The Wood Turner by Leo Singleton

Published on February 28, 2013

When man dosen’t need anything more than his strength, skill and natural surroundings to create objects. Leo Singleton shows how he can make a bowl on the lathe powered with the human force.

Leo Singleton is a low impacter and lifelong craftsman. He lives in a yurt on his low impact, high welfare smallholding and manages coppice, oak woodland, high banked hedgerows, river, permanent pasture and meadow.

A note from Leo Singleton

Bowls have been made like this for centuries, the lathe I am using is loosely based on a Viking design. Made from a single ash tree, its ‘oversize’ construction reduces vibration during turning and allows the appropriate level of force to be applied on the cutting stroke without unsettling the lathe.Wood turner George LaileyWooden bowls were still being made in this way into the 1950′s by George Lailey who lived and worked very close to where I grew up, in Berkshire.


Sadly, his craft died with him in 1958 until it was revived, primarily by Robin Wood who uses a replica of Laileys lathe today to make his bowls.

This Breakfast bowl was made from a piece of cherry which was first cut to length, split in half -through the pith, and shaped into a hemisphere with a carving axe. The blank was then fitted to the mandrel (the cylinder around which the drive cord is wrapped) and mounted on the lathe.

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The outside profile of the bowl is roughed out using a bevelled hook tool, once all the axe marks are gone and the shape is acceptable a final pass is made taking a fine cut to give a smooth finish. The blank is then turned around and the inside hollowed out.

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Working from the rim to the centre the bulk is gradually removed until the correct depth is achieved. The final cut is right into the centre of the bowl where the mandrel is still driving the workpiece -gradually reducing the size of the core until there is just enough to prevent the bowl breaking away. The turning is finished and the bowl is given a tap at right angles to the grain to release it from the mandrel. The final step is to remove the remains of the spiggot from the base and core from the inside.


Although considerable effort is required to fashion this humble, everyday item, the act of ‘making’ from the rawest of materials -a once living tree, gives a sense of place and ‘rightness’ which everyone should experience at least once.

‘note from leo’ via: Saveourwoods


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