Woodturning An Easter Bowl Without A 4-Jaw Chuck

Hi, Alan Stratton from As Wood Turns dot com
A little while ago a viewer wrote me a note. He said he had just purchased a new lathe
but did not have a chuck. He wanted to turn a bowl. So, his question was: how could he
turn a bowl without a chuck? Well, there was a time when there were lathes
but no one had a 4-jaw chuck like this one. I regularly use a 4-jaw chuck and I recommend
that every turner have one. But that’s just me.
Back to his question. I haven’t done a bowl the way he asked in a long time. In fact,
the last time I did, I did leave screw holes in the base of the bowl that I had filled.
Now, I think those holes are totally unacceptable. So, how do we turn a bowl without a chuck
and without leaving nasty screw holes in the base of the bowl?
Well, I recently purchased a new mini lathe and I don’t have a 4-jaw chuck for it yet.
And I emphasize YET. I will be buying one as standard required equipment for a lathe.
So, let’s make this small bowl out of dry walnut without using a chuck and without leaving
nasty screw holes in the base. Let’s go for it.
My new mini lathe has a small faceplate. So, the first order of business is to screw a
faceplate to my bowl blank. Some would say to use super long screws — I’m just using
1 ½” square drive flat head screws. For dry wood, these have been adequate.
Since my studio space is limited, I’ll clamp and setup the mini lathe on my full size lathe.
It’s a little high but I’ll survive. Even with the wood securely screwed to the faceplate,
I’ll keep the tail stock in place at least until the wood is round and more balanced.
Now to rough out the blank, I’ll use my large bowl gouge. One of the first things,
I noticed is that I have to take very light cuts on this mini lathe, else I’ll stall
the lathe. It just does not have the power of my big lathe.
Let’s see if changing the belts will help. Yes, it helps a little.
This is definitely taking longer to rough out this bowl on this mini lathe.
I’ll flatten the bottom and even sand it a little. Since, I don’t want screw holes
in the bowl and I don’t have any of this walnut to waste, I’ll glue on a waste block
that I can screw into. My faceplate has a large center hole which
will make it difficult to center it on the faceplate and I only have the one faceplate.
So I thought I’d drill a hole in the waste block for a dowel to fit the large center
hole in the faceplate. This should help me center the faceplate.
Now to true up the waste block while I can still get to it easily. And to trim down the
dowel. Now for the big switch. I’ll reverse the
wood on the faceplate and center it perfectly on the other side.
Well, that didn’t work. The dowel interfered with seating the faceplate. So mount it again
in the original position and turn down the dowel even more.
Whoops, now the faceplate is on but the faceplate will not seat properly on the headstock. So
back to the drawing board. At least I have screw holes in the proper place. I’ll remove
the dowel and remount to the same screw holes. I made a mark on the bowl and the faceplate
to get the same positions on my next attempt. After removing the screws, I sanded the remainder
of the dowel flush to the faceplate. Then remounted the walnut. What a comedy of errors!
Now back to work. I trimmed the outside of the bowl again before starting to hollow out
the interior. I brought up the tail stock again just to be safe.
Now for the interior, I’m still using my large bowl gouge. For the bottom, I switched
to a round carbide cutter. With the interior finished, it’s time to
start the sanding and finishing process. I applied my mineral oil and beeswax mix and
sanded it up thru the grits by hand. After sanding, I applied walnut oil. It seems appropriate
to use walnut oil on a walnut bowl. Now to finish the base. I mounted some glued
up layers of MDF to the faceplate. I don’t yet have a tap for this size spindle, so I
had to screw the MDF to the same faceplate. I turned the MDF to approximate the bowl shape
and padded it with a sanding pad. I turned down the waste block to a small stub,
made the bottom a little concave and dressed it up a little bit. Then sanded and finished
the base except for the small stub. Then I broke off the remaining stub and managed
to hold the bowl onto the jam chuck while I sanded and finished the stub area. While
this went ok, I probably should have spent the little extra time to properly fit the
jam chuck to the bowl edge. Whew, I did it. I turned a bowl on a mini
lathe without a 4 jaw chuck. Would I do it again? No. I’m going to buy a small 4 jaw
chuck that will fit this mini lathe. But I do have a nice small walnut bowl just
in time to use as an Easter basket. Please Like this video and add your comments,
suggestions, and critique. If you haven’t already subscribed, take a minute now and
do it so I can keep you informed about new videos.
I’m learning from this process and hope you are also.
And, we’ll see you again with the next video.

Comments 34

  • Alan, very nice video and bowl.

  • LOL – I think the question you should ask yourself Alan is not 'Would I turn a bowl without a chuck again?', but rather 'Would I turn a bowl on a mini lathe again?' Looks like it took a long time when compared to your other turnings.

  • Informative

  • Makes me glad I have a 4 jaw chuck 🙂 Great work showing that it can be done for those on a limited budget.

  • Thank you for watching
    Alan Stratton

  • Good question. I may reserve the mini for spindle work. I bought it more for being able to move it around since the big lathe outweighs it by about 7x. My preference is still my PM3520A.
    Alan Stratton

  • Thanks for watching
    Alan Stratton

  • Yes, I think anyone purchasing a lathe should also purchase a good 4 jaw chuck.
    Not just for bowls, but also a lot of spindle work.
    Thanks for watching
    Alan Stratton

  • nice information and very nice looking bowl you made!

  • Alan … Which mini-lathe did you acquire? Thanks for your videos … I look forward to and learn from them!

  • That process wouldn't seem like a lot of work if you had never used a chuck but, knowig how versatile and efficient a chuck is, I think I'll leave my experience of chucklessness (is that a word?) at this video. Great work Alan, even with all the to and fro it was well worth it.

  • Great video and bowl Alan. As has already been said, thank heavens for chucks! Great tutorial for those who have not yet got one, or are starting out in turning.
    Take care

  • Thank you. My video for you contest will be out next.
    Alan Stratton

  • My mini lathe is a Rikon 1/2HP Variable Speed Mini Lathe Model 1216
    I bought it so I could have a portable lathe. Otherwise, I prefer the power of my PM 3520A.
    Thanks for watching.
    Alan stratton

  • Agreed – When buying a lathe people should count on buying a chuck at the same time.
    Thanks for watching
    Alan Stratton

  • The best part of the tutorial is to buy a chuck. 🙂
    Then I guess the question becomes — which chuck — but I don't have room for that question.
    Thanks for watching.
    Alan Stratton

  • Thanks Allan.

  • Good video, you made it seem easy, but like you said, there is nothing like a chuck.

  • The lesson is that if you are having trouble persist!! Keep your friend "Chuck" around.

  • You're welcome
    Alan Stratton

  • Well, it can be done but it is soooo much easier with a chuck.
    Thanks for watching.
    Alan Stratton

  • "Chuck" became a much better friend after this experience.
    Thank you
    Alan Stratton

  • Alan, that was a great video. Your demo on turning bowls without a chuck will be helpful for a lot of beginning turners.

  • Hopefully, they'll budget for a chuck.
    Thanks for watching.
    Alan Stratton

  • If they are like me, I got the lathe (used but in good condition) for half of what a decent chuck costs. So I too get to be turning for a while without a chuck – but it is next on my list of things to buy for sure.
    Every used lathe I have found have been without a chuck for sale. I think that they are selling the lathe because it was not as much fun as they thought it would be, and this is true primarily because they never got a good chuck. GET A CHUCK as soon as you can afford it,

  • AMEN to that one – It's a lot more fun
    Alan Stratton

  • Very informative video, old school turning :-))

  • It made me appreciate my scroll chuck more (new school).
    Thanks for commenting
    Alan Stratton

  • What size chuck and ball gouge should I get ?

  • Your chuck body must depend on your lathe. If you have a mini then too big won't work.
    For jaws, start with something that holds around 2 inch diameter.
    You'll eventually get several bowl gouges. I find myself reaching for by 5/8 or 3/4" gouge (depends on how people measure them)
    Good luck.
    Alan Stratton

  • A really nice multi-part tutorial text and pictures on turning bowls without a chuck: (turn this into a web address, adding the Com on the end) bobhamswwing

    I've got a cheap, used, Harbor Fright lathe with a weird headstock thread that doesn't run very true. Hard to justify spending the coin on a chuck. Thanks for this video. I've subscribed.

  • I think not having a 4 jaw chuck would be a challenge. As Bob said, a chuck is a "desirable" luxury
    If the thread does not run true, it would not run true for a faceplate either which then limits to spindle projects.
    What diameter and thread per inch is your lathespindle? Maybe you can buy a cheap tap and still use threaded wood faceplates.(I have a video for threaded faceplates.)
    Alan Stratton

  • Hey Alan. Thanks for the video. I'm a poor beginner wood turner so this was a great video for me. I got my hands on some Eucalyptus logs that look like they would make great bowls. I'm not sure how well that wood turns though. I was node ring what glue you used to attach the waste base? Was it regular wood glue or a quick setting glue?

  • very good vid -thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *