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!

Getting Started in WoodTurning

So, how does one get started in wood turning?

The older I get the more research I do when it comes into taking up a new hobby or craft. Although I’ve been an architectural designer, property developer, contractor, remodeler, electrician, concrete contractor, excavator, drywaller, carpenter …..I could go on but there really isn’t anything I can’t do when it comes to construction and building or remodeling homes and buildings.

Although I’m not a Donald Trump, money wise or project size related …..I have been building for over 40 years.

Getting Started Wood Turning
Your First Wood Lathe

I enjoy attempting to work at find woodworking, something I have yet to master. I never really thought much about using a wood lathe and turning projects. My interest started in kind of a backwards way, I’ve been researching sawmills, looking at several forums and facebook groups and became fascinated in these machines. Turns out wood turning can quickly squirt out of an interest in portable saw mills.

First you need to do some research. Check out the forums. Take a look at some of the local wood stores. Two big names are Rockler and Woodcraft, you can source manufacturers for a wood lathe from there.

Harbor Freight Wood Lathe
Good starter wood turning lathe from Harbor Freight, if you have the cash, get the best you can afford, read the reviews on Amazon or what I post latter on this site!

You can spend a couple thousand on a wood lathe or you can do what I did. I went to Harbor Freight and purchased a medium size wood lathe for a little over 200 bucks with coupons. I’ll talk more about my lathe latter, but despite of the negative reviews that Harbor Freight often gets, I’m really pleased with my purchase. You can get an extended warranty which means you can torture you machine (at your own risk) and get a new one at the end of the year. I wouldn’t recommend that but hey, the world is full of different people.

You get everything you need to turn a bowl, candle stick hold or lamp with your Harbor Freight Lathe with the exception of turning chisels or gouges. But don’t worry, Habor Freight has ….I think 3 different sets of turning chisels.

Affordable Wood Turning Chisels
Get Started with the most expensive woodturning chisels you can afford!

Here’s the key to wood turning chisels. Two things you need to be aware of:
1. steel type of strenght
-get the most thick chisels you can afford
-I believe you need to try and stay with HSS or above type steel (do you own research because its a little confusing to me) but suffice it to say, the more expensive the chisel, the better the steel
2. Keep your chisels sharp
-good steel will hold an edge for a longer period than cheaper ones
-imagine a 100 dollar chisel when properly sharpened keeps an edge much longer than the same chisel that costs 20 dollars
3. Learn quickly how to sharpen your tools, even if you have a cheap set of tools, learn how to sharpen them properly. Unfortunately the other investment you’ll need is some type of sharpening system geared toward sharpening wood turning chisels and gouges. There are several available from $100 to $200+ along with some sharpening jigs you can make if you have a grinder ….check out youtube.

So, really, if you want to get started woodturning on the cheap you need:
1. A Woodturning Lathe
-get at least a midsize lathe, that would be one bigger than something  used to make pens
-something able to handle 30″ to 48″ in length
2. A set of wood turning Chisels or Gouges
-get the best you can afford
3. Invest in a wood turning (chisel/gouge) sharpening system

Now you can literally grab a branch or log and mount it on your lathe and start woodturning.

Simple Wood Bowl Turning Using
Just a Faceplate and Not a Scoll Chuck

I didn’t intent on talking about this but if you’ve been looking at woodturning then you undoubedly have come across the term “scroll chuck” or “lathe chuck”, a method of hold a piece of wood on a lathe. You really don’t need anything more than what comes with this basic lathe. You need a:

  1. Faceplate
  2. Drive Center
  3. Tool rest
  4. Comes with some cheap wrenches to take off the faceplate

Watch this Video on how to turn a log into a bowl using a faceplate with just the very basic tools that come with the lathe and a set of wood turning chisels!

How to Turn a Bowl with Just a Faceplate Not Using a Scroll Chuck

How to Turn a Bowl without a Chuck!

WoodTurner Eddie Castelin Turns a Pepper Mill with Wood Lathe

When it comes to wood turning and woodturners, Captain Eddie was one of the first characters that I learned from online. Just go to youtube and type in his name, you’ll find a ton of Captain Eddie Videos.

I used my first wood lathe around 45 years ago in high school, I know…. that’s a long time ago. I can’t remember much about woodturning from high school but I remember making some candle holders and maybe a lamp …like most high school kids we screwed around more than we tried to learn anything. But I remember that big ole lathe whirling away …..it was a little intimidating!

wood turning a pepper millI got sick of the last 10 years, can’t do the things I did before. Physically I’m a mess, but I thought I might be able to turn a log into a bowl, branch into a lamp and surprisingly the projects are legion. That means many 🙂

I wanted to start a site to share my learning experience. Tons of questions, what should I use, what’s good, what works, why do I have to spend so much money ….Captain Eddie set me straight on that. You really don’t have to spend a ton, just watch!

Here’s a quick Captain Eddie Video to get you started. Want to learn how to get started on a pepper mill…. check this out!