside.

Here’s how it ended up after last Saturday. There were several rings and gouges that I wasn’t really happy with, but it was getting late and I wasn’t getting any better.

I left it on the faceplate though, so that I could put it back on the lathe later if I felt more motivated.

Well, the weekend passed and I decided that I wasn’t going to be satisfied with how thick the walls were, or the big gouge marks, so I put it back on the lathe and started thinning things down.

I did have several more catches which ruined the rim and I had to make the bowl shorter to clean them up. You can see that the bark inclusion is now all the way through the rim, where there had been solid wood on the rim before.

Unfortunately this meant that the bowl was much weaker. I actually tightly wrapped the bowl in masking tape while turning the insides so it wouldn’t fly apart. The base was screwed to the faceplate too, so there was enough support.

In fact, once I took the tape off, I could grab both sides of the bowl and make pull them apart a little bit. To compensate for the weakness I drilled two holes on each side of the crack on each side of the bowl, and made these walnut handles from a log I had sitting around. The handles have pegs that fit into the holes in the bowl. I put some watered-thinned wood glue in the crack, and then glued the handle pegs into the holes.

After that, I did one more pass with 1200 grit sandpaper and wiped it all down with a mix of mineral oil and beezwax.

The handles are slightly offset, but I still like it. It was great to get back to turning. I’m glad the weather is getting warmer!

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A Sconce Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

We recently had the opportunity to replace some sconce light covers. The ones that broke were simply a piece of curved frosted glass. Caroline and the kids made some decorations this summer by melting pony beads in a cupcake pan run with the idea and use it to make some custom sconce covers myself.

I bought a new flat all-metal pan from the thrift store to avoid getting melted plastic all over the pans we use. I would’ve preferred a cookie sheet, but this is what they had.

I bought a bit of clear beads and a bin of transparent color beads. I made sure to get hard beads. I laid the beads out how I wanted them, but I made sure to extend my layout about 2 inches wider and taller than I was going to need. I knew that the plastic puddle would be thinner at the edges.

Laying out the beads
Laying out the beads

I placed the whole pan in the grill on medium-high. I checked on it every few minutes and here’s what happened.

  1. The beads all got shiny. They looked almost wet. I could still touch them at this point and they felt rubbery, but wouldn’t quite stick together.
  2. The beads started to stick together, but were still separate.
  3. They turned into a big puddle.

That took about 10 or 15 minutes. If you checke it less often it will probably take less time.

After it was melted I removed it from the grill and let it cool by itself until I could comfortably touch the bottom of the pan with my bare hands. At this point a slight twist of the pan made the plastic sheet pop off.

On an initial trial run I tried pulling the plastic off before it was all the way hardened and it left a goopy mess stuck to the bottom of the pan. Wait until it’s cool.

Once both sheets were cooled I used a fine-tooth saw blade on the table saw to trim the edges to make two rectangles.

The next step was to bent it. I actually did this step over the grill, the heat of the grill helped keep the whole piece warm, while the heat gun warmed it enough to actually get back to the bendy stage. I wore a clean(ish) leather glove during this stage so my hand didn’t get too hot.

Be sure to constantly move the heat gun around so you don’t get odd hot spots. They’ll warp and sag.

Bending the formed sheet
Bending the formed sheet

Since I was just barely bringing it up to the bendable stage, all I had to do to harden it was pick it up off the grill and hold it in the cool November Minnesota air.

The curves aren’t perfect, but they didn’t need to be for this. If I wanted exact curves I’d have made a mold out of sheet metal or something and let it droop over the mold.

A sconce after being drilled
A sconce after being drilled

Once it was curved I used a series of sandpaper on the edges to remove the saw blade marks. I used 120, 220, 500, 1200 and steel wool. That left the edges with a hazy white finish. A quick pass with the heat gun healed all those micro-scratches to leave clear edges.

Smoothed and reheated edges
Smoothed and reheated edges

Caroline says she loves them, so I guess the project was a success.

The sconces in action
The sconces in action
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce
Another Action Shot Of A Sconce


  • Melting plastic lets off terrible fumes. Keep it outside the whole time it’s warm and don’t do this in the oven. 
  • This works with CFL bulbs because they don’t get hot enough to melt the plastic. This would never work with halogen or incandescent bulbs.
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