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Wall thickness - finished bowl/vase

Discussion in 'Newbie' started by Regis Galbach, Sep 16, 2017.

  1. Regis Galbach

    Regis Galbach

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    Is there a correct wall thickness for finished items? For example is there a correct relationship of bowl or vase size to the thickness of its wall?
    At our club meetings, people show some outstanding work. I've seen a 6" hollow form that felt like the walls were almost paper thin (cardboard anyways). I've seen very pleasing bowls with varying thickness walls.

    Now that I'm gaining some experience, what determines the proper thickness:
    - Some formula like 1/4" for every 6" diameter?
    - Thin as you can get without destroying it?
    - Function of item perhaps (bowl for fruit needs strength but vase for display only can be very thin)
    - Is bowl/vase height the determining factor?
    - Does the type of wood make the determination?
    - Or, simply what pleases the turner at the time?

    Personally I'm really impressed with the skill to make extremely thin turnings but I prefer to actually feel a little heft in the wood.

    I'd appreciate any tips or guidance.
    Regis
     
    William Rogers likes this.
  2. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    There is no particular standard.
    It is up to the maker.
    I make hollow forms 3/16" thick so they will dry in a day or two.

    NE bowls the smaller the thinner.
    1/8" wall for 7-8"
    1/4" wall for 12-13"
    1/2" wall for 16"

    For salad bowls I think about weight. An average adult should be able to pass the salad with one hand.
    1/2 walls make a good weight for most bowls.

    NE thin stemmed goblets the bowl I like would be 1/16 or so

    A lot of it is about the look and feel you want a piece to have.
    Light weight is better feel than heavy.

    No one want a functional bowl that feels fragile.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2017
  3. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    Wall thickness totally depends on how the item will be used and the perception of the owner.

    For things intended for use, like bowls, canisters, spoons, etc. too thick = too heavy; too thin= too fragile or unstable. When folks pick up an object, they expect a certain amount of weight. When it’s lighter or heavier than expected, they tend to shy away from using it — or buying it.

    There is no definitive answer, in part, because a 14” oak bowl will have a different weight than a 14” cherry bowl. The cherry can be thicker than the oak with no detrimental effects because of the density difference of the two woods. You might be able to have a 1/2” cherry bowl, but it would have to be 3/8” for an oak of the same size to feel the same — for certain users. Others may think the cherry isn’t “right” and want the heavier oak piece.

    For decorative turnings, a paper-thin wall will elicit a hesitant responses from folks; they’ll be afraid it will break in their hands. Even if it’s quite sturdy, it’s the perception that drives it. Turners seem to try to impress other turners with thinness, but non-turners aren’t so aware of risk and skill to make thin walls. They really don’t care other than how it feels in their hands.

    Bottom line is to turn the thickness to your own liking and ask family and friends what they think of the feel overall.

    My apologies if this came across as a rambling response.
     
  4. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    Wanted to add that to find what you like, examine turnings you admire and make a note of wall thickness and overall dimensions. See if you can come up with your own rough ratio as a guide for your own work.

    Once you find what you like, don’t let other turners convince you that thinner is always better. Let your own sensibilities win out.

    There is another example of this with the fit of lids on boxes. Turners love to impress other turners with “just right” fits where there is a suction “pop” when the lid is removed. The general public doesn’t care about this and oftentimes does not want to use two hands to separate a lid from the box — they just want to lift the lid with one hand and remove the item inside with the other.
     
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  5. Regis Galbach

    Regis Galbach

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    Appreciate you 2 taking time to answer. I do know that turners look at an item differently than the public. But, all this makes sense to me.

    Thanks,
    Regis
     
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  6. odie

    odie

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    I used to specialize in thin wall bowls, and still make some here and there. I came to realize that very few people really care about thin wall.....except for other turners, who have a special appreciation for the effort it takes to turn thin. These days I just make my bowls with little pre-conceived notions, and the thickness of the walls are usually between around 1/4" to 3/8", and the resulting heft/feel is well within what most people expect it would/should be. The exception to this, is when the intent is for a salad, or serving bowl, where I make the walls closer to 1/2" thick. That way, I know the user need not be concerned with the usual heavy use these kinds of bowls are expected to endure.

    Owen Lowe's comments above, are very applicable. Do your thing, and don't let others dictate what you feel are the right directions you should take, or rules you should abide by......:)

    -----odie-----
     
  7. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    One thing worth mentioning here is that cut rim bowls look and feel good with a wall that gets thinner from rim to foot

    A bowl with a 3/4" or 5/8" wide rim tapering to 1/2" thick wall and then to a 1/4" or 3/8" thick bottom plus the foot looks good and feels nice to hold.

    These bowls look a whole lot better to me than ones that gets thicker toward the bottom.
    Also the balance and feel of the bowls with the thicker rim is pleasing too.

    Functionally it adds a tiny bit of volume
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2017
  8. Owen Lowe

    Owen Lowe

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    Al, what do you mean by cut rim?
     
  9. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    A regular bowl with a turned rim(usually twice turned) as opposed a NE bowl where the rim is not cut or turned.
    It just a term a lot of turners have started using.
     
  10. john lucas

    john lucas

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  11. Mike Devers

    Mike Devers

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    Whats an ne bowl and how can a rim not be tuened?
     
  12. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    NE- abbreviation for Natural Edge
    The rim of a NE bowl is formed by cutting the outside wall then cutting the inside wall of the bowl and not cutting the rim.
    Below are two NE lucust bowls. One with bark done by my wife Sherry and one won’t bark I did.
    91F59015-AC8B-4788-9C5C-3D52FCC1AF62.jpeg

    13907DB3-2EAC-49BA-865A-E4FF44D4FDD4.jpeg
     
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2017
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  13. Martin Groneng

    Martin Groneng

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    Two great forms, but the bowl by your good wife Sherry has more "bark" than yours!!
     
  14. Bernie Hrytzak

    Bernie Hrytzak

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    And, naturally, she has an edge.
     
  15. RichColvin

    RichColvin

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    I’ve heard other turners say this too. I agree !
     
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  16. hockenbery

    hockenbery AAW Advisor Staff Member

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    Thin walls greatly improve the drying success on hollow forms, end grain vases, NE bowls.....
    How wall thickness is appreciated varies among customers.

    Non turners are much more likely to be impressed by the weight of an object than the wall thickness.
    Light Christmas ornaments sell much better than heavy ones. Light hollow forms sell better than heavy ones. Thin walled bowls are often thought to be too fragile...

    Collectors often become quite knowledgeable about the turning process and value thin work.

    Thin is relative.... 1/32 is really thin 1/4” is not thin unless the object is large.
     
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  17. Breck Whitworth

    Breck Whitworth

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    Regis, I make and sell my work and learned early on that thin turnings are for, or to impress other wood turners. Thin turnings almost never sold compared to a solid feeling utility bowl. My customers taught me about wall thickness. If you are planning on selling a piece or two then customers like to feel that what they are buying can take a few drops and spills without the bowl or vessel breaking or cracking. 3/8" wall thickness to 1/2" are usually fine for a bowl that if it is taken care of should last a lifetime. I by no means am trying to tell you that thin turnings are never right. There is always a time for all type of turnings depending on whether it is an art piece or utility. You are the creator and you decide what is right for your piece. I am just telling you what I learned early on about the myth of thin turnings being the goal to shoot for. If you are going to pierce then yes thin is a must. Have fun and let your work change as your skills and goals change.
     
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