Why turn wood bowls? When friends or family first hear about me turning wood bowls, their first response is usually, “You’re doing what?” Then they typically just stare, with a bit of an odd face and wait for me to explain.
Turning wood bowls isn’t easy to explain sometimes. The answer is really more complex than most want to hear. Typically, I’ll say something like “It’s a lot of fun, and I enjoy working with wood.”
While all of that is true, it doesn’t even scratch the surface of why I love to turn wood bowls. There are many layers and levels that make wood bowl turning a true joy and an enigma.
Let me attempt to explain.
Functionality – Turn Wood Bowls
There is the functional aspect of turning wood bowls. For centuries turning bowls and other wood turned products were needed for daily use. Unfortunately, with the advent of plastics and more durable commercial ceramics, wood turned items have almost disappeared from our daily routine.
I love history! In many ways, making wood bowls is reliving a bit of our cultural history.
Preparing a fresh salad in a wood turned bowl takes on a different level of satisfaction. The texture, feel, and even the sound of mixing greens against the curved wood grain is very pleasing. (Wow, I had no plans for lunch today. I think I’ve just talked myself into making a fantastic salad. Ha!)
The simplicity of recycling and converting a tree that was most likely headed toward demise and turning it into a functional everyday utilitarian item can’t be overlooked.
In our abundant world of material goods, we sorta take things like bowls for granted. Perhaps our primal selves, I wonder, deep down, truly appreciate the joy of making something useful from a natural resource.
It is impossible not to be filled with a sense of rewarding satisfaction when you take a chunk of wood, spin it around a bit, and then cradle a finished bowl in your hands. Magic happens when you turn wood bowls.
Creating wood turned bowls is so rewarding!
I’ve done a lot of woodwork in my life. I enjoy making furniture, projects, and cabinets, among other things.
However, I’ve never finished a bookcase or cabinet and thought to myself, “That was so fun I think I want to make another, and another!” No, usually it’s more like “I’m glad that’s done and finished.” The opposite is true about turning wood bowls.
Turning wood bowls never seems to grow old.
The length of time it takes to make a wood bowl is minimal compared to most traditional woodworking projects. And, once bowl gouge techniques are mastered, turning a bowl can be done in mere minutes.
The speed of the wood bowl turning process also allows for relatively fast advancement and mastery. If you turn a bowl and decide the design isn’t quite right, you can turn another immediately and try a different approach.
At the end of the day, several wood bowls can be turned and ready to display, give away, or even sell. Wood bowl turning provides a tremendous sense of accomplishment in a relatively short time.
We can’t always be out in nature as much as we like. It’s important, especially nowadays, to connect with nature whenever possible.
Having a beautiful wood turned bowl around brings the outside in and helps us connect with nature. The natural hues and flowing grain of a wood turned bowl seem to have a calming effect in most any environment.
Running my fingers over the grain of a wood turned bowl connects me to nature. I connect to that tree. Preserving nature in the form of a wood turned bowl makes it readily available even when we can’t go outside.
Every tree has a story. I often wonder about each tree while I’m turning a bowl. How old is it? What did it witness? What might it say if it could?
I’ve been able to turn bowls from a tree that stood near my family’s driveway. It wasn’t until after turning a few bowls I made a startling realization. This tree, now these bowls, witnessed me coming and going from my childhood home. Not occasionally, but every single time!
We may not know the story of every tree we turn into bowls, but the history and lifespan of each tree was a part of many stories. Those stories all become encapsulated in every bowl turned.
Yes, trees are a natural resource. They grow all around and seem somewhat ubiquitous with most landscapes. It is easy to take that green in our sights for granted.
Wood bowl turning is an act of appreciating. As wood bowl turners, we carefully select pieces and parts of a tree to highlight and feature.
Think of that scene from The Lion King where the future lion king cub is held up in ceremony. That! That is what we do with each and every bowl turned. Hey! Look at this!
Yes, we all get busy and frequently take many things for granted. Turning a wood bowl is when we shine all the light on the fantastic trees we are blessed to have around us.
Reclaiming, salvaging, and recycling wood that would otherwise go to waste or other uses is the ultimate way to show our respect for this outstanding natural resource. Turning a bowl from a process that would otherwise go unnoticed is true appreciation.
Wood bowl turning is an art form. Well, perhaps those first few bowls were a bit less artistic, but they still are art.
Where else do we get to make or create art in today’s world? For many of us, we are disconnected from the process of creating. Creating wood turned bowls is a foundational creative artistic expression.
The trees themselves are beautiful artistic expressions, and it’s up to us to showcase that magnificent beauty through our artistic filters.
When done well, turned wood bowls will last a lifetime, perhaps several lifetimes. We have the opportunity to make something, a wood bowl, that will be passed down and valued for decades to come.
Wood bowl turners get to make heirlooms! Those trees, the stories, the people involved all carry on in the heart of each turned bowl.
What have you given friends and family for gifts in the last few years? What, you can’t remember? Neither can I. However, give a wood bowl that you turned and you will NEVER forget. Nor will they!
I find myself checking up on gifted wood bowls when we visit family and friends. It’s almost as if the wood bowls are friends (and family), too.
In our age of instant gratification, how often do we come across anything handmade? Turning wood bowls is a fantastic example of a handmade art form.
As the wood bowl turner, you make the decisions and guide your hands, heart, and soul throughout the entire creation process. A part of every woodturner is in each bowl.
I believe we were given hands to do and make things. I love making bowls by hand!
Putting a new bowl blank on the lathe is thrilling and a bit suspenseful each and every time. What’s inside this piece of wood? How will the finished bowl look? How do I want to shape this piece?
Internal questions (some doubts when first starting out) lead to shavings. Shavings lead to form. Form leads to a vessel being cradled fresh from the lathe.
The process of making a wood turned bowl is so captivating and intriguing. Time stands still. On many occasions after turning a bowl, I have to check a second clock to confirm the time. Time indeed flies when you turn wood bowls.
Flowing curly shavings flying through the air and the subtle curves of an elegant bowl is the best remedy for whatever ails you. At the lathe, and turning a bowl, nothing else in the world matters.
I’ve gone to my lathe and turned bowls initially upset about something and found the process of turning washes all my troubles away.
Well, sometimes it may take a second bowl to forget everything really. Ha!
While everything I just shared about turning wood bowls is true, there’s still something else that drives the passion to make bowls.
The connection between the turner and a finished wood turned bowl is almost primal and definitely beyond words. We can talk and explain all we want, but there really is no way to explain this connection thoroughly.
Making wood bowls is just right… internally, spiritually, and naturally, deep-down satisfyingly RIGHT.
So if you ask me why I turn wood bowls and I say, “because its fun and I like working with wood,” that’s a cop-out.
Here’s the real answer to why I turn wood bowls: “I turn bowls because it stirs my soul, connects me with nature, people and history and makes my life richer on countless levels.”
OK, now, who wants to join me?
Welcome and Happy Turning,