I was working a couple different cherry ale bowls over the weekend and was struck again by how different they are to carve compared to “regular” bowls. First of all, especially in this roughing-out stage, I find myself staring a lot more, wrapping my head around the complex form and where everything is in there.
Another difference is the use of a saw. Other than for cutting the log to length, I normally don’t use a saw for any part of a bowl. However, ale bowls are different animals. In the early stages, it makes the most sense to split away some large portions of the blank by making several relief cuts (I use a larger folding saw), then splitting off these chunks with a chisel and mallet.
In the photos above you can see a couple points along this “chunking away” stage. In the one on the left, I’ve sawn and split away the ends, leaving the general area for the heads. On the right, I’ve continued by relieving the area between the heads. Although there is still much to visualize and sculpt, the major masses and proportions are established at this point. I then hew the outer form with and axe and hollow what I can with an adze.
After the chopping, I move on to lots of focused shaping with gouges and knives. As with other bowls, I remove all I can while the wood is still green leaving less to carve away after drying. I’ll revisit these when I get a chance (after waiting at least a week or two) and complete the carving.