Woodturning A Live Edge Bowl From A Tree That Totaled My Car!
Tools Used On The Live Edge Bowl :
Materials Used On The Live Edge Bowl :
- Red Oak log
This project began about a year ago when a Red Oak tree fell in our yard and totaled our poor little Kia. When the tree service came to remove the tree, I asked them to leave the largest parts of the tree’s trunk, so that I could build something from it later and exact my revenge on the tree.
Fast forward a year, the trunk has been relaxing in my yard since that day back in April and I thought it was finally time to make something out of it. Surprisingly, even though I hadn’t treated the ends of the logs with any kind of sealer, there was very little checking or cracking in the logs. So I grabbed my chainsaw and cut a chunk off of the end of the bigger of the two logs.
After cutting into the log, I saw some spalting in the bark section that occurred between the time the tree died and now, and this spalting was a pleasant surprise since it’d look really cool in the finished bowl.
Once I had a section of the log cut off, I turned it on end and ripped the log down the center. Also, I’ve got to say, I was fairly impressed with the electric chainsaw, it really held its own against this big piece of Oak.
Next, I brought one half of the log into the shop and started figuring out how big of a bowl I could get out of the log. I took my compass and traced the maximum sized bowl I could get, about 13 inches in diameter, and transferred that measurement onto a piece of ¼” plywood.
I cut the circle out of the piece of plywood and then attached it to the center of the workpiece to serve as a cutting template.
With the template attached, I roughly cut the piece into the circular shape, using the template as my guide.
Once the piece was roughly round, I could go ahead and get it mounted to the lathe. There are a ton of options here, but I decided to first try using a wormwood screw. I first drilled a flat area for wormwood screw to rest against, then drilled a small pilot hole for the screw to thread into.
Next, I installed the screw into my chuck and then tried to thread the bowl blank onto the screw, but the wood was just too soft to provide any holding power.
Instead of a wormwood screw, I figured the spur center would be the next best option, so I gave that a try. And this worked for a little while, but the wood still proved too soft and the spur center wasn’t making enough contact to create the torque needed to keep the bowl moving.
After a little bit of frustration, I decided the face plate would be the best option, since it’s held on with a bunch of screws and has a ton of holding power. First, I drilled a recess for face plate at the drill press using a 2” Forstner bit, making sure to set my depth stop so all of the holes were on the same plane. After getting the area cleared out, I mounted my face plate using 6 1 ¼” screws, then mounted the face plate to my lathe, and finally I was in business.
I started the turning process by roughing out the outside of the bowl, first just getting the bowl completely round. I didn’t do a great job at the bandsaw, so I had a decent amount of work to do here. I used the new Woodpecker’s Ultra-Shear carbide turning tools on this project, and used the square tool to get the outside of the bowl roughed to shape.
Also, I just had to throw in a few of these super slow mo shots, they just look so awesome. I’ve been watching a lot of William Walker’s turning videos, shout out Will, and I figured I’d try my hand at some of those shots.
After roughing out the shape with the square tool, I moved to round tool and started refining the shape and smoothing out the surface. One of the most rewarding parts of turning is finding a shape you like inside the chunk of wood your turning, it’s kind of amazing how your mind just starts doing something and it turns into something really cool looking. Wood turning is such an organic experience compared to a lot of other woodworking and I’d really recommend trying it out if you haven’t already.
Once the outside shape was how I liked it, I flattened the bottom of the bowl and added a little concave so that the bowl would rest nicely on a table or countertop.
With the bottom flat, I went ahead and cut in a mortise for the chuck jaws. I marked the size using a compass and then cut the mortise using a combination of the detail tool and square tool. I really like using the detail tool to make sure the mortise walls are slightly angled to fit the chuck jaws.
When I went to install the chuck, I realized I somehow sized my mortise wrong and had to redo it.
Before removing the faceplate from the lathe, I made a few shearing cuts on the outside of the bowl to get them really nice and clean. That shearing cut is one of the main benefits of these Ultra-Shear turning tools from Woodpeckers, the sponsor of this week’s video. By adding a 45 degree bearing plane, which allows you to tilt the carbide tip 45 degrees, you can get a shearing cut that leaves a super smooth surface finish.
Also, the inserts Woodpeckers uses on their Ultra-Shear tools are the sharpest and longest lasting inserts on the market. The shanks on the Ultra-Shear tools are hardened Chromoly steel, the handles are made from Rock Maple, and Woodpeckers tools are all made in the USA. If you’d like to learn more about why Ultra-Shear tools are the best carbide turning tools on the market, check out the link in the video description below, and thanks to Woodpeckers for sponsoring this week’s video.
After doing a few more shearing passes, I removed the face plate from the lathe and installed the chuck. I removed the face plate from the bowl and then went over to the drill press and cleared some of the excess waste from the center of the bowl with a Forstner bit. I really like doing this, as I can also give myself and accurate final depth. You could certainly do this on the lathe, but I couldn’t find my drill chuck and it’s just as easy to do it on the drill press.
With some of the waste removed, I mounted the bowl on the chuck and started clearing out the inside of the bowl. This was a really awkward process to say the least, mostly due to the weird shaped rim you get when making a live edge bowl.
As you can see, the rim undulates up and down around the edge of the bowl, and this means you’re turning air about half the time when trying to clean up those areas. It’s really easy to dig in too far and catch on these empty areas, so definitely be careful here.
Once everything was cleared out, I noticed that the bowl was just incredibly wet. I didn’t want to let this bowl dry completely before finishing because I like the way warped live edge bowls look, but I decided to remove the bowl from the chuck and put it into a paper bag with its shavings to dry slowly for about a week.
After letting the bowl hang out and dry out a little, I pulled it out of the shavings and remounted it on the lathe. The wood was much harder than the first turning session, but this made getting a clean surface finish a little easier. I did a few more shear cuts to get the surface nice and even, and then sanded the bowl to smooth out any of the problem areas.
Finally, I removed the bowl from the lathe, added my stamp, and then applied a few coats of Waterlox, one of my favorite finishes for this type of project. I will not be eating out of the bowl, mainly due to the fact that it’s spalted, which is caused by fungus, and also since Red Oak is so porous that it doesn’t make for a great food-serving project. Because of this, I didn’t need to worry about a food safe finish and just needed to focus on a good looking finish, which Waterlox definitely is.
After applying three coats, I brought the bowl into the house and figured the perfect use for it would be a valet tray/catch-all bowl, where we can keep our car keys and wallets. I think the fact that part of a tree that destroyed our car is now holding our car keys is more than a little ironic, and I’m really happy with the way this one turned out.
If you guys are interested in making one of these for yourselves, I’ll have a link to all of the tools and materials in the video description below. Also, if you haven’t already, I’d love for you to subscribe to my channel and ring that little notification bell. I put out new project videos just about every week, so stay tuned for more videos from me soon. Alright, I think that’s going to do it, so until next time, happy building!