Best Woods for Turning Bowls In (2022)

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Turning woods is an exquisite woodworking passion for many as it not only comes with the satisfaction of producing the most beautiful objects from the most unlikely types of wood but it also presents them with a thrilling experience. Woods are turned for many purposes both for exterior and interior usages. Home appliances, cupboards, flooring, wine coffers, boats, barrels, kitchenware, etc. are some of the common forms among them. However, a wooden bowl is special kitchenware that is widely beloved across all communities, so it needs its distinguished spotlight. So, what is the best wood for turning bowls? To answer that, we’re going deep-diving into the entire process.


The Recipe

Before starting with the wood-picking, let’s briefly see the fundamental process of turning woods into your favorite shaped bowls. There are two conventional ways to approach the task. One is the spindle turning method where you use the headstock and the rear spindle to suspend a chunk of wood between the two and turn along the length of the piece of wood. But most bowls aren’t made this way as it’s more efficient for creating table stands and other long woodturning rather than round-shaped ones.

The most universal method is to forgo the use of the rear spindle and attach a piece of wood with the motor exclusively to the headstock. This way, without removing the wood from the headstock, it is possible to transform both the inside and outside of the wooden cup.

After finding a large piece of fresh wood, cut it into a rounded shape using a circular or band saw. Now, punch a hole in the center using an awl and mount the blank to the chuck on the headstock, tightening it with the chuck’s wood screw. To ensure the spherical ground, connect the tailstock parallel to the two center points opposite of the mounting points while rotating the piece by hand. Next, turn on the lathe and start rounding the blank using a roughing gouge slowly until the blank is rounded to the desired diameter smoothly and consistently.

Then remove the tailstock and reposition the tool and after cutting the recess carefully, remove the blank from the headstock and mount the bowl chuck to the blank to install it into the headstock. Later, to remove the center material, make very incremental cuts, concentrating on creating an inner shape for the bowl that fits the bowl’s outer shape until you have the desired, consistent wood thickness between the inner and outer shapes. Finally, with very shallow cuts, use your bowl gouge or a scraper to create a consistent bowl lip.


Qualities to Look For

Now let’s attend to our principal query. What kind of wood should you use for making the bowls? All types of wood are unique in their own ways offering different textures and colors which equips you with a lot of choices to choose from. Hence, knowing what qualities you’re looking for in your wood, first and foremost, narrows down that preference sphere for you. Looks, hues, grains, endurance, fire and water resistance, moisture absorbance, hardness and toughness, workability, and overall versatility are some of the qualities you should check in your wood before turning it into bowls.


The Best Woods for turning bowls

Right, so you’ve been patient enough to earn your answer, and quite rightly so. Unfortunately, we can’t give you a straight-forward answer. There are a plethora of woods used for turning bowls according to individual preferences and all of them have some exclusive upsides to them. So, here are some of the woods best suited for making that bowl of yours and we’ll live the rest up for you to choose. Remember, not all of these woods are accessible everywhere, so make your preference based on your geography, prices of the woods, and of course, the quality.

  1. Beech: Beechwood’s durability makes it a widely used choice for many bowl turners around the world. The hardwood mostly doesn’t have a distinctive grain pattern but its light color and plainness are no disadvantages as its simplicity is what makes it so elegant. Its looks and abrasion-resistance make it a perfect contestant for the top spot as far as bowl-making is concerned. It has a linear grain with a fine uniform style and for color, it has pink to reddish-brown heartwood, while sapwood has a creamy to pink shade.
  2. Cherry: The straight-grained hardwood varies in color from a vibrant red to a subtle reddish-brown and its strength is what sets it apart from the other variants. These woods respond equally well to varnish, clear lacquer, and oil finishes. From pale yellowish-white to reddish-brown, the wide color spectrum of cherry wood is interspersed with dark streaks. You can get some attractive designs when you sand and stain or paint on them.
  3. Hard Maple: Endurance and robustness are the special traits that make these so desirable. Its sapwood creates a creamy white color with a hint of dark brown, and the heartwood varies from light to dark rosy-brown delicately. Another special side of this wood is that it contains aberrations in its grains that form different shapes. Since maples are prone to spalting, the wood often results in black streaks that can create an arresting marbling effect.
  4. Red Oak: Generally known for its flexibility and convenience, these hardwoods have some ethereal fall colors. The northern red oak has a ruddy brown appearance with a coarse grain. Live oak roots can also be used for bowl turning instead of the trunk of a tree or its branches. Gather the wood at the intersection between the tree roots and the trunk and the wood would turn out extremely well when it is green for its less likely to part due to interlocking grain.
  5. Walnut: The heartwood features medium to dark brown from the black walnut tree and can sometimes take on a purple hue. The most varied natural designs can be achieved in bowls made of walnut wood, mixing both light and dark shades. By turning on a lathe at about 800 RPM and 1,000 RPM, you can get the best out of walnut wood. The most adequate results can be realized with a clear finish and several coats of Danish oil.


All woods are not equal which is why you need to know the singular aspects of each to make your final decision before your bowl turning. We’ve provided you with the 5 best choices to pick your favorite from. With the right kind of wood, you’ll surely be able to create some beautiful bowls that you’ll cherish for a long time.

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