Turning a bowl on your wood lathe can be very exciting. However, fabricating or finding wood turning blanks for bowls adequate for your needs can be a challenge. Although you may find a reliable source of prepared bowl blanks online, our goal is to walk you through the process of making your own banks in order to encourage savings, better yields, and a more rewarding experience by turning a log into a blank which will ultimately end up a bowl.
From Log to Wood Turning Blanks for Bowls
Salvaging a fallen tree can be extremely gratifying. Not only will you get a massive amount of lumber, but you will be able to portion it as needed in order to maximize the number of bowls or other types of projects you wish.
The process of preparing a fresh log into bowl blanks is mostly challenging due to the fact that moisture is still present in the wood. Proper measures must be taken in order to properly preserve the wood from cracking or rotting. Either one occurs if the wood is left to dry too fast or too slow depending on the environmental circumstances.
Preparing a Rough Log
The main step of preparing a wood log for proper drying is to seal the ends as soon as they are exposed. This can be accomplished by applying a commercial wood sealer or household paint. Simply apply the sealer to the area of the log which is not covered by tree bark. This will restrict the moisture from escaping the wood; a critical step in preventing cracks caused by rapid drying. Keep in mind that depending on your sealer, you may need to apply more than a single coat in order to ensure complete insulation. Follow the directions of the manufacturer when in doubt.
It is recommended to cut the logs into manageable pieces as soon as possible. However, it is best to let them dry completely before cutting them into blanks. Leave the tree bark in place. It acts as a natural sealer and prevents moisture from escaping just like the seals you made on each end of a log.
Logs should be left in a dry place for a number of months depending on the thickness, type of wood and weather. It is recommended to check logs once every two months by removing a small section of the sealer from the end. Make sure to re-apply a sealer after doing the checks.
When completely dry, mark the logs into sections of distance equal to the diameter plus 4 inches. Leaving extra space on the log will allow you to safely check the wood without risking reducing the size of the largest bowls you could possibly turn.
Cut the log into sections you’ve marked above. Once that is complete, place each log on the side, secure it from rolling over and cut lengthwise to form bowl blanks. Make sure that each cut is done with the grain of the wood. Cutting against the grain will dull the chain, take longer and damage the surface of the wood.
Removing the Center of the Wood
The center of the wood, which is also known as the pith, needs to be removed. This is due to the fact that it is extremely unstable and difficult to work with. The grain of the wood at this point stems in multiple directions and can easily split, crack or cause other damage. Furthermore, this section may contribute to uneven drying of the bowl blanks.
To remove the pith, draw a line parallel to the cut you’ve made previously about half to an inch away. The distance may vary depending on the type of wood you’re working with. Remove the marked slab by cutting across the line.
Keep in mind that certain types of logs will have an odd shape and may be suitable for more than 2 bowls. In this case, you will need to make cuts which converge at the center of the log. Each piece you’ve acquired from the cuts will be used to make a bowl blank.
Turning End Grain Bowls
An end grain bowl is a bowl turned from whole log sections which were intentionally left as is. Although you will be able to turn much larger bowls with this technique, it is common for these types of logs to crack during the process.
Once the logs are processed into bowl blanks, you must re-apply a sealer to the ends until you are ready to turn. Depending on the type of wood you’re working with, it may be beneficial to apply a sealer along the cut you’ve made while cutting logs into pieces.
Store these blanks in a well ventilated, dry area.
Kiln Dried Wood Blanks for Bowls
Klin drying rough wood accelerates the process of moisture reduction in a controlled fashion. This method is often used by industrial wood suppliers, but can also be leveraged at home.
The critical component of using a kiln is to make sure that temperature and moisture controls are in place for controlled drying of the green wood. The process makes sure that the logs are not over or under drying. As mentioned above, doing so in a controlled fashion is critical to preserve the wood and prevent it from cracking.
Depending on the final destination of the wood, kilns can be set to specific moisture content levels. Although we won’t get into specifics, you should know that different applications will require wood of different moisture levels. For example, musical instruments will be usually built with wood dried to 6-8% moisture content.
Kiln Drying Wood at Home
Purchasing Kiln dried wood blanks for bowls from suppliers can be expensive. Therefore, woodworkers can choose to implement a personal kiln system on their own. This will reduce the cost and allow individuals to dry wood in a controlled manner. Furthermore, the process of drying wood with a kiln is straightforward.
The simplest and most widely used kiln system at home is a solarium based one. A solar kiln is a setup which captures solar energy and redirects it into the wood. This system is cheap and simple due to the fact that it’s not using any other energy source outside of the energy of the sun. Furthermore, there are no actual controls for this system. It may sound crude, but it does get the job done and accelerates the process of drying quite a bit.
Here is an excellent video which shows a complete build of a backyard solar kiln system:
Purchasing Wood Bowl Blanks Online
For many of you, it may be difficult to locate rough lumber to use for your blanks. In that case, it is recommended to purchase some of your blanks online. Do keep in mind that these will be significantly more expensive due to processing time as well as packaging weight and dimensions.
Conclusion on Wood Bowl Blanks
You may choose to turn your own bowl blanks or to purchase them from a 3rd party. Although it may seem much easier to buy these, it will become expensive as you turn a large quantity of bowl. For that reason, we recommend looking into turning rough lumber into your own blanks. The process is straightforward but does require some time.
The process of turning a bowl blank starts by salvaging logs. Upon cutting these logs into manageable pieces, you should seal the ends and let them dry. The process is complete as you let the logs dry and cut them into wood bowl blanks.
Drying the logs can be accelerated by regulating the temperature and humidity of the environment your logs reside. The industrial method is using a kiln. However, the cheap household alternative is a solar furnace. We recommend building one in your backyard if you have space as it will shorten the drying time of your logs.