The air was filled with the sweet all-pervading aroma of camphor wood last retreat, radiating out from the new Powermatic Lathe for a half mile in all directions. The lathe is the newest addition to the monastery wood shop, thanks to the generosity of a kind benefactor! At 600 pounds, it is rock solid, and state-of-the art in its range.
After turning a number of smaller pieces these past few weeks, we stepped up to a seriously large chunk of wood, a clear piece of camphor from a log we skipped over during our last milling of boards. Lucky for us today that we left it intact! Previous turnings have been in mango and monkeypod, which are both great species for bowls, especially the mango.
Here we see the big block after some rough turning on the outside.
More work done on the outside.
Next we make a foot on the base to be held in the chuck when we turn the bowl around to hollow the inside.
Here we have begun roughing out the inside.
In this phase we leave the walls of the bowl about 1″ thick, since this is green (wet) wood.
We now set aside the rough-turned piece to dry for a few months. During that time it will change shape as it dries. Then we will put it back on the lathe, true it up again and bring it to completion, with walls about 1/2″ thick.
We paint the end-grain areas with a wax emulsion called Anchor Seal to slow down the drying on those sections, which will naturally dry faster than the face grain. The more evenly the wood dries, the less the piece will change in shape. This piece planned as a salad bowl for the kitchen. Now, where’s the next piece to put on the lathe? What fun! And very useful!
For those not familiar with lathes, perhaps our title “New Lathe Makes Fantastic Bowls” and the fact that no human appears in the shots might lead one to believe that you simply insert a piece of wood into a lathe, dial in some settings, turn it on, go for lunch and then come back and you have a bowl.
We can assure that is not at all the case! All the lathe does is hold the piece and spin, just as the potting wheel holds the clay, spins, but does not make the pot. So too, the lathe does not make the bowl. The lathe simply turns and the craftsman makes the bowl. Stay tuned for more in the days and months ahead.