No Chuck Bowl

A Pictorial Article by Bob Hamilton


    A lot of aspiring turners want to turn bowls on their new lathe but are unable to afford a chuck so soon after laying out their money for the lathe and tooling.  The fact is, a chuck is a luxury, not a necessity.  Granted, it is a very desirable luxury, but it is a luxury nonetheless.  Most lathes come with a faceplate and that is all that is really needed for bowl turning.  There are many ways to turn a bowl using just a faceplate, and I have put together a few pictures to demonstrate one way of doing it. 

    The main point I hope to get across is that the diameter of the faceplate should not dictate the form of the bowl.  Most lathes come with a 3" diameter faceplate and many new turners seem to feel that that means the base of their bowl must be at least 3" diameter.  That is fine if the bowl is 9" or 10" in diameter, but a 5" or 6" bowl with a 3" base usually looks kind of chunky, depending on the design.  The generally accepted rule of thumb is that the base of the bowl should be approximately 1/3 of the maximum diameter of the bowl.  There are certainly exceptions and some forms need a wider or narrower base, but that choice should belong to the turner and not be dictated by the tools.

    To illustrate the point I scrounged through the woodpile and found this chunk of ailanthus, which is also called Tree of Heaven.  It had been very roughly sawn into a "board" about 5 1/2" wide and a bit under 3" thick.  It was 9" or 10" long but there was some checking on one end so I docked most of the waste from that end when cutting it square.  That still left a bit of checking that should be removed when the bowl is turned, but I ran some low viscosity cyanoacrylate glue into the crack to be on the safe side.

Photo #1:  Rough ailanthus blank.

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