Large spalted maple bowl side view

Very Large Spalted Maple Solid Wood Bowls

Very large solid wooden bowls are hard to come by. There are a number of reasons for this. Larger logs are kept by lumber men who just want to saw them up into planks for the market. The market for saw timber is huge and the market for wooden bowl blanks is quite small in comparison. Also many amateurs lack a chain saw of sufficient capacity to prepare large logs for the bandsaw to cut into a circle. These saws are expensive and require some skill to learn to handle.

Another reason is that many turners lack a lathe with enough dimensions to handle the larger bowls. Most amateur turners are limited practically to an eleven to fifteen inch bowl diameter. Another is that large bowl blanks are very heavy. It is a job just getting a sixteen inch bowl blank cut round on the bandsaw and getting it mounted on the lathe. Unless the lathe is heavy it will vibrate uncontrollably at high speeds so the wood has to be turned more slowly and bowl production takes more time.

All this is very clear to me as I started with a lathe that would do an eleven inch bowl. I then moved up to one that would do 15 inches and then one that would do 19 inches. The lathes are rated at 12, 16 and 20 inches but you can never cut a blank perfectly on the bandsaw and a 16 inch imperfect circle will not clear the lathe bed so you have to settle for about 15 inches.

Some resort to gluing up boards or segmented rings to make a large bowl. My experience is that glue lines eventually always fail and I would like to make a product that will last for many generations of continual use. This is why I prefer to make large, solid wood bowls from interesting wood. Spalting, the process of fungal invasion of the wood, produces incredible pattern and color changes in the wood that add visual appeal. The wood fungi are not harmful to humans and do not represent a health issue. When the wood is dry all fungal activity ceases and oil finishes are fungicidal. I use tung oil finish on all my wood ware.

This is why as you go up in size the supply of bowls drops. I do not buy wood but work with what is given to me. I was most fortunate to have a friend give me three twelve foot spalted maple logs ranging from 12 to 17 inches in diameter which gave me about 36 larger than average bowl blanks, some of which are 16 inches in diameter. That is large enough for very generous entertaining. Those in the 12.5 to 14.5 inch range are even more practical in terms of weight and ability to store them.

Contact me and I can show you what I have in stock.

Large spalted maple bowl top view