The arrival and setup…
On receiving the Bowlsaver in the post, I was first struck by how small the box was. However, once I’d opened the box I was pleased to see that it actually is a surprisingly compact unit, well made and reassuringly weighty.
The Bowlsaver I have is the MAX3, which is the larger of the two that Woodcut Tools make. The lathe I will be using is a Jet 1642.
All the Bowlsaver components are well machined, precise and pretty much ready to use. It is important to note when you order the Woodcut Bowlsaver that you choose the correct size tool post. In my case, it is 25mm to fit into the banjo on the lathe. In some instances, you may have to cut the tool post down to size so that the cutter sits at the right height on the lathe to meet the drive centre. I did this quite easily with a reciprocating saw fitted with a fine-toothed metal cutting blade.
The instructions supplied are clear and easy to follow. I had everything assembled and ready to mount onto the lathe within 15 minutes (including cutting the tool post to size).
My first job was to make the spacers that allow you to see the depth of cut you will achieve with each separate cutter. This was easily done as there are templates supplied inside the box. They have an adhesive backing making for a quick and simple job of applying them to some 6mm plywood. I cut the templates out using a bandsaw but you could just as easily use a jigsaw.
Mounting the Bowlsaver on the lathe
For this review, I have turned a 12 inch green ash bowl, and I will be using the smallest of the three cutters supplied to core its centre.
Mounting the Bowlsaver onto the lathe bed is straightforward. The tool post fits into the banjo on the lathe bed and the tailstock taper into the tailstock. It helps to have the drive centre inserted into the headstock to accurately set the height of the cutter. You are looking for the tip of the cutter to line up exactly with the point of the drive centre. Once they are at the same height, you can lock off the tool post, slide the collar down and lock that off too. Finally, you need to tighten the tailstock and make sure that it is securely locked off.
Preparing the workpiece for coring
Now I have the Bowlsaver mounted correctly, I can secure my previously turned 12 inch bowl onto the lathe; using the Axminster Evolution SK114 chuck with Type C Dovetail Jaws. In order to do this, I turned the outside of the bowl with a shallow tenon.
The instructions give detailed directions of where the Bowlsaver should be positioned according to the size of the bowl you are working on. Here I have it just slightly past the centre of the bowl with maybe 1cm of clearance between the Bowlsaver and the face of the bowl, with the cutter set at just under an inch from the edge.
The Woodcut MAX3 in action…
Making the first cut felt a lot more secure than I was expecting, given the size of the unit. I set the lathe speed at around 450 rpm, easing the cutter forward to make contact with the wood. I applied some downward pressure through the handle gripping with both hands and leaning slightly onto it. This gave me greater control over the speed at which the cutter met the surface of the wood. My first impressions were how clean the cut was, and how crisp and ribbon-like the shavings were.
The shape of the cutter means it creates a wide enough channel for the arm to follow without clogging. The Bowlsaver feels solid throughout the cut with very little vibration through the handle. It does become necessary to back the cutter out from time to time to remove any woodchip build up. As you get towards the end of the cut, the noise changes and you will feel a slight change in resistance. I took my time here, making very small cuts and checking how much the core was moving. I did this three or four times before enough material was removed to allow me to easily break the small tenon holding it in place and the core came away easily and cleanly.
Once I had cored the bowl, it was an easy job to remove the Bowlsaver from the lathe. The collar on the tool post conveniently remains locked in place so that when I come to use it again, it will align itself in exactly the same position making for a faster and more efficient user experience.
Overall, due to its easy set up, clear instructions and solid build quality, I would feel happy to recommend it to a friend or colleague.
After using the Woodcut MAX3 Bowlsaver I am really pleased with how it performed. It was clear and easy to set up with only a small amount of adjustment needed. It performed solidly throughout and I felt in control of the process. The ability to make the most out of a single piece of wood has been something I have wanted to do for quite some time. It is always a shame when working with beautiful pieces of wood that most of it ends up on the floor as wood shavings. This bit of kit makes it possible to reduce waste in the workshop and make the most of every piece of wood.
I think it will appeal to the professional woodturner as well as hobbyists and enthusiasts. Overall, due to its easy set up, clear instructions and solid build quality, I would feel happy to recommend it to a friend or colleague.
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