George Vondriska

Turning Large Wooden Bowls

George Vondriska
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Turning large wooden bowls is a blast! However, it requires some special setup. In this instructional video, the bowl blank started as a log, which is then mounted on a four-jaw chuck for turning. We’ll provide you with what you need to know about special requirements for turning large wooden bowls. Important aspects of working with large chunks of wood include speed control, working with off-center blanks, and taking advantages of the ability to reverse.

Buying advice

Different lathes offer different features. For turning large bowls, look for a heavy machine with variable speed, a robust tool rest, and reverse capabilities. For really large work, it’s also great if the headstock can slide into a position that allows you to turn a bowl outboard.

Working with green wood

In all likelihood, a large blank like this will come from a log, meaning the wood is green and dripping wet. We’ll discuss some options for preventing the bowl from cracking as it dries.

More on woodturning

WoodWorkers Guild of America has lots of woodturning videos. Need to advance your skills? Check out our large variety of woodturning technique videos. Looking for lathe projects? Have a look at our many woodturning projects.

For more information on the Laguna Revo 18|36 Lathe, go to or call (800) 234-1976.

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13 Responses to “Turning Large Wooden Bowls”

  1. norman Marentette

    What size of motor 1.5 or 2 h.p. I would like to buy a laguna 1836 lathe but I wonder if the 1.5 h.p. 110volt is as good as the 2h.p. 220 v. for turning 16 inch dia. bowls.
    Thanks. Norm.

    • Customer Service

      Hello Norman,
      Here’s what the experts had to say about your question:
      For bowls that large I would strongly encourage you to go with the 2 HP 1836. The difference in power will be quite noticeable on that size bowl.

      Please let us know if you have any further questions
      Wood Workers Guild of America Video Membership

  2. Paul Brennan

    With my 1836 laguna reverse turning my chuck will often unscrew what am I doing wrong ? Suggestions and advice greatly appreciated thanks

    • Customer Service

      Dear Paul,

      Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

      You typically have a lock screw of some sort in your chuck that needs to be tightened. I would not use the reverse function for turning, but rather just for sanding. Turning puts too much stress on the locking screw.

      We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first-year membership.

      Woodworkers Guild of America

  3. cwstonex

    I am a new member finally and I hope to have a Laguna 1836 with in the next few weeks. Thanks for the great video. I have been watching several of the you tube videos and I am thankful to finally be a member. I live in central Texas and mesquite wood is very plentiful. I took about 20 trees from my property and sent them to a saw mill so now I have plenty to work with. I’m not only doing wood turnings. I also plan to make lamps, toys, games, boxes, shelves and pens to mention a few.

  4. Charles

    What kind of lighting do you recommend and where did you get yours? Seems one can never have enough light when turning. Also, where can one get a filtering face shield like yours? Ive only been turning a couple of years. Wished now I’d bought bigger and beefier than my Rikon vspeed midi lathe. But my shop is small. Thanks in advance.

    • Customer Service

      Hey Charles,

      You’re right; its critical to get adequate lighting on the subject when turning on the lathe. I’ve found that any type of lighting can work as long as you get it positioned properly. Currently I use halogens mounted directly to my lathe, but a well positioned halogen shop light can work well also.
      George’s mask is called a Trend Airshield Pro, and you can get one here:

      Happy Woodworking!
      WWGOA Video Membership

  5. Joseph Anderson

    Do any of you videos show how to mount the four jaw chuck on a bowl. I am a beginner at bowl turning.

    • WWGOA Team

      Thanks for your question. I am also a beginner in this area (less than 1 year on the lathe), and the resource that I found most effective on this particular topic and more was this on-line class: Session 4 starts out with what you are looking for on the 4 jaw chuck systems. I have found that once I started using a 4 jaw chuck, there is no “turning” back. They are great. In fact, I bought a second one that is designed specifically for turning large bowls, so now I own a 4″ as well as a 5″ chuck. (ZD: 3504)

  6. Guy Gorget

    Hi George!
    thanks for this interesting video.
    I have 2 questions:
    – how do you precisely determine the centers of both faces of the rough in order to get them well aligned on the lathe?
    – how do you machine the recess on the bottom side or (same question): how is the chuck holding the rough??
    thanks and regards,

    • WWGOA Team

      Good questions; thanks for sending.
      – how do you precisely determine the centers of both faces of the rough in order to get them well aligned on the lathe?
      I wouldn’t use the word “precise” for this. The first center is determined by eyeballing when the chuck is mounted. Once the piece is mounted, the opposing center is established by the mount point that you chose for your chuck. When you approach the blank with your live center, do this slowly and turn the blank while you advance the live center. If it lands on a spot that will force the live center to one side or the other, back the live center up and use a chisel to flatten a spot for a clean landing by the live center.
      – how do you machine the recess on the bottom side or (same question): how is the chuck holding the rough??

      George uses a large forstner bit for this. You can also get started using a screw chuck mounted in your four jaw chuck if you have one that is sufficiently large for the bowl blank that you are mounting. If you are uneasy about it, use a large forstner but to establish a mortise that your chuck can grab onto.

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