Hollow forms are a great project on a mini or midi lathe once you can turn basic spindles with proficiency. Not only do small hollow forms make a splendid gift, but they also use very little material — often, a piece of wood you would otherwise pitch out.
It is true that most vessels are faceplate turned, with the grain running across bowls. This is the strongest wood orientation. Generally speaking, for a traditional bowl with a level rim, the wood that ends up being the base of the bowl would have been near the bark of the tree.
However, as a vessel is made deeper, there comes a height-to-base ratio where it is better to spindle turn. At that point, spindle hollowing techniques are the next place to go. They’re also fun and easy to make.
For your first hollow form, use a billet measuring about 2″ x 2″ x 4″. It can be any straight-grained species, with maple, cherry and walnut being excellent choices. I used Spanish cedar for the turning in this article.
I turned the project on a Rockler Excelsior 5 Speed Mini Lathe mounted on my workbench and set to the 1,100 rpm pulley combination throughout the process. I grabbed the ends of the lathe between the dogs in my bench, for good stability and vibration dampening.
You will also need a 1-1/2″- to 2″-thick glue block, made of a durable wood such as maple, mounted on a faceplate. Simply band saw a suitable piece of wood to a slightly larger diameter than your faceplate’s.
Use 1″ sheet metal screws to secure the block to the faceplate; make sure they are snug but not stripped. (If the glue block rocks on the faceplate, you are likely to have unexplainable turning difficulty in your future.)
Follow my step-by-step procedure through the photos in this article, and give this project a try. It will extend your spindle turning abilities immensely. Once you’ve mastered straight-grained woods, you can move on to curly (curly maple is always a winner) to keep expanding your skills.