Walnut Bowls

Relationship with Objects, Fabrication  •  What are the steps to make a valid object from start to finish?

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These walnut bowls are from a tree I cut down with my grandfather in Smyrna, Tennessee.

They were turned within the weeks immediately following the tree felling, reducing the risk of billets cracking by reducing the time the wood had to dry. After turning, they were wrapped in paper for several months to allow them to dry at a slow, controlled rate. This slower dry time, and thinner profile, insured the bowls would warp but not break. The asymmetrical shapes come from differences in the dry time of end grain and the dry time of face grain, as well as the amount of water each held when cut down. After the bowls had dried sufficiently the bottoms were smoothed and the oil was applied to stabilize the form.

The bowls were finished with mineral oil, making them food safe and durable. The bowls are valid objects made from a raw material. I hope the subdued aesthetic, variation between pieces, and durability will give these bowls a long life.


I made the bowls to gain exposure to all of the processes required in the synthesis of an object - from living tree to finished tool. Bowls, being simple objects made from a single piece of an accessible material, became a natural candidate. Through making these artifacts I learned a few of the advantages and many of the disadvantages of doing all steps yourself. More so, I gained an appreciation for all phases of the fabrication process.


The bowls all began from half-stumps. This reduced the amount of tannins that would come in contact with the food by moving the heartwood from the base to the edges, mitigated risk of cracking as the bowls dried, and made billet preparation much easier.

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The angle of the turning also produced the two dark brown semicircles on the side of the bowl and enhanced the warped edge by making the bowl expand and shrink more in one dimension than the other.


While not as polished as most things coming out of the shop, these bowls helped me learn firsthand the advantages and (more often) the struggles of making any artifact from beginning to end.