WoodCentral's video reviews

Mastering Woodturning:
Bowl Turning Techniques

Glenn Lucas
Reviewed for WoodCentral by Greg Haugen. DVD, 75 min., ©2010
Available from: Woodworker's Emporium, $29.95

    I've always said "if you want to learn how to do something, find someone who does it for a living to show you". That's exactly what you get when you watch Glenn Lucas' second DVD, titled "Mastering Woodturning: Bowl Turning Techniques". After purchasing Glenn's first DVD, "Mastering Woodturning: Tools and Techniques," and immensely enjoying it, I was excited to hear he made another DVD, especially on bowl turning.
    Glenn's bowl production averages fifteen-hundred bowls a year, and has been as many as twenty-five hundred. And, yes, you read those numbers correctly. Every technique and recommendation in this DVD comes from someone with years of experience at making thousands of bowls. Glenn thoroughly covers every aspect that is associated with turning a bowl, including a few that haven't been covered in the past by any other DVD, clearly and concisely in a way that is easily understood. There are so many features this DVD will become a cherished addition to your DVD library.
    One of the great features of this DVD is all of the videos and slide shows that Glenn shows during and between the chapters. The beginning is no exception. The introduction is about Glenn's philosophy of working with wood, the machines that he uses and his upbringing as it relates to woodturning. While he discusses it, there are short video clips of some very inspiring views of incredible living specimens of trees. Here's a tour of the "chapters" of the DVD:
    Safety. Precautions to take while using a lathe are covered including; face shields, respirators, skin protection from allergens, dust control, and the potential dangers of steel wool with a real world demonstration of its fire starting capabilities. An added feature to the chapter on Safety is a section on chainsaws, their use and maintenance. Glenn says his chainsaws needs to do three things; start easily, cut quickly, and cut straight. He thoroughly covers the measures that should be done to ensure all three things happen each and every time. Everything from basic maintenance of cleaning filters and bar care to sharpening teeth and raker heights are included.
    Converting the log. Glenn explains this chapter from two points of view; one from using a saw mill and having thick planks made for bowl blanks and the other being from directly cutting the log. An in depth explanation of the movement of wood and how it relates to the growth rings is given to better understand the material we're using and how to get the most out it. He explains the how and why when he lays out a plank from a mill the bowl blank circles are overlapped on the end grain sides. Since this area doesn't retract or shrink when the blank dries and the sides do, the roughed out blanks are pretty close to their intended size and he's able to get better use out the length of a plank. He also explains how to setup a blank that is not balanced in the growth rings since the movement will not be uniform throughout the bowl to ensure proper wall thicknesses.
    When Glenn starts to cut the log directly he makes a point to use every bit of it he can; from the larger blanks for bowls, to the smaller pieces and quartersawn sections for smaller dishes. There is a lot of discussion about how to avoid losing the wood to cracking, from wrapping with a tarp to being aware of our weather while we process it. An added feature is the insight to the log that he cuts directly. It's been almost a part of the family for some time and many turners have posed for photos while visiting Glenn. After a slide show of the turners on the log, he talks about its history and the connection with Ireland's Tree Counsel.
    The bandsaw. Glenn provides an informative overview of his saw along with what to look for when purchasing. Afterwards, he shows how to fit a new bandsaw blade and the recommended adjustments. Two of the features of this chapter are the demonstrations that Glenn shows on how to adjust the tension of the blade accurately as well as how to setup a ripping guide rail correctly. His final recommendation is to clean the machine and waxing the table after use to keep it running efficiently.
    Rough turning. Since Glenn does such an incredible volume in production he has a few "modified" tools to be more efficient and effective. One of which is the modified faceplate/drive center that he uses to rough out the profile of his bowls. From there he moves on to precautions to take before starting the lathe; look for loose bark, cracks, as well as the speed of the lathe. Even though he's right handed, Glenn explains the comfort and safety reasons of why he turns "left handed" to turn the outside profile of the bowl. To increase efficiency, he uses a diamond scraper for cutting the spigots on bowls and also has a spigot sizing jig attached to the live center. He describes both items in a thorough explanation. The Oneway Easy Core system is priceless to Glenn for his work. He provides a full explanation of his system, including a modification that he's made, along with recommendations of the lathe requirements. He thoroughly explains every aspect of the system from its setup, use, to sharpening the cutter. Before leaving the topic, for those without a coring system, he also demonstrates how he'd hollow out a bowl with a gouge.
    Seasoning. This chapter starts out with an explanation of end grain sealer, how to use it, and how where you live may effect its use and application. Glenn talks about a couple of methods that work for other turners and then provides an incredibly in-depth explanation of his kiln, its features, and how he uses it.
    As he starts the turning the seasoned bowl, Glenn explains the plywood discs that he uses to turn the outside of the dried bowls. The design of the discs actually enables Glenn to use the unevenness of the bowls' rims to his advantage by contacting the bowls on four points. He explains how he uses varying sizes of gouges during different applications to be the most efficient. Starting with a " gouge, the bowl is trued and then he switches to 3/8" gouges for finishing cuts. Glenn demonstrates the push cut and why he prefers it, but also demonstrates an effective shear cut with a pulling action. The best cut comes from a sharp tool so he always sharpens the gouge just before the final cut. For those with smaller lathes, Glenn also shows another method to remount a bowl on a smaller, less powerful lathe. In the next portion of this chapter, he shows his enormous chuck collection, many examples of jaws, as well as the proper way to size a spigot for a set of jaws.
    Bowl interiors. This is an informative look at a variety of gouges, grinds, and their proper use in bowlturning. He starts by truing the rim and continues with a push cut to cut the interior of the bowl. With each cut, Glenn explains the proper technique and use of the gouge's flute and wings. His preferred gouges are the conventional parabolic fluted gouges and a couple of Woodcut's solid shaft gouges with replaceable, fluted tips. As Glenn progresses, he uses different sizes of gouges as well as different grinds to achieve the best possible finish.
    Sanding. In this segment, Glenn explains his philosophy, some common errors to avoid, and the equipment he uses. The largest disc used is six inches, which is only used on the exterior of the bowl. This is the only size of disc that he buys since he can punch two and three inch discs out of the six inch making it much more cost effective. Glenn recommends reducing the speed of the lathe, using the proper grit, and using the portion of the disc that is spinning opposite of the lathe while power sanding to be the most effective and efficient.
    Finishing. Glenn talks about his preferred finishes for functional bowls, which are oil finishes. He shows a couple of acceptable options followed by an informative and detailed demonstration of his finishing procedure. It includes applying the oil and using wet/dry sand paper as well as steel wool on the surface.
    Vacuum systems and removing the spigot. Glenn starts out this section with some vacuum system recommendations for your lathe. He explains his preferred system and some of the items he has on it, like a non-return valve to hold suction in the event of a power outage. To close out this chapter, Glenn demonstrates how he uses the system to remove the spigot, followed by a branding iron that was custom made with his logo, to finish the bottom of a bowl.

    In the final closing remarks of the DVD Glenn talks about ensuring a future for our children -- the importance of planting a tree -- and encourages everyone to go out and plant some. It's just one of the ways we as woodturners and woodworkers can give back. The then concludes with a slide show of some of the remarkable events that have occurred at Glenn's shop.
    There are several other bowl turning DVDs available, however this one is like no other. It sets itself apart by several of its featured chapters, Glenn's production-oriented techniques, and a mastery and proficiency that is unsurpassed. There are so many techniques, in depth explanations, and tips to become more efficient. The viewer will learn a great deal from this DVD, no matter if they're new to turning or a veteran turner. This is one of the best -- if not the best -- bowl turning DVD I've seen. I'd strongly recommend it; it's a "gotta have it" DVD.

... Greg Haugen
WoodCentral Turning Moderator