Cotton Ball Bowl




Introduction: Cotton Ball Bowl

About: Come spend some time in the shop. I'm a hobbyist woodworker and professional computer geek in Northern California. I guess my projects will vary widely, and I have no clue what I plan to make next...

This is my cotton Ball Bowl. It's hard as a rock and looks like stone. Is that irony? I think it might be.

I've worked with cotton and resin once before on my cotton snowman ornament from 2014. It was always a material that I wanted to re-visit and showcase.

Most people who I show this to are surprised to learn it isn't stone. I think there are a lot of possibilities left for this material.

Step 1: Casting Cotton in Resin

I start with 140 cotton balls, 1/2 gallon of ArtResin epoxy and a silicone mold to hold it all.

I start by mixing up 12 oz of resin, just to see how far it will go. You never want to mix up too much resin at once. It cures with an exothermic reaction and too much resin in a small volume can easily overheat.

I then add a handful of the cotton balls and mix it all together like some nasty batter.

The mold is just to keep things all contained, but really there isn't much liquid for it to hold. Not like a traditional casting as the cotton just soaked it all up.

I add another handful of cotton and another 12oz of resin.


Add another 12oz!

Normally when you're pouring epoxy you CANNOT pour this much at once. Most epoxies in this confined of a space would cause a massive overheating and would boil over. Most manufacturers will tell you not to pour more than 6-8oz at a time. here, we're at 36oz.

Step 2: Resulting Cast

So, how am I getting away with this?
Art Resin is typically used for preserving museum-quality art and is formulated to cure over a 24-48 hours time. Due to the volume that I used, it cured rock hard in 3 hours. At the 2-hour mark I picked up the mold to move it and the bottom was crazy hot! Checking with the temperature gun I was just under 150* F

After 4 hours it is completely cured. (about 20 hours ahead of schedule) It's strange to pick up a very heavy, very hard block of cotton.

I then drilled a 5/16" hole in the center of the block for mounting on the lathe.

Step 3: Turning Cotton Balls Round 1

THIS IS AWFUL. It is one of the most difficult and grabby pieces I've ever tried turning on my lathe!

My whole bench was rocking and shaking and the shaving flying off, actually caused bleeding on my knuckles (which you can see in the video)

Here's why. The cotton balls soaked up the resin, but clearly, they needed more. There were so many holes and soft spots the bowl was just incredibly unbalanced on the lathe. Plus my lathe is pretty underpowered for this work (1/2 hp).

I also tried using carbide tools, thinking I would get a better cut. This was a mistake, and I pitched the whole bowl off the lathe and into the wall.

Step 4: Turning Cotton Balls Round 2

So, I took the bowl off the lathe, (actually it was already off...) and I mixed up another 4 oz of resin to fill in all the holes and soft spots.

Now, I was all out of Art Resin so I had to use another brand. I ended up using a marine epoxy called Total Boat. It seems to work well and cured hard in about 6 hours.

After it cured, I mounted the bowl back on the lathe and it turned like a dream!

Long shaving, smooth sailing and some really fun turning.

Lastly, I rounded over the rim and sanded the whole piece to 400 grit.

Step 5: Finished Piece

I'm very pleased with the outcome. It feels and looks a LOT like stone to me.

It is a bit hard to photograph. I only wish I could show it to each of you in person. The small bits of cotton that show through here and there really help to sell the illusion.

This is the snowman ornament I made in 2014. You'll notice that as the resin yellows, the marble facade continues. I think it almost gets better as time goes on.



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    30 Discussions


    7 months ago

    Hmmmm... Cotton ball "roving" mixed into your resin, very interesting. I was thinking perhaps a two part press mold would form your bowls closer to their finished shape & maybe compress a lot of the air voids out. You could still finish turn them, but perhaps save a lot on material.

    Really appreciate your including the "trial & error part of your project. Half the fun of trying something new is the basic research & development, figuring out what works & what doesn't. Happy turning :)

    With molds & epoxy I've made knife scales out of tobacco, sycamore leaves, pine neeles, azurite & colored rock salt (each in seperate scales).

    Cotton balls are next!

    I am asking to me if there is any other prodedure to use less products even because this kind of waste is not exactly environment friendly. There any chance to cast it closer to the final shape?

    "donut hole trees" = struffoli


    I was hoping this would be a "no lathe" project, but it's cool none the less!

    1 reply

    You touched on pigmenting the resin right at the end, which is something I was going to suggest. I think it would be interesting to do the majority of the cotton ball separately with clear resin and then use a black resin as a final binder to get a marble effect.

    I'm curious why you didn't use a vacuum chamber to remove the air pockets from the resin. It would have taken away many of the voids you fought during turning, but would have robbed you of the experience of that last bit of resin work that gave you a better finish.

    I really enjoy your videos, thanks for doing it!


    7 months ago

    awesome creativity


    7 months ago


    Very cool! Sort of reminds me of the resin the East Germans used to make the famous (or infamous, depending on where you stand) Trabant. The material was called Duroplast and it lasts forever!

    I love this! It turned out so beautiful. I'd love to try making this, although I'm not sure if the lathe I inherited from my father actually works, so.... maybe try later.

    I was also thinking, to add a bit of color and maybe the look of veins in the "marbling", could you use a mix of cotton balls and a crafting fiber known as Angelina fiber, or a rough-spun yarn with variable texture? The Angelina comes in many colors, including metallic or iridescent, and the yarn would possibly add in a vein with different textures (tightly spun to loose puffs). Hmmm....

    Unbelievable! I really love the looks of this great project. I don't have access to a lathe so I'm going to have to think about this some, but I definitely want to try it. Thanks for sharing this - good on ya!

    too cool

    that final look is amazing. thanks for sharing!

    Could you make something without a mold using this technique? I'm thinking a bathroom basin or bidet.

    I like this a lot. I wish I can grab this piece of great work of art.

    across this video a few days ago on YouTube... interesting turning ..
    but I recommend next time you use vacuum to pull the air out of the
    cotton and allow the resin to infuse the cotton balls... vacuum it
    for 5-10 minute then let vacuum off and then reapply the vacuum, that
    will allow time for the resin to infuse the cotton. Also by pulling
    all the air out it will keep air pockets from being an issue while
    turning and keep it from breaking out as much...
    I ran across
    this video a few days ago on YouTube... interesting turning .. but I
    recommend next time you use vacuum to pull the air out of the cotton
    and allow the resin to infuse the cotton balls... vacuum it for 5-10
    minute then let vacuum off and then reapply the vacuum, that will
    allow time for the resin to infuse the cotton. Let it cure under
    vacuum or under pressure; also by pulling all the air out it, it will
    keep air pockets from being an issue. while turning and keep it from
    breaking out as much...

    Many Rabbits were neutered for the making of this video and instructable ;)

    1 reply

    Check these guys out. Doing amazing things with wool and resin

    What a cool idea, I really like the end look!