About 1000+ Wood Bowl Design Ideas
Bowl design is a very subjective thing so what pleases the eye of one may not for another. That being said, there are a few conventions that generally hold true and are at least a good starting point when coming up with a design that will suit your esthetic and practical objectives. Once you get comfortable with these rather pliable tenets, you will have also learned when and where to break them.
The flat, steep-sided bowl below on the right is a classic design usually employed by a novice turner. This may be because of a desire to maximize the volume of that $10 blank but more than likely I feel the project was started with no particular design in mind. Here are a few tools to help you with your woodturning design before you even choose your blank.
1. What is the “right” curve? One convention is that the curved line of a bowl is more appealing if it approximates a catenery curve. A catenery curve is formed if you hold a light chain by its ends and let it droop. Whether deep or shallow (slack or taut), the line formed is called a catenery curve. We seem to be drawn to that shape and one of the theories is that we see that shape everywhere around us: vines, ropes, power lines, gondola lifts, a simple gold chain around a lady’s neck. Along with that is another tenet that is, for the most part, true. If that curve appears to complete above, on or just below the support surface, the form will have a lighter appearance. The profile of the bowl on the left in the photo below is an example of that curve completing above the surface (assisted by the small foot — more about that later).
2. Ease of turning is an added bonus There is a bonus to the form on the left above. It is far easier to turn than the the flat-bottomed piece. The flat-bottomed piece has a tight radius at the transition from side to bottom on the inside. When rounding that bend, the shank of the gouge will “ground out” against the rim of the bowl and cause the bevel to come off the work, resulting in the loss of control of the cut. The bevel will only regain contact with the surface part way to the center so there will be a very rough cut from side to almost center. Add to that, a flat bottom is very hard to do well. Should you want this design (and there may be a very valid reason), the answer is to use a gouge with a very steep angle (say, 45 degrees at least). This will stand the tool straighter up, keeping the shank away from the rim at the transition from side to bottom. Contrary to all this, the bowl with the simpler curve is much easier to turn, having a curved bottom and no issues with the shank of the tool coming in contact with the rim on it’s path around the curve. Additionally, there are no sudden changes in direction throughout the cut, only a smooth transition from rim to center.
3. The catenery curve works everywhere The catenery curve notion works for rather flat bowls (above) and also tall vase forms as well. However, in the photo below, note how the sides of the hollow form head straight into the table. If these are the sides of a curve the bottom of the curve is well below the table. Though not necessarily heavy in appearance, the foot becomes very prominent and generally conflicts with the curved lines of the rest of the piece. The hollow form below has a curve near the foot that closes very close to the support surface. When viewed from a slightly elevated angle, the foot isn’t visible and the piece appears to actually float above the table. How is that for lightness? Quite a difference from the last example.
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