7 Wood Bowl Woodturning Books – Favorites

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Knowledge is the key to almost every success in life. And it’s especially true for learning how to make a wooden bowl.

While the steps for making a wood bowl can be quickly explained, the incredible amount of details each step contains can take a lifetime to master.

One of the best ways to gain knowledge and expand your skill level in turning wood bowls, besides spending more time at the lathe, is through books.

Good woodturning books filled with valuable information about turning bowls can not only inform, they can be a great source of inspiration.

In this list of what I consider the seven best woodturning books for bowl turning, you will find an enormous wealth of information from how to process freshly cut timber to what finish is the best to apply to your completed wood bowls.

And, of course, several of these books detail numerous techniques for turning wooden bowls from some of the top turners of our time.

Woodturning Books Starting Out

If you are new to woodturning and making wooden bowls, I recommend starting with knowledge first. You can’t go wrong.

Of course, it can initially be a bit overwhelming at times, and occasionally some of the terminology and techniques might not make sense.

Give it time, and soon you will be putting your new found knowledge to practical use and beautifully turned bowls will be your reward.

Invest your initial time in knowledge and experience instead of purchasing a bunch of equipment hastily and your wallet will thank you in the long run too.

Woodturning Books Page Details

Woodturning Books Advanced

Even if you’re a more seasoned wood bowl turner, its impossible to know everything there is to know about bowl turning techniques, the nuances of wood properties and all the various other methods available.

Take a little break, open a book and expand your knowledge base. Who knows where your new found information will take you.

I own each of these books, and I frequently pull them off the shelf for a quick reference or an inspirational boost. Occasionally I’ll make myself comfortable and read one all the way through. Each time I’m exposed to these books, my woodturning skills change, expand, and grow.

Let’s dive in. Here are my favorite woodturning books.

Turning Green Wood
by Michael O’Donnell

Turning Green Wood is a well-organized book that details the process of dissecting a freshly cut tree into countless different possibilities.

Once the tree parts are better understood, this book then shares several projects featuring green wood turnings.

In the first half of this book, Michael describes the details of sizing, cutting and selecting bowl blanks in great detail.

Turning Green Wood is well illustrated, and numerous examples depict exact locations where natural edge bowls can be located compared to traditional round rim bowls, just as one example.

In the second half of the book, Michael shares exciting projects step-by-step with bright, clean photos illustrating the way. Each project showcases the benefits of turning green wood.

Identifying Wood – Accurate Results With Simple Tools
by R. Bruce Hoadley

In this book, Identifying Wood, the subtle nuances of every wood species is put under the microscope, or rather the hand loupe.

Utilizing the knowledge and skills shared in this book it is possible to identify wood, not by checking bark, leaves, and tree shape, but by investigating a small piece of dimensional lumber.

Most people throw up there hands when asked what type of wood a particular board was milled from. Unless, a person has a firsthand working knowledge of a specific species, identifying an individual board can seem impossible.

Identifying Wood and the investigative skills it shares makes it possible to identify that odd piece of wood that someone randomly gave you.

Here’s a clue, every wood has a unique identifiable “fingerprint.” Once you know how and where to look, all the doors open up.

Spalted Wood
by Sara C. Robinson, Hans Michaelsen, Julia C. Robinson

Spalted Wood is simply magical. If you’ve turned a bowl from spalted timber, you know what I mean.

Graphical lines and unique patterns play through spalted wood making each piece sing with an expression not found in regular unspalted timber.

The Spalted Wood book is well illustrated with numerous photos of spalted wood pieces and close up samples of well-identified spalting.

There is a large section of the book dedicated to the history of spalted wood in woodworking, from the eighteenth century all the way up to today.

Mel and Mark Lindquist’s long relationship with spalted wood and David Ellsworth’s techniques for promoting spalting growth are spelled out in great detail as well.

The Spalted Wood book concludes with a DIY guide for controlling and spalting your own wood.

If you’re curious about spalted wood, this book is the resource to get your hands on.

Turning Bowls
with Richard Raffan

Turning Bowls is just as the name describes, in great detail. Richard Raffan goes through every step of the wood bowl turning process in this thoroughly illustrated book.

From the details of his turning studio and tools to every step along the path of making a wood turned bowl, Richard covers the full spectrum of topics.

Numerous ways to attach bowl blanks to the lathe are illustrated as well as every possible bowl gouge technique available. Example after example is well photographed and shown in this fantastic book.

If you want to quickly see as many possibilities for how to turn a wood bowl, this is the book to start with. Richard hasn’t left a single step out of this book.

In Turning Bowls by Richard Raffan you will learn how to make a bowl from the first bowl blank to the final sanding and finish.

Ellsworth On Woodturning
How A Master Creates Bowls, Pots, and Vessels
by David Ellsworth

Since the 1970’s David Ellsworth has been creating one of a kind bowls, hollow forms, and works of art.

In this book, Ellsworth On Woodturning, David Ellsworth covers the many nuances of turning bowls and hollow forms in great scope.

Between custom made hollowing tools to regular stretching breaks, David offers a unique take on the art of woodturning.

Throughout his life, David Ellsworth has followed the woodturning journey not as a production turner but as an artist. Because of this unique perspective, David’s approach to turning wood is more like shaking hands with nature compared to merely turning an object.

While David shares tons of his techniques and skills in this book, I feel it’s his outlook on the art of woodturning that sets him apart.

Be sure to take special note in the shear-scraping section of this book. Shear-scraping is a fantastic finishing skill that will advance any turner to the next level.

The Art of Turned Bowls
Designing Bowls With A World-Class Turner
by Richard Raffan

This second book in my list, The Art of Turned Bowls, by Richard Raffan breaks with the whole how-to approach, although there are plenty of how-to sections included.

Instead, this book showcases examples of various bowls for their shape, style, and presence.

Of all my woodturning books, this is my “go-to” for inspiration and design ideas. If I get stuck about how to make the best of a particular bowl blank, this book seems to always get me going, usually with multiple exciting ideas.

Design is probably one of the most essential factors, that’s is addressed the least in turning wood bowls. Once basic woodturning skills are well-honed, it’s a good time to really question the design and style of each bowl you turn.

In The Art of Turned Bowls, Richard gives excellent examples of how to look at shapes differently and consider how subtle changes to any form can quickly impact the overall feel and presence of a turned piece.

Understanding Wood Finishing
How to Select and Apply the Right Finish

by Bob Flexner

Understanding Wood Finishing is the book that has been so needed to help simplify and clarify the complex world of wood finishes.

In this incredibly thorough book, Bob Flexner explains how his life as a woodworker was always complicated by the confusion over wood finishes. Can’t we all relate?

After a great deal of frustration and a bit of luck Bob had some eye-opening conversations that led to him studying the chemistry of wood finishes in greater focus.

In the Understanding Wood Finishing book, Bob Flexner shares with us, his fellow woodworkers, the specific information we need to know minus all the manufacturers “mumbo-jumbo” that always seems to kink up the works.

Bob sets to clarify, simplify and demystify the world of wood finishing and make it finally understandable and readily applicable for all our projects.

Woodturning Books Spine Details

Books are a vital component to most personal and creative advancement. Using these seven woodturning books to gain knowledge, it’s nearly guaranteed that your wood bowl turning abilities will skyrocket.

Besides the information contained within, there is also so much inspiration as well.

Woodturning Books Seven Best

As I write these words, I’m thinking about a project I just saw while flipping through the Turning Green Wood book.

I think I want to go try something new. Time to go and get the lathe warmed up now.

In the meantime, take a look at these books and tell me which is your favorite(s). Please leave me a comment below.

Here are other sources of turning knowledge worth reading:

Happy Turning (and Learning),

6 Responses

  1. Hi Kent,

    Thank you so much for the article on books to read for wood turners. I have the book “Turning Wood with Richard Raffin” published in 1985. Great book. But I was wondering, Is there another newer edition with updated pictures? Cause I noticed the cover of the book in your article was different from the cover of the 1985 edition of Raffin’s book. Just wondering. Thanks Kent.



    1. Billy,
      Hm? I’m not sure. You’d have to check with Amazon or the library and see if there is an update.
      Happy Turning!

  2. Kent,
    Thanks for your time to post on You Tube. I have seen a lot on your channel that pertains directly to me also. I too have had great experiences with David Ellsworth, so, we have something in common there, oh and woodturning too! You have reviewed my experiences with Davids teachings, remarkable fella, renewed my interest in bowl turning and taught me some new stuff I hadn’t seen before. Thank You! I hope you keep on tippin’ us turners out here in video land.

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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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