Carve a Greenwood Bowl
Pleasure in the making—and every day thereafter
Synopsis: Start with a greenwood log, split it, and do some preliminary layout. Then begin the process of carving a bowl that will be as rewarding in the attempt as it is after completion. You’ll need some basic layout tools, an adze, an ax, a spokeshave, and some gouges. Then follow along as David Fisher shows you the fun.
Carving a bowl is like hiking through the woods: Your body is moving, your blood is flowing, and your senses are alive with pleasure. Grab an ax and an adze, a drawknife and a spokeshave, and follow me on a journey from log to bowl. The first step is to find a green log with a cooperative disposition. A good size log for this bowl is around 10 in. dia. and 18 in. long. Bowls can be carved from just about any species, but some woods are more agreeable than others. Soft, tight-grained hardwoods without a persistent aroma are traditional for bowl carving—woods like birch, poplar, soft maple, and willow. Harder woods require a bit more work, but they take a beautiful finish and are less absorbent; cherry, hard maple, and fruitwoods are all excellent. Don’t limit yourself, though. I’ve carved bowls from walnut, butternut, sassafras, oak, chestnut, and more. Look for a log that is free of knots and other defects. If you read the bark and the end grain carefully, you can often avoid trouble down the road. Split the log through the pith with a maul and wedges and feel the coolness of the newly revealed surface with your hands. Breathe in the aroma, and consider the gift you have been given. Then sharpen your hewing ax.
Before you dig in with sharp steel, take time to make some marks with a pencil. Traditionally, bowls were…