Bowl carving is one of the basic carving projects that most woodcarvers start with. It is a great way to create something useful without requiring too much experience. It can be done using a variety of tools, from hand tools like axes to power tools like angle grinders.
Carving a bowl with an angle grinder allows you to gain experience using power tools while working on an easy-to-complete project. It also allows you more control over your project than hand tools do, and you can complete your carving faster.
How to carve a bowl with an angle grinder
Step 1: Choose your wood
Choose a piece of raw wood to craft into a bowl. You can choose any kind of wood possible. However, keep the use of the bowl in mind. If you are crafting a bowl that will be in continuous use in the kitchen, consider choosing a hardwood that can stand up to heavy use. For showpiece bowls or bowls that will not be used very often, you can consider choosing a softwood.
Depending on your skill level, you may also decide to choose a piece of wood with irregularities in it. These irregularities can help give your bowl more character. For example, carving a burl – a part of the wood where the grain has formed in an unusual style – can create a unique bowl with a lot of dimension. However, these are usually harder to crave than regular wood, so choose your wood based on your experience and skill at carving.
Step 2: Secure your wood
Since you’re using an angle grinder to carve your bowl, you should first make sure that it is held securely to the table. Use a clamp or a vise to secure the wood to the table – if the wood shifts during carving, it can cause you to get injured by the grinder, so make sure it is held down tightly.
Step 3: Draw and shape the bottom
Draw the shape of the bottom of the bowl, and use your angle grinder to carve away the excess wood. Work from right to left – this allows you to carve at the maximum depth possible, making the work faster. Carve around the shape until you have a rough, bowl-shaped piece of wood.
Step 4: Shape the sides
Use your angle grinder to shape the sides of the bowl. This will also help you get rid of the carving marks caused by getting rid of the excess wood so that your final product is smooth.
Step 5: Smooth the bottom
Use a flap sander with your angle grinder so that you can smooth away the bottom and outside of the bowl. This will leave you with a bowl-shaped piece of wood that is smooth to the touch.
Step 6: Mark the thickness of the walls
First, decide on how thick you want the walls to be. A good rule of thumb to start with is to proceed with 1” walls. This gives you room to make mistakes, and you can make the sides thinner later on if you want to.
Once you’ve decided on how thick you want the walls to be, draw a shape to determine the bowl’s shape. Remember to mark from the outside edge, leaving enough space for your walls.
If you decide you want to make your walls thinner while carving out the bowl, remark the thickness of the walls, so you have a template to guide you.
Step 7: Carve the bowl
Start carving and shaping the inside of the bowl. Use your angle grinder to make two cuts at 90 degrees to each other, and then carve from the line in.
The marking for the walls will help guide you when carving. How deep you carve the bowl depends on what you plan on using the finished product for. Bread bowls, dough bowls, and bowls meant to serve as item holders are usually relatively shallow. On the other hand, medium to large bowls can be much deeper, especially if you’re making a mixing bowl.
Be careful when carving out the bowl. Remember never to push away from your body, as you risk injuring yourself. If you decide you want to make the walls of the bowl thinner than your initial 1” marking, remark the walls and carve the bowl to fit the new dimensions.
When carving, mark out an ‘indexing cut.’ This will be the mark that will serve as a guide for how deep the bowl should be, so you can carve out the bowl uniformly.
Step 8: Shape the inside
Like you shaped the sides of the bowl, shape and smooth the inside of the bowl. This will help you get rid of the marks created during the carving process and help you reach the final thickness of the bowl.
Step 9: Fill in any imperfections
If there were any chips created during the carving process, it is time to fill them in. Mistakes during the carving process can help add character to your bowl and help show the progression in your skill as you go from beginner to expert at woodcarving.
You can use sawdust, epoxy, or wood filler to fill in any imperfections in your bowl. Depending on which you choose to go with, you can either hide the imperfection or emphasize it so that it stands out better.
Step 10: Sand the bowl
Sand both the inside and out of the bowl. You can use a flap disk, a sander, or regular sandpaper to do this.
Start from coarse grit and move on to finer grit. This will ensure that your bowl is smooth and gets rid of any remaining carving marks.
Step 11: Apply the finish
The finish you choose will depend on what you are planning to use your bowl for. If you’re using your bowl for food-related purposes, make sure to choose a finish that is food safe. You can buy a variety of food-safe wax finishes on the market or choose a food-safe finishing oil linseed oil, tung oil, or walnut oil.
The finish will help bring out the beauty and the grain of the wood, as well as emphasize your skill as a woodcarver. If you plan to use your bowl as a showpiece or for non-food-related purposes, you can choose from a wider variety of finishing options. You can also choose to use a colored stain or paint in order to enhance the beauty of the bowl.
Apply your chosen finishing agent to clean rag, and rub well into the bowl. Leave the bowl to dry completely before using it. Depending on the finishing agent you choose, you may need to reapply it periodically when it dries out to ensure that the bowl remains seasoned.
This step is optional, and you can choose to leave your final bowl unfinished. Many carvers choose to skip this step when creating a bowl that will be used frequently in the kitchen. If you prefer the look of unfinished wood, you can decide to skip this step altogether.
What Tools Do I Need To Carve a Bowl With an Angle Grinder?
When carving a bowl with an angle grinder, you will need a variety of angle grinder disks, a vise to hold the wood, sandpaper, and a finishing agent to complete your bowl.
The vise should be attached to or mounted on your workbench. It will hold down the wood you are using for your project and ensure it doesn’t shift while it is being carved. If the wood shifts while you are carving it with an angle grinder, you risk harming yourself.
Recommendations: RWIN Woodworking Vise, 6-1/2-Inch
A carving disc will help you shape the wood and eliminate excess wood when carving the bowl. Choose a disc that is aggressive and does most of the work for you, so you don’t need to expend too much energy.
Recommendations: King Arthur’s Tools Original & Patented Lancelot 14 Tooth Carving Disc
Carbide abrasive wheel:
An efficient carbide abrasive when will help you shape and smooth the bowl in preparation for sanding. It will help get rid of carving marks so that the bowl looks completed.
Recommendations: ARBORTECH Turbo Plane
For those who prefer to sand wood using an angle grinder, a flap disc is a useful attachment to have. These are essentially small pieces of sandpaper attached to a backing disc, so you can sand down your bowl without putting in too much energy. They come in different grits, just like sandpaper.
Recommendations: 4.5″ x 7/8″ Premium High Density Jumbo Zirconia Type 29 Flap Disc 40 Grit
For people who prefer to manually sand down their completed bowl, sandpaper will help you do so. Make sure you have sandpaper in various grits so you can move from coarse grit to fine grit during the sanding process.
If you plan to finish your bowl, choose a finishing agent depending on what you plan to use the bowl for. If you’re going to use it for food-related purposes, make sure your finishing agent is food safe. For bowls that will be used as a showpiece or to store non-food items, you can choose your preferred finishing agent.
What Is The Best Wood To Carve With an Angle Grinder?
You can choose from a variety of woods when carving a bowl with your angle grinder. The list includes woods like maple, oak, red cedar, basswood, fruitwoods, and white pine. If you plan on using your bowl frequently, you may want to choose a hardwood, as they hold up to rough use better.
Maple: Maple is a favorite wood among woodworkers. This is because maples are usually strong and durable and can be gorgeous when properly finished. However, it can be a temperamental wood to work with, so it is better suited to use by more experienced carvers.
Oak: Oak is a strong, sturdy wood, which makes it a popular choice for woodcarving. Its vibrant color and fine grain stand out especially well when finished properly, lending your finished project a gorgeous look. However, oak can be difficult to carve because of how hard it is, though your angle grinder will make this process easier.
Red Cedar: Red cedar is an affordable wood that lends your projects a gorgeous and unusual color. While it is a hardwood, it is not overly hard, making it easy to work with. However, this wood can often be very brittle to work with and can chip and tear easily, which means you will need to practice with it a little to become proficient at carving red cedar.
Basswood: Basswood is among the easiest woods for a new carver to work with. It is a relatively soft hardwood, which makes it easy to carve with both hand tools and power tools like an angle grinder. It is also a forgiving wood, which means your tools will not undergo a lot of wear and tear. It also takes stains very well, which means you have a wider range of finishing agents at your disposal to choose from.
Fruitwoods: There is a wide variety of fruitwoods that you can choose from when carving, including popular varieties like apple, cherry, apricot, and pear. These woods are very popular for carving utensils and dishes and a great option to use when creating your bowl. The close grain of these woods means that they make for excellent waterproof items, which is an extra advantage when carving a project meant for the kitchen. When using fruitwoods, use wood that is green, as dry fruitwoods are harder and more susceptible to cracking.
White Pine: While pine, in general, is a difficult wood to work with for woodcarvers, white pine is the exception to the rule. It is softer and more malleable than other woods, which makes it suitable for woodcarving. For best results, use white pine that is green and wet.
Bowls can be a very interesting project to undertake with your angle grinder. You can carve them in a variety of fascinating shapes and sizes, depending on what you will be using the bowl for.
A well-made wooden bowl can last you for years and can be used for a variety of purposes. Once you’re confident in creating a basic bowl, you can then experiment with bowls of different shapes to add a bit of variety to your bowl carving projects.