How long does it take to turn a bowl?

  •  That  is a hard question to answer because turning a bowl or other woodturned  items is a staged process. Typically for my bowls, it takes a bit of  time to source the material i.e. the tree might need to be found and  felled, then cut up into manageable pieces for transport back to the  shop. Once on my property the log or blocks might sit outside for some  months before I get to them. Sometimes this is done on purpose to allow  the wood to spalt and develop some interesting colour and patterns. When  I am ready to process the log, individual bowl blanks are cut to length  using a chainsaw and then those blocks are cut in half along the wood  grain or cut into multiple pieces to deal with flaws or design features.  The pith or centre of the tree section must be removed to avoid the  cracking that would no doubt result from this section of the tree.   Often I will coat the ends or sometimes the entire block of wood with a  paraffin wax emulsion to reduce pre-mature cracking of the wood. Each  block is then cut to a symmetrical turning blank (round or square) using  my bandsaw. Again, if the pieces will not be worked on soon, I will  either coat them with sealant or store then for a short period in  plastic bags or wet sawdust to slow the drying process and reduce  cracking (checking). Once I have a number of prepared blanks, the pieces  will be rough turned on the lathe to a greater thickness than the final  product. The rough turned pieces are then sealed and set aside to dry  slowly in a cool, shaded area for one to two years depending on the  thickness of the piece. Rule of thumb for air drying a bowl blank is one  year for each inch of bowl thickness. Bowls will warp and become out of  round when drying (hopefully will not crack but that happens too) and  that is why the rough turned blanks are thicker than the finished piece.  You need the extra thickness when doing the final turning so you don’t  run out of wood! When the bowl blank is dry enough, usually less than 12  % moisture content, the piece is put back on the lathe for final  turning to thickness. The bowl is power sanded on the lathe and then  removed for applying a food safe finish. At least 2 or more coats are  required and the finish needs some time to cure before the bowl is ready  to sell. To make a long story short, a bowl  can take from one to three years from start to finish. Actual turning  time on the lathe accounts for a small fraction of the time, anywhere  from 15 minutes to a full day depending on size and complexity. Of  course if the bowl blank is purchased from a supplier and the blank is  already dry, the time for me is reduced greatly but I prefer preparing  and turning my own blanks. It is much more enjoyable!