10 Woodturning Tips and Tricks for Wood Bowls

Woodturning tips, tricks, and secrets for making wood bowls are numerous and extremely valuable. Knowing the right woodturning tips to use at the right time can save time, money, and potential injury.

As humans, we have amazing skills over other species. We can remember, visualize, plan, and communicate. These may all seem simple and straightforward, but let’s think about that.

Because of who came before us and communicated their experiences, we are where we are today. This is true of almost every aspect of our lives, even woodturning.

Many people came before us and learned how to do things better, faster, smarter and safer. We get to benefit from their findings if we take the time to learn from this knowledge base.

I’m fortunate enough to grow my woodturning skills with a great group of experienced, sharing turners and continue now after several years. Day after day, woodturning tips and tricks have poured out in simple suggestions, valuable lessons, and detailed explanations.

Learning the nuances of woodturning wood bowls has taught me to learn and seek others’ advice and experience. Digging through books and reading detailed accounts of techniques learned has led me to realize something simple, yet profound.

Woodturning tips must be communicated to everyone interested, so they stay alive and improve over time. This is why I created an eBook – 101 Wood Bowl Turning Tips, Tricks, and Secrets.

To give you a taste of the woodturning tips found in this book, I’m sharing ten tips here. So let’s get started.

1. Divider Markings on Bench

I have three different four-jaw chuck sizes, each to fit a different ideal tenon size. With my dividers, I transfer the size of each jaw set to my wood bowl tenons. Because the size of the jaws is consistent, I don’t need to measure the jaws each time I mark a tenon. Instead, I have four small holes on the backsplash of my workbench. I place the left divider leg in the far left hole and quickly adjust the divider to match my small, medium, or large four-jaw chuck. Then I transfer the measurement to the tenon on the bowl blank.

Woodturning Tips Chuck Sizing

2. Weighing In

Shifting body weight is what makes the smooth, continuous cuts on either the exterior or interior of a wood bowl. Reduced hand and arm motions and increased leaning or shifting of body weight are what is needed for the most exceptional passes. Pay attention to how your body moves while you turn. Allow your body weight to play the critical role it must in your wood bowl turning.

3. Tick Center of Tenon with Spindle Gouge

Realigning and centering a wood bowl to turn the tenon off can be challenging at times. To help yourself in advance, get in the habit of making a small indented tick mark with a spindle detail gouge as soon as the tenon is complete. This way, when you later reverse chuck the bowl, the live tailstock center can quickly re-find the center of the bowl tenon.

Woodturning Tips Tick Center

4. Wet Green Wood

Green wood can be turned very thin; that is one of its amazing properties. However, that thin wood can dry quickly and begin to heat from friction and crack. To prevent this problem, frequently mist thinly cut wood with a water sprayer to slow drying and overheating.

5. Watch Where You Watch

This secret is not simple at first. Our habit is to watch the bowl gouge tip as we turn a bowl. However, the real shape of the bowl is happening elsewhere. Look at the top profile of the bowl when turning, not at the cutting tool location. You will be able to see and adjust for the subtle changes being made as you turn.

Woodturning Tips Watch Where You Watch

6. Pry Instead Of Fly

Pry off the bark with a screwdriver before turning. When roughing a blank, that has bark still attached, and you don’t plan to make it a natural edge piece, take time to manually remove as much bark as possible with the lathe off. Bark coming loose and flying from a turning lathe is dangerous and potentially harmful.

101 WoodBowl Turning Tips Display

7. Marker Sharpening

Keep a marker at your sharpening station and use it to color the bevel before you sharpen a bowl gouge. The goal of sharpening is to restore a sharp edge to the bowl gouge, not reshape the tool. If the bevel angle is not correctly matched when you begin sharpening, you are changing the gouge bevel angle. To prevent this, color the bevel and lightly touch a small area of the bevel to the sharpening wheel. The touch to the wheel should remove a stripe across the entire bevel. If the marker was removed from the top of the bevel, the gouge sharpening jig needs to be moved inward a bit. If the marker was removed from the heel of the gouge, the gouge needs to move back a touch.

Woodturning Tips Marker Sharpening

8. Side Effects

For many reasons, an adjustable light is critical while turning. Besides much-needed illumination, while turning, side light helps to accentuate high or low spots and identify sanding against the grain. Move the light so it shines across the bowl surface from the side and you will quickly see tool marks, bumps and valleys, and scratches that need to be addressed.

Woodturning Tips Side Effect

9. Tenon Focus

The three most important aspects of the anatomy of a bowl tenon are: 1) the tenon does not touch the bottom of the chuck when seated, 2) the dovetail is angled to fit the dovetail angle of the chuck, and 3) the shoulder of the tenon is flat and square to receive the tops edges of the chuck smoothly with no gaps.

Woodturning Tips Tenon Focus

10. Center Mass

When turning a bowl with thin walls, leave a core or cone of center material in the middle of the bowl for as long as possible to stabilize the turning piece. Once the top rim is complete, move down the bowl interior and then slowly remove the center mass as you work down to the bowl bottom. Do not return to the top as the area will most likely be vibrating without the center mass.

Woodturning Tips Center Mass

These are just a sample of the 101 woodturning tips I share in my 101 Wood Bowl Turning Tips, Tricks, and Secrets ebook.

As I was writing this ebook, I realized I needed to add many safety tips I’ve learned along the way as well, so I added an additional 10 safety tips. This ebook is real 111 woodturning tips, tricks, and secrets.

Woodturning Tips LeapFrog

I’ve found that learning on my own is okay, but there can be setbacks and discouragement along the route. Having the shared knowledge, mostly tips and tricks that others have provided have helped me in so many ways.

Encouragement is critical to advancing a skill like wood bowl turning. Reading these woodturning tips helps me realize someone else was at the point of confusion, not knowing, or something potential not safe, and they found a solution.

Once you have learned woodturning tips and applied them, they stay with you, almost like an internal instructor that’s watching your back. Knowing and combining the many woodturning tips can leapfrog your woodturning skills much quicker than trying to figure out everything as you go.

Woodturning Tips Pinterest Image


I can think of so many times when I was first starting that I had no idea what to do next, or how to solve a particular problem. Acquiring nuggets of information as I went made all the difference for me.

Remembering the little secret tricks that someone leaned in and suggested for me makes a world of difference in building confidence. After all, we build confidence and trust by doing something successfully and repeating that process.

Having these woodturning tips in the back of my mind, (now in ebook form) is a massive part of my wood bowl turning foundation. This bank of knowledge gives me the confidence I need to know I can turn almost anything imaginable on the lathe.

I hope you find these 10 Woodturning Tips to be useful and have the opportunity to apply them the next time you turn. And remember, there are over one hundred more woodturning tips waiting here if you’re interested.

Here are more wood bowl turning tips, just for you!

As always, Happy Turning!

8 Responses

  1. Hi Kent

    I have retired at the end of April and want to take up woodturning as a hobby. Your youtube videos has inspired me to consider Bowl Turning. I am in the process of aquiring equipment, but it turns out to be a very expensive undertaking.

    I’m really impressed with the exceptional way in which you teach and demonstrate, making it seem so easy.

    I am looking forward to get started with bowl turning and am sure that your book will be most helpful in making this dream come true.

    Kind regards

    1. Andre,

      Take your time and just get what you’ll need and use. I wish you all the best and hope you find great joy in woodturning.

      All the best to you and Happy Turning!

  2. Kent, I must say that you are clear and precise in your instructions. I’m a retired army solider and I haven’t turned in years. I turned my first maple and walnut bowl when I was 15 years and nobody ever used the lathe before. I laminated my wood together and I glued and used newspaper in between my waste piece and then screwed on the face plate. We didn’t have chucks or many attachments for the lathe back then in wood shop.

    When I retired I got into turning small bowls and pens then my wife took ill. I stopped turning to spend more time with her until her recent passing. I forgot the basic’s and I was doing everything wrong and I got a catch and the bowl went flying out of the chuck. I was smart enough to put the tool down and walk away because I knew that I was rusty and needed a refresher in turning again and this is where you came in. I just ordered the Oneway Vari-Grind to create the 55 degree angle you like to use. I already have the Wolverine sharping system attached to my grinder. I’m looking forward to getting back to wood turning again after sharpening my techniques and gaining my skills back.


    1. Joe,
      Welcome back!
      Thanks for joining us and I thrilled you are picking up turning again!
      This course will hopefully accelerate the refresh process.
      All the best to you.
      Enjoy and Happy Turning,

  3. Hey Kent,
    What an excellent guide for bowl turning!

    Lately, I started bowl-turning as a hobby. Did some research, watched lots of YouTube videos, read some articles – but this guide is life-saver. I implemented some of the tips and tricks you incorporated here, and guess what? The result is unbelievable, and I already developed my turning. I admire your effort.

    I must share this article with my other bowl turning fellows – they will enjoy this a lot.

    1. Hello Martin,

      May I say, you just made my day with your kind words! Thank you!

      I’m thrilled to be able to help and know you are seeing good results!

      Take care and Happy Turning,

    1. Hello Robert,
      My eBook, 101 Wood bowl Turning Tips, Tricks, and Secrets is in PDF format, and sized to be printed on your computer printer.

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Kent Weakley-Turn A Wood Bowl-About
Hi, I’m Kent

Hi! I’m Kent, a husband, dad, papa, graphic designer, photographer, artist, traveler, birder, dark chocolate lover and I’m addicted to turning wood bowls! Learn more about me, see the online courses I made for you, and join our group on Facebook. Ready for your wood bowl adventure? Click here to Get Started

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