a baby spalted maple bowl

I started with a large and beautiful spalted maple bowl blank. It had a little crack in the side which opened into a huge crack. I then turned it smaller and smaller until the crack was gone. The result? A bowl that fits about 6 M&M’s.

you call that a circle?

I can’t cut a circle on a bandsaw to save my life, and it’s not for a lack of trying. I also still don’t know how to use a table saw well and have to beg for help every time I want to cut something.

Wood brand from the Czech Republic

It’s a little bold at this point, but so what. I commissioned Martin, a machinist in the Czech Republic, to craft a wood brand. I plan to burn my logo into the stuff I turn at Philadelphia Woodworks from now on. Check out his Etsy store — It’s vonHanke . This is actually the brain logo from my laboratory at Temple, but it makes for a great wood logo too. The branding iron is electric (110v/150watt) and to the best of my knowledge it is in the mail as we speak. Thank you, Martin!

ooh... ahhh.... a black walnut base for an LED nightlight

I adapted this idea from a similar approach using concrete as a base. This is Black Walnut turned round with a cuplike bottom. I drilled a hole and stuffed the guts of the LED string lights through the bottom into a vase. The raw materials for this nightlight were $20 or so.

Ambrosia Maple bowl, titled, "where's the rest of it?"

No soup for this bowl. In an earlier post, I described an Ambrosia Maple bowl I got impatient with and turned while it was still green. As the bowl subsequently dried out, it warped into an oval. I decided to go ahead and experiment on it and do some cutouts. I laid out a random pattern of blobs using a sharpie, then used a router bit on a Dremel to contour the shapes. Then there was LOTS of hand sanding followed by a coat of Danish Oil.

DIY wood drying kiln

There’s a weird nook in my basement drywall that I turned into a wood drying kiln. I lined the little box with thermal insulation and hung a 75 watt bulb. The kiln stays roughly 90 degrees. I ordered a little solar fan, so I am hoping it facilitates the drying process. I need to do some tweaking with this — Maybe it’s too hot or a I shouldn’t have scraped off the wax from the bowl blanks but a bunch of the birch blocks cracked badly. That said, it’s working remarkably well otherwise. The Maple started at 35% moisture content and was down to 10% in two weeks.

behold a spalted maple bowl

This wood is amazing! I turned it from a 6” x 6” x 3” blank and finished it with EEE & Shellawax. This finishing combination yields an incredibly glossy surface that remains pretty darn glossy into posterity.

maple jellybean bowl w/ inlaid resin rim for the Peelle family in St. Louis: annotated

When you turn bowls for your own family, there’s very little pressure. However, I’m turning this maple jellybean bowl for one my best friends, Dr. Jonathan Peelle, and his lovely family. Jon is abnormally particular, so the pressure is on!

I annotated the many steps that went into this bowl. There were lots of failures along the way, including me denting the resin by touching it before it cured and cracking the bottom of the tenon when the bowl flew off the lathe. In the end though, I covered most of my sins and ended up with one beauty of a jellybean bowl. Here we go…

spindle turning with the boy

My son, August (here 11 years old), participated in a woodworking camp last summer. Today I dragged him IPad-less to Philadelphia Woodworks. Here we are at the lathe doing a bit of spindle turning on a 6” block of black walnut. It was pretty scary to do this with him. There was a lot of hand-over-hand holding of the roughing gouge. In the end, this little spindle project turned out great. All of the other woodworkers were super nice to him. I hope it inspires him to become a furniture maker or carpenter — anything but a cognitive scientist!

first attempt at a multi-axis, off-center spoon

This thing was a wild ride. I was hoping to make a Harry Potter / Hansel & Gretel looking off-center spoon with a crooked handle. This is the prototype for what will (hopefully) be a decent spoon at some point. First I glued a waste block to the top and cored out the bowl face-on with the handle whipping around at 500rpm. Then I turned it as an offcenter spindle about 1/4 off center for the bottom part of the handle and centered for the rest. It looks butt ugly but neat at the same time. I think it’ll take me five more tries to get the effect I want here. This was inspired by Carl Jacobson’s YouTube tutorial video. He’s great!

bowls so far for size and color perspective

Here are all the ‘keeper’ bowls I’ve made so far. I cracked or destroyed a lot more, but I didn’t take photos of those. I’m going to start better documenting my failures though!

Inlaid rim on a maple bowl with yellow and red epoxy resin

The second attempt did the trick. No portholes or anything else fancy. I worked from a 8” x 2” chunk of maple, used a parting tool to create a deep channel around the rim, taped around the cove to create a dam, and then poured the resin.

I made sure to follow the directions for mixing the resin and hardener - paying special attention to continuous mixing for 3 minutes or so before adding the dye and pouring into the channel. I let the resin set up for 3 days or so, then turned the bowl a second time, shearing off all the residue and smoothing the rim with a round nosed scraper. I sanded everything up to 600 and waxed it with EEE wax and eventually polished the rim with plastic polish. I’m super happy with this little bowl despite some crappiness on the bottom. Turning the tenon off is still killing me.

a franken-mallet turned from poplar

This started as an attempt to turn a large wood spoon. I was using the spindle and roughing gouge, and all was coming along nicely. Then someone dropped a truth bomb on me about why I shouldn’t use poplar.

I stopped where I was and waxed it. Now it’s just a weird mallet/club that is hanging around in my lab. The grad students seem to like it. It has a lot of heft and feels like some kind of medieval weapon.

babinga --- my best bowl yet

Babinga wood is like trying to cut through stone. It took me 2 solid days to complete this bowl. It’s beautiful though! I worked from a kiln-dried square blank (6” x 3”), eventually sanding it to 600grit and finishing it with EEE wax. By the time I finished sanding it, it was so shiny and smooth that it almost looked finished even without wax. This is a terrific wood but also quite challenging to work with — so much time sanding and regrinding/sharpening tools.

a large(ish) cherry bowl

I’m fond of this large bowl turned from an 8” x 3” kiln-dried cherry blank. I finished it on the lathe running at about 800 rpm with several layers of EEE wax followed by Shellawax. As you can see, I’m still struggling with how to turn off the tenon and clean up the bottom. The bottom is intolerably ugly why you take a close look. The tool marks are glaring despite lots of sanding. Nevertheless, I feel like I’m making progress. This was the largest bowl I’ve done and I think the most elegant shape. Some unfortunate family member is getting this for Christmas!

first attempt at epoxy resin on an inlaid rim

I had an idea is to create an inlaid rim on a bowl and fill the channel with orange/amber colored resin with bugs in it Jurassic Park style. I’ve never worked with resin before though, so I thought I would try a prototype first. My plan was to drill “portholes” in the bottom of the rim so that light would come up through the resin. I started with a mahogany blank. Then I poured the resin after mixing in red pepper flakes and red and yellow dyes as a trial run for dead bugs.. I taped around the rim and the bottom of the portholes so that the resin didn’t migrate all over the place. Then I poured the resin and let is set for 48 hours before re-turning the bowl.

That plan didn’t work at all. The rim was super cloudy, chipped, and cracked. The portholes also look terrible. A big fat fail!

New hobby, new tools


I recently purchased the bowl starter set from Carter and Sons toolworks as a birthday present to myself. These tools are chunky and beautifully machined. I even received a personalized thank you note from Valerie Carter, the head of the company. Classy!!!

Here they are in all their glory — a 5/8” bowl gouge and 1” roundnose scraper.

Myrtlewood bowl

I was delighted to turn a block of myrtle wood. It’s pretty forgiving and a nice olive-y shade. I finished this bowl using a weird technique I read about on the internets where you apply linseed oil and seal it with cyanoacrylate (CA) glue. The two finishes react to make a shiny coat that looks similar to gloss/lacquer. I also added a little burn ring by first cutting a small cove and then burning the wood by rubbing in a piece of black walnut with the lathe at a high rpm (3000 or so).

Boxwood: This time a complete failure


My first successful bowl was boxwood. I’ve been feeling down in the dumps lately with a bunch of failed bowls, so I thought I would try boxwood again. Lo and behold I cracked the f%^k out of this bowl. I was trying to make the sides really thin and could see light through the bowl. I went ahead and kept peeling off wood and then BAM!!!! My bowl gouge jammed and the bowl cracked.

Ambrosia Maple turned green


I grew impatient and turned a green blank of Ambrosia Maple thinking I could just dry it out.. It promptly cracked. Then I turned another green blank very thin, and it promptly warped. My Spock brain knew that this would happen, but the Captain Kirk in me went ahead and did it anyway. The lesson I learned from this debacle is listen to your Spock brain. Makes sure it’s the old Nimoy Spock though when he wore the blue shirt - not that new shit. Anyway, I finished the warped bowl with wipe-on polyurethene. It looks heinous. It’s shaped like an egg now. Here’s the warped bowl sitting atop the cracked bowl.