David’s Walnut Bowl – Part 1


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Peters Valley School of Crafts is located in the heart of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a true bucolic jam in our tri-state region.

Last Memorial day weekend, I returned to Peters Valley School of Crafts to teach a Live Edge furniture-making class. Our class was on the short side; concise and intensive. My three students worked hard and completed their project short of applying a coat of finish before they left the Valley’s, as we call it, spectacular campus. 

Peters Valley woodshop’s machine room. Notice the massive live edge slabs in the background.

The shop’s quiet room is dedicated to dust-free hand work. Notice the massive crotch slab that rests on one of the benches. Jamie Herman, the Woodworking Artist Fellow, obtained some great pieces of wood to choose from. One of these walnut crotch pieces became David’s bowl.

Before we began the class, I showed my student the massive live edge slabs the school had obtained, and two of my students gravitated toward some interesting ash and maple boards. But when I pointed to my third student, David, who was still debating what to choose, that he could work on a live edge bowl instead, he gladly took on that opportunity

Mike, one of my students, and Jason, our fantastic Studio Assistant, strategizing how to surface a massive ash slab.

The beautiful walnut branch that David picked up was already cut in half along its length, almost through the pith. The first thing we did was to outline the borders of the bowl by marking an inner line that followed the perimeters of the crotch and laid about ½” from its rims. Next, we leveled and balanced the crotch on two or three wooden wedges that we tucked under the two thinner lobes of the y-shape. The third point of contact with the bench was the thickest part of the crotch. At this point, David clamped the crotch down to the bench with two clamps and began gouging. 

When I teach a live edge furniture class, I often have one or two students who choose to carve a live edge bowl instead of furniture. Those bowls originate from branches or branch crotches that I bring with me or that we find in the massive pile of green wood PV offers.

For extra comfort and security you can affix the wedges down to the bench with double sided adhesive tape.

Gouging walnut is a joy, and David enjoyed every bit of it. He began excavating the wood with a #7 straight gouge, and as he dug deeper into the crotch, he reached out to a bent gouge and even a spoon gouge. At times, he had to rearrange the clamps to allow access to the evolving hollow, but that was manageable and easy. 

David also spent time hand-planning the end grain of the crotch and did it after carefully cushioning and clamping the crotch upright inside a vise. 

Once the bowl was completely hollowed out to his liking, he spent time hand-planning the rims.

Next time I will show how David finished the project, including his artistic solution for a successful permanent leveling solution for the bowl.


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