Thursday, November 7, 2013

Porringers-Discussion and Plans

Good Morning All,

Well, it's 30 degrees outside and the wood shop is really cold so I began this project yesterday and I'm doing it in stages because my hands get so cold!

Let's make a porringer.

What's a porringer?


Porringers are small bowls that have handles that stick out from the rim and are designed to be held in the hand whilst eating food out of them-they resemble the American Sierra cup that are popular with hikers. UK pole turner Robin Wood in his marvelous book on bowls writes about porringers quite a bit.   In the UK, in the medieval period, tables and other types of furniture were not very common so eating utensils were designed to be held in the hand. And of course the shape that works best for this is a small bowl with a round bottom. Later on when furniture and tables became common, plates and saucers with their board, flat shapes became the predominant design for eating utensils because they sit on a table better.  These little bowls held whatever happened to be cooking in a kettle at the moment and they were produced by woodturners, an occupation that was very familiar to people, unlike today.

If you google the word porringer you'll see lots of metal ones and a few wooden ones and you'll see the ones that Robin Wood makes on his pole lathe.

And I have a cousin in California who has absolutely no idea what constitutes a proper bowl of oatmeal and I'm going to make her one a little later on and mail it to her (this is another story) along with a bag of steel cut oaks and a spurtle.


I have a small 6 x 6x 3" block of spalted soft maple and I'm going to turn a preliminary porringer from that and when I manage to get my hands on a larger block, I'll make one for my cousin and I'll do a posting about that. This will have two small handles on opposite sides of the rim and a small, broad foot on the bottom. And in homage to people who lived long, long ago, I'm going to make this a rougher and more rustic piece, which is probably what most porringers through history have looked like.

Here are the photos so far:

Here is the basic block of wood on the lathe. This is spalted soft maple, a favorite wood of mine. You can see I've roughly cut off the corners of the block:

Here is the same block with the side smoothed and trued up. I've marked off the rim and handle sections of the bowl:

This is a photograph of the backside of the bowl. You can see the foot and the bowl section taking shape. I haven't begun shaping the handles or rim yet:

In order for the bowl handles to be properly shaped I've turned the bowl over and begun cutting the rim  away from the handle section. I'm not going to hollow out the bowl yet as I need the center mortise to re-mount the bowl again. The rim and the exterior of the bowl need to match up in terms of their shape so when the handles are created the bowl will look like one solid piece whose sides match up:

In this photo you can see that the bowl is wider than the rim. I'll narrow the bowl section some so the diameters are approximately equal to one another:

I put the camera down for a while and turned the outside and inside of the bowl and this was a back and forth process. The sides of the bowl and the rim now match up better and I've shaped the handle section in preparation for cutting the handles free of the bowl (more about that a little later on):

In this photo you can see how it will fit in the hand. It will fit better when I've created the handles for it. You can also see the foot in the very bottom of the photograph. I'm thinking of removing it later on as that would make it more comfortable to hold in the hand:

And this is a side view. I've added some coves to the bottom of the bowl to give the hand something to grip on to. I've also left the turning marks on the surface and I've just given it a very light sanding to remove any sharp edges. That's it for the sanding part of this:

The next step in the process is to create the handles by cutting away about half of the rim with a carving knife so this will be something that I'll do off the lathe.

As my hands are stiff from the cold, I'll do this a little later today when it warms up some.

Stay tuned,

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