Natural Edge Maple Bowl with Bark Intact!

Turning a Natural Edge Bowl

I had a tree guy drop off some maple for firewood. I have some room at my house so every now and then a tree guy will dump a load of wood! Lucky me 🙂

I split most of it and do some treasure hunting on the pile before I start splitting the wood. I found a few nice pieces  I though would make nice bowls and vases. Truth be known, if I had my way I would probably save every load of wood that got dropped off for turning….. of course I would have to turn 1000’s of bowls or my wife would be a little upset that it was cold in the house 🙂

Natural Edge Wood Bowl Video

I have 2 videos for you. The first one is just a series of stills that I narrate and the next video is an edited video of me turning a natural edge bowl from the maple wood blank.

Turning a maple live edge or natural edge wood bowl.

I have an excellent digital slr camera, but need to figure out how to get some really nice and clear video. This will do for now but I will upgrade soon.


Natural Edge Bowl Experiment

You can get a better idea on how this project came together by checking out my article at Maple Live Edge or Natural Edge Bowl

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Maple Live Edge Bowl and Turning A Natural Edge Bowl

Keeping The Bark On a Live
Or Natural Edge Bowl

I wanted to turn a live edge bowl or as some call it a natural edge bowl. That would be a bowl with a bark edge or natural edge of the piece of wood for the top edge of the bowl. This is one woodturning project that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time!

I experimented with a piece of Maple that someone dropped off for firewood. I burn all kinds of wood, anything really, in my wood stove and that’s how we heat our house for the winter. Been doing that for 30 some years now.

wood bowl blank for live edge bowl
Maple log cut into a bowl blank, ready to be attached to a faceplate and will be turned into a live edge or natural edge wood bowl.

Natural Beauty of A Natural Edge Bowl

The funny part is both my wife and I will always look at a piece of wood and wonder what’s inside, what does it look like. Only recently did I get a Laguna 14″ SUV bandsaw with enough horsepower to rip throough some of the wood, and it’s all I can do to keep myself from dragging all the firewood into the shop to cut it open. It’s kind of like a God secret. Looks like firewood from the outside but underneath all that is a diamond worth shining and keeping.

This led me to desire 2 different types of machines to work with wood. I really want one of those portable bandsaws that allows you to cut a log into useable lumber. Same thing, rip open a log and it’s like a piece of heaven.

Haven’t gotten the portable bandsaw yet, but I did get a wood lathe. Which was next on my list of desired woodworking toys …I mean tools 🙂

Getting Started In Woodturing

I’m not sure how or why I got interested in turning wood, I haven’t been a woodturner since highschool and I barely remember that. I don’t think I even read anything about woodturning. Maybe I watched a youtube video or something. Whatever it was, I caught the woodturning bug!

Big problem though, I was …stil am, pretty broke from being sick for a long time. I couldn’t afford a $1000 for a lathe, much less $4000 or $5000 for a good lathe.

I went the China route. Got some basic equipment from harbor freight, just had the lathe and some HF woodturning tools. I had a faceplate and centers that came with the lathe. That’s basically how I started and learned woodturning.

Live Edge Bowl Experiment

Sorry, not sure how I fell down that rabbit hole. I really just wanted to share some quick facts and pictures of doing a live edge and the experiment I did to keep the bark in place.

How to turn a natural edge wood bowl
Turning a natural edge wood bowl, mounting on wood lathe.

First mistake I made was I used a faceplate on the wrong end and I ended up with screw holes in my live edge bowl. I’m really getting tired of screw holes showing up in my projects, not sure why I can’t keep that part of it straight 🙂

Anyway, I cut a round blank from the maple log and mounted it on my large faceplate. It was a pretty big piece, as big as my lathe could handle, about 12″. It really helped using the circle jig on the bandsaw to cut the blank round and allowed me to make the biggest bowl possible. And….the lathe didn’t walk across the floor 🙂 I really need to show you a picture of this circle jig for the bandsaw, like most things I do …. it was a quick bugger job, but it works perfectly!


I had some new woodturning tools I was trying and the project took shape fast. My natural edge bowl was starting to take shape. Then it happened. Totally my fault, I stuck my Sorby bowl gouge a little too hard into the live edge, that is the bark, and a huge piece went flying! Man, I was so disappointed. Everything was going so good and the bowl actually looked great. Now it was missing a huge piece of bark.

Well, I didn’t swear. I prayed that I might find the piece of bark and God answered that prayer because I found it immediately! Normally, I would have cussed up a storm and thrown some tools around and maybe even kicked the lathe ….yep, I have a little bit of a temper. Guess they call that “Anger Problem” these days 🙂

Another Bowl Turning Experiment
With A Live Edge Bowl

I found the piece of bark and figured this was going to be another one of my experiments because I never saw anyone attempt to repair a live edge or natural edge bowl and then finish turning it. I’ve seen some woodturners attempt to do a natural edge bowl and have the bark fly off …at that point they trash the project or just turn a regular bowl.

Repair Of A Natural Edge Bowl

I took the piece of bark that broke off and epoxied it to the bowl edge. I used a 30 minute 2 ton epoxy and let it dry overnight. I figured the real test would be if I could finish turning the rough out of the bowl. After 24 hours I turned on the lathe and bravely stuck my round insert carbide homemade turning tool into the spinning bowl, slowly, every so slowly it started to cut the bowl and bark.

Much to my surprise the piece I epoxied in place held fast. I was able to turn the bowl and finsh the rough out of the natural edge maple bowl. However, the bark was coming loose in some other areas and it looked like it wasn’t going to stay on.

I should have tossed it at this point, but I enjoy fixing things and doing things that others won’t do. So I thought about the different ways I might keep the bark on. I saw one guy use 2 ouces of CA glue and that worked, a little expensive I thought. This wasn’t a special piece of wood and I did not want to waste my CA glue on the bark of a maple bowl.

Alumilite Epoxy Finish

Then I remember seeing someone use “alumilite” to coat a big bowl for a sink. Then he used it for some of his other bowls for a nice glossy finish. Looked like some awesome stuff to finish woodturing projects with, but I found out latter that it required some special effort and there was definitely a learning curve if you wanted a perfect finish.

Gluing Bark to the rough bowl blank for a natural edge bowl
To keep the bark on the roughed out live edge bowl I used an epoxy resiin like “alumilite” to seal and glue the bark to the bowl. (I used an epoxy resin called Max Clear) I went down into the bowl on the inside and outside with the epoxy.

I purchased some epoxy resin called Max Clear, similar to alumilite from Amazon. I applied a good thick coat to the bark and an inch inside and outside the bowl. The thought was to use the epoxy to hold everything together, that is to keep the bark from seperating and when the bowl was to be finish turned ….hopefully the narrow live edge would hold and keep the bark in place. At this point I was thinking that I would epoxy the entire bowl after the final turning of the live edge bowl.

Epoxied Live Edge Bowl Sat For a While

My natural edge bowl project ended up sitting for longer that I planned. The bark edge along with a small part of the inside and outside top of the bowl was epoxied and thoroughly cured. However, it was wet wood when I started and it moved pretty good with the grain as it dried over a couple of weeks, so it was a bit oblong . My bad….I should have stuck it in a bag of shavings …but, that’s my life. I get sick and sometimes can’t make it out to the shop for days or weeks…sometimes a couple of months. The bowl still had the recess for the Nova Chuck ****** although a little out of whack, I was able to chuck it back up to the lathe.

The bowl didn’t crack though, and the bark was nice and glossy. I chucked up the bowl and started gouging out the inside. I really wanted a live edge bowl, a thin live edge bowl. I wanted to get the sides and bottom down to a 1/4″ or so. This was an experiment so I didn’t care what happened, if it exploded…so be it!  I thought for sure the bark would fly off and the bowl would crack.

Epoxied Natural Edge Bark
Bowl Held Together

Much to my surprise, as I pushed the 5/8″ bowl gouge  into the bowl, the bark held together! In fact, I used a couple of different tools to shape the natural bark edge of the bowl. I used the big 1 1/2″ scarpaer, the small 3/4″ scraper and the round carbide insert scarper tool. As I shaped the inside of the bowl the bark stuck togeher perfectly. Then I went to the outside and had to really rework the outside of the bowl because of the shrinkage, and once again the bark of the natural edge maple bowl help together perfectly!

This scraper can give you confidence, just enter the wood slowly and make gentle movements and you can clean up just about anything or even shape the entire bowl. Great for newbie and expert alike! I always turn to this big piece of metal when I’m not sure of using the bowl gouge and don’t want to screw something up 🙂

Not a piece of bark fell off the bowl. I got the top of the bowl thinned down to 3/8″ or so, I was OK with that. I tried to do some shaving cuts on both outside and inside. That worked out good, in fact the project was a huge success!

Then it happened!

Live Edge Bowl Disaster!

I had the speed up. I’m still a little paranoid with high speeds on the lathe. I feel like I need one of those bubble suits 🙂 I wanted to see if I could clean up the bark edge of my live edge bowl so I grabbed my bowl gouge ****** with the ellsworth grind, really need the practice with this, and I clumsily jabbed at the turning bowl! To my horror, I saw pieces flying! My project, almost a perfect natural edge bowl ….finished for all intensive purposes was getting destroyed because I was being anal. This time I swore, threw stuff, and kicked stuff…. hurt my toe with the ingrown toenail. I was so so so so pissed at myself! Why couldn’t I just leave well enough alone 🙁


Natural Edge Bowl Saved From Disaster!

I must have been seeing things because the bark was all there except for a tiny, maybe 1/4″ piece that was missing. I thanked God for saving my bowl and asked for forgiveness for being such a jerk 🙂 At this point it was about 3 am. I should have quit at aleast an hour ago, but I was having fun making shavings, turning a bowl and experimenting on how to save a live edge bowl. Yep, I was really enjoying making a mess of things, fixing things, making some shavings and doing some sanding.

I sanded my bowl down to about 600 grit usinng a 2″ disk sander ****** with velcro sanding pads. They don’t last too long but I tried to use a piece of sand paper and the live edge almost took my hand off. Tried sandpaper again, worked for a while but anytime I got next to that live edge or natural edge of the bowl, the bark would grab the paper and rip it from my hands and almost take my hand along with it.

So I used the 2″ sanding pad on my electric drill. Tried it first on my cordless drill, but didn’t feel right and I really don’t want to burn up my DeWalt cordless drills, so I used an electric drill. Beware, caution …..using a corded drill is dangerous when you are around the lathe. Any mishap could cause the drill to get caught in the lathe and make a mess of everything including you!

Sanding A Live Edge Wood Bowl

So, I sanded the natural edge maple bowl starting with 80 grit down to 600 grit. The paper got ripped up when I got next to the bark edge but it worked on the rest of the bowl and to sand down to 600 grit for me is a milestone. I hate sanding, but….. sanding makes the finshe. Ask Cap’n Eddie about sanding. He preaches the need to sand down to 1000 or so and says you just got to do it, otherwise you will have an ameture finish on your bowls and woodturning projects.

How To Finish a
Natural Edge Wood Bowl

Maybe I should say, what kind of finish should I put on my live edge wood bowl. Remember the bark already is finished with Max Clear epoxy resin, similar to alumilite. So, the bark is glossy. I originally thought I would use the epoxy on the entire bowl, however, after using it on another project I can see that it requires some thought, effort and work to look good. This is the stuff that is put on table tops or bar tops and people will inlay pictures, shells or other objects and put multiple layers of epoxy over it.

After thinking about it, I thought I would save my epoxy finish for a special project. In fact, the stuff I have is food safe. It could be used for cups, bowls or mugs. Although this bowl is turning out nice, not sure I want to put in the effort to finish it with epoxy.


So, I decided since I sanded it down to 600grit, filled all the screw holes and had my life edge bowl looking pretty good. I thought I would use my “Salad Bowl Finish” by General Finishes. I really love this stuff. First of all, it’s advertised as being “food safe”, and although I have said it multiple times before, I’ll say it again. I think all finishes are food safe as long as you allow he finish to “cure” not “dry” but cure. That means the chemical processes are complete. But you do what you feel comfortable with.

I like the “Salad Bowl Finish” because you can apply it to the project while on the lathe and you can spin the project and use a wadded up paper towel to push the finish into the wood and to buff it. I found that you could get away with one coat on some woods and up to 3 coats with others. I think this live edge maple bowl will require 3 coats, the end grain seems to soak up the finish as fast as I put it on, but after one coat it might just seal the bowl and allow the other coats to build up and protect the bowl.

I’ve almost been using the salad bowl finish exclusively on my bowls. It looks great, builds up and has a shiney luster to it …and as they say, it’s food safe.

Some of my bowls I applied “ob shine juice” as a finish, a couple of coats. I’ve also used straight clear shellace and on a couple I’ve applied a sanding sealer first, you need to find a “clear” sanding sealer and then I have applied the “salad bowl finish” over these. So far, the finishes have all worked out great, applying the sanding sealer or ob shine juice keeps the salad bowl finish from soaking into the wood and allows you to get away with 1 or 2 coats of “salad bowl finsh”. At least that’s what I found!

natural edge or live edge wood bowl
Turning a maple live edge or natural edge wood bowl.

So, up to this point I have one coat of salad bowl finish over the bare wood. I think for the live edge bowl, I’ll end up with at least 3 coats of “salad bowl finsh” and then, it will be ready for a Christmas Gift!!!++++++

Natural Edge Bowl Redone

Looking back, my biggest mistake was the way I attached the bowl blank to the lathe. I used a faceplate on the flat surface of the log. I should have used the worm screw and mounted the log with the bark facing the lathe motor and attached with the worm screw. Or, I could have flattened out a spot to attach a smaller faceplate to the bark side of the log. Or, I might have been able to use a forstner bit to drill a recess for the Nova Chuck in the bark side.

How to turn a natural edge wood bowl and mount on a faceplate
Turning a natural edge wood bowl, mounting on wood lathe the Wrong WAY!

Once attached I could turn between centers and cut a tenon or recess on the flat side of the log. Come to think of it, I probably should have just drilled a 2″ recess on the flat side and mounted it in the chuck and that would have been the bottom of the bowl.

I guess there are many different ways to approach a project, you need to do what works for you. Do what you feel safe with and then experiment a little!

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Wood Turning My Second Wood Bowl

I really wish I documented my first wood turning bowl!

I grabbed a piece of willow that was laying in the river for 10 years or more, surprisingly it dried quickly and I was able to turn it. It was soft, there were many spots that were almost rotten, however, I still turned it and my wife has it on the table with some apples in it 🙂

my first wood bowl
My First Turned Wood Bowl from a Piece of a Willow Tree

I finished the bowl with mineral spirits from, although I could have gotten the finish cheaper elsewhere, I wanted to make sure the finish was safe to put food into.

Now my second bowl was from the wood pile that was destined to be firewood. I’m almost positive it’s a piece of ash, it’s very hard and very difficult to shape…. although that could just be because I have a Harbor Freight Lathe 🙂 It had a diameter of 11″ or so, it was perfect for my harbor freight lathe.

My Second Wood Bowl with Recess for Nova Chuck
My Second Wood Bowl with Recess for Nova Chuck

This is really the first time I started a bowl or any wood turning project and had my Nova Chuck, I wasn’t sure if I should make a tennon or make a recess. I ended up making a recess on the bottom of the bowl for the Nova chuck jaws, first I cleaned up the end of the log and then I flattened it.

I had some cracks and checks. Just mixed up some CA glue with wood shavings and also used some plain ole wood glue with wood shavings. Basically, you stuff the crack or hole with wood shaveings or sawdust and squirt some CA into it or you can use plain ole wood glue, but remember both will take on a different color when you apply a finish to the project. You just need to experiment to see what works best for you. Most wood turners seem to be using CA or an Expoxy mixed with the wood shavings. You can look up more on the subject and also search for “stablizing wood” you’ll get a good idea on how to use the different glues and expoxies on your wood turning projects. Did you know that you can use CA glue for a finsh? I need to find a good supplier for CA (superglue) glue in a larger container. I ended up getting small tubes and they always dry up or harden if not used right away.

I suppose I should tell you how I started.

I grabbed the ash log, it had a diameter of 12″ and I cut it to length of 12″. Then I cut the log in half, thru the center of the log.

I wanted to mount my face plate on the outside (bark side) of the log so I flattened that area of the log by running it through the band saw, the other bowl project I just used a chain saw. Next I flipped the log over and traced a circle from the faceplate side and cut the circle out using the band saw. It was a rough circle and I’ve watched some guys just mount the log without rounding the corners …..looked a little to dangerous that way so I wanted to round it off first.

Creating a wood bowl from ash log
Prepared Ash log blank to be turned into a wood bowl

I mounted the faceplate with attached log, pushed my live center into the log and started turning. You can see by the image what I had and how it was working. So far so good, I like the shape, I’ve been sharpening my tools by hand, I haven’t had the time to set up my oneway grinding/sharpening guide. I really need to do that because I want to see what these tools can do before I invest in anything expensive or I try some of the carbide tipped tools I plan on making.

All I can say is this that wood turning is a log of fun, very addicting! Already I wish I had a lathe with a little more power 🙂 The harbor freight

Laguna Revo 13\36 wood lathe
This Laguna Revo Wood Lathe wreaks of quality, gonn be my next purchase!

has turned some of the softer woods very easily, but this dry ash is really tough on the lathe. I was thinking of a Laguna or Nova Wood Lathe, several guys have these and love em!

For instance if you’re looking for a new lathe check out some of these features. I have a couple of other Laguna power tools and really like them.

The Revo 18|36 Lathe from Laguna combines power, precision and advanced features, resulting in a turning experience like no other. The lathe features a polished steel bed for the utmost in strength and stability, and the smoothest possible movement of the headstock, tailstock and tool rest. A full 18” of outboard capacity allows you to turn large bowls, while 36” of inboard capacity lets you turn long spindles, table legs and island legs. The lathe is powered by a unique motor that converts a 1-phase input to a 3-phase output. This 3-phase output delivers smooth, even power, even when the lathe is under heavy loads. It also provides infinitely variable speed within the two general speed ranges without sacrificing power or torque at lower RPMs. The anodized aluminum control panel is exquisitely designed, and angled for easy visibility and accessibility to all knobs. It features a large blue-hued digital read-out that gives you precise RPM readouts at all times, and easy adjustments with the comfortable rubber-coated knob.

Second bowl for me, a lot less tears, less gouges and a lot less tear outs! I used my Woodstock Bowl Gouge and 1″ scraper for most of it so far. I also used the skew to create the recess for the Nova Chuck.

I think I’ll make up some of Cap’n Eddie’s OB Shine Juice for a finish. One thing I didn’t think of is how do I deal with the insert hole for the Nova Chuck Jaws? I know with a tennon I can just cut it off, but not sure how to deal with a hole in the bottom of my bowl….. guess I’ll have to do a little research!

Maybe I’ll shoot some video of turning and finishing this bowl. I will post some pics of how it turns out and will try to do a sequence. My wife thinks they are beautiful, all I see are the imperfections …..I could easily throw them away. Oh…I need to tell you about the cup I made from gluing up about 5 2×6’s …. looks really cool!

keep your eyes peeled for different sources of free wood
Every township, city or county cleans up after storms, just ask if you can pick thru the wood…. free wood for wood turning projects.

And…. I have another project in mind. I was driving past a local city landfill…. organic stuff, and I found some pine with a 8 to 10 inch diameter. I have a lamp project in mind!

You gotta keep you eyes open for downed wood, cable, electric and phone line guys are always around keeping the right away clear for their lines…. an excellent place to pick up enough wood to turn for a whole year!

I did a post on how and where to find free wood for your turning projects. Not quite done with it, but I think it will help some of you guys out. Will try to get that stuff posted in the next week of so.

Until then….. happy wood turning!!!