Making a Bowl Without a Lathe

Today I’m making a bowl without a lathe! This was a really fun project inspired by Keith Brown at Rag n’ Bone Brown on YouTube. I ended up making my bowl from some locally sourced Spanish Chestnut.

Watch the full video here:

I'm Making a Spanish Chestnut Bowl without using a Lathe

Making a bowl without a lathe

For this project I’m using some locally sourced Spanish Chestnut. This was actually cut down by a professional lumberjack friend of mine – fresh from the hills of Northumberland! I’d left the piece to dry out in my workshop for around 1 year, which I’m hoping is sufficient for a relatively small piece like this. Since it had been cut with a chainsaw it had very rough edges and nothing about it was flat.

Flattening the Spanish chestnut

I used my hand plane to knock down any really big high spots. I then attached an MDF backing board to the piece to give me one straight edge. I could use that edge as a reference to run the piece through my bandsaw. Once I had one straight edge I could then flip the piece and straighten up the other edge, again on the band saw. After that I attached a piece of MDF to one of the thin edges and ran it through my bandsaw vertically to give it a vaguely flat bottom side.

Using my old Kity planer

I’ve got a very old Kity planer / thicknesser and it works fantastically well for projects like this. I start off my planing the flat edge previously cut on the bandsaw. This is done on the top planer side of the machine. This gives me a really flat reference edge to work off. From there I run it through the thicknesser several times, being very careful not to take too much off in one pass. After about 10 passes through the thicknesser I managed to get the piece to a uniform thickness with a nice flat top and bottom. I finished off the edges by running it through the table saw twice.

Carving the Bowl Shape using a Saburtooth

Before starting on any more external shaping it was time to hack out the actual inside of the bowl. I did this using a Saburtooth Donut Wheel on my Makita Angle Grinder. The Saburtooth is a 4″ metal disc with curved edges and a 7/8″ bored designed for angle grinders. It’s covered in thousands of tiny metal spikes that grind away at the wood. The reason I’m doing the carving now is since this is where things can go horribly wrong. As such there was no point in spending ages getting the outer shape perfect only to muck it up later. I gradually carved out the bowl shape working across the grain. I found it much quicker to work across the grain rather than with the grain. When I got closer to the desired shape I made gentler and gentler passes to leave a smooth finish.

Cutting the outer bowl shape

I passed the sides of the bowl through my table saw, putting a 30 degree bevel on each edge. I then matched this bevel on my bandsaw to cut the curved edges. I then switched back to the Saburtooth again to soften all of the external edges.

Lots of sanding!

The inner bowl needed a LOT of sanding. I wrapped some P60 sandpaper around a tennis ball and used this to sand the internal surface of the bowl. This method worked really well but it took a LONG time. I gradually worked up the grits and also switched to my DeWalt Palm Sander whenever possible. I sanded the external edges using my 150mm Erbauer Random Orbit Sander using P80 grit sandpaper. I then worked from there to my smaller 125mm DeWalt Random Orbit Sander using a P120 grit paper. This gave a lovely smooth finish. I handed sanded with finer grip paper to finish everything off.

Applying the brass stencil lettering

I used 2″ flat brass stencil lettering. As this is designed for a flat surface it was a little tricky to get a good stencil on a curved surface. I pushed the middle of the stencil to conform to the shape of the bowl and sprayed each letter individually, masking off all the other letters as I went on. Once this was dry I used some wire wool to rub away any overspray and also to soften the letters slightly. Without doing this the black lettering would have been a bit too ‘in your face’.

Finishing with Osmo oil

I used my favourite Osmo Polyx Oil to finish everything off. This is a lovely penetrating oil made from natural oils and waxes. It’s extremely hard wearing and I went for the 3032 Clear Satin variant. It can take a good few days to properly harden so at some point I might give a very light sand and apply a second coat to leave a silky smooth finish. This oil is really designed for wooden floors so jury’s out whether it’s food safe. I couldn’t find anything saying it isn’t!

This was a really fun project – a massive thank you to Keith Brown at Rag n’ Bone Brown for setting this up!

Andy Mac
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