Canadian Woodworking

Ruffled Bowl

Author: Lisa Chemerika
Photos: Lisa Chemerika; Lead Photo by Rob Brown
Published: August September 2017

If a stunning centerpiece, or a unique gift, is what you’re after, look no further. This turned and shaped piece of wood art is a lot of fun to build, and can be modified in many different ways to suit your taste.


  • COST

I drive a lot of miles to and from work every day, and have way too much time to think about what I would like to try to do in my shop. Looking at a picture, or seeing an object, gets my mind working on how a design could be created by me, in my shop. I’m always looking for a challenge, so first I made this ruffled bowl design in my head, then I set about to see if I could actually produce it in wood.

Two Circles
First, the outer circle is drawn on the blank. It marks the outside edge of the finished piece. The second circle is drawn to assist with laying out the 16 holes in the upper surface of the piece.

Divide It Up
Chemerika divided the round workpiece into 16 equal segments, and transferred those lines down the side edge of the blank.

Hole Locations
With the 16 holes on the upper face, and the 16 holes on the edge marked and center-punched, Chemerika added circles around each hole location to ensure no mistakes were made while she drilled the 5/8"-diameter holes.

Nice and Straight
Ensure the holes in the side of the workpiece are bored straight and to the same depth. The holes need to be deep enough to protrude through the bowl area once it’s hollowed.

Remove More Material
To assist with removal of waste material, you can use a large countersink bit.

A Tangent Cut
Mark and cut the waste from between the holes. Ensuring the cuts are tangent to the holes will reduce the amount of hand work to smooth the edges later on.

Turn the Bowl
With the workpiece on the lathe, Chemerika hollows out the center area, keeping an eye on the area where the bored holes come in from the side edge of the piece.

More Trim Cuts
A dovetail saw is used to make cuts tangent to the holes, so more waste can be removed from the piece before shaping each ruffle.

Use Some Power
Electric or pneumatic tools will help with shaping each ruffle. Just be careful to not remove too much wood, and to protect yourself in the process.

Simple Protection
While Chemerika is working on sawing and shaping each ruffle, she adds a few layers of tape to the bottom of the bowl area to protect it from tools.

Old Sanding Belts
Sanding belts, in many grits and widths, make great aids for shaping the ruffles. They are somewhat rigid, and help knock down the high points quickly.

A thick, square blank

I started with some 2″-thick cherry, and cut a square from the board. You can laminate a blank if you want, but the glue lines and growth rings will take away from the finished look. I started with a piece 10″ × 10″ × 2″.

Ruffled Bowl Layout

I started by drawing a circle as large as possible on the top face of the blank. This circle marks the outer edge of the workpiece, which will get trimmed round on the band saw shortly. I then laid out 16 evenly spaced segments on the top face of the blank.

Next, I had to locate and drill the first set of 16 holes. First, draw a smaller circle across the segment lines. You want this to be far enough inside the outer circle so that enough wood remains to shape the ruffle. I found that a distance of 1″ between the outer edge of the drilled hole and the outer edge of the workpiece gave me enough material to work with. Since I was going to drill 5/8″-diameter holes, this meant the radius of my second circle was 1-5/16″ smaller than the first circle. I marked it, then trimmed the blank to the outer circle on my band saw. Next, extend the segment lines down the edge of the blank using a square.

To help lay out the next 16 holes, mark a centerline around the edge of the blank. Next, mark the mid point between each of the segments, along the center line. This is where the side holes will be drilled. I used a nail set to center punch the 32 hole locations, to help accurately locate the 5/8″-diameter drill bit.

If you want to play around with different-sized holes, go for it. You do not want them too small or you’ll have very thick ruffles. Too big, and you’ll have no wood left to make each ruffle. I used a 5/8″ Forstner bit. When drilling the holes, you want their edges to be as clean as possible, to avoid a lot of tedious cleanup later.

Drill the holes

I then drilled the face holes and the edge holes. I made sure I was able to make the edge holes as square to the face and edge as possible. You have to drill the edge holes deep enough, and all at the same depth using the depth gauge, so they will be exposed where the bowl will be hollowed out. Before I took the bowl out of the edge jig, I also reamed the holes out to evenly and quickly remove a decent amount of material from around each hole.

More marking

With the holes drilled, I marked where the edges needed to be cut, so I could remove some of the waste from between the holes. I aimed for an opening of about 1/4″ wide at the outer rim of the bowl. One thing to consider at this stage is marking these lines so they’re tangent to the drilled 5/8″ hole, with only a small amount of sanding and shaping needed to create a smooth transition on both sides of the holes. I cut along the lines, using my band saw.

Time to turn

I mounted the bowl blank on my lathe, with a round blank glued to the bottom of the workpiece and paper in between, for easy removal later. I lightly turned the general shape of the piece on the edges and then removed a lot of material from the center of the workpiece. The bowl center area must be deep enough to expose the holes drilled into the side edge, yet only wide enough so there is enough wood left between the center area and the outer face for the ruffle.

Angled cuts

With the workpiece off the lathe and secured to my workbench, I used a dovetail saw to make the angled face cuts. I applied a few layers of tape to the bowl bottom to protect the workpiece from my less-than-perfect hand sawing technique.

Shaping the ruffles

Now all that’s left to do is to shape the ruffles. Easier said than done. I used a combination of rotary carving and abrading tools, chisels and belt sander belts. Old belt sander belts removed a lot of material fast and easily. You may even find a selection of carving gouges work to smooth out the main shape of the ruffles, then you can move to sanding. I sanded with finer and finer sanding belts until there were no tool marks. It took a long time, and there were lots of breaks, but the final result shows how important this step is. Rough sanding, to obtain the general shape of each ruffle, is one of the most important steps while making this piece. Finish sanding is also important, not to mention time consuming.

Apply a finish

I wanted something to highlight the grain and provide a medium amount of protection, so I opted for a wipe-on oil finish. Saturating the wood, especially the end grain, and getting into all the nooks and crannies, took some effort but was necessary.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure what this is. Some have suggested putting candles in the face holes for a centerpiece at Christmas. I’ve also used one as a serving bowl for snacks. One thing for sure is that it’s a conversation piece.

And if you decide to make one as a gift, you can be darn sure the lucky recipient doesn’t already have one.


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  2. Gobsmakingly Brilliant, Please don’t take your eyes of the road, Because i would like to
    see more,
    kind regards Clive.

  3. This is so beautiful!!!!!. I am definitely up for the challenge. You see, I am in the military and just have been promoted to Chief / E7 and I am required to make a hat box. Now, I can make this ruffled tray to place the hat on, but I would LOVE if I get feedback or ideas from you, as I’d like my hat box to be unique. I’d be really honored. Thank you in advance. God bless you

  4. Beautiful work and imagination to think of this design I am retired and enjoy the wood lathe my first was a Rockwell Beaver which was given to me by my uncle I was 12 yrs now 76 find it relaxing

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