Jim Sannerud – The Wooden Bowl

Saturday March 29th, 2014 from 9:30am to 4pm

The Zumbro Valley Woodturners were proud to host Jim Sannerud’s “The Wooden Bowl” class in an all-day education session at the New Haven Town Hall.

Jim is an accomplished professional wood turner and carver with an award-winning style that flows from his interpretation of Nordic folk-art and functional objects.  Most of his works are utilitarian in nature, turned ‘green’ and finished all in one session on the lathe with some degree of carving and painting on them using multi-colored burnished milk paint method. 

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We covered a lot of ground in this one-day session!

Morning half of the session – From a Log to a finished Turning

The morning started outdoors with Jim discussing his approach to harvesting trees for his bowl blanks.  Although Jim’s favorite sources of wood are the birch trees from the far north in the Grand Marais, Minnesota area he does turn quite a bit of local timber also.  In all cases the trees Jim uses were harvested for other reasons.

Considering the log and the best way to cut it into the basic bowl blanks touched on many topics: balanced grain, bark inclusions, internal stress based on how the tree was growing, etc.  Some clues used to make the decision on how to cut the log were in the bark, others were in the end grain and others were based on experience with the species of wood.


Jim’s review of chainsaw safety covered the protective clothing, ear protection, eye protection and head protection as well as the proper maintenance and use of the chainsaw itself.

Before instructing us in the techniques he uses when turning a piece Jim critiqued several completed objects from a number of turners.  In turning the bowl all in one session from the green blank to the finished piece all aspects of the design had to be considered before the shavings began to fly.

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The eight attendees turning that day each had a blank (or two) of birch supplied by Jim.  They mounted their blank on a screw chuck and attempted to produce a final turning representative of one of the pieces passed around that morning.  The grinder was a popular place too as people touched-up the edge of their tools before making their finishing cuts.

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Afternoon half of the session

Although Jim covered the carving of the finished turning in the morning session most attendees did not get a chance to carve on their own turning until after lunch.  Jim’s style is a modern adaptation of the look of many Nordic folk pieces.  He uses faceting and incising as well as abstract and stylized folk forms in his work


In the photo on the left below Jim has reversed the demonstration bowl to hold it firmly in a jam chuck while carving.  Jim provided these simple wedge jam chucks for the club turners to use.  In production Jim uses a bowl-horse to carve on many of his bowls as seen in the photo on the right from David Fisher’s website where a YouTube link and construction plans can be found.

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I don’t think any of us brought as many carving tools with us as Jim did and some of these specialized tools are unique to carving on bowls.  On the right is the final product by ZVW club member Cheryl Jones.

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As in all topics Jim took us through the history of the aspect of the piece we were about to do as well as the unique aspects related to achieving the desired result.  Working with milk paints and getting on the learning curve related to the various colors and finish treatments proved to be a very rich topic as well.  The crowd participating in the carving and painting half of the day was very large.


Our bowls needed to dry down for a week or two before we could paint them so all experimentation with the milk paints was done on lumber scraps.  Jim uses walnut oil to coat the interior of his bowls, again a very utilitarian and traditional approach.

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Comments on this class made by attendees were all along the lines of it being very informative and inspiring and that Jim’s presentation was very professional and personable… a great time was had by all in other words!

About Jim

Jim Sannerud's Website 

Popular Woodworking Article on Jim

Class Announcement Posted to the ZVW web site earlier

More than wooden bowls - For those of you interested in the “shrink boxes” mentioned during class see the American Woodturner magazine’s February, 2012 issue for an article on Jim’s technique called “Shrink Boxes – Scandinavian Heritage in Minnesota”. 

Photo of a shrink-box on the left is from Jim’s website.  The photo on the right of the hook-tools Jim uses to turn the inside of these boxes came from a web post by Jim where he was explaining the process to a fellow turner.


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