We’ve all come across that pesky wood that seems to want to check and crack, especially along the end grain. This bowl crack
How do I fill small cracks on a wood bowl? Believe it or not a little wood glue and some sandpaper will do a good job filling a small crack in a wooden bowl. There are a couple of tricks to making this technique work well.
Let me tell you, I was very skeptical about using regular wood glue on my wooden bowls. I heard of some people using this trick, but I dismissed it as something I didn’t want to do to my bowls.
After all, who would want to have ugly yellow wood glue marks on their bowl, right? Well, that was my earlier thinking.
But I needed a good quick bowl crack fix to repair small minor cracks.
Now, I think this wood glue technique is fantastic!
Not One Size Fits All
The technique I’m going to share with you is not well suited for larger cracks or wide seams.
If you have huge cracks or cracks that go all the way through the wood bowl wall, use the CA or epoxy techniques that I share in this article.
Deeper cracks need to be filled, and the CA and epoxy both dry quickly and can be mixed with a filler material, such as wood dust or even a coloring agent like turquoise.
The bowl crack fix I’m going to share with you has its own built in wood color matching secret.
At the weekly turning group I attend, I was turning a cherry bowl. Cherry is notorious for cracking, and sure enough, the piece I was turning had a couple thin cracks on the outside.
Gary, a turning group friend, walked over and said, “you can fix that with wood glue.”
You have to picture Gary. He’s a very relaxed laid back kinda guy. When I first started turning, it was common for him to walk up and watch me turn without saying a word.
Then he’d take a step forward, set his plastic sweet tea cup on the lathe headstock and say, “Let me see your tool.”
He would efficiently show me a slightly different angle of approach with my bowl gouge, before taking his tea and walking off without another word. That’s Gary, a terrific guy.
So now he’s “pushing” this idea of wood glue on my bowl.
I thought for a second and realized he hasn’t steered me wrong before, so I gave in, for the moment.
As soon as my bowl looked like it had wood glue on it, I figured I’d just keep turning until the glue was gone.
Gary walked over to a shelf and grabbed some wood glue and a small piece of sandpaper.
When he was done, I was utterly shocked. Not only was the glue not visible, but the crack was also gone too.
I guess I was imagining running dried yellow glue dripping from the side of the bowl. This technique includes nothing like that.
Wood Crack Depth
I’ve found this trick works well on small to thin cracks that are not overly wide or deep. The depth of the crack should not be too deep nor go all the way through the bowl wall.
It’s essential to turn the bowl down to the final size before applying the wood glue. Unlike the CA or Epoxy techniques which fill large cracks, ooze out and need to be further turned, the wood glue trick is best on the final surface.
I turn the bowl down to the final pass and make a first sanding pass on the most coarse grit paper, usually 120 grit, before applying the wood glue.
Wood Glue Type
Most decent quality wood glues should work.
Although, Gary swears by Titebond II Premium Wood Glue. I do what Gary recommends, and it works. Ha!
Wood Bowl Crack Filling Trick
So here’s the trick.
You can’t just slop wood glue on and walk away, no, there is actually a procedure to this trick.
You will need two items and have them both on hand and ready. Obviously, the first item is the Titebond II wood glue.
The second item to have on hand is a small piece of sandpaper. A 120 or 180 grit piece of sandpaper will do the trick.
Oh, and by the way, work one crack at a time if you have more than one.
Apply just enough glue to fill the crack. Quickly wipe across the crack with a clean finger to remove the access glue, while simultaneously pushing the glue down into the crack.
Immediately, begin vigorously sanding across the crack with the grain of the wood.
SIDE NOTE – this is not about supported grain direction in this situation. No, merely sand inline with the surface grain of the wood. Sanding against the grain lines will leave scratch marks.
The sanding is the secret ingredient! Here’s where the magic happens.
The sanding action on top of the wet glue does three things at the same time.
1) The wood around the crack being sanded creates very fine dust that bonds with the glue surface.
2) The friction and heat caused by sanding skins, or dries the glue surface and makes the glue relatively stable.
3) Sanding levels the crack area, making it flush with the surrounding wood surface.
Wood Bowl Crack Filling Results
Now you see it, now you don’t.
That’s what happened the first time I was introduced to this amazingly simple yet potent trick on my cherry bowl.
A small gaping crack on the outside of the bowl went from “not so pleasant to look at” to gone, in a few seconds of rapid sanding.
Once the crack is sanded smooth, let the piece dry thoroughly overnight before applying any finish.
It really is that simple.
Wood Bowl Crack Filling Repairs
If you have a damaged bowl with a broken area or chunk, this trick can work as well.
I recommend using just enough glue to coat both sides of the open crack before joining the pieces together.
Use a damp paper towel to quickly remove any excess glue and sand like crazy.
You will need to sand all of the crack areas before the glue surface starts to dry. This means sanding fast and on both sides of the crack.
If all goes well, the crack will be barely visible when you are finished.
Wood Bowl Crack Filling After Finished
If you have a crack on a bowl that is already finished, you will need to do some initial sanding.
Sand around the crack area until all the finish is removed and the bare wood is exposed.
Remember, part of this trick is to raise dust during the sanding process. That dust coats and covers the glue to make it blend in with the rest of the bowl surface.
As you prepare the area, be sure dust is coming up delicate and fine, and this trick should work well.
Wood Bowl Crack Filling Conclusion
So there you have it, a super fast bowl crack fix. Have I convinced you to put ugly yellow wood glue on your beautiful wood bowl?
Well, if you’re still skeptical, like I was, perhaps try it first on a piece of scrap wood or a less desirable bowl.
Once you see the results, I think you’ll be as surprised as I was.
Let me know if you use this technique or if you plan to give it a try. Please leave a comment below.
Fixing and taking care of bowls is important. Read these next:
• BEST WOOD BOWL CARE HOW TO (CLEAN, MAINTAIN, RESTORE)
• WOOD BOWL CRACK FIX SECRETS – WOODTURNING REPAIRING CRACKS
• WOOD BOWL REPAIR HOW TO FIX DAMAGE
I used wood glue on my last small piece turning. Splits and termite damaged wood. I didn’t allow glue to fully cure (git impatient) and continued to turned. Fortunately the glue helped hold the piece but was gooey when I started sanding. I ended up using an o-ring pick to pull out the glue and finish sanding. The crack was through the piece so I ended up sanding through the crack to accent it. I suppose there is a silver lining in every cloud. Ext time I’ll e more patient a d let the glue dry. Lol
Thank you for writing and sharing! It also sounds like you had thick areas of glue. Yes, those require longer drying times, as you discovered.
All the best to you and Happy Turning!
Thanks for your tip. I haven’t tried it yet, but I am about to try it on a finished bowl which happens to be one of my favourites. If it works for me (which I’m sure it will) then I will make it my regular way to fill any future cracks in bowls and other turned pieces.
Sounds good. I think you’ll like this technique.
All the best to you and Happy Turning!
I have Titebond 3 and had been filling cracks with thin CA glue. It works well. I actually just finished a bowl about an hour ago, so I’ll try this out on some of the small stress cracks. I’ve got some very fine dust on the lathe bed right now having sanded up to 600 grit. Do you prefer hand sanding after wiping off the glue? I tend to use abranet myself. I found a way to cut sheets in half that’ll still velcro to a round disc for power sanding. It really speeds things up.
I think you’re right about the wood glue though – it’s got a bit of flex in it that CA doesn’t, even if CA gives a stronger hold. It’s very probably more likely to be food safe as well. Check out my Instagram @shtanto. I’ll be adding pictures shortly
All the best
Thanks for the question.
Yes, the wood glue will hold better, once cured and be more flexible compared to CA.
And I like to hand sand because I can focus the sanding to just the area of the glue while keeping the sanding direction in-line with the wood grain.
You shouldn’t need that fine dust when using this technique. The sanding action will create fine dust and seal the top of the glued surface.
The isssue with the above technique is that it is a surface fix (you mentioned that it is to be applied after most bowl work is completed). The issue is that that also assumes that the crack is stable. As the fix is really only a surface fix there is little strength to the fix and if the bowl/object dries further the crack may open later. By adding one more step the crack reopening issue will be better mitigated. Get a small shop vac. with a crevice nozzle (the opening of the hose end attachment is a ~1 inch wide slit ). If the crack is through and through apply the glue to outside of the crack while holding the vac slit nozzle in contact with the inside surface of the crack. Turn on the vac and begin to apply the glue. You will see the glue disappearing into the crack. It will be sucked through the whole thickness of the wood coating both interior surfaces. Now you have glue holding the entire crack as opposed to just the surface. This is a more stable repair. If the crack does not go totally through place the crevice nozzle over a section of the crack, turn on the vac and proceed as per above applying the glue to the crack beyond the nozzle. Again you will see the glue disappear into the crack. Now follow with the sanding procedure as above.
This technique works for all types of glue. If you have a large crack which requires a large amount of glue and you don’t want any of it getting into the vac place a paper towel between the nozzle and the wood to absorb the excess glue.
One additional point if the crack is large use Gorilla glue. This glue expands as it dries and fills the crack. To use it effectively moisten the two sides of the crack prior to application of the glue as it is water activated and is VERY strong. If gluing green wood no moisture is required as the wood supplies its own moisture. Practice with this before using as it expands quite a bit and before using the sanding technique you need to let the glue expand most of the way (about 10 minutes).
Thank you for sharing this technique!
Here’s what I do along with what you have written. When sanding a bowl I sometimes place a sheet of paper towel on the bed ways and bench top to catch the fine sanding dust. After sanding I dump the dust into the old 35mm film cans I saved from my photography days. Any small container would work. It doesn’t take very many sanding sessions to fill the plastic can. This gives me a ready supply of dust to mix with epoxy, etc. whenever I need it.
Thank you for sharing this great tip!
That’s a brilliant idea for collecting the fine particals of wood for later use. Well done!