Tip to finish a bowl - the cool way

There is more to “finishing” a woodturning than slapping on a coat of oil or shellac and putting it on the shelf for sale or display.

Hopefully this last step will have involved some careful thought and preparation.  And, sometimes the best finish doesn’t need to be perfectly smooth, deeply glossy and bright.  What?? .. How about if you try something different…something maybe just a little crazy?

After you have roughly sanded the inner and outer surfaces with perhaps 80 and 120 grit. 

1. Sweep up all the dust and shavings.
2. Clean up your finishing area.
3. Leave the bowl mounted in the scroll chuck and on the spindle. 


Do you have a propane torch? You will need one for this next step!

4. Light the torch, adjust the flame so that there is a fine blue cone at the edge of the flame.

5. Gently use this blue cone to scorch the surface, using slightly over-lapping strokes. The coal is to char the surface and to do it evenly so that the surface has a uniform degree of char, with no light areas. 

⚠️ You do not want to set the bowl on fire nor do you want to set the shop on fire, so go slowly and surely. 

It may take several efforts to attain good consistency char over all of the surface. 

6. Now you can turn the lathe on at about 750-1,000 RPM and use the shavings to burnish the surface.

This will remove the surface charcoal and leave a black surface that has an interesting texture.


Inspect closely


Does any area need additional burning? If so, now is the time to cir and re-burnish.  DO NOT USE SANDPAPER.

Use the same technique on the inside. Once burnished, you can apply a light coat of Walnut Oil and polish it out.

You now have a finished turning with a very unique texture and finish…a piece with CHARACTER!!


By Cap. Jack Wayne

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