How to Make Wooden Bowls From Burl

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Wooden burls are large bumps that stick out from a tree. The grain is often twisted or knurled within the burl. When the inside of a burl is carved out, the grain is often admired for its beauty. Traditionally burls have been used as bowls and drinking vessels depending on their size. Many weary trailblazers have sat beside the fire and carved out these naturally curved vessels. Today wooden bowls made from burls are prized for their function and beauty.

Things You'll Need

  • Tree burl
  • Woodworking vise
  • Gouge chisels of various sizes
  • Wooden mallet
  • Medium-grit sandpaper
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Food safe wood finish

Clamp the tree burl in the woodworking vise. The flat side of the burl should be exposed. The naturally rounded side of the burl will be left natural. The natural curve of the burl determines inside curve of the bowl.

Draw a line along the perimeter of the burl with a pencil. The line should be approximately 1/4-inch in from the edge of the burl. This will form the lip of the bowl.

Chisel out small chips from the inside section of the bowl inside the pencil mark. Use a mallet and a shallow gouge chisel to begin the process of hollowing out the bowl. Take small portions of wood away at a time to avoid splitting the wood. Gradually work your way down from the pencil line to create a nice curve on the inside wall. Make the bottom of the bowl somewhat flat. Continue to work your way around the inside of the bowl, using various sized gouges as needed. Once you are satisfied with the overall curve of the bowl, begin to refine the edges using a broad gouge and just the pressure of your hand.

Sand the lip and inside of the bowl with medium-grit sandpaper. Switch to a fine-grit sandpaper and continue to sand until the bowl is completely smooth. Apply a food-safe wood finish of your choice to the bowl. Do not use the bowl until the wood finish is completely dry.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make wooden bowls from several different burls to create a salad bowl set.
  • Always wear eye protection when working with wood.
  • Follow wood finish precautions for safe use.

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