Large Bowls
Tools and Equipment

I know bowl carvers who do most of their work with just one tool, a short-handled scooping adze. There's nothing wrong with this approach, if that's the way you like working. The bowl shapes that I make are somewhat complex, so I use a variety of tools, which are always very sharp. 
Hewing tools are divided into two groups: axes and adzes (1). My favorite hollowing adze has a bent hardwood handle that's about 20" long. The head, which is hand-forged by Swedish toolmaker Hans Karlsson, weighs about 22 ounces. The cut tiny edge is egg-shaped-the center section takes a shallow curve, with steeply curved lips at each shoulder. An external bevel is necessary for making a scooping cut. My favorite bowl-hewing axe was designed by Wille Sundqvist and is made by Gransfors Bruks, also in Sweden. The head is 35 ounces, and it has a 5" blade. 
Most of my gouges were made by Hans Karlsson (2). These include several heavy duty, double-trooped gouges which I strike with a Japanese timberframer's hammer. I also use six or seven paring gouges. Straight gouges cut more efficiently than bent gouges, but they are limited when it comes to cutting concave shapes. That's when the bent gouges come in. I use two conventional bent gouges and a Karlsson special that I call a dog-leg gouge. The dog-leg gouge is used to reach into the bottom of a bowl, where the grain converges from opposing directions. It's difficult to reach this area with most gouges, because the rim interferes with the gouge handle. So-called spoon gouges are not very effective here; the angle of the handle is too far from the direction of the cutting action. I also use a wide, flat Japanese paring chisel on the convex area at the ends of the bowl. 
Some other tools that come into play: chain saw, splitting wedges, sledge hammer, drawknife, spokeshave, rulers, a level, and pencils. (Use safety glasses when split tiny the log with the wedges, as well as ear protection when the chain saw is running.) 
Bowl carving shop equipment (as distinguished from "tools") begins with my hewing stump, an oak log about 28" high and 16" in diameter (3). To prevent the stump from rocking when I'm hewing, I've fitted it with three legs-these are 4" lengths of 1-1/2" dowel mortised 2" into the bottom. When not in use, the work surface of the stump is covered with a plywood lid. This protects it from grit, which could get embedded in the surface if someone stands on the log in order to reach an overhead shelf. 
I use a special bowl carver's hewing beam to secure bowl blanks during adze work (13). Wille Sundqvist made it several years ago when he taught a class at Country Workshops. Before I had the beam, I secured bowl blanks with pegs and opposing wedges to a heavy, roughly made low bench. Many other devices for holding bowl blanks have been used. 
After hewing with adze and axe, most remaining work is done at a conventional workbench. I use the tail vise and standard bench dogs, in addition to clamps and various improvised wooden cauls, leather scraps, and so on. Large bar clamps are also very useful at this point.
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Drew Langsner
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