Wooden Bowls. So How Do You Make a Bowl Without a Lathe?

How Do You Make a Bowl Without a Lathe? Make Bowl Without Lathe In 4 Steps

Lathes take up significant space in a workshop, which may compel woodworking enthusiasts to look for an alternative. Fortunately, there are many alternatives out there. One such is setting up a vertical lathe with a drill press to help you turn something fast. Today, we will discuss How Do You Make a Bowl Without a Lathe?

You can make a wooden bowl without a lathe. Fit a simple template on your table saw. Then, turn around the wood block while raising the saw blade. This handling hollows out inside the bowl to deliver your intended surface.

This article will give in-depth information on this technique and how to use various tools as an alternative to lathes. Ensure you read it till the end to avoid skipping any steps.

What Is Wood Lathe?

A wood lathe works best for woodworking applications such as drilling, facing, cutting, sanding, turning, and deforming wood pieces.

It still functions like other lathes by exposing the rotating block to a stationary cutting device.

However, these tools are only suitable for wooden workpieces.

Thus, they are not recommended for more rigid materials, including metal.

Wood lathes are smaller and more user-friendly than their metal counterparts.

Also, they have a rudimentary pulley system to control the workpiece’s speed during operation.

Image of Delta In Use, it's the best wood lathe for beginnersIn addition, although the devices do not generate as much power as metal lathes, they are highly effective at manipulating wood blocks.

A lathe is a versatile tool in the manufacturing industry and stands out in the way it holds workpieces.

Moreover, unlike milling machines with a rotating cutting accessory, this device exposes the wood to a fixed cutting tool.

Sometimes, woodworkers confuse a wood lathe with a metal one. But the latter works explicitly for metalworking tasks. 

Metal lathes are more potent than their comparison as they work on more rigid workpieces.

They aggressively deform and manipulate iron, steel, aluminum, and other metals.

You can still use a metal lathe for wood workpieces as they support multiple materials.

On the other hand, wood lathes can only work on wood due to their limited cutting capacity.

What Is Bowl Turning?

Bowl turning is the craft of using a wood lathe with other tools to cut symmetrical shapes around the rotation axis.

It heavily borrows from the potter’s wheel, allowing a woodworker to create various forms.

The expertise in using hand tools without a fixed contact point with the wood distinguishes bowl turning and the wood lathe from the metalworking or the machinist’s lathe.

Also, we have some precautions to adhere to when turning wood bowls at the lathe. And the more you do them, the more ingrained they get over time.

So, ensure you read the product manual for specific safety instructions. Examples include:

  • First, stop the lathe before adjusting to the banjo, tool rest, or tailstock. Then, position the bowl gouge on the tool rest before turning.
  • Confirm that the bowl gouge does not touch the spinning bowl blank. Otherwise, it will result in a catch.
  • Position the tailstock at the bowl blank’s center and use it to balance and support the rotating workpiece. Besides, locking it guarantees more stable bowl turning.

What Can I Use Instead of a Lathe?

You can turn on a drill press or build a pseudo-lathe with a hand drill and use it as a lathe.

The process is straightforward as the essential requirement is creating a live center from the drill press.

Bolt some scrap hardwood to the drill press table and make a hole through the wood.

Also, ensure that it is slightly over 5/16 0f an inch as the opening needs to be smaller than the drill chuck shaft.

Use the shaft to burnish the lumber to facilitate a good fit between the block and the chuck’s shaft.

Then, get a hex shaft screwdriver and fasten it into the drill press.

Next, with the drill press running slowly, attach the chuck and gently feed the shaft into the hole.

Pull out the chuck and slip the thrust bearing into place. You can add light oil drops to keep the live center turning freely.

Use a mallet to countersink the drive into the workpiece and slip it between the chucks.

In addition, lift the table to firmly secure the material before turning the drill press to medium speed.

Lastly, you can start rounding the wood with a surform blade, provided it does not fly out. Then, shape it with the rasps once it’s round.

How Do You Hollow a Wooden Bowl Without a Lathe?

Safety comes first! So, get your ear protection, safety gloves, safety boots, dust mask, and work gloves. 

Also, gather the correct supplies for the project. They include sanding paper, a stain pad, wood glue, linseed oil, gap filler, a router, a measuring tool, and a pencil to mark all the pieces. 

Next, follow the procedure below for a successful outcome.

  • Prepare the Machine

Determine the saw blade’s dimensions to help base your bowl’s measurements.

Being limited by the accessory’s size is a significant limation when making a bowl with a table saw. Therefore, please use the correct estimation.

Ensure that the wood pieces connect perfectly during glue and keep them as flat as possible.

You can use a thicknesser to prepare the wood and keep them in the desired position.

However, consider working with a hand plane if you do not have a thicknesser. It will give an accurate estimate.

Determining the saw blade’s dimensions also helps determine how wide the workpiece will be, making it easy to create a perfect square.

Alternatively, you can square the block by dividing the number of wood layers by thickness.

But the wood does not have to be an accurate square as long as you can cut a full circle.

The fastest way to glue these wood pieces is to position them side by side and spread the adhesive with your preferred accessory.

Further, you can even use an old bank card and expect a satisfactory outcome.

However, please do not use scrap wood for this task and assemble the pieces as soon as possible.

Also, get clamps to help apply equal pressure to the project for faster and more efficient drying.

  • Make the Wooden Bowl, The Outside

Cut the base from the block to create a bowl. But first, determine the piece’s center by measuring the two sides and placing a mark on half the measure.

Next, take a thin board and measure half the saw blade’s width from one side.

Also, ensure you work on the side to facilitate sufficient contact with the cutting disc.

Mark this point and make a small hole for nailing the board. Then, position the board with the nail on the workpiece and secure it at the center mark.

Now the block can rotate freely on the board.

The other step is to install this structure on your table saw. Hence, secure the board against the saw blade and clamp it firmly.

Turn the saw on and ensure the blade does not touch the overhanging block.

In addition, observe the structure and carefully lift the saw when the table runs at full speed.

Rotate the block one complete revolution when the saw blade touches it. Then, lift it and rotate the workpiece.

Continue with the above process until you get your desired bowl height.

Also, please avoid forcing the table saw for your safety. Instead, use small steps to cut out the circle

 

  • Make the Wooden Bowl, The Inside

The bowl hallows out with a perfect arc as you rotate the round block over the saw blade. Therefore, this step is a walk in the park.

However, ensure that the round block stays in the correct position and that the hole features the right dimensions.

Keep the round block in position by using a workpiece with a hole. Then, place it on the plank and mark the desired shape.

Also, determine the circle’s center as a reference point when cutting the ring out. Here’s a brief guide on how to do it.

  • Draw a line anywhere on the circle with the line crossing it twice.
  • Keep your compass larger than half of the line and place it where the circle and line intersect. Then, mark the point inside and outside the ring.
  • Connect the two marks with a line to create a perpendicular line to the one you drew earlier.
  • Repeat the above steps from another point of the circle. And try to determine when best to cross the perpendicular lines.
  • The exact circle center is where the two perpendicular lines intersect.

The other step is to place the piece with a hole over the saw blade. Ensure that it enters perfectly, or you will not center it properly in the bowl.

Make the bowl hollowing by working in the same way as you did for its outside. Then, rotate it for one revolution, lift the saw blade, and repeat till you get the desired depth.

  • Finish the Wooden Bowl

Fill any cracks with a gap filler as it solidifies immediately. In addition, the paste closes the hole and strengthens the connection, assuring you of a sturdy structure.

You can also chamfer the bowl’s bottom edge to finish it neatly.

Place the saw blade at a 45-degree position to touch the circle and slide the board with a hole.

Proceed to sand the wooden bowl. Use a lower grit to remove all coarse irregularities and move to higher grades for a smoother finish.

Lastly, rub the bowl with olive oil to saturate and finish it. In addition, it makes the accessory food safe and fit for kitchen use.

Here’s How to Make a Bowl With No Lathe:

How Can a Router Be Used as a Lathe?

A wood router is handy during wood turning as it adapts naturally and functions as a lathe.

Also, the tool cuts decorative spirals and flutes into round wood stocks.

Please do not confuse a router lathe with a convectional wood lathe. The former includes an electric router perpendicular to the lathe bed axis.

Moreover, the router setup works with the lathe’s indexing system to create regularly spaced features on bowls, spindles, and ornaments.

You can also design a banjo-mounted table with a fence to guide the router. Thus, the setup will deliver more versatility.

Lastly, the router bit lowers while simultaneously moving along the axis to cut the workpiece.

Therefore, you get the effect of cutting a groove or spiral along the workpiece.

Can You Use a Drill as a Lathe?

It is possible to use a drill as a lathe. However, ensure that you have a secure live center from the tool for smooth operations.

Also, make a hole slightly smaller than the drill chuck shaft and ensure a good fit between the chuck’s shaft and the workpiece.

Then, fasten a hex shaft screwdriver bit before feeding the shaft into the block.

Can You Use a Dremel as a Lathe?

You can use a Dremel as a lathe, but professionals recommend having the real thing.

Therefore, this improvisation may not be your best option unless you only want an affordable way to turn plastic or metal with a lathe.

Here’s how to make a Dremel lathe:

  • First, determine your power mode between an Alternating Current plug-in or batteries. Then, adjust the speed dial between 5,000 to 10,000 RPM.
  • Find a solid material with a four inches diameter to use as a lather. 
  • Consider using the Dremel tool’s flex shaft attachment when you do not have scrap metal for the experiment. It needs lesser torque than the whole metal piece.
  • The next step involves securing the workpiece in the Dremel. Set up the metal drill bit like a makeshift lathe and use masking tape to secure it in place.
  • Slip the flex shaft attachment’s tip through two rubber bands. Ensure they are six inches apart, and then secure the tip to the Dremel.
  • Lastly, set up the Dremel on a low speed and lower the bit till it touches the material. In addition, gradually increase the speed when turning the plastic or metal against the rotating bit.

Please note that metal cutting lathes are hazardous if they lack a rigidly mounted cutting tool holder.

However, you can still proceed if your tool does not have this accessory.

Only ensure that it is adjustable to accommodate different angles.

Alternatively, consider substituting the technique for a lap rest.

The strategy allows you to steady the lathe with your hand while holding the cutting device or chisel.

It is advisable to work with a firmly mounted cutting tool as the rigidity makes turning workpieces much easier. 

Further, metal machine parts operate differently from wood turnings, while banister parts and table legs do not need true roundness.

Finally, a Dremel delivers enough power to turn plastic and soft aluminum model parts.

Therefore, you can use the device when in need of extra space and want to rotate some wood.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wood Lathe

Although wood lathes have multiple benefits, they also feature some drawbacks. Here is a summary of their pros and cons.

Image of JET wood lathe In How Do You Make a Bowl Without a Lathe?for beginnersPros

  • Wood lathes give you consistency in demanding projects.
  • They deliver a refined finish when used for the correct purpose.
  • You will get enjoy greater profitability in your work.
  • The device provides excellent accuracy.
  • It allows you to modify chiseling according to your tasks.
  • You can use the machine for various applications, including bowls, toothpicks, and candle holders.
  • It is simple to use and accommodates woodworking beginners.
  • A wood lather is light weighted and relevant for individual purposes.
  • You will enjoy easy rotation control from the effective pulley system.

Cons

  • Wood lathes are not suitable for metals and other heavy workpieces.
  • Their rotation speed is lower than metal lathes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the most rampant question around the subject include:

  • How Do I Lubricate a Wood Lathe?

Lubricate the bottom surfaces in contact with the lathe’s bedrails with paste wax. Then, move to the drive screw with a mild spray. 

Also, consider oiling the locking mechanisms for better efficiency.

  • What are the Safety Precautions When Using a Wood Lathe?

Safety is necessary for woodworking, and it is advisable to follow precaution tips to avoid accidents.

Below are a few instructions when using a wood lathe.

  • First, inspect the machine before starting the job. Then, ensure that you make the necessary adjustments and fittings.
  • Keep the work area clean and use high-quality wood for the project.
  • Use a sharp machine for smooth operations.
  • Work in a well-lit area to help you see the cuts better.
  • Please avoid wearing jewelry and free-fitted clothes as they can easily entrap with the woodturning tool.
  • Keep children and pets away from the workstation when working or even at rest.

 

  • What Are the Maintenance Procedures for a Wood Lathe?

It is prudent to follow the recommended maintenance procedures.

Otherwise, dirt build-up on the machine will cause significant damage, forcing you to purchase another lathe or pay for repairs.

Here are some little things to keep your wood lathe in good shape.

  • Smooth down and wax the tool rest to keep the edge smooth. A rough edge makes long cuts on your turning, making them uneven.
  • Clean out the morse tapers: the head stock and tail stock. This exercise will keep your drive spur and live center adequately aligned.
  • Wipe down the lathe’s rails and spray some silicone wax to reduce the friction between the tail stock and banjo.
  • Clean the stock heads to keep the faceplates securely in place. You can use an old toothbrush to remove debris.

Caring for your equipment prolongs its life and ensures it operates at optimal capacity.

In addition, it saves you time as faulty machines keep breaking down during work.

On top of that, below is a list of what to have on your lathe maintenance checklist.

  • Dust and Debris. Dirt build-up is the biggest culprit for lathe issues. Therefore, wipe off big wood shavings piles and dust after each bowl. 

Also, vacuum the machine with an air compressor or vacuum to clean out all the nooks and crannies.

Use the compressor’s pressurized air to blow dust under the banjo, around the electric motor, and through the morse taper holes on the head and tail stock.

Clear out the lather regularly if it sits on a bench. And watch out for dust build-up for freestanding devices.

  • Rust. Wet lumber and shavings can coat the machine and promote rust formation. Moreover, additional tannins and compounds in the particles accelerate oxidation on exposed metal lathes.

Use higher-grit sandpaper for areas affected by rust. Then, smooth the surface with fine steel wool to smooth the metal surface.

  • Threads. Accidental cross-threading can damage threads on the lathe headstock spindle. Therefore, it is advisable to check these accessories when servicing a lathe.

Besides, attaching a faceplate or chuck will not be fluid when the accessories are not aligned.

The first thing to do in the above scenario is avoid forcing the device. Then, evaluate the machine to determine the cause of the problem.

Try a different wood lathe accessory like a faceplate or chuck to see if it has the same challenge threading.

Lastly, consider changing the headstock threads if more than one device has the same issues.

  • Lathe Belt. The lathe belt connects the headstock to the motor and must be clean throughout. Thus, rotate the accessory by hand and inspect all its surfaces frequently.

Unplug the wood or metal lathe and open any covers concealing the drive belt. Check for frayed or damaged edges and replace the accessory if necessary.

Conclusion

There you have it! It is possible to engage in woodturning applications without a wood lathe.

If you have been a woodworker for some time now, then you should find it a lot easier to turn bowls without lathe.

Also, worry not if you are a learner as this post gives you a step by step guide to go about the process of turning bowl without the lathe.

To summarize on…

How Do You Make a Bowl Without a Lathe

Fit a table saw template and turn the workpiece while raising the blade. It helps you hollow out the bowl and get your intended shape. 

Also, the design is simple, and you can use it for modern and rural interior decoration.

I hope you found this post helpful. Do you have a question, suggestion or opinion that you would like to air? I hope so, kindly use the comment section below to reach out to me. 

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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