How to Make a Wooden Bowl or Tray With a Router

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Duration: 29:02

Watch this complete step-by-step video to learn how to make a wooden bowl or tray with your router. With the help of patterns and bits, your plunge router can transform a huge chunk of wood into something your lathe just couldn’t handle.

Material Prep

If you watch woodturning videos you know that lathes have limitations regarding the size blank you can turn, but with this router method, you can go big! When choosing the material you’ll use for your blank, consider the pattern size and the depth you need to make the bowl or tray so they serve their intended purpose. If you’re wondering how to make a wooden bowl that’s unique, consider gluing up your blank using contrasting colors of wood to create interesting patterns.

Start Removing Wood

Now comes the “boring” part — removing the bulk of the waste wood. With your biggest Forstner bit in your drill press you can remove lots of wood fast. Don’t cut away the perimeter waste because the pattern will be screwed to it later.

Router and Base Setup

You’ll need a plunge router, a large base, a rounded pattern-style bit, and, to make the deep cuts, you’ll need to add a collet extension.

Routing the Interior

Finally, here’s how to make a wooden bowl with a router: Screw the pattern onto the waste wood, set the depth of cut, clamp it up and have a shop vacuum nearby. Start to hollow out the bowl. Make a pass, inspect your work and make additional passes until all ridges and dimples are gone. Then, remove the pattern, rotate it and repeat the process in the next spot.

Sanding the Interior and Creating the Outside Shape

A flap sander works well to clean up marks left by the router. Mark the outside edge and cut it out on a bandsaw. Use a disc or random-orbit sander to smooth the outside. Ease all of the corners with a roundover bit and, as with all woodworking projects that come in contact with food, apply a food-safe finish.

Click here to download a PDF of the resource information


Below you will find information that will guide you to the sources referenced in the video.

Bit #851.502.11B
Collet Extension #796.001.00

Eagle America
Bit #144-2005B
Collet Extension #415-0660

Bit #7817
Collet Extension #9465
(800) 533-9298

Whiteside Router Bits
Bit #1376B

Bowl Patterns (May include bit and collet extension)
CMT – #BTS-001

MLCS – #9179

Eagle America – #401-8300

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5 Responses to “How to Make a Wooden Bowl or Tray With a Router”

  1. Les722

    Enjoyed the video. Have given some thoughts about making something like this. It was not till I saw the size of the starting wood blank did I realize how much wood is put in the trash. At 18” X 18” X 3” you were starting out with about 6 board feet of wood. When someone asks what I am making, the first answer is “Sawdust” and then I tell them what the project really is. This project really makes the sawdust.
    Now I do have question, in the background is a fabric desk that folds up against the wall. The manufacture’s name is there, but I could not quite make it out. What is the brand name and is it still being made? Does it take up a lot of wall space and is the writing surface stable as you use it? Does it work well or is it “a good idea, but”.

    • Customer Service

      Hello. The desk is a Plan Station Portable Desk and is available on Amazon. It works fine for writing, and would support a small laptop. It’s big benefit is its ability to fold against the wall when not being used.
      Paul-Woodworkers Guild of America

  2. Sheila Teague

    Just getting tools and Hobby shop set up to do some projects. I really like this one. I’m not sure how i’ll do but i’m going to give it a try. Need to buy a plung router, planner and sander.

  3. Drew

    I really appreciate how easy it is to follow this video. Two things I have questions/comments on:
    1. How do you take care of cleaning out the corners while keeping the rounded bottom shape? That was the one thing I was really hoping to figure out, but I didn’t see it explained in the video.
    2. The link to the .pdf resource list is a dead link. The page results report “Access denied.” Would it be possilbe to update the link with the correct information?
    Thanks again for the great video!

    • Customer Service

      Hello Drew,

      Here’s what the experts had to say about your question:

      This is first a function of choosing a high quality bit in the radius that you want for your corner. From there, It’s important to make your final pass in the corners a light pass where you are not hogging out too much material, as this will give you better surface quality. Then the final step in those corners is a light hand sanding to clean up any router marks or burns that have been left behind, which should be minimal.

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