Ornamental bowls show the individual character of each piece of wood. Ornamental bowls are a delight to turn and they can be turned from fresh (green) wood or seasoned wood. They offer the widest scope in showing the wood to its greatest advantage. Many ornamental bowls can easily be used as fruit bowls or trinket bowls.
Each ornamental bowl is different even when using the same wood. Each species of tree, each part of the tree, whether branch, trunk, root or crotch wood (where the trunk branches out), all have different characteristics, different figuring – and different problems. I use only local wood. The furthest I have fetched a tree is 40 miles but most of them come from a 5 to 10 mile radius. I have no need to look further as there is such a range of beautiful wood locally. I must admit to being lucky to live in an area that has a lot of Laburnum as that is a wonderful wood. I also love Yew for the wild grain and beautiful colours. Sycamore, when the tree is old, tends to have a satin sheen to it and at its best, is unbeatable. Ash is very varied and a delight when cankered. Burr Oak or Elm are both exquisite. I have also had small quantities of wood as varied as Lilac, Grisilinia, Gorse, Lime, Elder (including a tiny burr), Walnut, Burr Cherry, Cherry, Apple, Crab Apple, Plum, Cedar of Lebanon (I love the smell), Burr Laburnum (that was exquisite). There is probably more but that is all I can think of as I sit here writing!
With ornamental bowls there is, in theory, no limit to the size. Obviously if I am keeping the natural edge on the ornamental bowl that determines the size though I can make them longer or rounder. These are usually turned using either the full diameter of the branch or it is split in half. Sometimes in a plank there are cracks or flaws that dictate where I have to cut the blank and the diameter of the tree can be a deciding factor. My largest lathe can turn bowls up to 24 inch diameter (600mm). I would find a blank larger than that rather heavy to set up on the lathe anyway.
Many faults and flaws in the wood can be turned to advantage if the beauty of the wood in an ornamental bowl is more important than function. Knots, holes, spalting (where fungi have got into the wood), burrs, even flaws like star shakes or the tree starting to hollow, can all be attractive though wouldn’t necessarily make the best food plates or bowls.
Various examples of ornamental bowls can be seen in the slideshow on the right of the page.