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Turning a Madrone Burl Bowl - Part 3

2. If the blank dries too slowly, mold will form. If this starts to happen, I simply move the blank to a warmer spot for a few hours. Be careful here, however, because if it is left for too long in a warm environment, it will begin to crack.

It is equally important to keep the surface of the blank dry to stop the spalting process. If mold does start to form, I just spray it with household bleach to kill it. The bleach will not discolor the wood.

I start to dry my bowls by stacking them on the floor in my unheated shop. I separate the bowl blanks with “stickers" made from dry wood; I have found that the madrone tends to spalt if the bowls are touching.

Remount the Blank

Once the blank is dry, I attach it to a faceplate and mount it on my bowl lathe.

Most people want to know how fast I turn. I think that the slower you turn, the safer you are. After all, the slower the blank is traveling if and when it comes off the lathe, the less it will hurt if it hits you! I turn most of my 10" to 12" bowls at

Check to be sure the bowl is centered.
The pencil mark on the rim of the bowl shows if the dry blank is centered.

approximately 650 to 750 RPM. The speed of the lathe can be fairly slow if you are using sharp tools—as you should—and have a nice piece of wood mounted in place.

Re-center the Blank

Chances are good that the bowl blank has warped and the “old" center is probably not the “current" center of the bowl. I turn a flat spot on the top of the bowl and put a pencil mark on it (see Fig. 5). This lets me know if I have to re-center the blank and how far I must move it.

I use the 5/8" deep bowl gouge to remove just enough wood from the interior of the bowl to eliminate any warped areas and re-true the blank. Then I use the gouge to turn the outside of the bowl just so it is round. I can now use the double-ended calipers to measure the bowl and determine just how much wood I have to work with at this point.

Using scrapers to make a madrone Bowl
The left and right hand scrapers are used at a 45 degree angle in a shear scraping mode to clean up the outside of the bowl.

Turn and Refine the Outside Shape
I step back and look at the shape of the bowl. Then I refine it using both the 5/8" and 3/8" deep bowl gouges. My eyes

and hands will tell me when the shape is just right. Your hands will sometimes give you more information than your eyes because they can actually feel any lumps or bumps that still need to be removed.

Once I am satisfied with the shape, I begin to shear scrape the outside of the bowl to remove any tearout and/or other imperfections that might remain (see Fig. 6). I use both a left and right hand shear scraper (shown fifth and sixth from left in Fig. 10) to do this. I use the small spear

Using scrapers to make a madrone Bowl
Having first re-oiled the wood with the walnut oil, I use an ordinary cabinet scraper held at a 45-degree angle to shear scrape the outside of the bowl. This final step eliminates most of the sanding

point tool to get into the area down next to the foot of the bowl where it would be awkward to use the larger tools.

Using the shear scrapers is easy if you keep a couple of things in mind; primarily, keep a very light touch and take off small shavings. Do not get too aggressive! I hold the tools at about a 45 degree angle.

I use walnut oil to lubricate the cut. I apply a liberal coat and use the shear scraper to remove a small amount of wood. Then I re-oil the bowl and take another cut. I have found that the oil “softens" the wood and makes it easier to get a clean cut.

Remove the tool rest (and stand) and re-oil the wood. Now I use an ordinary, hand-held cabinet scraper held below the centerline at a 45 degree angle to the wood (see Fig. 7). This final light cut will remove any tool marks that might remain and will leave a surface finish that will require little sanding. The cabinet scraper is only used on the outside of the bowl. NEVER, EVER attempt to make any cuts on the interior of the bowl with this tool!

Go to: Turning a Madrone Burl Bowl - Part 4