Carving a Bowl
Green Woodworking and Wood Selection
- Green woodworking encompasses a number of projects, but specifically refers to using fresh cut wood, which contains a good deal of moisture. This makes it flexible and much easier to carve than dry wood
- Many future problems in the wood, like a knot or rot, can be avoided or greatly reduced by selecting logs that have certain characteristics.
- Sealing the wood on the ends helps to keep more moisture in and reduce the amount of moisture lost through them, which also reduces cracks. Sealed wood can be used months, or even a year later.
- The log is kept intact, removing pieces as needed. The log end is then resealed.
- The bowl must be worked quickly through its roughing stages - the same day as it is taken off the log - or put in a plastic bag, to prevent too much moisture loss. Be sure to get back to it quickly, or check in daily, to make sure no mold is forming.
- The bowl is roughed to a thickness that accommodates taking a final pass over the entire bowl with a series of very sharp tools, which helps to give the surface of the wood a burnished feel. Every finished surface of the bowl comes straight off the blade of a hand tool.
The Tools // Roughing out the form
- The adze and carving axe a responsible for most of the roughing work, removing large portions of waste wood very quickly and efficiently. These are also the two tools capable of doing the carver most harm.
- Sometimes I use a mallet and gouge to rough out portions of the bowl that the adze and axe have trouble reaching.
- I switch to a different, lighter axe that helps me to remove small slices of wood to achieve the thickness I want without wearing out my arms, hands, and shoulder.
- For finish cuts I use a series of gouges of different sizes and shapes, which affects the texture.
- Most of the flat surfaces on the outside of my bowls are achieved by using a spokeshave
- How thin is too thin or too thick? How do I avoid cracks? There is no simple answer, but paying special attention to consistent thickness is important. Where there is more wood, there is more moisture. If a thick portion is next to a thin portion, they will lose different amounts of moisture, and at different rates. This causes tension, which causes cracking. Some thickness can be tolerated along the long grain of the bowl, but is much more sensitive to this rule on the end grain, where most of the moisture is lost.
- When the bowl is dry I take finishing cuts to add texture and decoration - while doing rough cuts while the wood was wet, I accounted for leaving just enough thickness to take these cuts without having to worry about further shaping. This step takes time and practice - be patient!
- Different gouges leave different textures and can be used in a myriad of ways if you use your imagination. Smaller, more steeply curved gouges will leave a deeper channel and more dramatic texture. It also passes through the wood more easily because less of the edge is engaged. A more shallow gouge will leave less dramatic of a texture but it harder to move through the wood (and get a smooth, consistent cut) because more of the edge in engaged.