In order to create a "Natural Edge" bowl, a log - or section of a log -
usually starts out getting rough-trimmed by a band saw or chain saw
prior to placing it on one of my lathes. The wood is placed on the
lathe so that it will rotate around an axis that is perpendicular to
long axis of the wood's growth. Thus, as the wood rotates, it presents
face-grain, end-grain, face-grain and opposite end-grain to the cutting
tool within a single revolution. In this way, the shape of the edge or
lip of the bowl is defined by the natural shape of the bark or cambium
edge of the trunk or branch of the tree. In this photo you can see that
one of the original bark faces of the log (dark area on the far right)
is rotating around the tail-stock of the lathe.
Utilizing one of my many hand tools, the piece is roughly formed by the
spinning of the lathe to create the general outside form. The hand
tools that I use are made from specially hardened steel that are
sharpened and then honed to a very good edge. At this initial stage I
start working on the outside surface of the bowl, as well as forming
the foot or bottom of the bowl near the tail-stock, occasionally
stopping the lathe to inspect the piece for voids, bark inclusions,
uniqueness in grain patterns, or other unusual surprises in the
particular piece of wood.
After the first cuttings (clearing the outer bark and first layers), I
will have a better idea and insight as to what the end results might
look like, and conclude whether or not the progress merits my
continuing in making a Natural Edge Bowl or if I should completely
change directions and save it for something else, later.
Once I'm satisfied with the outer surface, I now re-chuck the
bowl on the lathe - turning it around so that the foot of the bowl is
now held by the head-stock of the lathe (on the left in this photo) -
and move the tail-stock out of the way so that I now can safely get to
the inside of it. At this point I start cutting the inside of the bowl
following the outside shape as a guide. As the basic bowl form begins
to emerge, I'm also paying particular attention to any grain structures
or natural defects such as bark inclusions, spalting or other hidden
treasures so that I can best reveal and often embellish these inherent
and often unique and beautiful qualities.
At this stage I'm now refining the inside walls of the bowl and -
depending on the species of wood and final intended purpose of the
finished product - I'm working towards a final wall thickness of 1/8 to
1/ 4 of an inch. This is a very delicate task requiring a great deal of
skill and utmost concentration. This is compounded by the fact that
when turning out the rim area of natural-edge pieces the cutting tool
may be in contact with the wood only a fraction of the time in each
revolution of the lathe (the rest of the time - because of the curving
nature of the edge - the tool is literally hitting only "thin air").
In this photo with the lathe stopped, you can see that I am
holding the cutting tool (I use specially ground custom-made bowl
gouges for this work) very firmly in my hand and against the tool rest,
which has been brought in as close to the work as possible to minimize
vibration. Because the wood is so thin at this point and because I
usually turn wood that is still green, it is very flexible as it spins
on the lathe at high rpms. At this point, even the smallest twitch or
slightest miscalculation can render hours of careful work into a
thousand splinters in less than a hundredth of a second!
After an initial drying process the bowl is carefully sanded to remove
any cutting marks or other imperfections. The bowl is then re-chucked
so that I can finish the bottom or "foot" of the bowl. In this instance
I'm turning a bottom that will match that particular bowl. A very
careful eye and a delicate touch as well as precise re-centering of the
piece between the tail-stock and the head-stock is crucial during this
process, as the bowl may have changed shape slightly since the final
turning of the inside.
In my work, no two bowls are the same and of course no two bottoms
will be the same either. Time-wise - depending on the bowl and its
overall shape - small bowls generally take between 2 to 4 hours to
complete, larger bowls can take as much as 8 to 10 hours to complete
and my three-footed bowls often take as much as 12 to 15 hours, usually
over a period of months.
All of my bowls are signed, dated and noted as to the species of wood.
After a very careful final drying process that may take several months
and hand-rubbing or buffing the final finish to bring out richness of
the wood and the full detail of its figure, the piece is almost
Depending on the intended purpose of a particular bowl, I either
finish the piece with a combination of mineral oils and beeswax, or
Tung oils and lacquer. Only when we are assured that the piece reflects
our highest artistic standards, and has stabilized to the point that it
will last indefinitely, is it offered for sale.
On the right is an example of one of my finely crafted and finished
natural-edge bowls. This piece is made from spalted maple wood. It
measures approximately 8" x 10", yet - due to the delicate thinness of
the turning - weighs only 14 ounces. Spalting is dark vein or
alternating zones of color variation caused by a pattern of fungus or
bacteria in the wood that once stabilized often looks like a pen and
ink drawing through the wood. Almost all of my turned pieces are made
from wood that I have found locally or bought or bartered for from
other local collectors rather than ordered from wholesale suppliers
(the usual source for many woodturners) of exotic and unusual woods.
Thus it is that each piece I make is unique to the special piece of
wood, and I often will keep certain found treasures for many months or
even years before I have an inspirational insight into how it can best
be utilized. An unflawed piece of maple with such a large amount of
beautifully patterned spalting as this is very rare, but is only one of
the things that make this bowl so special and unique. The aesthetically
pleasing lines, balanced shape, detailed craftsmanship and a light but
durable finish that show off the luminescence and warmth of the wood
all contribute as well to its beauty and value. You can see many other
examples of my work in the gallery pages of this site.
Please feel free to contact me by at EdricNFlorence@gmail.comt or by using our on-line Information Form.