How the bowls are made.
Ash tree felled by hurricane.
My method of making a wood bowl is to start with finding and harvesting the timber from trees that have fallen or been cut down.
I try to rescue what I can from a tree that would otherwise be ground up into chips and hauled to a landfill or sold as firewood. This entails cutting the logs with chainsaws.
Once I get the logs home,
I coat the ends with a waterproof sealer to help slow down the drying of the logs. Logs begin to dry as soon as they are cut. Too rapid drying causes splitting, rendering the logs useless for bowl making.
Ash logs cut into short lengths.
As soon as I can,
I "rip" the logs lengthwise into halves with a chainsaw to further slow the splitting and to prepare to turn them into bowls. This step requires some consideration because how you rip the logs has a big impact on the size of the bowl as well as its appearance.
Using a bandsaw,
I cut out a round, or blank. A bit of experience is called for here because the size and orientation of the round also effects the final shape and appearance of the finished bowl. I'm also on the lookout for cracks.
Then I "rough turn" the round or blank,
removing as much wood as possible, while leaving the walls of the bowl thick. The objective is to speed up the drying process of the green or fresh wood which could otherwise take 1-3 years or more. Often, when rough turning the fresh, green timber on the lathe, the water inside the wood flies out, spraying everything for quite a distance including me. I usually hang a shower curtain on both sides of the lathe to catch the water.
Over the course of many months,
I periodically weigh each rough turned bowl to determine how much water it has lost. When the weight remains unchanged over a few time periods, I know the bowl has stabilized to the environment and is ready to be turned one final time. It's not unusual for a bowl to lose 1/3 of its weight while drying.
"Finish turning", or turning the bowl into the final shape,
is what people think of as "making the bowl". They are unaware of all the previous steps, which taken together can span more than a year.
This final step includes the turning, sanding and finishing of the bowl. The application of the finish at the end can involve several coats of a polyurethane or oil-based finish. Both types of finish can require multiple coats, with prep work between each coat. Usually, the process of applying the finish can span several days.
The finished bowl is worth it
Being a natural, organic medium, as a "maker" I never precisely know what the bowl will look like until the very end. I am always amazed at the beauty that is inside a piece of timber. Mother Nature is truly the greatest artist.