I have never liked wood lathes. For me, there's something inherently wrong with having a block of wood spinning in front of my face and attempting to poke a sharp chunk of metal into it and hope for the best...
Consequently, I have developed my own methods of achieving "lathed" results with a variety of routers, bits, custom jigs and a little thinking outside of the box.
Here are a few of the pieces I've developed over the years.
10" Routed Bowls
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making bowls, but as mentioned above, I’m not really fond of wood lathes.After spending years working with routers and developing jigs and fixtures for all kinds of jobs, it occurred to me that I could use that knowledge to come up with a process for making bowls with my routers and standard shop tools.What you see below is the result.
In all, I developed three specialized fixtures and two custom jigs in the creation of the process used to make these bowls.Each of them is made by the fabrication of hexagonal rings of exotic woods which are then resawn, sanded, glued, stacked, pressure clamped, seasoned for a week, routed, cut, sanded, gooped, resanded and ultimately hand finished with a food-safe polyurethane.The outsides of the bowls are treated with a hard wax for an extra level of shine.That’s the simplified version of what happens.The actual process is documented in an 18 page article I wrote to explain it all to a woodworking friend.
Last year I created 12 of these in one batch for personal presents and some retail.While there was some economy of scale, there was an awful lot of waiting around for fixtures to be available and WAY TOO MUCH hand sanding and finishing.By the end of the run, I was burned out on woodworking and kind of lost my creative urge.Fortunately, that led to my renewed interest in stained glass – which you can see on the next page…
After stepping away from the wood for a while and then beginning to integrate the wood and the glass, I’ve once again found my “wood muse” – but I’m not sure how soon I’ll be making bowls again.
All of the bowls pictured here are the natural colors of the woods.They are roughly 10” in diameter and 4” high.A few notes on the bowls pictured…
“Dark Matter” seems to be the majority favorite.I’ve made seven of these in two variations and they’re all gone. This version has stripes of six different woods: Bubinga, Lacewood, Purpleheart, Redheart, Walnut & African Wenge. The base is solid Walnut.
Dark Matter Base
"Earth, Wind & Fire" is a triple striped bowl with Walnut, Flame Maple and Redheart representing the elements in its name. The base is solid Mahogany. "Mocha Latte" is primarily Lyptus with a double stripe of African Wenge. The base is Mahogany.
Earth, Wind & Fire
"Purple Haze" is primarily light Lacewood with a stripe of Purpleheart and a solid Mahogany base. “Polka Dots” is primarily Lyptus and Maple, but in its seasoned state, I drilled 130 holes in it and filled them with wood dowels of Purpleheart, Zebrawood, Redheart, Bubinga, Walnut and Ebony which resulted in the polka dots in the walls and base of the final bowl.
“Yin” and “Yang”, while meant to be complementary in color scheme, also turned out (by pure accident) to spiral in opposite directions. "Yin" is Flame Maple with a Walnut stripe on the sides as well as the base. "Yang" is dark Lacewood with a Flame Maple stripe and a Mahogany base with a Maple Stripe. By the way, that's them in the "seasoned" stage on the home page.
In the creation of these bowls, there are a lot of small pieces of “waste” wood left over that are of consistent size and shape.While contemplating this fact, it occurred to me that I could randomly glue these “scraps” back together into “boards” which could then go through the process again.It required developing another fixture, but the end result is the odd little piece I call “Pandemonium” below.The sides are completely random, and the base is solid wood made up of a Mahogany frame around a pattern of right triangles picked up on the cutting floor.
This piece was the result of an exercise in the development of the process for making the routed bowls. It was also the result of a challenge to see what I could fabricate from scratch in one day. The box is 6" long by 4" wide by 3" high. The sides are Flame Maple and Redheart and the top is Redheart with Bird's Eye Maple. The top is routed to drop into the box and it only fits in one direction. The box is finished with a high-gloss food-safe polyurethane because I had no idea what it might be used for.
For those of you who don't live in Central Texas, we have a species of tree here known as "Live Oak."
It gets its name from the fact that while normal oaks turn brown in the fall and shed their leaves, the Live Oak keeps all of its green leaves through the Winter and they are pushed off by the newly emerging leaves in the Spring. This keeps them looking green all year long - hence the name.
Last year, I had to have my trees trimmed - in particular several large branches that were threatening my neighbors' houses.
One branch was large enough and close enough to the neighbor's roof that it had to be cut off in several stages for safety. The final cut was an oddly angled piece that was sliced off to finish up at the trunk of the tree.
It was rotted inside, but the shape combination of oval and wedge intrigued me. I "kiln" dried the wood for three days in my kitchen oven and avoided most of the cracking I was expecting.
I cleaned up the inside after removing the bad wood, stripped off the bark, and sanded the piece to two flat surfaces. I attached a Mahogany base plate and then used a router to create the finished inside hole and my trusty belt sander to develop the final outside shape.
This is the finished bowl. It is roughly 11" long by 7" at its widest point and about 3" at its tallest point. The closeup is just to show you how amazing the grain is in Live Oak.
While the bowl is an interesting conversation piece, I have to tell you that Live Oak is the hardest wood I have ever worked with and it resists 60 grit sandpaper, files and chisels. Never again...
The Cascade Bowl was designed as a continuing part of learning about routed bowls.When I conceived the project, it was meant to be an exercise in laminating exotic woods and learning to route the “holes” and the steps without hurting myself.When I finished the piece, while it made an attractive nut bowl, it occurred to me that it would look even better as a desk caddy.
It is 12 inches long, 4 inches wide, and consists of three separate sections of varying heights – 3 ½ inches, 2 ¾ inches, and 2 inches – with 3 inch diameters on the end bowls and an oblong center section which is 3 by 4 inches.
This is the standard configuration for the Executive’s desk.
This is the standard configuration for the CEO’s desk.