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Subjects On This Page

How I Got Started
Artist Statement
Materials I Use
About Bottles and Decantors
My Insets And Inlays
My Use of Wood Burning
Segmented Turning

Fitting Special Shapes

How I got started


I have alwys had the urge to make things I could use myself, especially things I could eat or drink from or cook with. I made neat wooden spoons and spatulas, various gagets. Wood turning has been in the back of my mind since I was in high school and finally at about age 58 or so I began dabbling in it. My first lathe was not a lathe at all, but rather a turntable I made from a lazy susan driven by a belt from an electric motor I had removed from a belt sander. It was driven by a belt made from a piece of rubber gasline and I used a dremel tool to cut the piece of wood that was screwed down to the wooden turntable. Yes, it would have made an established turner chuckle. I wish I had a picture of that homemade turntable, but I do have a picture of a goblett I made on that contraption and I drink Martinis from it to this day.


1st goblet 4in

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My Concepts In Wood Art

First of all, I like things natural. When a tree grows and then dies many things happen, such as insect infestations, rot, lost limbs, not to mention weather events and forest fires. These events leave a map of their history in the wood of the tree leaving in the form of various grain distortions and colors that are as beautiful to the human eye as are the stars at night. Wood turning is a wonderful way to display these beautiful maps because it cuts through the growth years of the tree in smooth curves and planes. When we polish these surfaces we can observe years of nature's activity at any depth that our minds can manage. I strive to select wood materials and shapes to bring out these features in the most interesting and pleasing way. Many people find patterns that resemble familiar images, such as famous or religious figures, but, of course, these are purely accidental in the creation of the piece but a great plus if it adds to the viewer's entertainment.

The shapes of the art pieces, and various inlays and burned images are an additional treat to the eye, and I try to use designs and subjects that suggest nature and the more romantic sides of our cultures.

I never use stains on wood, but I do sometimes use a deep or high gloss finish. My finishes are simple, usually a non-toxic oil. The finish accentuates the wood grain and protects the wood from dirt and moisture and renders the piece usable. I actually use my wooden creations all the time. I use wooden soup bowls, wooden goblets, wooden coffee mugs, beer mugs, wooden spoons and more. I encourage people to actually use my products because touching the objects and looking closely at them regularly stimulates one's artistic imagination and creates a deeper appreciation and understanding of the objects.

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My Art Materials

chet chain sawPartially processed Materials

I try to gather local wood in it's raw state. That is to say I look for fallen trees etc. As a result I must usually start projects with wet or green wood. Although green wood can be turned, the art object warps or cracks when it dries. Many bowls are turned of wet wood to a thick, crude bowl and then allowed to dry for some months. Two intermediate crude bowls are shown in the second picture above. Drying must be conrtolled by appyling temporary wax or finish to prevent cracking. When the wood or piece is dry (and distorted) it is put back on the lathe and turned to it's precise shape. I buy exotic woods for special needs from suppliers of exotic woods. These are very expensive, but it is worth the expense to acheive the color contrasts I like to see. I also sometimes buy inlay bands or small objects that I can set into the wood for a new effect. Inlays and set objects are carefully fitted and glued in place with ordinary glues. On my bottles and decanters I use FDA approved o-rings to make a usable seal for the stoppers. I hope somebody else appreciates this fact because I think it's a joke to have "FDA approved o-rings" when the FDA cannot even reliably approve a life saving (or life threatening) drug. Since wood turning is not exactly like automotive machining, these o-ring seals are fitted by trial and error. (They also become tighter or looser with time and moisture. but that's all part of the fun.)

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About Bottles and Decanters Btl100 3in

When I first made bottles and decanters I entertained the idea of making whiskey or wine bottles with burned wood interiors so that I could claim that my vessel enhanced the flavor of the contained beverage. Well, it's a long story, but in the end I couldn't ensure that a vessel unfinished on the inside would not expand and crack when you added your precious Jack Daniels. The next step was to coat the inside with several layers of salad bowl oil. I would dry these by injecting air into the vessel for a week or so. Even so, you will smell the oil inside when the vessel is new. The volatiles of the oil escape in small amounts for some time.If you have one of my products done this way I recommend that you fill the vessels completely with water once before adding your wine or liquor or other beverage. This displaces the air that had been tainted with oil volatiles. Don't leave the beverage in the vessel too long befor consumption or you might experience a bit of oil smell. This goes away with continued use. Although I have considered this to be all part of the fun I began to consider that other people might not see it that way. Just this week I have tried coating the inside of a bottle with Alumalite Plastic after the inside had been sealed. The cured plastic is odorless and food safe so I may abandon my old fashioned oiling method.*

*Update: It turns out the plastic coating CAN make an odor and it probably depends on how carefully the resin is mixed. It also seems like the oil finish may be more odorless if I allow longer drying between coats and avoid thinning the oil. I may go back to just using oil and dry it with forced air for a long time on each coat.

I use bottles regularly to store non-freezable liquor in my freezer. No harm has come to the wooden vessel, nor the liquor. However, PLEASE do not put a soft beverage or water that could freeze solid into a freezer in this way since that would probably break the vessel.

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Insets and Inlays Inlaid Goblet

I have two ways of insetting or inlaying decorative content. One way is to build the initial turning blank with different wood layers already in it. The other way is to cut a precise cavity or grove and fit the decorative piece into the partially completed piece. The goblet in the picture above was created using both methods. The initial block construction requires considerable planning to make the curves come out as the do. The bands (inlaid decorative rings) are inserted just before final sanding and require the bands to be bent to fit the goblet. The pictures below show a few of the steps in gluing up a complex block for a large chalice.

Chalice glue step 1chalice glues step 2Completed Chalice

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Wood Burned Images Mug with Burned Images


Wood burning imagry is in an art all of its own. I am not broadly versed in wood burning but I do apply the technique in limited ways. Usually if the wood grain presents enough pleasure to the observer I leave the wood surface alone, but, as an exception, in the ambrosia maple mug shown above I integrated wood burning images with the wood features itself. I use a fine razor tip burning iron for these images and for my signature on the bottom of each piece. Wood burning imagry is not friendly with mistakes. Thus, for complex images, I draw them on paper first for good scaling and shaping. Then I transfer key parts of the drawing to the wood with carbon paper and begin the burning process. Monograms or other writing on the piece such as on the bottle above use a similar method but more of it is simply done free hand. I can do monograms or put your name in some kind of script for a reasonable price since my technique is rather simple. Adding monograms to pieces that have already been finished is a bit more complex since finish must be removed and then redone after the burning.

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Segmented Turning

Segmented Turning 4inStep In Seg 3inSeg Zoomed 3in

VSL104-6inVSL104 top 6 in

In addition to a whole new world of beautiful colors and detail, segmented turning is about the challenge. You learn to calculate the shape angles, and then, the trick is, to cut them precisely and glue them up without making a mess. The piece above makes use of some perforation as well as segmenting. Most authors of "How to Do Segmented Work", show how to create elaborate blueprints like you would have to build a house. This works if you know exactly what you want to create. I normally don't duplicate a piece and I, therefore, like to be able to alter my plan as I see the piece develope. before I start a project I have a general idea of the size, shape and wood types. I usually find myself calculating segment sizes just before building a new layer of segments. In complex pieces I may be working on separate parts at the same time and assembling them later. This often requires remounting things upside down several times and I use a lot of wastwood in creating mounts for the lathe. I also spend some time creating special mounts and tools on the fly in order to complete certain tasks.

The piece shown above was altered several times. Once I eliminated several rows of zebrawood to get a nicer color balance; I changed the shape once to make it more graceful, I rolled the top back inward, and in the end I added legs. It takes longer to do things this way, but I feel like it is more naturally artistic to do this. Sometimes when I change my plan, I like to sleep on it before I tackle the change so my mind can adjust to the added effort and possible waste of previous efforts.

I spend a lot of time staring at it and thinking, "What next?". The center picture is earlier in sequence than the other two pictures. If you notice some things missing in the later pictures, it's because I took it apart and started over at one point. That's my process. The finished piece is shown in the "Vessels" page of my Gallery numbered VSL104.

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Fitting Special Shapes

Spl fit far back 3inSpl fit 1 3 inSpl fit close 3inVSL106

You may be wondering "What is this contraption." Well I wanted to shape a piece of irregular shaped natural wood (Buckeye) to fit on the side of a complex curved vase. I rigged a milling vise on to my lathe and created a holder for my power carver tool using a large burr (the triangular looking tip in the cloe-up at the right). I ran into lots of clearance problems and travel problems, but once I solve them it worked pretty well to duplicate the curve from the outside of the vase to the inside of the piece of buckeye that is mounted on the round wooden plate on the lathe. The power carver is hanging from the ceiling and drives the burr via the flexible shaft that is visible in the first and second pictures.

I set one of the milling vise axes to run in the plane of the cut and the other (90degrees) to regulate the depth of penetration. The angled wooden mount blocks for the power carver are made to allow clearance for the tool and vise. Once the power carver is in place and turned on, I swing the lathe by hand while the power carver gradually does the shaping. I know that unless you have attempted something like this this talk seems like gobble-dee-gook. But ... if you were to try it, the three dimensional visualizations would begin to come to you as you set it up.

It would be interesting to set the milling vise up with a reference pointer that could trace a complex curve by using some type of pointer, and thereby create the new shape to fit the traced piece exactly. The simpler method I have chosen required lots of rework to get the fit of the two pieces more exact. One thing at a time!

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