I’ll be the first to admit that I am still learning as a craftsman. Since I work in wood, stained glass and hand tooled leather, I have all that much more to learn to really master my trade. But the great thing about learning as I go is that its a fun process.
I’ll be doing a series of posts about a new project – routed bowls. I have never made any kind of bowls before. I have no experience turning wood on the lathe and am not really inclined to try to learn turning at this point. I don’t have enough shop space, I don’t have the money for all the new tools and I have enough other things I want to do that it isn’t a high priority. But I do like wooden bowls, so when I saw an episode on the Woodsmith Shop about routed bowls I figured I wanted to explore them.
My birthday just passed recently, and that is usually the time when I get some new toys, err, tools for my workshop. This year I asked for a bowl cutting router bit, as well as the bowl sanding kit. I already had pretty much everything else I needed for this project.
I also had a block of fiery box elder wood I’d bought on Ebay for another project for a client but that deal fell through. So I had a spare block of waxed, green wood sitting around with no purpose. Now, I’ll be completely honest here – I have never worked with green wood before. This whole project is completely new to me and I figured I’d go ahead and share it with you, as I go through the learning (and error) process, step by step.
Routed bowls can only have a maximum depth of a little less than 3 inches, including using the router collet extension. The block of box elder was about 5 1/2″ thick, so rather than waste the wood, I resawed it on the band saw into two blocks (at the same time cutting away all of the wax), so I could make 2 bowls.
Here are the two blocks, first from the top:
And here are the 2 blocks of wood from the bottom:
As you can see, this box elder has unbelievable coloring and grain. At this point the moisture content of the wood is about 40%. And yes, I went ahead and routed out the inside with the wood at 40% moisture. I know all of you wood turners are shaking your heads at me right now, but remember I’m doing this as a learning project and also to do some experimenting. I wanted to see how much warp was going to happen in two different ways. On the first blank I routed out the inside and cut the outside to rough shape at the band saw all on the first day. On the second block I only routed out the inside but left the outer block intact to see what effect that would have on reducing warping.
In the top picture you can see that I drew 2 circles on each block, one for the inner dimensions and one for the outer dimensions. To route that inner circle I needed a template, which I made from a piece of leftover 3/4″ melamine, starting with rough cutting on the jigsaw and finishing on the sander:
I know that the template doesn’t look all that round in the picture, but it’s really just the picture as well as the melamine surface. The template is quite round, I promise.
I also needed a large face plate for my router so that it would sit and move on the template without tipping. I used a piece of 3/8″ thick clear acrylic (plexiglass), cutting out the center holes and the screw holes on the drill press. As you can see I’ve got the large face plate mounted to my router along with the bowl cutting router bit, but NOT with the collet extension yet.
As you can see at this point I’ve needed quite a lot of tools just to get started with this project:
- Band saw – to resaw the wood blank to size and cut away the wax
- moisture meter – to check the moisture content of the wood and commit the sin of making bowls out of green wood
- compass – to trace out the inner and outer circles as well as trace the template
- jig saw – to rough cut the template
- oscillating sander – to sand the circle on the template to final shape
- power drill – to screw the template to the blank
- drill press – to cut the holes for the router face plate
- hole saw – to cut the center hole on the face plate
- forstner bit – to countersink the screw holes on the face plate and make sure they are the right depth since the 3/8″ thick face plate is thicker than the normal face plate
- bowl cutting router bit
Whew, now that everything is set up, in the next post I’ll pick up with starting to route out the bowls.