Woodturning Project … How To Finish Wood Bowl Bottoms

How To Finish
Woodturned Bowl Bottoms

Ok, maybe I got the title of this article wrong. It should be “how I finished the bottoms of some of my first bowls“!

In fact it isn’t so much about how I finished some woodturned bowl bottoms, but “that” I finished some bowl bottoms.

To be honest when I first started turning bowls, I started turning bowls. I made one, it was almost done and then I made another one… that was my MO. I did that for quite a while. I simply did not know how to finish the bottom of a bowl. I could mount a hunk of wood to a faceplate. Then I could mount a wood blank to a wood scroll…. but finish the bottom…. I needed some help. So, I collected a few bowls that were almost finished… just not the bottoms 🙂

I had some of my first wood turned bowls with recesses, tenons, and faceplate mounts. I turned the wood bowls and then really didn’t know how to finish the bottom of a wood bowl correctly. So, I finished as much as I could and set the bowls aside. I didn’t think they were worth much anyway.

After a few people said,”hey that bowl looks really cool…I’ll take it”, I decided to see what I could do for finishing the woodbowl bottoms, I thought some might make decent gifts, some might stay in the house….one or two, might hold small parts in the shop 🙂

Finishing Wood bowl bottoms when turning wood bowls on a lathe
Here you’ll see various wood bowl bottoms that need to be finished, recess, tenon and faceplate mounts.

Wood Bowl Bottoms and Finishes

The finishes on the bowls and cups varied from OB Shine Juice, Shellac, Deft Glossy Lacquer, Epoxy, Sanding Sealer and Salad Bowl Finsh by General. I kept all finishes the same except for OB Shine Juice. I applied Salad Bowl Finish over the OB shine juice and so far it seems to be a fine match. It has hardened (cured) correctly. I thought I heard Cap’n Eddie say that you can apply just about anything of OB Shine Juice or just leave it. I was looking for a little more of a shine so I tried the Salad Bowl Finish.

Finishing a Wood Bowl Bottom With A Recess

A recess is used when you have a wood scroll chuck. A small 2″ or so hole is drilled our gouged out in the center of the wood you want to turn and the jaws of the scroll chuck expand to hold to hold the soon to be new bowl.

When it comes to a recess, some wood turners will completely remove the recess, making the bottom of the bowl slightly concave. That looks great but you end up loosing 1/8″ to 3/8″ off

woodturning a recess in a woodbowl for wood scroll chuck
Recess in wood bowl bottom for scroll chuck

the bottom of the bowl, depending how deep your recess is. Some wood turners will just leave the recess, sanding the bottom of the recess and rounding off the edge. Then sometimes, they will then sign and date the bowl. This works pretty good if the recess is fairly shallow. In my opinion it looks a little funky if the recess is deep. Still, the wood turning purist will not accept this type recess finish for a bowl bottom.

finishing wood bowl bottom when using recess for Nova Scroll chuck
How to finish a wood bowl bottom when using a recess for the scroll chuck

An easy way to finish a wood bowl recess is to ease the sharp edges of the recess toward the outside of the bowl. That is, cut out the 90 degree edge of the recess and blend it into the bottom of the bowl.  So, in essence, you have a large dimple or concave shaped center. You might then have a center mark from the tailstock to deal with (fill with CA and sawdust). Again in my opinion, this type of finish looks the best and looks like the  bottom center of the bowl shape was intentional!

Finishing a Wood Bowl Bottom With A Tenon

The tenon is easily removed when using the tailstock to push the bowl up against a jam block, or jam chuck, which is basically a hunk of wood with some cushion on it. Turn the bowl at slow speed and cut the tenon off,

How to finish a wood bowl with a tenon on bottom
Woodturning a wood bowl with a tenon on the bottom

reposition the tailstock and then scrap the bottom center of the bowl to make it flat. Actually, you’d be better making the center slightly concave. Sand, sign and use your favorite finish. I like to take the thinnest parting tool I have and put a ring or two on the bottom of the wood bowl. I’ve found this to be one of the easiest and cleanest ways to finish a wood bowl bottom.

used a tenon for the nova chuck to turn this bowl
Finishing wood bowl bottom that had a tenon for the scroll chuck

Finishing a Wood Bowl Bottom
Attached To A Faceplate

In the beginning, when woodturning a bowl,  I always had a hard time figuring out which end was going to be the top of the bowl and which end would be the bottom of the bowl

My first wood bowl woodturning projects started with a couple of bowls that I started to turn with the wood blank (wood I was turning) screwed directly to the wood lathe faceplate. Usually the face that is screwed to the faceplate will be the top of the bowl and consequently, the screw holes would be removed when you gouge out the bowl. So the correct way to use a faceplate, when turning a wood bowl,  would be turn a recess or tenon for the scroll chuck on the end opposite of the faceplate. The end that the tenon or recess is on would then be the bottom of the bowl.  But what if you didn’t have a wood lathe scroll chuck? ************ Then get a couple of good woodturnig faceplates and make those work until you can invest in a good scroll chuck like the Nova Wood Scroll chuck

Had A Faceplate But Not a Scroll Chuck

Well, I didn’t have a scroll chuck. I thought I would just deal with the screw holes. I should have used a glue block after getting one side/end straight and flipped it around so the screw holes were not on top of the bowl. The glue block end would be the bottom. Plenty of youtube videos on how to deal with a glue block.

The easiest way to turn a wood bowl is to attach a faceplate, turn the opposite end as the top of the bowl and the end that the faceplace would be the bottom of the bowl. You can finish everything, the bowl bottom would end up with flat with screw holes. Of course you could take the faceplate off and use a jam chuck method to clean up the bottom. If not, just sand the bottom and apply finish.  This method is a little rough but if you are just getting started, you can turn your first bowl without a bunch of hoops to crawl through and you will have your wood firmly attached to the lathe. Something I think most new woodturners freak out over. Nothing scarier than a hunk of wood rotating at 600 rpms and the lathe walking across the floor 🙂

How to finish a wood bowl bottom when using a faceplate and screws.
Finishing the wood bowl bottom when using a faceplate with screws.


But….I just left the faceplate attached and had some nasty screw holes on the bottom of my bowl. It was actually a pretty nice bowl except for the bottom. I could have filled all the holes and sanded them down. The screwholes would show if I filled them so I just left them and scraped the bottom level, then put a concave scrape so the center was up and out of the way. I filled the hole from the tailstock, then applied the finish. Added a couple of rings that detracted somewhat from the screwholes. Nice bowl for a realative 🙂

Woodturners have been turning bowls for a long time before the advent of Wood Scroll Chucks. Having a scroll chuck is a really nice tool and makes turning really easy in my opinion. However, it wouldn’t hurt to learn how to use a glue block and faceplate. It really isn’t tgat difficult, just a few more steps!

Scroll Chucks and Jaws

What Are Scroll Chucks?

Learn about scroll chucks and jaws from Sam Angelo… good stuff!

This started as a test post but when I started watching Sam’s video on Scroll Chucks and Jaws for Wood lathes I thought it would be perfect to post here for anyone getting started or just trying to understand what these pieces of machinery really are.

When I got started I was really confused when it came to scroll chucks, I had to watch many, many videos and do a lot of ready before deciding which one I wanted ….I wish I would have found Sam’s video because it really clears things up. Anyway…. enjoy the video and thank you Sam!


In this tutorial Sam discuses important factors in the selection of scroll chucks and jaws. His collection of scroll chucks spans tenon sizes from 3/8″ to 5 1/2″ as well as many profiles for various projects.



I saw it on Rockler Woodworking and Hardware

Rockler – Search Results for lathe chucks


 Couple comments from
the video on Scoll Chucks


Have you ever consider of buying wood lathe chuck quick change system like those two: 1- Barracuda 5 Quick Change Jaw Chuck System with FREE Pen Blank Drilling Jaws 2- Nova Infinity Quick Change Chuck System (you can also buy only some parts to make your old Nova2 chuck/jaws to make it/hose a quick change system). I’m starting looking and I think I’d buy the Barracuda 5 because it is seems to me to be a faster quick change system and I like to have many jaws options (4 sets of jaws and a central screw are included. The only thing with this choice is, after the price issue (I am in Quebec Canada), for the sake of security and speed, I would rather like to have an hexagonal wrench for jaws tightening instead of having a key that penetrates the chuck.

Hi Sam, I want to turn very small items. Down to 8mm or possibly even smaller if I can. I want to use the central machinery 10×18″ lathe from harbor freight. Could you possibly suggest which kind of chuck I should use?
Kmsan I think what you need to look for are “pin” jaws. You could buy a number of small scroll chucks, with or without the jaws: (Body only). Pin jaws can hold very small items. You can check the dimensions in the description of the jaws. Something like this—– http://www.rockler.com/nova-mini-spigot-jaw-set?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=&utm_content=pla&utm_campaign=PL&sid=V9146&gclid=CjwKCAjw2s_MBRA5EiwAmWIac-ULDzE5ddBVrvWdBIkljuUoN-eQ1l5NK5VX6Y0tvE_4Rji9xOARzRoCPeQQAvD_BwE