Moonlight Bowl


Moonlight Bowl:
Colwin Way makes an out of this world moonlight bowl.

Colwin Way makes an out of this world moonlight bowl

So we are in the darker months of winter when Christmas seems a distant memory and, if you were good, you may have had the fat fella visit you with a gift or two. I want to try and give youa couple of ideas that may spark your creative thoughts and use some of those gifts you may of been lucky enough to receive.
Our project will be a fairly simple one, a classic ogee-shaped bowl which I intend to decorate. I know decorating turned projects isn’t always to everyone’s taste so I’ve tried to give you some different options in the main picture, but I’m focusing on one of my favourite decorative techniques, airbrushing.
We can look at the basics of bowl turning for those of you just starting out on your turning journey, and then onto some very simple airbrush techniques to inspire you further into embellishment. I’m going to make a trio of bowls: one airbrushed, one will be with a turned line design and one decorated with pyrography.
You could try the same thing on any project. With different techniques and with your own designs, there really is no limit to what can be done; it’s almost like creating your own swatch book of ideas. Even though the backs of our bowls have nicely flowing ogees, I’ve given the front face a large rim to give us a nice blank canvas to decorate.

Equipment and materials
• Airbrush and dyes
• Pyrography machine
• 10mm bowl gouge
• 6mm bowl gouge
• Skew chisel
• Scrap paper
• Rotary sander
• Abrasive
• Screw chuck
• Dividers

Drawings and how to resize them
To enlarge or reduce the size of drawings right click on the image to download it and then go HERE to watch a video on how to use paper with a grid to do exactly that.

1. I used the whitest sycamore (Acer spp.) I could find, which won’t discolour the paint. We will turn the back first. Hold the blank in a screw chuck, which will give you a centre hole to take out, allowing you to keep the bowl small. True the front face of the bowl, drawing the bowl gouge from the centre of the bowl towards the outside edge, facing the flute to 10 o’clock. Work from left to right, with the handle low and the flute facing 2 o’clock, draw the chisel across the outer edge using the bevel to rub the timber surface

2. Now trued up, start laying out the basic shape. Measure the chuck jaws when they’re at the optimum size, in this case it is 60mm. The optimum size means when the chuck jaw is at a perfect circle. This will give you maximum surface contact (important if you’re only using a small foot to grip with). Use dividers to mark the foot size of 60mm, keeping them in contact with the toolrest and flat to stop them catching

3. Now rough the shape of the bowl out. Start with the foot and cut a recess with a parting tool to a depth of 3mm. Use a 10mm deep fluted bowl gouge and a pull cut with the bowl gouge from the foot to the outer edge of the bowl. Don’t be too concerned about tooling lines or tares at thIS point, you are only roughing the shape out

4. Now make your finishing cuts, which means changing from pull to push cuts. When using pull cuts remember that flute direction is crucial. Point the flute towards 10 o’clock; for a push cut it’s vital to have bevel rubbing throughout, starting with the bevel flat on the surface while moving the handle of the gouge to create the shape you want. Pressing too hard will give a frustrating ‘bevel bounce’. When happy with  the shape, clean up the foot with a skew laid flat

5. Now to sanding, which is important for this project, as airbrushing will show up any flaw. Alternate between hand and rotary sanding: 100 grit hand, 150 grit hand, 240 rotary, 320 hand, 400 hand, 400 rotary, ending with 600 hand

6. Now to the top face of the bowl. To decorate the face begin with a push cut or a sheer cut. To achieve this, drop the handle of the gouge and turn the flute into the bowl facing 9 o’clock

7. Don’t worry if you have a few turning lines after this process, they will be so small they will come out quickly when sanding

8. When hollowing it’s best to not take too much out as the focus is the rim, so you need it to be as big as possible, but you do want the inside curve to be pleasing. Face the flute to 2 o’clock with the handle over the other side of the lathe bed to start the cut. Draw towards and over the lathe bed as you come around the bottom of the inner curve and finish with a very small finishing cut. Because this curve is very tight, you may want to move to a 6mm bowl gouge instead

9. There we are, the three bowls all finished and ready for their various decorations

10. This is the point where you stop turning, move to the decorating and focus on the airbrushed bowl. I used five airbrushes all loaded with a different colour in each: white, black, blue, red and yellow. The airbrushes all have quick release fittings making the swapping of airbrush very easy. The airbrushes I use are known as dual action, meaning you press down for air supply and pull back for the colour to be delivered. I find these controllable and easy for beginners to use

11. Here, I’m running the airbrush through an airbrush regulator, which I’ve set to 30psi, but anything between 25 and 40psi to start with is fine for normal inks. For most of the colours, use standard spirit wood dyes, which have a good consistency for the brushes and are easily cleaned with methylated spirits. However, for the white, use acrylic paint, which is much thicker than the dye so it will be really bold

12. Start by laying down the base colour; this is really important and you want this to be really black for the white to stand out later. With the lathe turning at approximately 500rpm, and with an even movement, draw the airbrushes across the face of the bowl about 150mm away from the surface. The colour should be hitting the surface of the timber almost dry, but if you see the paint is staying wet then stop and allow time to dry. For extra guidance, you should be able to stop the lathe and touch the surface immediately without getting colour on your hands

13. Once you have a good base of black you can start adding detail. Aiming for a moonlight scene, you’ll need to start with the furthest objects in it – the stars! This is one of my favourite bits and takes me right back to primary school. Using a toothbrush, drop a small amount of white acrylic paint on to the bristles and flick some splatters to the surface of the bowl

14. Now, let’s make some of our stars sparkle! Start by cutting a thin slit into a piece of scrap paper, which will be your template. Hold the slit over one of the brightest stars and, using the white paint, spray in the opposing direction of the slit with the star at the centre. Remove the paper, turn it 180° and repeat the process

15. Do this to as many stars as you want  and try varying the size of them

16. Now, let’s move on to the moon, or moons. I used my only pre-made template, which has several sizes of circle in negative and positive images. As you can see, the edges are all close together so you will need to mask off the areas that you don’t want the colours to hit


17. Use the same scrap of paper from step 13 and cut a small hole into it to reveal the template, but make sure it covers the rest of the bowl to avoid overspray. If your light source is the centre of the bowl, like mine was, you’ll need to have the heaviest colour facing this direction. Hold the paper down tightly with your fingers and spray the edge of the template at 90° to the surface to stop the colour creeping under

18. I’ve put two moons of different sizes on my bowl to create some perspective and distance. Now it’s time for the clouds. Still stick with the white, tear some tissue as ragged as you’d like to avoid straight edges. Try to move the paper around so you don’t create the same pattern every time. Hold the tissue down and using the air supply from the airbrush, flatten it down while spraying the edges. Again, this is a really effective touch with the simplest of kits

19. All the detail is now done meaning we can start adding colour. I used three colours to enhance the white detail, and the really cool thing with these primary colours is they’re transparent, meaning you can spray over the black without them showing, yet when they hit white the colour becomes visible. It might be an idea to give the clouds some night-time colour like I did. Pick out detail with the red, keeping away from the moons and sparkling stars

20. Now you have finished the colour, you will need to make the centre of the bowl shine. Let the brightness of the sycamore come through by taking a finishing cut to the bowl, creating a lovely crisp edge and making the bowl ‘pop’

21. The bowl is now ready for sanding, but a word of warning: take your time. One slip with your abrasive and it’s back to the drawing board. Start with a 150 grit and work through to 600 grit, using the corner of the abrasive on your finger to give you control while sanding up to the edge of the bowl

22. To finish off, take the foot off by reversing it on to a set of button jaws. Protect the painted surface with some tissue, and with a 6mm bowl gouge gently remove or re-shape the foot to suit your design

Here we are, the trio of bowls all finished. I hope this has given you some ideas and inspiration to have a go yourself. No special equipment is required to make the effect apart from an old toothbrush and some tissue paper – if you call those special! The pyography bowl has a Viking design around the rim and the lined bowl was done using the tip of my skew, purposely easy decoration for everyone’s capabilities no matter how new you are to this wonderful hobby.


Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.