How to Make a Wooden Bowl With Hand Tools

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Hand-carved wooden bowls make beautiful rustic art pieces.
Hand-carved wooden bowls make beautiful rustic art pieces. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Hand-carved bowls aren’t just a way to use up scrap wood. These artful items can add a touch of rustic or eco-chic charm to your home. You can store odds and ends in them to keep clutter under control or use them as the base to a holiday gift basket. Wooden bowls also help you stay green through reducing waste. Recently fallen trees and firewood leftover from cold weather can become works of art instead of trash.

Things You'll Need

  • 10-inch thick-by-12-inch long log
  • Flat-edged chisels
  • Rubber mallet
  • Bench vise
  • Electric handsaw
  • Coarse sandpaper
  • Fine sandpaper
  • Tack cloth
  • Wood conditioner
  • Soft cloth

Stand your log up on one end. Hold your first chisel right in the center-end of the log. Drive the chisel about 2 inches down into the log with a rubber mallet.

Drive a second chisel into the log about 3 inches to the right of the first chisel. Repeat with a third chisel on the left. All of your chisels should be in a straight line across the end of the log.

Tap each chisel sharply in turn until your log splits the whole way through. Choose one-half of the log to be your bowl.

Work the edge of one of your chisels under the bark on your log half. Tap the chisel gently to loosen the bark, and peel it away from the wood. Remove all the bark this way.

Flip your log half over so the flat side faces up. Sketch the outside edge of your bowl onto the log. In this case, an oval- or boat-shape might work best, but you can try for a circle, too. Sketch the inner edge of the bowl about 1 inch from the outer edge line.

Flip the log over. Draw an oval or circle in the center of the top of the log’s curve. This will be the flat bottom for your bowl. It should be about two-thirds of the size of your bowl’s inner edge. A bowl with a 10-inch long, 8-inch wide inner edge should have a bottom about 7 inches long and 5 inches wide.

Secure your log, flat-side up, in a bench vise. Rest the curved bottom on the bottom of the vise so the log does not move. The log must not move to prevent injury and mistakes.

Cut horizontal lines about 1 inch apart inside the inner edge line of your bowl using a small electric handsaw. Cut a few inches deep with each pass. This makes chiseling go a bit easier and faster.

Hold your chisel at a 45-degree angle at the inner edge line of your bowl. Tap the chisel with a rubber mallet, carving away the wood inside the bowl. Shave away very thin pieces of wood. About 1/8 inch at a time is the thickest you should go. Carve out the entire inside of your bowl this way.

Flip the bowl over, and secure it in the vice again. Start at the edges of the oval on the bottom of the bowl, and chisel down toward the outer edge of your bowl. Work slowly, and shave away thin layers of wood. Continue until the lip of the bowl is an inch thick.

Sand the entire bowl with coarse sandpaper. This makes the bowl smooth and eliminates chisel marks. You should also sand straight across the bottom of the bowl to make a flat space so it can sit without tilting.

Go over the entire bowl with fine sandpaper. This gives your bowl a silky, smooth finish. Wipe away the sawdust with sticky tack cloth.

Rub an even layer of gel wood conditioner onto your bowl with a soft cloth. Wood conditioner gives your bowl a dull sheen like highly polished wood.

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