If you can’t tell due to some of my earlier posts I love to work with my lathe. I recently got a bunch of spalted maple from a friend and the wood came from a tree he had cut down in his back yard. I love finding creative ways to do new things with wood like this. I decided to try something completely different. I decided to make a bowl not just any bowl I wanted to use the shattered top of the tree from my friends yard. This piece of the tree was shattered like glass when it hit the ground and gave me the idea to do something that I think came out pretty cool. So here is how I did it.
Find Your Wood
The first thing you have to do is to find a piece of shattered wood. This might come from felling a tree or a tree that was blown over by the wind. You need a large enough log to be able to make a bowl the desired size you would like to have. The size of the log may also be determined by the size of your lathe. Cut the log down to the size that will work on your lathe safely. The shattered log is what gives it the effect when the bowl is finished. Even a limb or something along that line will work. Make sure to dry the wood before you start as this will cause more cracking and splitting and can add to the effect made by the epoxy. If the piece is small enough you can preheat your oven to 215 degrees and bake the wood. This low heat is all that is necessary and do not set you heat any higher as it could be dangerous if to high. At 215 degrees the heat is to low to need to worry about fire and will dry out the wood slowly. Depending on the size of the log it might take a few hours after about one hour check the log and continually check it every 30 min to an hour until it is dry. Use an oven to dry the wood at your own risk. It is safe when done properly. The center will take a good while to dry out. Once the wood is dry it time to move onto the next step.
Enclose the Log
The next step is to enclose the log. I had went over a few different ways to try to do this in my head but what to me seemed to be the best way and also the least time consuming was to wrap the log in packing tape. This is done for a couple of reasons. First this will stop the log from falling apart. Second this will be our make shift mold to hold in the epoxy during the pour. Make sure while you are doing this to wrap the tape as tightly as you can get it. Also cover the log in multiple layers of the tape. Epoxy will heat up during curing and move around so this can cause epoxy to find seams in the tape if there are any available. Multiple layers of tape will take care of that and make it much more difficult for the epoxy to leak. Also make sure to completely cover the bottom of the log even if there are no crack showing. There may be crack you do not see or can form while pouring. You want these to be filled with epoxy and the tape on bottom will prevent leaks. With the bottom and sides of the log completely covered add one last piece on the upper edge and let it stick over the edge this will give a barrier to stop the epoxy form going over the sides of the project from the top while pouring.
Mix Your Epoxy
With the log tight taped up and secured its time to mix your epoxy. Usually you can do a simple math equation and figure up how much epoxy you will need but for a project like this it can be very difficult. I guessed that I would need somewhere around 28 oz of epoxy for this pour due to a large cavity on the lower part of the log. The amount of epoxy you will need will be completely dependent on the the specific project you are doing. Do you best to just get as close as you can but if needed you can mix more.
Start to Pour
Pouring the epoxy in a piece like this is a bit different. Normally you can pour epoxy into a standard mold and it will naturally push the air from the bottom. When pouring epoxy directly into vertical cracks suck as these air has nowhere to escape to if your are pouring to fast. So go SLOW! During a pour like this give a couple of seconds between pours into the same crack. This will allow the epoxy to seep down and push the air up from the bottom. When poured correctly it will largely help to lower the number of air bubbles within the epoxy. If you have a pressure tank large enough to fit the project into. I highly suggest using it. If not just take your time with the pour and allow the epoxy to completely cure before moving on to the next step.
Remove the Tape. Maybe?
This step is honestly optional. I removed a portion of the tape but not all of it as the sides were being very difficult to remove. That is OK you do not have to remove it to continue. If you do not remove the tape it will be removed during the turning process.
Mark the Center Drill a Hold
This bowl was an end grain turning process. This means that the log would be centered on the lathe with the ends of the log turning end over end. To do this you must mount the long onto the 4 jaw chuck of the lathe at the center point of the log. To find this center just mark half way from end to end and then across the width of the log. This is the point where you will dill the hole allowing a hold for the 4 jaw chuck. Once you have found the point where you will drill the hole use a 1 1/4 inch forstner bit to drill a hole centered on the mark. Remember to drill the whole deep enough for the entire jaws of the chuck to be inserted into the log. This will give you the best grip and lower the likelihood that the jaws can slip out of the hole.
Start Shaping the Bowl
With the bowl securely fixed to the lathe chuck start shaping the bowl. Keep the lathe speed slow. With a misshapen log it will be off balance. This will cause vibration in the lathe. Just keep the speed slow and start to shape the bowl by slowly cutting the corners down from the bottom working your way up. Do not use a standard gouge to do this. As I said previously this is end grain turning and if you use a standard gouge it will likely dig into the end grain and cause the tool to catch. This can be dangerous and damage your project or even cause the wood to shatter or bust. Using a carbide cutting tool or a bowl gouge rough out the shape of the bowl. This could be many different shapes. I chose to go with a flat bottom egg shaped bowl. This turning will be done with the bottom of the bowl pointing toward the tail of the lathe. The interior of the bowl will be hollowed out from the center portion where the initial hole was drilled. When you get close to the desired finishing size and shape of the bowl make smooth light cuts along the entirety of the bowl giving you the best finish possible before finishing.
Drill Bottom Expansion Hole and Finish Bottom
With the bowl completely shaped and sized you now need to drill a expansion hole and flatten and finish the bottom of the bowl. The bottom expansion hole will allow you to turn the bowl around on the lathe and mount it to the 4 jaw chuck the same way you did the first hole. When you flatten out the bottom of the bowl this hole will also allow the bowl to sit flat on a surface without worrying about imperfections in how flat bottom of the bowl is. Using the same 1 1/4 inch forstner bit used previously. Secure the bit into the drill chuck of the lathe only go as deep into the bottom of the bowl as necessary to insert the jaws of the chuck fully into the hole. After drilling the hole into the bottom of the bowl use a square carbide scraper or a skew and flatten out the bottom of the bowl. When the bottom is flattened sand the bottom to completely finished and turn the bowl around and attach the bottom of the bowl onto the 4 jaw chuck.
Hollow the Interior of the Bowl
Hollowing out the interior of the bowl is very tedious and for the most part slow moving. Do not try to cut to much material away at one time. This will can cause the bowl to bind and damage the bowl. This is also the point witch you will determine the thickness of the wall of the bowl. I find it best to do this before getting to far down into the bowl. Doing this at this point will also make it much easier to keep a consistent width of the wall from the top down to the bottom. Also at this point you want to shape the top of the bowl. Removing and flattening the top of the bowl slightly will leave a live edge contour to the rim of the bowl. After getting the width of the wall determined start at the center of the bowl were you previously drilled the expansion hole slowly work your way from the center to the interior wall of the bowl. Using the wall as your stopping point repeat this process making the cuts as smooth as possible along the inner wall. Keeping your cuts smooth will make the sanding process inside the bowl much easier. Once you have reached the bottom of the hole drilled in step Six I suggest drilling another whole to use as a stop depth gauge. Drilling this hole to the final depth that you would like the bowl to be on the interior. Be careful not to go to deep and make the base of the bowl to thin or to drill into the bottom expansion hole. Then just continue to hollow out the bowl in the same fashion as earlier. When you have reached the final depth you would like the bowl to be simply shape the transition of the interior wall to the base as you would like it to be.
Sand and Sand and Sand
Now the bowl if shaped and hollowed out its time to sand the bowl to its final finish. On this particular bowl it will have a live edge but I did not with the bark still attached. This is just personal preference and for this project I wanted the live edge shape but with a smooth surface. This was achieved by using a random orbit sander to sand down the live edge to a smooth surface. After the live edge the sander can then be used on the rest of the exterior of the bowl. Repeat this process by hand on the interior of the bowl working your way from 80 grit to a minimum of 5000 grit. This will help to polish the epoxy portions to a smooth gloss surface.
Finishing and Polishing
For this project I decided to use a mineral oil finish as well as a high gloss wax polish. The mineral oil makes the grain pop. Showing off off the beauty of the spalted maple used in this project. To apply the mineral oil. While the bowl is still attached to the lathe apply a generous coat to the bowl and using a rag, brush or even your hand spread the oil over the entire surface of the bowl. If you plan to use your hand it is perfectly safe to do so without a glove but I would suggest one due to the oily residue the mineral oil will leave on you hands. Let the mineral oil set for a few mins allowing it to soak in the wood no more than 5 mins is needed and for a lighter color effect wait around one to two mins. Repeat this process on the interior of the bowl. After allowing the oil to soak remove all of the excess oil with a rag. You might have to repeat this process a couple of time as the oil seeps back out of the wood from soaking in. This is normal. Again repeat this process on the interior of the bowl. With all of the excess removed add a light coating of the eee ultra shine wax to the bowl. I suggest doing this process separately on both the exterior and interior of the bowl. Once the wax is applied turn on the lathe and with medium speed use a rag to polish the wax applying a moderate amount of pressure. With both the interior and exterior of the bowl polished remove the bowl from the lathe and repeat these steps by hand on the bottom of the bowl. This will give the bowl a nice high gloss shine without changing the color of the bowl.
All Finished Up Try Not to Stare
I love how this dinosaur egg bowl came out and honestly it is one of my favorite projects i have done as far as the finished product goes. This bowl is just amazing to look at. I had a general shape in mind but never imagined it would look exactly like a shattering dinosaur egg. The contrast of the spalted maple and the blue epoxy just makes the bowl pop and its hard to take you eyes off of it. I hope you guys have enjoyed learning how to make such a unique bowl. If you have any questions or comments make sure to leave them in the comment sections here. Thank you for reading and watching and I’ll see ya on the next one.