Weekend Projected - Diamond rimmed bowl archive

Friday 10 July 2015


Nick Arnull creates this stunning diamond rim bowl from a piece of English sycamore using various power carving techniques

When discussing my next group of articles with Mark, he saw this piece on exhibition and said, "I want that piece for an article." So this month I am going to keep him happy. This piece is part of a group that, today, I refer to as 'The Geometric Series'. This group of work is one that is still evolving. I think one of the hardest elements to overcome was that of confidence when doing the initial carving and sometimes knowing where next to take the piece. Sometimes the idea starts as not very much at all: it could be referred to as a seed of an idea that needs to be nurtured and developed, and maybe you even need to wait for a Eureka moment to happen. With this group, I also gained some inspiration from the work of Al Stirt and Hayley Smith. For this project, as well as the turning tools pictured opposite, you will need an Axminster multi-tool, or equivalent, a reciprocating power carver, as well as a range of acrylic-based finishes.

Tools used:

10mm long-grind bowl gouge

6mm square-grind bowl gouge

French-curve bowl finishing scraper

12mm round skew chisel

6mm parting tool

10mm point tool


For this project you will need an English sycamore blank measuring 255 x 50mm. Mount the blank on the lathe and, using a 10mm long-grind bowl gouge, remove the material to create the desired shape


Use dividers to mark the diameter of the spigot that will hold the bowl in the chuck when reversed


Using a 6mm parting tool plunge into the blank outside the line and create the spigot for your chucking method


Using the 10mm long-grind bowl gouge remove the excess material and blend the surfaces together


Refine the bottom of the spigot and dish it out - this will make the piece more attractive and also more stable when placed upon a flat surface


Use a 6mm square-grind bowl gouge to refine the shape and try to achieve one continuous cut


Using the 10mm long-grind gouge true the edge of the blank


Using a round skew chisel create a dovetail on the outside edge of the spigot to match your chuck. Now use the round skew as a scraper, rotated to approximately 45° to allow you to shear-scrape the outside of the bowl. Note: this is an advanced technique


Reduce the lathe speed and sand with the abrasive of your choice


Seal the surface with acrylic sanding sealer - multiple light coats are always best at this stage


De-nib the surface of the blank using fine wire wool


Ebonise using acrylic matte black spray paint. Again, light coats are best, then allow the piece to dry naturally


Cover with acrylic satin lacquer and then allow to dry


Remove the piece from the screw chuck, mount in the chuck and true the rim of the bowl flat


Sand the piece flat using a hard-faced sanding block

Rim layout


The rim is marked out using a black watercolour pencil. You will also need a 255mm diameter disc/template to allow you to create the arcs that will create the diamonds. Mark three lines 5mm, 60mm and 65mm, then, using the point tool, score two of the lines - these will create the start and stop cuts for the power carving. Do not score the innermost line - this is where the bowl will start/finish. This is very important for that defined look to a piece, as it will frame the carved and decorated area


Using the indexing head divide the rim into 24 with the toolrest set on centre to ensure the lines are perfectly radial. At this point, transfer the chuck and the piece to the carving clamp. Set the clamp at a comfortable angle and height


Set the template between the radial lines and then continue to draw them in


Now set the template to the left and the diamonds will appear. You can shade in the areas to be textured and this will help avoid any potential mistakes

Carving and texturing


When carving I use a power gouge - there are several on the market - mine is a Ryobi tool, which I have had for many years, it is fitted with a Flexcut 'V' gouge. The key to good detail is to always keep it sharp. Carve the first line to the right starting on the outside and working in to the centre. Try to get one smooth flowing movement without any changes in the direction of cut


Now carve the second line to the right - I find this a little more difficult. Here you can see the previous geometric design simply carved, with no added decoration


Using a flex-shaft rotary tool fitted with a rotary hand-piece and a very small good quality round burr set at the slowest speed, place your hand comfortably in the centre of the piece and begin to create a figure-of-eight random texture to relieve the remaining panels. Take great care not to damage the carved edges


With all the texturing finished it will require some cleanup - this is sensitively completed using a radial sanding brush fitted to a standard rotary drill. Pulse the motor, as it will keep the bristles softer than if run at speed


Here is the finished uncoloured piece. At this stage take some time, look for any mistakes, and if needed, refine them to produce clean edges and detail


Using a hard-faced sanding block and fine abrasive gently sand the face with the grain. Keep the block absolutely flat or the edges will become rounded


Using a soft long-haired bristle brush apply multiple coats of liquid acrylic black. When the black is dry remove it from the carving clamp and return it to the lathe spindle


Seal with acrylic satin lacquer and apply multiple coats to the rim at this stage. Rotate the piece by hand, and as you do so this will allow good and even coverage

Turning out the centre


At this stage you must ensure that your tool control is spot on. There is no room for error when making the entry cuts at the edge of the inner bowl. Remove the centre of the bowl working out to the line made earlier to define the edge of the bowl, using the long-grind 10mm bowl gouge


With a freshly sharpened French-curve bowl scraper refine the inside of the bowl - gently does it here. Use only the lightest of touches and it will do the job for you


Sand the bowl but be very careful at the intersection between the rim and the inner bowl. This needs to be kept crisp and does not want softening as it will lose its definition


Shear-sand the bowl and this will remove/disguise any radial sanding marks there may be


With the sanding complete seal, de-nib and lacquer the bowl with multiple light coats, then extend the spraying to cover the rim to produce one even surface. Allow the bowl to dry for about an hour before moving on to the next stage


Apply burnishing cream to the bowl whilst it is stationary. Do not get any cream over the top edge, as it is not very easy to remove


Here is the finished diamond rim bowl complete with its black rim


And here is a close-up image of the decorated rim

Briony Darnley

Tagged In:

Nick Arnull , Weekend Projects

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Diagrams Click an image to enlarge

Handy Hints

1. When sanding, reduce lathe rotation, as is necessary.
2. Do not use old or tired abrasive - it is false economy.
3. Use a shear sander to disguise any radial sanding marks made when you are hand-sanding.
4. Use water to raise the grain before final sanding.
5. Use a soft watercolour pencil when marking out to avoid disappointment at a later stage.
6. Always sharpen your tools when taking a final cut.
7. Try adding a secondary bevel to your gouges and see what difference this can make to your turning.
8. Allow adequate time for coats of lacquer/sealers to fully dry.
9. Use multiple light coats and build up the layers.
10. Use burnishing cream to give differing types of refraction/shine to your work and include these in one of your pieces.
11. Do not be content with the finish as it comes out of the can - experiment further
12. When creating carved areas do not settle for sub-standard details. Take your time and do your best.
13. Check all detail before applying colour to the piece. If needed, refine.
14. When creating decorated pieces use the cleanest timber you can
15. Use light to create shadows when working - this will allow you to see what is developing as the decoration develops.
16. When working with flex-shaft rotary tools only work for short periods, as this will help prolong the life of the tool and reduce the risk of white finger caused by the vibration from the tool

Health And Safety

1. Protect your eyes and lungs at all times, and work at a speed that allows you to feel comfortable and safe
2. Keep the toolrest between you and the work - NEVER let your fingers cross over to the other side