Late in the summer I attended a workshop by one of my local club’s members on turning natural-edge bowls, which basically means leaving bark on the uneven rim of bowl.
It’s not terribly difficult, but it’s a bit trickier than you might think. The process involves working the outer edge of the tree, so that the rim follows the curve of the tree and instead of being a simple circle actually curls in towards the bottom on two sides.
Imagine a large animal tilting it’s head and taking a big bite out of the side of a tree — that’s what the blank looks like before turning. The bottom of the bowl is the inside of the tree and the outside bark will be the top, which will get hollowed out into the bowl shape leaving bark on just the outermost rim.
As with most bowls, you turn the outside first with what will be the open/inner side of the bowl facing the headstock/motor. Here you’re mainly turning real wood until you get toward the top edge, when you are sometimes turning wood, sometimes bark, and ultimately nothing but air as the high “sides” spin past.
After getting the shape you want and cutting a groove to remount the wood in a chuck, the real fun begins. Now you’re turning mainly bark as you hollow out the bowl, being careful to stay clear of the delicate bark-covered rim.
As you get close to the rim, you start to worry about losing the bark edge that this type of turning is all about. Time for some thin CA glue, and I was surprised at how much I needed to use on my piece of pecan wood. The stuff just soaked right in very quickly, frequently steaming/smoking as it encountered other chemicals in the wood.
I actually lost a large piece — about 4 inches — but was lucky enough to have it fall off gently in one piece that I was able to glue back on. The thin CA glue spreads and runs like water, but dries in a matter of seconds.
Anyway, it think this first natural-edge bowl of mine was a success and I’m interested in trying more of this type soon. Oh yeah, I still need to put some polyurethane finish on this one. It’s from a pecan burl that I won in a club auction. Not bad for a buck investment.