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How to Make a Bowl From a Board of Wood

I've always made my living as a carpenter. I spend most of my time building custom guitar necks and doing woodturning.

Nested Compound Bowls

Nested Compound Bowls

How to Make a Bowl From a Board of Wood

Yes, you can build a bowl from a flat board! This is one way to use highly figured domestic and exotic hardwoods. It's much less expensive to make a bowl from a board than it is to buy a figured one-piece turning blank.

In most cases, you can get more than one bowl from a nice board.

Read on and I will show you how to make a compound miter bowl from a flat board.

Step 1: Mark the Cuts on the Wood

The above photo shows a section of a board laid out to show how to cut two bowls from the same board. The numbers are one bowl and the letters are another. If your board is long enough for two bowls, you should use this cutting method because the grain will match well.

You don't need to actually mark out the board being cut but you do need to mark the segments after you cut them so you can keep them in order. Especially if you're making two bowls.

Diameter, Slope, and Number of Segments

The first step in designing these types of bowls is to decide on a diameter, a slope, and the number of segments you want to use.

  • I usually go with 12 segments because I think it looks the best.
  • A slope of between 30° and 45° looks normal. Anything less looks flat and more looks too steep. I would suggest staying in this range.
  • Diameter is totally up to you. It can be anything as long as you have the correct length material.
  • The board I used for the bowls below was 48" long, 4–3/4" wide, and 1/2" thick. You can go thicker if you want; the length matters more.
  • To cut the segments, I set my table saw blade to 9° and the miter sled to 12°. In the case of the bowl above, the segment length was 2–5/16". The segment length is measured on the upper outside of each segment. I will end up with 8" diameter bowls.

Calculating the Diameter of Your Bowl

Measure the length of the widest sides of your bowl. Add this together, then divide by pi, or 3.14159. So:

Length ÷ 3.14159 = Diameter of your bowl

For the bowl above:

25.12" ÷ 3.14159 = 8" diameter

Use a Cutting Calculator and Software to Help

  • Compound Miter Calculator
    To use this calculator fill in the number of segments you plan to use and your desired slope. Click calculate and you're in business!
  • Woodturner PRO
    If you need to see what you're going to make, download the Woodturner PRO software. They have a 30-day free trial.
Scroll to Continue

Read More From Feltmagnet

Design Alternatives

Design Alternatives

Design Alternatives

This photo shows a few different ways to do compound bowls. There are lots of ways you can do these.

  • Top left: Curly oak with zebrawood dividers and a zebrawood bottom.
  • Top right: Redwood burl with dyed veneer dividers and a gaboon ebony bottom.
  • Bottom left: Claro walnut with black dyed veneer dividers and claro walnut bottom.
  • Bottom right: Quilted maple with no dividers and quilted maple bottom.

In the past, I've used segments all cut from the same board using the dimensions given above.

For something different, I'll occasionally use two types of wood. For the bowl in the upper left corner of the above image, I cut thin zebrawood dividers and glued them between the segments. Then I added a zebrawood bottom. This makes for a fun pattern!

Step 2: Cut the Segments

The picture above shows how to mark the segments with a tool. I use the first segment as a size template for marking all the rest.

  • Once you make your initial cut, flip the freshly cut board, mark the length (where the top of the bowl will be).
  • Cut your next piece.
  • Keep flipping and cutting until you have enough segments.

Step 3: Sand

Once you have cut each segment, it's a good idea to clean up the edges. I do that by hand with a piece of sandpaper glued to a flat board. I use any piece of wood that's very flat, and a moderately aggressive grain of sandpaper somewhere in the 60- to 100-grit range. Learn more about picking the correct grit for the ultimate finish.

If you don't have access to a small, stiff board at home, you can buy small pieces of melamine at most lumberyards.

Step 4: Clamp the Bowl Together and Glue

Clamp together the sides of your bowl and glue them with wood glue so they are all flush. Once the glue has cured, smooth out any uneven portions of your circumference on the lathe before gluing in the base. Glue in the base after you've smoothed the surface. Use aggressive wood glue such as Titebond on all glued pieces.

Step 5: Final Sand and Finish

Do a final once-over with fine-grain sandpaper to achieve a smooth finish. Finish with a light stain to protect your work and to give your final product a nice sheen.


Making a bowl out of a board is a pretty straightforward way to make household decorations, gifts, and merchandise. Leave any questions in the comments below!

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there a formula that you use to enlarge or reduce proportionally for the nested blue bowls?

Answer: You can change the length of the segments to change the size of the bowls. There are calculators online that give the lengths of bowl sizes.


turner-bob (author) on August 22, 2015:

Mount the bowl on a concentric disc attached to a faceplate. I do it with superglue. Then you can turn the bottom flat and glue on a flat bottom.

Josiah brown on August 21, 2015:

awesome bowls!! Ive already begun creating my first one. Just one question though. How did you attach the base of the bowl to the rest of the piece? On mine, the pieces angle in and it almost looks like I will have to turn a base that fits the piece. Any advice?

Mackenzie Sage Wright on September 14, 2014:

Holy cow, these are beautiful. I don't have the tools or skill to cut wood, but these are so impressive. Great job, voted up!

KandDMarketing on May 21, 2012:

And another great lens!

turner-bob (author) on May 09, 2011:

@anonymous: I think my site here should answer your questions. Bob

anonymous on May 09, 2011:

what bevel do you cut to make the bowl flat on the bottom? how do you do glue up? how do you clamp the vessel without it sliding up and out of center or gouging the sides of it? thank you looks like a great project!

resabi on February 14, 2011:

Just stopped back to tell you that I still love this lens.

MANOJ BALAKRISHNAN from ABU DHABI on January 29, 2011:

Very nice lens. I loved It!

DallasNicole LM on January 04, 2011:

I am not sure if I could ever do this but the bowls here are beautiful.. Great lens

thesuccess2 on December 27, 2010:

Visually stunning lens you must geat satisfaction out of building these bowls

mochimo on December 27, 2010:

Great ^^. I'll gather some tools. That is an interesting crafts idea.

KDimmick on December 25, 2010:

Another stunning, highly informative lens! Blessed by an angel :)

kimark421 on December 23, 2010:

Beautiful bowls and a very nice lens. Thanks!

kimark421 on December 23, 2010:

Beautiful bowls and a very nice lens. Thanks!

anonymous on September 29, 2010:

Lovely! Blessed.

Jeanette from Australia on September 10, 2010:

These are absolutely beautiful! Well done. And thanks for the instructions.

eclecticeducati1 on September 08, 2010:

Beautiful bowls! Great lens.

resabi on September 07, 2010:

Blessed by a SquidAngel.

SofiaMann on August 19, 2010:

Amazing what you can do. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations on LOTD.

lisaherbik on August 19, 2010:

These are gorgeous! Love this lens :)

burgessvillian on August 18, 2010:

I have done one intarsia project and one scroll portait. These were relatively easy. Your work looks great and congratulations on the lotd.

squid-pinkchic18 on August 17, 2010:

Wow, you do a very great job with these, they look incredible! I know it can't be as easy as you explain either, I'm sure there is a high level of acquired skill. Well done!

kimmanleyort on August 17, 2010:

Absolutely gorgeous and so worthy of LOTD. Congratulations

FlynntheCat1 on August 17, 2010:

Fascinating! I can certainly see a use for this - my parents are always pulling good wood out of their house! (it was massively overbuilt ^_^ )

Once question - how do you old the pieces in place? Is it a very strong glue? Or pegs? Do you need some kind of frame while it sets, or does it balance itself?

KimGiancaterino on August 17, 2010:

These are beautiful designs! I see you also work with musical instruments. With two bass players in our household, we're constantly doing minor repairs. Your tips will come in handy. Congratulations on LOTD.

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on August 17, 2010:

What a beautiful bowl. You are immensely talented.

Lee Hansen from Vermont on August 17, 2010:

The best of both worlds: art and function. You make the process of turning a flat board into a bowl look almost easy enough for me to attempt. Beautiful designs and great lens of the day. Congrats and kudos!

northamerica on August 17, 2010:

These are all works of art. An excellent lens.

Navuud on August 17, 2010:

You're Art work is wonderful, thank you for sharing your creative inspiration with the world.

anonymous on August 17, 2010:

What beautiful bowls, Bob ... thank you so much for sharing your skill and artistry with the world! If I may be slightly critical, I found some of the "how-to" instructions a bit confusing - could do with a little more clarity and detail ... however, I still think this is a beautiful and informative lens, which definitely deserves its LOTD status. Congratulations! :-))

Indigo Janson from UK on August 17, 2010:

Very clever and a helpful step-by-step guide too. Love that blue bowl! Congratulations on LOTD.

Indigo Janson from UK on August 17, 2010:

Very clever and a helpful step-by-step guide too. Love that blue bowl! Congratulations on LOTD.

calendarsblog on August 17, 2010:

Great idea, but how do the pieces come together?

justholidays on August 17, 2010:

Excellent tutorial! I just am two-lefthanded, therefore I couldn't do such a fantastic job but really enjoyed to read this page.

Congratulations on your LOTD.

anonymous on August 17, 2010:

Nice bowl making guide you have here! Congrats on Lotd!

modz on August 16, 2010:

Congratulations on LOTD!

Airinka on August 16, 2010:

wonderful idea

hsschulte on August 16, 2010:

Wow, these are amazing. Love it!

Kiwisoutback from Massachusetts on August 16, 2010:

Really cool idea. Nice photos, congratulations on LOTD!

Fun_And_Entertaining on August 16, 2010:

Excellent and highly detailed! Thanks for sharing!

anonymous on August 16, 2010:

Congratulations on your LOTD! These bowls from a board are most lovely! I really like the one from tulip wood, what striking grain it has!

taliamurphy lm on August 16, 2010:

Congrats on being LOTD! Great lens! I sent it on to my 95 year old father, who is also a woodturner. He'll love it.

Sheilamarie from British Columbia on August 16, 2010:

Wow, this lens is amazing. I so admire those who can make beautiful things out of wood! Great job -- beautiful bowls.

lasertek lm on August 16, 2010:

Nice! Very creative. Seldom do I see unique and artistic bowls.

resabi on August 16, 2010:

Fabulous lens -- clear and informative and a visual knock-out (uh, and do you sell these segmented bowls? I checked your sites...). Well deserved LOTD. Thanks for this.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on August 16, 2010:

awesome workworking lens! I love woodworking too. The bowls are beautiful! Contrats on LOTD!

Jennifer Sullivan from Chicago, IL on August 16, 2010:

So cool! Congrats on LOTD

Laura Schofield from Chicago, IL USA on August 16, 2010:

Beautiful bowls. I want to get my husband started on some of these! Thanks and congratulations on Lens of the Day!

Faye Rutledge from Concord VA on August 16, 2010:

Very interesting info. Congratulations on LotD!!

Delia on August 16, 2010:

Congratulations for LOTD! what amazing bowls! thanks for sharing on how to build them...

a ~"Squid Angel Blessing"~

GrowWear on August 16, 2010:

Congratulations for LOTD! Your bowls are absolutely beautiful pieces of work.

sheriangell on August 16, 2010:

Congratulations on a well deserved LotD. Love those blue bowls!

myraggededge on August 16, 2010:

You are so clever, Turner-Bob! I love the bowls. Congratulations on LotD. Well deserved and blessed by a Squid angel :-)

anonymous on August 16, 2010:

Congrats on your LOTD! You have a gorgeous selection of woodworking patterns and pieces. Thanks for sharing your designs and directions on Squidoo!

Lisa Auch from Scotland on August 11, 2010:

Wow I do believe I have learned something very clever today! I love the blue bowls - You should sell them!

KarenTBTEN on August 09, 2010:

That is a very impressive project -- no, I wouldn't have guesses you could make a bowl that way. The set of blue bowls is quite striking looking.

Deb Kingsbury from Flagstaff, Arizona on August 09, 2010:

Love the images!