Carving wooden bowls is a wonderful thing to do. It is a bit harder physically than spooncarving and requires a few more dedicated tools but the results are wonderful. Here are a couple of bowls carved by students on our first bowlcarving course.

I have been carving bowls for some time and before starting to teach I tried out all the different systems I have seen other folk using and was not really happy, particularly with the holding devices and tools used for finishing cuts on the inside. In Sweden they tend to use a low bench for the adzing standing astride it then kneeling beside it for gouge work,
Here is my friend Steve Tomlin at work on one.

Wille Sunqvist also uses a sort of sloping chopping block. My friend Michail Schutte uses a nice version of this and I thought I may go this route. Here is me trying it in Germany.

And these were the bowls I made.
The problem with this is when adzing you need to keep coming at it from both sides which means continually reversing the bowl so it is hardly worth jamming it in place. For teaching new learners I wanted a system where they could work from both directions whilst standing upright and ideally I wanted something that you could  carve wooden bowls on one simple clamping system, both the inside and outside.
I love David Fishers bowl horse for carving the outside but this is quite a serious bit of dedicated kit for a serious carver. David’s bowls are beautiful and for the work involved very good value too.
and then there is the system used by Guy Mallinson and Maurice Pyle, neither seemed to fit what I was after.
A whole lot more experimentation led to a new design of holding device which I found worked really well. You work standing to the side and can quickly turn to adze from either direction, the blank is held by a simple wedge but holds really solidly.
Having trialed the system with friends, and our kids I was happy enough with it to make 8 of them for my first bowlcarving course. We had a great time and the techniques worked better than I could have hoped (or maybe we just had a particularly great set of students). This blog post last November showed the whole process

We decided the device needed a name and ran a competition on the green woodworkers forum where folk came up with many good and entertaining ideas but we finally christened it the BowlMate.
Nicola has produced plans for the BowlMate and put them on the website where you can also download a printable PDF.

And for those that would like to learn carving why not come on a course. The cost is just £225 including delicious lunches and Edale is a beautiful place to visit. Our bowl courses are being featured in an article in Living Woods magazine out any day now so if you would like one of these places best be quick.

Course details here

Author Robin Wood

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