Cedar Scrying Bowl Trial

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As it is Friday the thirteenth, we agreed tonight would be a wonderful time to test out our cedar scrying bowl and see if we could catch a glimpse of the future.

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Click here to see how we put it together.

There was a half moon tonight and we got some reflection photos with the bowl filled with water. That wee white light is the moon through our dusty shop camera. And yes you could see stars in the scrying bowl. Also, an interesting phenomenon happens: Once you catch a star’s reflection in the bowl, slowly move away and the image appears to magnify.  As our distance from the bowl increased, the reflection grew visibly larger.  The basin depth is quite shallow, yet it held almost a liter of water before trickling over the edge. With the surface so polished, the water held together like mercury. Candle light illuminated the meniscus (the surface edge where water meets solid) with a striking red tone.

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Did we see the future? If so, the future looked a lot like the now. It was a very interesting trial of an ancient wooden invention. Nostradamus should have published a manual. Now we need to find a home for the scrying bowl, or somewhere to be enjoyed. Maybe in a forest glade?

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A solitary moon’s reflection in the scrying bowl

Happy Friday the thirteenth!

Cedar Scrying Bowl

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We estimate this burl to be about 200 years old.


A local tug operator claimed an ancient cedar burl from the Fraser River. He passed it on to Prairie Bench with the wish that we “do something creative.” That’s a fun request.

The cedar burl was marred with saw cuts and completely waterlogged.  Immediately we sanded the cut edge smooth and soaked it in poly, leaving the bark and outside exposed. Then it sat under cover in a big plant stand for a year. This week was the time when the stars aligned to create a scrying bowl. Nostradamus is purported to have used one making predictions.

The goal for us was to create a large, shallow basin supported by a cauldron style tripod. An ash tree dropped us a ‘rowan’ branch and we dried this as well. The legs were a complex puzzle. Three legs, interwoven that would support the weight of the large burl. We added a cedar leg which conformed to the bends of the two rowan legs.

The base was cinched in an arrangement which locked together naturally, then we drilled holes and tacked the legs together with hazelnut dowel.

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Rowan limbs interwoven with a cedar limb create a tripod

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We’re after that goblet shape that has the natural look of a bird’s nest or antlers. With three legs it should look like a cauldron.

Meanwhile, the dry cedar burl was resanded (during this sanding, the bowl was ground out to its final shape and depth), any slivers whittled off, and the entire burl was soaked in poly. This wrapped and preserved the wood in an airtight shell for future generations. If someone doesn’t like polyurethane, it can easily be sanded off and natural oils can be applied. For now, the wood is saved.

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We were able to unlock some of the beautiful quilting effect within the burl.

The burl was suspended by a crane on the back of our trusty bush truck and the limbs were ground down to receive the large basin. After the scrying bowl was leveled by our Royal Leveler, we made final adjustments to the position and any rough edges were whittled down.

The large burl is lowered by crane and eased into its cradle

The large burl is lowered by crane and eased into its cradle

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Ready to receive

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Royal leveler approves

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The scrying bowl has landed

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The dogwood tree in the background demonstrates balance in design. Hopefully our cedar scrying bowl comes close.


The result is a 200 year old cedar burl that floated down river suspended by rowan branches that dropped from a tree. No nails or screws were used, just glue, dowels and pressure. This was a complex project but the finished piece is beautiful and unique. It has a home, but will make the rounds for show and tell.

How does a scrying bowl work? Pour spring water into the basin outdoors at night and behold the reflection of the stars as you gaze into the bowl. Some say you can see the future. Check back we’ll post some pics of the bowl in use and provide the final measurements.