So I finished my first bowl. In truth the past few months have been mostly waiting for the wood to dry and stabilize. One has to do that by slowly opening a bigger and bigger aperture in the plastic bag the bowl is stored in. At first it literally sweats and then slows down over time. Near the end of drying I had to mitigate some splitting with butterfly keys (a.k.a. bow ties or dutchmen) and then do some filling with cyanoacrylate glue (crazy glue or zap-a-gap) mixed with sawdust. I've read that there's a good 25% chance that a bowl will split because wood is unpredictable and $#!+ happens. The final treatment was a light sanding (preserving the tool marks which I like) and a couple of coats of tung oil.
My big takeaway is that hacking away at a piece of wood using stone age concepts upgraded to the iron age is fun and cathartic and unless you're ambidexterous, gives you one Incredible Hulk arm. Also that i made every mistake in the book as follows:
1) I picked oak which is the hardest and most stringy-surly commonly found wood in New England.
2) I cut my blank near the outside of the tree to past the center. This led to radically different rates of contraction during drying and subsequent splitting.
3) I chose a deep square proportion which is much more agressive than the gentle swing arc of an adze (a shaped axe head).
4) I carved the blank with bark up. Theres two different schools of thought on this subject and frankly I really don't know if this was a mistake or not.
5) Apart from chainsawing my blank and cheating with a dremel to do the butterfly keys (since the drying bowl was splitting I didn't want to shatter the bowl with more manual carving) I did everything the old fashioned way by chopping. Again this may not be a mistake but it was definitely driven by macho-ego.
6) I carved the outside first. Two schools of thought on this subject also but I'm convinced that I would have had more stability carving the inside first.
7) I used good, but not great tools. I got a bargain on adzes from a Bulgarian Etsy site named Happy Tools, and they are very well made. However, design wise they are all inner bevel tools, meaning that the blade is ground on the inside face of the adze instead of the outside. Inner bevel adzes tend to agressively cut into the wood. Outer (or combo) bevel adzes tend to exit the wood with the arc of the swing so you don't just bury the tip in the wood and have to leverage it out. That all being said, I got my adzes for $30 and an outer bevel adze made by someone like Swedish Hans Karlsson will set you back $300 (and you'll be on a waiting list two years long). It's easier to get a table at Le Cirque.
8) Its thick and heavy. I like the neo-primitivism but to be honest, I just couldn't get my tools any deeper into the bowl and the thought of going back and taking another half inch off the outside made my head hurt.