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hewn/carved wooden bowls

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 8:10 pm
by DavidFisher
I haven't visited in awhile, but I am excited to see this forum so active. So much helpful information and beutiful inspiration!

I enjoy carving bowls from green wood, although my main profession is a World History Teacher. I wanted to share some photos of some of my bowls, but I couldn't quite figure out how to post a photo here. However, in an effort to learn a bit about making a website, I had put one together, and you are welcome to look at some of the photos

I would love to see some photos of the bowls others have carved. If Robin Wood happens to view this post, I wonder if he encountered many carved bowls in his extensive research for The Wooden Bowl? I love the book, and pick it up often.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 8:26 pm
by robin wood
Hi David and welcome to the forum...welcome as a posting member anyway.

Your bowls are really very very beautiful, where did you learn? They look to have quite scandinavian influence? I love the tooled finish and the way you cut the bowl from the tree to get a good form and nice grain...fantastic.

There are very few carved bowls in Britain, we turned everything from the iron age onwards, it is interesting to speculate why, perhaps something to do with being a monetary culture with division of labour as opposed to self sufficient with everyone making their own. There are good traditions of hewing bowls in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, I don't have many pictures but will see what I can find.

I enjoyed your site but the pictures do take forever to load even with a broadband conection. I would suggest trying to get someone to shrink the file size for you or getting some software such as photoshop elements to do it.

There is a post in the beginners section about how to post pictures on the forum.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:15 pm
by Andy Coates
Hello David...

I too think your bowls are quite stunning, and enjoyed looking at them very much.

I had no problem with the images downloading, which did so instantly. Maybe a slightly quicker connection? But even if I'd had to wait five minutes, the wait would have soon been forgiven.

thanks for letting us take a look at your work


PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:19 pm
by goldsmithexile
oh yes wow, fantastic forms "you have the feel" :lol: no question Dave
My favorite ones are the pine one and the walnut with pierced handle's
I'm not really a fan of carved decoration as such, I like forms that say it all, and more than a few of yours do. BUT I just made a huge (as in 7 foot long) oak sign carved in an informal vernacular 18th centruy times roman style lettering because I was asked to, and I really got into it, plus I was asked to carve initials and a date onto a beam in the same barn to mark its restoration. The last time a date was carved was 1859 when they took thatch off and replaced it with pan tile's; so I might get to do more signs.
You have a interesting looking bench somewhere between a german and a roubo, do you ever use the front planing hook? Mine has a post vice like a roubo and I have 2 "ruddy" great forged iron hold fasts. Have you a bigger photo?
may the feel continue to be with you!!

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:37 pm
by robin wood
Some of the pics from Davids website...very nice.:D




Carved bowls

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:12 pm
by Robin Fawcett
Yes, may I add what a beautiful set of bowl pictures David.

It must be a relaxing activity carving your bowls after teaching history

Welcome to the forum.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:25 pm
by paul atkin
wow they are stunning bowls.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:24 pm
by Robin Fawcett
I've just put up some photos on my Bodgers Blog of a Rebec that I'm carving - it's an ancient 3-stringed fiddle.

I bet you've got some wonderful tools David - any chance of sharing tips and techniques ?

PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:43 pm
by goldsmithexile
Does the hollow bit get covered with goat skin or raw hide or some thing? What is the string's made from, Can U play it yourself I think that sort is fiddled like a violin?? I like those xalam's and other african lutes, eg on Kulanjan by taj mahal

PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2008 7:56 pm
by Paul Thornton 2sheds
excellent bowls, i admire your work, the bowls are both very pretty and very usable.

i carved some bowls (a few years ago when i could not afford xmas presents for my family)from cherry, using a chainsaw, arbortech & sanding disks. i didn t even own a gouge then,

the beuaty of the wood came through, the craftsmanship was not the best but they are still used daily.

Thanks All

PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 5:00 am
by DavidFisher
Thank you all for your kind and encouraging comments. It is especially rewarding coming from such a group of knowledgeable and talented craftspeople. I will try to respond to all of your questions and comments in this one post.

Robin, Thanks for posting the photos and referring me to the other post on how to do it. I much admire your work and the way you have helped to educate people and share your skills and knowledge. Your comments on the difference between Britain and America/Scandinavia/Eastern Europe helped me to understand the predominance of turned items in Britain. From a historical perspective I find this fascinating. Factors such as peopleÂ’s proximity to urban areas and markets, strength of guilds, and traditions all play a part I guess.

After reading your comments, I pulled down I book I hadn’t looked at in awhile, The Colonial Craftsman by Carl Bridenbaugh. He discusses some of these differences: “In the seventeenth century, craftsmen and husbandmen who came to America faced the compelling problem of hewing a living out of the forest; they had little time and less energy for fashioning artifacts beyond absolute necessities. These each individual made for himself.” However, he also cites a quote from the late 17th century by Robert Beverly assaulting his fellow Virginians. I thought it might interest you woodworkers and bowlturners in England: “Nay, they are such abominable Ill-husbands, that tho’ their Country be overrun with Wood, yet they have all their Wooden-Ware from England; their Cabinets, Chairs, Tables, Stools, Chests, Boxes, Cart-Wheels, and all other things, even so much as their Bowls, and Birchen Brooms, to the Eternal Reproach of their Laziness.”

I think there was also an expectation in America, as maybe there was in Scandinavia, that every man be able to handle an axe, and was judged in the eyes of other men by this ability. Abe Lincoln was often pictured wielding an axe and was known as “the rail splitter.” Robert Frost wrote a poem in the early 20th century called Two Tramps in Mud-Time. In it he is being watched from the woods by two guys while he is splitting wood. I like this stanza:
Men of the woods and lumber-jacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Ok, sorry for rambling on a bit there, but I donÂ’t get much of a chance to share this kind of stuff with anybody that might be even remotely interested!

Regarding the question of where I learned to carve bowls: Mostly through the read-and-try method. Several years ago, I discovered books by Mike Abbot, Drew Langsner, John Alexander and others to add to my Underhill library. They sort of took it more beyond the neat-old-stuff category for me, and it made a lot of sense. I got rid of any power tools that I had and found all of the books and tools I could find about this stuff. There’s always something else to try – like Robin Fawcett’s Rebec (I’ve got to see more about that!). I’ve had fun making a pole lathe, chairs, greenwood boxes (inspired by Peter Follansbee), a small timber frame building, shrinkboxes, etc. I learned the basics of bowlcarving through a tutorial article by Drew Langsner, a video by Jogge Sundquist, another featuring Bengt Lidstrom, and a few pieces here and there from other things – and just developing my own preferences and ideas and methods as I work. I do particularly admire Scandinavian design in the bowls, but other cultures too. Endlessly fascinating.

Goldsmithexile asked about the workbench. Basically it has evolved a bit over the years. I built it secured to the wall at the back and on legs at the front, so it takes a lot of pounding without moving. You are correct on the Roubo influence. I read an article a couple years ago about RouboÂ’s bench and added the whole apron front with the hook. I like it a lot, but I use my end vice and the many dog holes on the top much more, as I do more carving than planing or joinery. Holdfasts are great. IÂ’ll put a better photo of it here.

Yes, Robin F., it is relaxing to take an adze to a log after a day of teaching world history to 150 sixteen-year-olds. Actually, the English make my job much easier with characters like Henry VIII and all those Roundheads and Cavaliers running around – easy to make it interesting.

Regarding the sharing of tips and techniques, I would be happy to share anything folks are interested in. I have submitted an article to Wade Muggleton for inclusion in the Gazette about a shaving horse variation I designed to facilitate the use of a drawknife on the exterior of bowls. Unlike a traditional horse, it squeezes the workpiece from end-to-end, allowing large pieces to be held securely but instantly repositioned. It is really an essential device for the way I work. In the shop I use my original log version, and at demonstrations I use a more portable version made from dimensional timber. I’ll post a photo of each here. I would also like to make a short video sequence sometime of making a bowl similar to some of the things on Robin Wood’s site and others. Better yet – maybe I’ll make it to the Bodger’s Ball one day. How long do you suppose that would take in a coracle?

2sheds mentioned using cherry. Is this the same thing as black cherry here in the U.S.?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:57 am
by robin wood
Great pictures and interesting points David. I really enjoyed the quotes particularly the Beverly one about the folk buying stuff including wooden ware from England. I suspect that was small scale and short was at a time when the trade in the UK was going into rapid decline due to imported pottery so I suspect traders could buy it cheap here.

I would like to have a past prime minister who was known as the rail splitter...I don't know how many years we would have to go back to have a practical man at the top. Abe Lincoln was certainly a special man.

I love the shave horse. :D

Bowl carving

PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 11:06 am
by Robin Fawcett
Yes that bowl shavehorse looks really interesting. It was quite hard to hold the rebec to work on the outside with drawknives and spokeshaves. I had to pack round it with bits of wood, old carpet etc.

Rob - I think Winston Churchill was well known as a dab hand at bricklaying - he used to do it for relaxation.

Rebecs, etc.

PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 4:09 am
by DavidFisher
Robin F -- As I have very little musical talent or knowledge, I wonder all the more at how the magic happens. Curious, I looked up a bit on the rebec. You'll have to keep us posted on yours. I'd love to see how it turns out. There are some sound clips and other stuff about rebecs here or those that wonder, like I did, what a rebec sounds like:

What wood is it turned/carved from. I suppose some woods would be better suited than others for sound quality?

Rob W -- Yes, I think it would have been short lived, especially as the colonies developed larger urban centers in the 18th century. Hard to believe that it made sense to send a load of birch brooms across the Atlantic.

Rebecs etc

PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 11:19 am
by Robin Fawcett
David here's the link I've been using for my info :-

I really hope mine won't sound like any of the scratchy, atonal soundbites I've heard on the web !

Its made from a 22" section of half an 8" sycamore log (Acer pseudoplatanus) - apparently this was commonly used. Violins always have ripple maple backs and a spruce top. I think I will have to buy the spruce from a tonewood supplier but the fingerboard, tailpiece, bridge and pegs will be made from laburnum which goes a lovely, dark chocolate brown.

Incidentally I have seen some people are now making large turned bowls with strings set across the top attached to tuning pegs. Not sure what the function is but they look nice. I'll try and track down some pictures.