I got this batch of norway maple from a friend who also happens to be an arborist. I gladly took these logs off his hands and began carving experimental bowls with them. The Baleen Bowl was one of the first ones I carved. Not all of them survived because with experimentation comes failure - I pushed boundaries intentionally and fully anticipated losing a good deal of the bowls. This allowed me to try new shapes without the fear of impending failure intruding on the creative process.
I split the log in half with a froe, wedges, and a maul, right along the center, or pith. Next I hollowed out the bowl.
After rough carving. I used an adze, followed by a mallet and gouge, to excavate the waste wood from the bowl's hollow. This is a bark-side up bowl, meaning that the natural curvature on the outer portion of the log translates to the movement over the top of the bowl.
The Finish Carving
A crack had developed in the bottom of the bowl. Since I had been doing some experimentation, I left the bottom slightly thicker than I normally would. Instead of calling it quits, I decided to "stitch" up the crack with butterfly keys, which stabilize the crack and hold the two opposing sides together. I put three keys inside the bowl and three on the bottom, making sure they were off-set so they wouldn't bottom out into one another. I had to flatten the areas where they were going to go so I could accurately reference the key on the bowl while laying out.
photo by Kristin Clements
Hands as Calipers
To judge the thickness of the bowl walls, I mostly use my fingers and hands as calipers. It's amazingly accurate and for dynamic shapes like this bowl, very convenient. Transitions are particularly difficult areas to navigate, and I'm seen here going over the transition from handles to the back edge of the bowl. The picture doesn't depict this, but I did this several times just for this stage to make sure I was retaining the visual shapes I wanted while also keeping consistent wall thickness throughout the transition.
Photo by Kristin Clements
Finish Carving the Interior
As finish carving progressed, I shaped the interior so that most of the texture from the rough cuts had been minimized, leaving a more even ground for creating the final texture.
Texture on the Interior
The handle ends of the bowl have steep walls, meaning that not only was it difficult to make smooth finish cuts because of that steepness, but also because it was all end grain. End grain is much harder to get through than long grain. The cuts on these steep walls took a tremendous amount of time with controlled, precise cuts to maintain some uniformity. I took one pass over the entire interior of the bowl with a small diameter, steep sweep bent gouge to establish the pattern and then took another complete pass with the same gouge to finalize the position of every flute.
I've created a contrasting texture, in both depth and direction, on the inner circle of the bottom of the bowl. If you look closely you can see the pencil line I've lightly drawn in to guide my cuts. This is also what makes interior finish cuts so difficult- you must exert a tremendous amount of force to get through the difficult end grain, but also maintain control at the end of the cut, where the risk of digging into another portion of the bowl is greatest.
Finish Carving the Exterior
The exterior of the bowl was carved with a very finely interwoven texture achieved with the same gouge used on the fluting on the interior of the bowl. This requires taking multiple passes over an area to create a more random pattern. The difficulty in this stage of the process is to maintain the level of the texturing, both the highs and the lows, so no one line stands out above the rest - over the entire surface.
Finish Carving the Exterior
Here is the other side of the bowl's exterior. This shows the roughed out portion with the longer, deeper cuts taken from an adze and wide gouge, and the contrasting finer gouge marks. I turn off all the lights in my shop and focus this one light aimed across the work - called raking light- which helps me to better see the texture and what needs to be fixed.
The Finished Bowl
After all final cuts are made, the bowl is finished with raw linseed oil. Then I take a million pictures of it.