Small Ash Bowls

This is a little project using some fresh Ash that I harvested from the streets of Dallas. Curbside finds you might say. It is beautiful wood but I am not sure I did it justice. But this was more of an experiment or more precisely a comparison of several things: 1) work holding methods, 2) bowl orientation, 3) bowl form, and 4) colors on Ash.

Log sections

This is a little project using some fresh Ash that I harvested from the streets of Dallas. Curbside finds you might say. It is beautiful wood but I am not sure I did it justice. But this was more of an experiment or more precisely a comparison of several things: 1) work holding methods, 2) bowl orientation, 3) bowl form, and 4) colors on Ash.

Both bowls were made from the same log but in different orientations. One was made as a natural edge bowl and the other as a traditional bowl. In the pictures below you see the ash log cut into two sections. This is fresh, wet wood with the bark intact. I simple sawed the log section in half lengthwise on my bandsaw. The second picture shows the two finished bowls held in the orientation as they came from the log - the top one with the natural edge rim and the foot is from the middle of the half log section whereas the bottom bowl is traditionally turned with the foot at the outside of the log section and the rim coming from the interior of the log section. A traditional bowl cut this way utilizes the log section more efficiently since its curve mimic the log shape more so than a natural edge bowl.

Mounting the natural edge blank using the Elio-DR as a faceplate

I have used the Elio-DR drive center to mount both bowls. For the natural edge bowl I show how the Elio-DR drive works as a faceplate when using it with a drawbar. This is not typically how I would mount a natural edge blank but I wanted to show how it is done. Normally I would use the Elio-DR as a drive center on the bark side which allows for some minute adjustments to align bark edges and grain patterns. More on this in a future article/video series.

To mount the 2.5" Elio-DR on the bark side of the log section, first find the approximate center and use the center pin of the Elio-DR to set at the center mark. Then use the two screw pins to level the faceplate on the bark side. I used two three #8 wood screws, 2 x 2" long and 1 x 1.25" long, to secure the faceplate to the log section. The 2" long screws are necessary since they are securing through the faceplate then through a gap at the edge of the log and then into the bark and finally the ash wood. Drive the screws in slowly and not all the way at first. Alternate the tightening of the screws, like lug nuts on a tire, so that the faceplate gets pulled tight but even all around. The two screw pins should help here to keep things somewhat level. Once the Elio-DR is mounted like a faceplate with the wood screws, use an Allen wrench to tighten down the two screw pins. 

When securing wood to the Elio-DR in the faceplate mode ensure that the weight and size of the blank matches the size of the device. Use common sense and you should have no problems. Remember, you alone are responsible for your safety in your shop.

Lathe mounting Elio-DR with the drawbar

Now is time to mount the Elio-DR to the lathe with the drawbar. First, slide the Elio-DR 3@ Morse taper shank into the lathe spindle. The wood blank on the Elio-DR should sit in the Morse taper just fine but do not turn on the lathe yet!

The drawbar is a threaded rod sized for the device it is securing. In this case the Elio-DR has 1/4" - 20tpi threads in the end of the taper, so the drawbar is 1/4" - 20tpi threaded rod (or all-thread as some say). The drawbar I sell comes in an 18" length of threaded rod with a 15" plastic tube, two dual wing knobs and a wooden cone center. The length of the threaded rod and the plastic tubing need to be cut to fit the length of your spindle. See drawbar sizing instructions here.

Feed the drawbar through the handle (left) side of the spindle and manipulate it to engage the threads of the Elio-DR. Note that the plastic tubing is there to protect the inside of the lathe spindle. If your lathe spindle is too small for the tubing then remove the tubing and wrap the threaded rob on electrical tape for protection. Thread the drawbar on at least three full turns, preferable five turns. The reason for the two wing knobs becomes obvious here. The two knobs lock against each other to create a way t turn the threaded rod into the Elio-DR threads. Once the drawbar is secured to the Elio-DR inside the spindle, then loosen the two knobs from each other and then thread the inner knob up to the center cone and push the center cone into the spindle opening. The center cone ensures that the drawbar turn concentric to the spindle. To finally secure the drawbar, thread the outer knob up next to the inner know and lock them together. 

Turning the natural edge bowl

So now I am ready to turn the natural edge bowl - and I can do it without the tailstock! This is only possible with the Elio-DR in faceplate mode and using a drawbar.

This log section is small enough to be able to turn the corners off the log section on the lathe rather than cutting them off on the bandsaw. If the lof section was much bigger then I would definitely use the bandsaw to take the corners off to make the turning easier.

So now it is standard bowl turning - shaping the outside, creating a tenon, remounting in a chuck, hollowing the inside (some technique here to keep the bark) and finishing the bowl.

Mounting the traditional bowl

Now to the other half of the ash log. This will be turned as a traditional bowl and by that I mean that the entire bowl will contain only heart wood and utilize the maximum amount of materiel from the log section.

I again used the 2.5" Elio-DR but I did not use the drawbar. In this case the tailstock is necessary for the entire turning of the bottom of the bowl. So I simply install the Elio-DR in the spindle #2 Morse taper. I used the center pin to register the center mark on the blank and brought up the tailstock with a live center. I use the screw pins on the Elio-DR to drive into the flat are of the blank in such a way as to keep the flat surface perpendicular to the rotation axis. These screw pins on the Elio-DR enable the turner to compensate for an uneven top face of a bowl blank by making different adjustments, in or out, of each screw pin. 

Once the tailstock was secure and the Elio-DR screw pins were secure I proceeded to turn the bottom of the bowl shape and turn a tenon for remounting. Once I remounted the bowl in the chuck then I completed the top of the bowl and finished the bowl with some dye and shellac and wax.

Grain pattern, bowl shape and coloring

I used this project to also show the grain pattern of the different orientations. The interior of the natural edge bowl shows concentric grain growth rings starting at the bottom and continuing up the side of the bowl. The growth rings are perceived like contours of the landscape just like a topographical map. This kind of pattern only shows up when the foot of the vessel is oriented on the inside of the log section and the rim is oriented to the bark side of the log section. If you control the orientation of the blank while turning you can achieve this look on other bowls and vessel.  The tradition orientation, where the rim is closest to the center of the tree and the foot is oriented to the bark (outside) of the tree, then the grin pattern that emerges is a 'starburst' with four points and hyperbolic grain patterns between the points. 

I tried for an ogee shape on the natural edge bowl but failed to tuck the bottom in enough. The traditional bowl has a out flowing curve to show off a continuous curve. This shape was a bit more successful.

The coloring was simple dye just to show of the grain and to add some color to our collection of little bowls. 

Both of these bowls were turned from wet wood so I should have turned the feet right away but other things got in the way so they are now dry and I would not be able to complete the foot any more than it already is.

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