2021 SFT Creative Arts Contest: And the awards go to…

The Texas Tornado Bowl 2.0 and Dallas Makerspace!!

The State Fair of Texas Creative Arts judges announced 2021 winners in the Designer Craftsman department. Texas Tornado Bowl 2.0 won a First Premium ribbon for the Turned Wood class and Best of Show for the Designer Craftsman (Adult) Department. It was further recognized as the winner of the Director’s Award, which is the grand prize for entries across all of the 1100+ Creative Arts categories.

DMS deserves a great deal of credit for these awards. I used just about every piece of equipment in the woodshop, the laser, and the expertise of Jimmie Arledge to design and complete this project. Here’s the backgrounder info that I submitted with the bowl:

The Texas Tornado Bowl 2.0 is a unique laminated and turned wood object. It was created by laminating thin layers of wood (163 individual strips) into a 2” X 12-½” X 12-½” block, slicing the block into thin sheets, cutting the sheets into 41 rings, stack-gluing the rings together onto a base (each ring is rotated slightly, which gives it the tornadic effect), adding a segmented top ring, then turning and sanding on the lathe. The bowl is finished with 8 coats of spray lacquer and polished.

Texas Tornado Bowl 2.0 is comprised of the following:

  • Mahogany base and top ring
  • Americana Spectra-Ply (red, white, and blue dyed plywood)
  • Evergreen Spectra-Ply (green and charcoal dyed plywood)
  • Walnut
  • Cherry
  • Yellowheart
  • Padauk

Here’s the finished bowl still attached to my sacrificial piece, lathe chuck, 12" sanding disk (for my shopsmith), and turntable.

The first thing I did was to cut the 2" X 12-5/8" strips of spectraply/hardwoods and glue them into a block. I actually glued them into four smaller groups, then glued the four into one block. I used melamine boards on top of and under the bottom as a caul to lightly clamp and keep the strips aligned before pressing them with the side clamps:

I sliced the block into six 5/32" thick panels on the Laguna bandsaw using a tall fence made of scrap plywood that fits over the existing bandsaw fence. This helps keep the block vertically aligned with the blade as we cut each panel:

I cut the thin panels into 41 different rings on the Big Thunder laser. This was a huge improvement over the prototype bowl from June 2020 where I cut the rings on a scroll saw. Ring 1: 1" ID and 2-1/2" OD; Ring 2: 1-1/4" ID and 2-3/4" OD; each ring was successively larger up to Ring 41: 11" ID and 12-1/2" OD. The 5/32" thickness worked very well on the smaller rings, but most rings larger than #30 required some repair with super-glue in order to stabilize and keep them together. Here’s the “test” panel with rings 1,7,13,19,25,31,& 37. You can see where the outside of ring one becomes the inside of ring seven, etc., and there’s a chunk missing from ring 37:

I began the final glue-up process by mounting a 1" X 6" piece of maple onto my lathe chuck as a “sacrificial” piece, then gluing 6" and 4" diameter pieces of mahogany for the bowl base. I used four layers of brown paper and Titebond 3 wood glue between the bottom of the base and the sacrificial piece. This creates a bond capable of withstanding the torque of turning on the lathe, but enables separation between the layers of brown paper with a flat chisel without damaging the bottom after I’ve finished the bowl (hopefully).

In order to keep things centered as I added each ring, I employed a “stomper” jig made from a 12" popup sprinkler, a “longworth chuck” that I made on the multicam CNC, and a 5/8" X 1/8" deep recess in the inside bottom of bowl. The longworth keeps each ring centered, the sprinkler end fits into the recess and keeps the whole base assembly centered as I lower it down to the ring. It was just a matter of getting the right amount of glue on each mating ring, then lowering and aligning the base. I used Titebond Quick and Thick glue, stomped the base assembly, rotated the two pieces together to ensure even bonding and glue squeeze-out, then added some weight to create a glue press instead of trying to clamp the assembly. I rotated each ring 7/16", which is what gives the bowl its “tornadic” effect. The glue press consisted of my 3HP handheld router, which fit perfectly over the end of the lathe chuck, and some weights (approx 20 lbs.) on top:


I left the glued assembly in the press for 15-20 minutes, removed it, and scraped the glue squeeze-out from the outside and inside of the bowl. Cleaning up the squeeze out was messy and tedious, but excess glue tends to dull lathe tools and risk chipout. I repeated the ring glue-up sequence, then after every 6-7 or so rings, I waited 24 hours for the glue to cure, mounted the assembly on my Shopsmith headstock with the circular sander on the tailstock, and lightly sanded the top ring to make sure the assembly stayed relatively flat. Here you can see the chuck, sacrificial piece, base, and rings 1-11 with alignment marks:

I continued the glue-up sequence until I added all 41 rings, then it was just a matter of adding a segmented top rim to match the base. Piece of cake, right? Not so fast. I had created a 12-segment top rim to the prototype and unfortunately, I had gotten an immediate and catastrophic catch the first time I touched a lathe tool to the inside of the rim. I theorized 12 segments had left too much of an angle between each segment, so 24 segments would be much better, and heck, 48 segments would be four times better. It sure looked like this was going to work:

However after I cut the 48 pieces, I tried to use a band clamp, but the little pieces just slid all over the place. So, I consulted the segmented experts. Most agreed the process would be to start by gluing pairs together, then build up to the full circle. Ummm, that’s when I discovered that I had another error where each piece had been cut slightly longer, so that the 12-piece quarters didn’t come together in a circle. Back to the drawing board, this time with a 24-segment ring and a “sanding jig” to ensure each piece was identical, but I did not get the same results as the “experts”. @#$%. On the third attempt at the 24-segmented top rim (and sans sanding jig), I succeeded. Whew! Here is the top rim being flattened before gluing it to the bowl:

Now, on to the Powermatic lathe at DMS! I sanded the top rim as close to round as I could on the inside and outside before I touched it with a lathe tool. Unfortunately, the last couple of rings and top rim were slightly off center, making it nearly impossible to sand them “true”. I used a negative-rake scraper on both the inside and outside of the bowl, making very light cuts. Lathe coach and lead consultant on this project, Jimmie Arledge, was about the only one who would spend any time in the woodshop while I was turning, for fear that I was going to get another one of those “catastrophic catches”. I’m pretty sure I spent a couple of days with my heart in my throat and other body parts fully clinched, but I finally got it turned, sanded, then took it home for finishing.

By now, you’re probably thinking that applying a sanding sealer, a couple of coats of spray lacquer, and polishing with micro-mesh pads would be easy, right? Umm, no. I decided to try a lacquer brand that @dwolf had suggested. I applied a couple of coats of “Jimmie Juice” (lacquer-based sanding sealer with added lacquer thinner), sanded, used a tack-cloth to remove all dust, and began applying Mohawk Pre-Catalyzed Lacquer spray. The directions were a bit vague, so I called their tech support. After an hour or so on the phone, we determined that there might be a mismatch between the “Jimmie Juice” and the pre-catalyzed lacquer. Mohawk suggested I spray a couple of coats of their vinyl sanding sealer to act as a barrier before spraying more lacquer and hopefully prevent “acid bleed”. Another crisis averted, I sprayed and buffed as directed until I’d built up 8 coats of lacquer, let it sit for a week, then polished it with the micro-mesh pads. Here it is in my portable spray booth:

Last steps: separate the bowl from the sacrificial piece with a chisel and mallet (“I’ll keep whacking it Jimmie, if you’ll catch it when it comes off”), then sand and spray lacquer onto the bottom of the base without screwing up the finish on the bowl with over-spray:

I completed the bowl on August 5th and delivered it to the State Fair of Texas Creative Arts Contest on August 6th:

I hope you are as proud of this project as I am of DMS for enabling me to complete it!


Magnificent piece! Thanks for sharing the detailed insight into the process. Using the laser to cut the rings was genius.

Wow! Congratulations. Well deserved. Thank you so much for sharing your success. You did DMS proud!

Thanks Chris. Yep, the laser was genius and I’d sure love to take all the credit for that… but it was Jimmie who suggested it.


Thanks Page, yes I’m hoping to get some good pub for DMS with it.

I would love it if anyone from DMS who goes to the fair would stand by the display case and proudly (and loudly) proclaim “hey, I go to the community workshop where this was made!” (handing out flyers is purely optional and perhaps frowned upon).


It was also thoughtful of that person to knit such a nice colorful shawl to use as a backdrop for your bowl.

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yeah, I thought so, too… do you know who that might be?

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Fantastic work.

Please also post this here:

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Way to go Jeff. Wonderful piece your heirs can fight over!

This is amazing!!! I can’t wait to see it at the fair!

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All the awards in the world still don’t do that thing justice! Next level amazing! Incredible design, unworldly execution! Definitely hats off to you, insane!

Thanks David, I didn’t know how to post to multiple categories, so I just copied and pasted it to the show and tell post, as requested.

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Thanks Bert, I sure do miss seeing you around the 'space. You doing okay?

@Julie-Harris Thanks Julie, I have always been mesmerized by the quality and quantity of projects on display. This is pretty much surreal to me.

@Chris_Fazio Thanks Chris, yeah I was quite smitten by the design when I first saw one of these bowls at the 2019 Southwest Association of Woodturners symposium.

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Outstanding! Very well done!

Thanks Doyle, I haven’t seen you around much lately. How have you been?

Doing really well, thanks! Have been covered up with paying work lately. Slowly getting caught up though. Hope you’re doing well.