Traditionally, bowls are made of wood. In general, they range in tone from light to quite dark, and are made with a highly polished finish.
See also equipment
Some woods used for this kind of bowl are:
- Ash (fresno)
- Sakura (Cherry)
- Karin (Chinese quince, expensive)
- Kaya (not as expensive as you might think.)
- Keyaki (Zelkova)
- Kuki (Chestnut)
- Honkuwa (mountain mulberry, very expensive)
- Shimaguwa (island mulberry, super expensive)
- Kusu (Japanese camphor)
- Tochi (Japanese horse chestnut..."Aesculus turbinata")
Truly exotic and correspondingly expensive materials include ebony (kokutan), black persimmon (kurogaki) and makie decorated lacquer bowls like those on the cover of the Ishi Press book Strategic Concepts of Go. In 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama gave a gift of a Go set to Chinese President Hu Jintao with bowls made of blown glass.
Of course, bowls can also be made out of plastic, and suitable fridge-organisers will fulfill the function as well as anything else. To ensure that the stones can be reached as the container gets empty, it's better to choose containers that are low and wide rather than tall and narrow (just like your territory on the board).
"Go Seigen" style bowls are shorter and wider. This name is not standard, it was introduced by Janice Kim on her Samarkand site. In Japan there is a standard wide form (hiragata) which is wider and shorter than the usual bowls. It may be available on special order from Kuroki Go Ishi Ten.
 Kaya bowls are actually not so expensive. When kaya go boards are made there is a lot of wood left over from the tree that cannot be used for making boards. This would be used for making many things like bowls, teacup saucers, small boxes, etc., which are not terribly expensive.
Most of the bowls I find here in China are actually wicker baskets. I find they have an aesthetic appeal all of their own. Ironically the few wooden bowls I've been able to find have been cheap and shoddy, usually paired with nasty plastic stones. -- Michael Richter
In China, I have also seen stone bowls, perhaps marble. I did not like them at all: expensive, heavy and not elegant.
At Wu Yi Mountain (a lovely tourist area and Unesco World Heritage site in Fujian province) there are a lot of nice wooden bowls for sale at reasonable prices. The ones I bought were about US $6 for a pair with lids and they look identical to go bowls I see on the web for several hundred. Unfortunately, mine turned out to be too small, even for 8 mm stones. Next time, I'll look for bigger ones! Pashley
My bowls, bought in Tokyo about 12 years ago at considerable expense, are a beautiful medium-brown wood that smells like camphor -- I think the wood may be "kusunoki", a kind of laurel. When I first got them the odor was rather overpowering, but now you don't notice it unless you get your nose right in there. -- Scryer
Bob McGuigan: Kusunoki is known in the West as camphor wood, which would agree with your description of the scent. It has a nice grain and color and is widely used for decorative things like screen frames or sculpture.
If you go in search for non Go related bowls, keep in mind that the volume should be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6.5 dl (0.65 L) to be able to fit all the stones. -- Urban Nilsson
just in case there are people out there who want to turn their own bowls out of blocks of wood- don't use oak, it contains natural tanning agents which will destroy the lustre of shell stones and turn them matte. we once had problems whith a shell collection stored in oak cabinets, it was terrible, all the surfaces turned chalky white -- grimalkin?
Malweth: I just purchased the kusu bowls from kuroki. They are quite nice and about 12000¥ - added this to the list, though I'm not sure that it's a common wood used for gosu.
see also Go Terms Used for Go Equipment