My Special Koa Bowl

Finished inside Posted On
Posted By Dave Hickman

In 2018, my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and our oldest son and his wife celebrated their 10th anniversary. Together, we celebrated with a trip to the island of Kauai. We had a lovey week exploring the island and soaking up the sunshine.

On a previous trip to the island I found a small piece of Koa at a lumberyard, but it was only 3/4 of inch thick and not suitable for turning. I ended up making a pair of carved salad tongs, but ever since then I’ve wanted to turn a koa bowl. In anticipation of our anniversary visit, I contacted some of the local woodturners. Robin Clark gracefully allowed me to invite myself to his shop with the hopes of purchasing some wood suitable for a bowl.

On the designated day, we found Robin’s shop set on a lovely property surrounded with a plethora of palm tree species. His shop, like most woodturneres’, was dotted with projects in various states of drying waiting for inspiration to say “pick me”.

Robin and I looked through his pile of wood to find a suitable piece for my special bowl. The piece we found was a partially weathered log with a partial “V” or crotch from a limb . We worked together to cut a piece of the appropriate size. Seeing that it was too big to carry on the plane, I shipped it via UPS. The look the UPS store guy gave me when I said I wanted to ship a hunk of wood back to the mainland will be forever etched in my mind. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get back home and start on this special bowl.

Unboxing the bowl blank

A few days after returning home the box arrived in one piece and without damage.

Side view of blank

It is beautiful from all sides

Side view of blank

This was the “Y” of the two branches

Side view of blank

It even has some spalting along the rim. This is going to be gorgeous.

Cutting corners

I took the blank to the studio and started by cutting some of the corners off to expedite the turning process.

Mounted on the lathe front

And mounted it on the lathe to get the rough shape.

Mounted on the lathe back

Mounted securely with a face plate.

Now its looking like a bowl

I wanted to maximize the size of the bowl so I turned just enough to get it round.

Now its looking like a bowl

And to see if there were any cracks or other defects.

Now its looking like a bowl

Another view

Now that I know the maximum dimensions I can decide on a shape. I find I do that better on paper than at the lathe.

Sample designs

Several designs are easy to create on paper

Final design

I settled on a wide rim with a hollow and an undercut inner lip. Now to execute the design.

Outer shape complete

The outer shape is complete

Outer shape complete

Another view of the outer shape.

Turning the inside

Its beginning to take shape

Turning the inside

The inner shape is a little more complicated with the undercut lip.

Finished inside

Finished turning inside

Finished Outside

Finished turning outside

Koa bowl

After several coats of finish…
Here is the completed bowl

Koa Bowl

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