How to Carve a Wooden Bowl

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Wood carving for beginners (like me)…

Small wooden bowl on dresser with vase and beauty products

About 6 months ago, I got the idea to make small things out of wood – spoons, bowls, trays, cutting boards. But never committed to actually buying the equipment to get started.

So my brother gifted me some wooden gouge and spoon blanks, which were great. But I lost motivation and was scared to try something new even though I have some experience with wood. till tomorrow! Finally I had some time and felt like making something smaller, so I tried my hand at it and made this little wooden bowl. It is very simple and there is nothing crazy about it. But I was excited to finally be able to carve something and start learning a new skill.

The process of wood carving was fun and quite easy. This is nothing to be afraid of, especially when using a soft wood like balsa or basswood. I would not suggest using hardwood for your first project. Carving is far more difficult, at least for a novice like me.

still! I thought I’d share my little wooden bowl DIY, in case wood carving sounds like something you’d like to try. Here’s what you’ll need and how to carve a wooden bowl.

Materials/tools for carving wooden bowls

  • balsa wood or basswood block – I found a block of balsa at a craft store, but you can order it online as well. Balsa and basswood are both excellent woods to use for this type of beginner bowl project because the woods are very soft.
  • Wood Carving Tools – I only used one tool for all the carvings – A PFEIL “Swiss Made” #7 Gauge, 14mm, But there are tons of different types of gouges and chisels available (found a bunch). Amazon,
  • Power sander – I used my orbital sander, but you can use almost any sander…not a belt sander though.
  • Vice – You can use a table vice, bench vice, etc.
  • sanding sponge or sandpaper (fine grit 120-220)
  • handsaw, pull saw, or power saw
  • Wood Finish/Sealer – I love to use Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C Because it acts as a protection of color and wood. Plus it has 0% VOC. It has a smell, for your information. But definitely zero VOCs.
  • cloth and gloves (optional)

Small wooden bowl with wave vase and colorful artwork

Block of balsa wood with carving tools and wood shavings on a table

How to Carve a Wood Bowl (Beginner Level)

I should probably preface this by saying that this is my first time carving a wooden bowl. This was a much easier project than I thought it would be, and although I’m sure there are better ways to do it, it was fun. With some more equipment, it could definitely be viewed as a hobby.

1. Cut the large block into smaller pieces.

The first step is to cut a large block of balsa to the approximate size of the bowl you want to make.

You can do the job with a miter saw (or really any type of power saw) or a vise and handsaw. I used a bridge saw – this is one I used

2. Clamp the block and start carving.

Next, attach the block to a vice, if it isn’t already, and start carving. You can start by carving out the inner hole for the bowl or the outer part. I started with the inner bowl. I used only one chisel for the whole process of carving. I know there’s a chisel or gauge for every conceivable scenario, but I’m a beginner, and not going to invest in a ton of tools right now.

Because I’m only using one tool (and not the one that would be the best match for the inside of the bowl, which I believe would be a spoon gouge or bent gouge), it takes more work and Line requires a lot of sanding. I’ll come to that part later. But, it worked! It’s entirely possible to make a bowl like this with just one carving tool.

3. Cut the edges in a round shape.

Next, carve pieces from all sides of the block until it resembles a circular shape on the outside. Before turning the block over and doing the same for the bottom I did some carving on the top first so I knew how far to go in.

4. Smooth out all rough areas with the sander.

Once I got the basic shape down on the exterior and interior, I used a sander (used 120 grit sandpaper) to smooth out the exterior and shape it a bit more. And then for the interior of the bowl, I hand sanded again with 120 grit.

I kept the shape relatively organic (not perfectly circular). I love the look and it takes away the pressure of getting things perfect the first time.

5. Hand sand the excess areas if necessary.

Then I used finer grit sandpaper (220) for the interior and exterior. and wiped away any debris.

6. Seal the wood.

The last step is to add wood finish/sealant. As I mentioned in the supply list, I love Rubio’s. If you use the accelerator, it heals much faster. But it is not required. I didn’t use it for this particular piece.

Obviously, use whatever finish and/or sealant you prefer.

Once the piece is cured, it is ready to use! Since my bowl is so small, I plan to use it for smaller items – like rings and earrings – in the bathroom.

Other videos that may be helpful to watch before carving a wooden bowl…

I made a video of the process on Instagram, which you can watch. And before beginning I also watched these 2 videos on YouTube which I found very useful. They are not beginner videos by any means, but they show the general process and I found it useful to watch.

  1. wood carving with hand tools
  2. how to carve a bowl

Other wood projects you might like…

  • DIY Built-in Bookshelf – The wall-to-wall built-in bookshelf in our separate office is one of my favorite projects of all time. Made from white oak and has a mid-century feel.
  • The plywood cabinets in my old studio space have a similar vibe to the built ins. And the storage helped a lot.
  • Wooden Serving Board DIY – Found a very affordable serving board that had some deep carvings on it that weren’t my style. So I sanded it down and made it more minimal.
  • My DIY Wooden Wall Hanging Is Reversible!
  • How to Make DIY Circle Shelves – I used these in Hess’s nursery and they were lovely (and easy to make).
  • How to Make Unique Pendants (Using Wood and Leather) – Pendants in general aren’t that big, but these pendants? I am very fond of

Small wooden bowl with ornaments inside, sitting on a table with a vase and other ornaments

wood carving tool with wood shavings on table with wood bowl

Closeup overhead view of small wooden bowl with ornaments inside

Wooden bowl sitting on a table with other organic modern decor items

How to Carve a Wood Bowl (Beginner Level)

The wood craving process was fun and fairly easy. This is nothing to be afraid of, especially when using a soft wood like balsa or basswood. I would not suggest using hardwood for your first project. Carving is far more difficult, at least for a novice like me. still! I thought I’d share my little wooden bowl DIY, in case wood carving sounds like something you’d like to try. Here’s what you’ll need and how to carve a wooden bowl.

Keyword: DIY, Home Decor, Wooden Bowl, Wood Carving

Servings: 1 wooden bowl

Author: Britney

Cost: $20-75 (depending on equipment)

  • wood carving tools I used only one tool for all carving – a PFEIL “Swiss Made” #7 gauge, 14mm. But there are a ton of different types of gouges and chisels available (found many on Amazon).

  • power sander I used my orbital sander, but you can use almost any sander…not a belt sander though.

  • screws You can use table wise, bench wise etc

  • handsaw, pull saw, or power saw

  • balsa wood or basswood block I found a block of balsa at a craft store, but you can order it online as well. Balsa and basswood are both excellent woods to use for this type of beginner bowl project because the woods are very soft.
  • sanding sponge or sandpaper (Particulate matter 120-220)
  • wood finish/sealer I like to use Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C because it acts as a protectant for the paint and wood. Plus it has 0% VOC. It has a smell, for your information. But definitely zero VOCs.
  • cloth and gloves (optional)
  • I should probably preface this by saying that this is my first time carving a wooden bowl. This was a much easier project than I thought it would be, and although I’m sure there are better ways to do it, it was fun. With some more equipment, it could definitely be viewed as a hobby.

  • The first step is to cut a large block of balsa to the approximate size of the bowl you want to make. You can do the job with a miter saw (or really any type of power saw) or a vise and handsaw. I used a pull saw – this is what I used.

  • Next, attach the block to a vice, if it isn’t already, and start carving. You can start by carving out the inner hole for the bowl or the outer part. I started with the inner bowl. I used only one chisel for the whole process of carving. I know there’s a chisel or gauge for every conceivable scenario, but I’m a beginner, and not going to invest in a ton of tools right now.Because I’m only using one tool (and not the one that would be the best match for the inside of the bowl, which I believe would be a spoon gouge or bent gouge), it takes more work and Line requires a lot of sanding. I’ll come to that part later. But, it worked! It’s entirely possible to make a bowl like this with just one carving tool.
  • Next, carve pieces from all sides of the block until it resembles a circular shape on the outside. Before turning the block over and doing the same for the bottom I did some carving on the top first so I knew how far to go in.

  • Once I got the basic shape down on the exterior and interior, I used a sander (used 120 grit sandpaper) to smooth out the exterior and shape it a bit more. And then for the interior of the bowl, I hand sanded again with 120 grit.I kept the shape relatively organic (not perfectly circular). I love the look and it takes away the pressure of getting things perfect the first time.
  • Then I used finer grit sandpaper (220) for the interior and exterior. and wiped away any debris.

  • The last step is to add wood finish/sealant. As I mentioned in the supply list, I love Rubio’s. If you use the accelerator, it heals much faster. But it is not required. I didn’t use it for this particular piece. Obviously, use whatever finish and/or sealant you prefer.
  • Once the piece is cured, it is ready to use! Since my bowl is so small, I plan to use it for smaller items – like rings and earrings – in the bathroom.

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