Long Leaf Pine Bowl

Posted on April 21, 2010

It all started with a very nice gift to me and ended up as a very nice gift for my mother…

This project started out with a couple of beautiful pieces of Long Leaf Pine. These are old growth lumber taken out of a cotton mill in South Carolina. They are likely on the order of 150 years old and where brought to me by Kim’s mother as a gift.

These are flat boards about 3/4 inches thick, 10 inches wide and 4 feet long. The grain is really amazing but I was a bit stumped for projects. Linda (Kim’s mom) wanted a few pens made from the wood, so I turned a few of those and was very pleased with how they turned out. The grain was just wonderful and the pens really stood out. Now what I really wanted to make was a bowl.

Inspiration
While trying to come up with ideas I remembered a project I had read about where I guy made a turned bowl out of regular old two-by-fours. He laid the boards on edge and glued them together to get a bowl blank. This looked pretty promising so I thought I would give it a try. Check the photo gallery at the bottom for an idea of how it all goes together.

How it works
The way this works is that the long shelving board gets cut into three inch thick strips. We then cut the strips into an eight inch piece and two 4.25 inch pieces. We then glue the three pieces together as seen at the top of this page. This cross shape becomes the base for everything else so the pieces have to be square to each other (this is what the black plastic L shaped bars are doing.). We glue this up and let it dry.

The next day we take four slightly smaller pieces and glue them on to our cross shape (see the gallery below). We keep gluing shorter pieces on until we have a shape that is big enough to cut out our bowl blank. We also lay each set of pieces in a new direction as we glue them up to give us a more interesting pattern in the final shape (see the gallery below).

I then use a circular cutting jig to make the blank round. This gives me a head start on the shape and makes it much easier to turn the piece on the lathe. There is a short explanation of the jig on the right and a picture above that. It should give you a general idea of how it works.

Once everything was nice and round, it was time to put it on the lathe and see if it worked. I half expected it to disintegrate in spectacular fashion.

Spinning and finishing
I was pleased and surprised by how well the bowl turned. Once I got it on the lathe and spinning I realized how much sap is still in this wood. My shop smelled like a gallon jug of Pine Sol and my tools developed a sticky paste on the cutting tips.

However, the wood seemed to cut very well as long as my tools were sharp. No pieces came flying off (wood glue is amazing stuff) and it quickly became clear that the pattern was going to be lovely.

There are some interesting eccentricities in the bowl. The first thing you might notice are a few blackened places in the bowl itself. These are marks from where the enormous iron nails were driven into the boards in their original life as a building. These “nails” likely had more in common with a railroad spike that what we think of as nails. The holes in the original board are really large and seem to be arranged in a very random fashion. It gives the bowl character. 🙂

I really wish I could get some pictures of the original building this came from. I am still trying to get some more information on it and I will pass it along if I do.

The bowl is finished in Butcher Block Finish and should be food safe for snacks and such. (Not soup mind you, but good for crackers and assorted meats and cheeses)