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Lou Pignolet Bowls

Artistic and useful lathe-turned wooden bowls.

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Earlier Posts

This page contains the following topics with dates (scroll down to find each topic)




Large Maple Burl  (1/12/13)
Why Not Look Here (today)
Some Thoughts on Sanding  (12/24/12)
Lots of New Wood - Cottonwood Burls (10/23/12)
Bowls at a Royal Dinner  (10/11/12)
A Special Royal Honor  (9/14/12)
Most Recent Turning, including an amazing Urn (7/19/12)

An Amazing Red Cedar Burl (7/5/12)
A Freshly Turned Aspen Burl (4/29/12)
Koa wood from Hawaii (4/5/12)
Finishing Flat Rimmed Tamarack Salad Bowls (3/27/12)
Wood Turning Lesson for 98 year old Guy (2/20/12)
How to Turn an Aspen Burl (1/27/12)
Good and Bad Things are Happening - truck crash (1/24/12)
Details on Turning Bark Edged Bowls (1/6/12)
Preserving Historic Trees (1/5/12)
Turning Air (1/1/12)




Large Maple Burl  (1/12/13)
I was contacted by a person near Duluth who had a large Maple burl he wanted to give me. Below is a photo of the burl. 


It looked OK so we made an arrangement for him to leave it at the New Scenic Cafe and I would pick it up when I go there to replace bowls on 1/10/13. He warned me that the burl is
quite large and several strong guys would be needed to pick it up. I brought my chain saw to solve this problem. The burl was indeed large, about 3.5 by 4 feet, and unfortunately it was old and dried out and had many very soft and punky spots, even
some completely decayed areas. I cut it up and salvaged a few pieces that looked possibly OK. Today I decided to turn the only solid piece of wood that was large enough for a decent bowl. This was a piece of the main log, just behind the burl area, so I don't expect great grain but the piece at least had nice spalting lines.  It is now turned but required
a lot of wood stabilizer to harden the wood. It was quite soft. I have turned a lot of punky, spalted wood so I know how to deal with it, but it is not fun. Soft wood dulls the turning tools quickly and the wood likes to tear requiring sharp tools. I actually saturated the bowl with thin cyanoacrylate glue! This small (8"diam) natural edge bowl took all day to turn. Maybe after sanding it will be OK. When it is completed I will post a photo of it here. I hate to not get a bowl from a piece of wood like this, especially considering I had to drive nearly 300 miles to get it. There will be a bowl so stay tuned. Thanks to Steve who provided the burl. There was no way he could have known the quality of the wood, but burls are so beautiful it is always worth the gamble to get them. A good solid burl this large could have yielded a lot of bowls.

Addition posted on 3/26/13: As promised I was able to finish the maple burl bowl described above. The bowl was sanded after drying for a couple of months and it is actually a very nice bowl.  Here is a photo of it.


Maple burl bowl of dimensions 8" diameter and 6" high shows nice colors with a mottled appearance. The spalting is also nice. This bowl is currently listed on the For Sale pages under Burl Bowls.









 






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Here is what you have been looking for TODAY:

Spalted Translucent Birch Bowl

Dimensions: 8 x 6.5 x 4 inches, 1/8 “ wall thickness           Secret Code:   139924





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Some Thoughts on Sanding  (12/24/12)

I spend more time on sanding and finishing then on turning.  This is a fact but I would rather spend much more time on turning! I saw a youtube video about a master wood turner in Kaui'i who makes beautiful lathe turned bowls and hand sands to the point of bleeding fingers and finishes only by polishing, no oils of waxes. He obviously spends days sanding and polishing one bowl. His production must be low but his bowls are beautiful and such a natural finishing is wonderful. I have been thinking about this because, although I spend a lot of time sanding and finishing, I do use primarily a power sander and I do use a tung oil finish. I also do some hand sanding with the finer grits and between coats of tung oil, but seldom more than an hour per bowl. The main advantage of hand sanding is that you can sand mainly with the grain, and this helps hide sanding marks. Rotary power sanders always leave fine scratches across the grain. I try to remove these by ending with some hand sanding, but I can never remove all those fine sanding marks. My main goal is to complete my bowls in a reasonable time so they can be enjoyed by many people, so I compromise a bit on perfection. This always bothers me and I have often re-sanded bowls that show too many find scratches, but in the end I have to say DONE. I only see the imperfections during the finishing, not when I pick up a completed bowl from the shelf and admire the wood. I think this observation and frustration is shared by all artists. Now, what about using oils vs just buffing and polishing the bare wood. I have experimented with different oils and with polishing with only mineral oil, but never just high speed polishing of the bare wood. Oils really bring out the grain and they seal and protect the wood. I decided on tung oil because it works and it has an amazing history as the oldest oil used to protect wood in Asia from the 13th century (see info below). The Hawaiians also used a similar tree oil (Kukui nut oil) for sealing and finishing their koa wood canoes. I feel this history of wood finishing is important. My experience with high speed buffing with no oil (similar to burnishing) has not been good.  It tends to darken the wood and I never seem to get the result I want. I also worry that a bowl finished this way can't be used for serving food as it will get stained from use.

The following information was copied from the web site of the Real Milk Paint Company
TUNG OIL HISTORY:
  Pure Tung Oil was and is one of the first truly "Green" finishes. It is all natural and contains zero VOC's. Pure Tung oil (China wood oil) is an all-natural finishing product that provides a tough, flexible and highly water-resistant coating or wood finish. It is classed as a drying oil along with linseed, poppy seed, safflower seed, walnut, soybean, oiticica and a few other oils. Although it is relatively new to the Western world, tung oil also known as chinawood oil has been known for centuries to the Chinese, and until this century, China was the main source for the oil. It comes from the seed of the tung trees, Aleurites fordii and Aleurites montana, deciduous trees that are very susceptible to frost damage. This vulnerability has restricted the cultivation of the tung trees to China and South America. Tung oil (china wood oil) received wide application in China: in the building trades as a treatment for both stone and wooden structures; in marine trades as a preservative and water repellant on wooden boats. It is said to have been introduced to the West by Marco Polo. From the 13th to the 19th century, tung oil had only limited use in the West. More recently, tung oil has gained favor over linseed oil for wood finishing because it is faster drying and does not darken as much with age.


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Lots of New Wood - Cottonwood Burls (10/23/12)
I just returned from Grand Forks, North Dakota, with a truck load of wood for bowls. We visited friends we had met through the North House Folk School and Talon Stammen cut the wood for me.  Talon is the grandson of Art, the 99 year young guy who has taken wood turning lessons in my shop (see previous posts).  I got some beautiful cottonwood burls from giant trees growing along the Red River of the North, interesting choke cherry wood, and a bunch of large crab apple crotches. The following photos are of some cottonwood burls and trees, and the pile of wood in my garage was just unloaded from the truck.  The red log ends are the choke cherry and the large crotch to the right on the floor is crab apple. The cottonwood trees grow along the red river and are 250 to 300 years old. Many have fallen so taking burls is not a problem, and clipping off a burl from a growing giant tree causes the tree no harm, like removing a wart. The photos show Talon cutting such a wart and views of some of the trees along the river.






I could not wait to turn some of the cottonwood burls. I had turned a small one several months ago and discovered that these burls have some soft decayed areas with bark inclusions, but also nice dark lines. The first one I turned (the one on top of the wood pile in the right photo above) was problematic and I managed to only get a small bowl with holes from the decayed areas. The next one I tried (the large burl at the bottom of the wood pile) was much more solid and the resulting bowl is amazing. The bowl is 20 inches in diameter and 6 inches high and took most of the day to turn. I stabilized all of the dark areas with CA glue as I turned this large burl. I expect the drying to go well since burls rarely crack while drying. This could be one of the best burl bowls I have turned. The colors, flame figuring and striped patterns are spectacular, and sanding and oiling will make this bowl glow. I can't wait to turn some more of these amazing burls. The following photos show the large burl mounted on my lathe (the lathe has a 26 inch swing) and a top view of the resulting bowl. The bowl looks spectacular even in its rough turned form. The burl was nicely bowl shaped and fairly symmetric, so I decided to place the foot on the small top part of the burl. This results in a natural edged bowl that flares out at the top and usually captures the best markings of the burl.



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Bowls at a Royal Dinner  (10/11/12)
I finally got some photos of my bowls on the head table at the gala dinner and celebration for the King and Queen of Sweden. The dinner was at the Hilton Hotel in Minneapolis on October 6. The photos were taken just before guests arrived.  Photos were not allowed during the dinner



Photo of the head table just before guests arrived.  You can see one of my translucent birch bowls clearly and the large aspen burl bowl in the distance, right where the King and Queen will be sitting.  The next image shows this bowl more clearly in the center of the head table.



The aspen burl bowl described in previous posts is sitting on a lighted stand, right in the center of the head table. It was very nice to have some of my bowls displayed at this special event.  A big thanks goes to the American Swedish Institute for this honor.


A Special Royal Honor  (9/14/12)

Five of my wood bowls have been selected for display at the royal head table during the celebration gala for Their Majesties, the King and Queen of Sweden, at the Hilton Hotel in Minneaplis on October 6. I want to thank the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis for selecting some of my bowls for this very special honor. Swedish jazz-dance orchestra Kustbandet will perform at this sold out event. The evening will include a program, elegant three-course meal, dancing, and camaraderie.

 

One of the bowls to be displayed was lathe turned from a large aspen burl.  This bowl is shown in the preceding post of 9/11/12 below and is one of the best bowls I have made. The others are smaller bark-edged translucent birch bowls to be illuminated with small candles, similar to ones on the tables at the New Scenic Café in Duluth. Images of similar glowing bowls are shown on another page of this web site.



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Most Recent Turning, including an amazing Urn (7/19/12)
I have been turning a bunch of bowls this past two weeks from black walnut, box elder and aspen burls. All of this wood is wet so a couple of months drying is needed before sanding and finishing, but at least the pipe line is starting to build. The box elder has a lot of red "fire" staining from fungus and is really amazing.  Look forward to seeing these bowls in a couple of months.  I have also been turning some dry wood which can be finished right away, so you will see some more bowls appearing in the "for sale" pages soon.  My entire completed bowl inventory in my gallery is only four bowls and these will soon migrate to the New Scenic Cafe, where the inventory is only about a dozen bowls.  Sales have been so strong that I can't keep up, which is good for business but not so good for building up my supply of firewood for the coming winter. I also currently have orders for half a dozen bowls!  I want to keep this a fun endeavor so please be patient if you are interested in a bowl.  My priority is to keep up the inventory at the New Scenic Cafe and to fill commissioned pieces.  The next entry describes a recently commissioned red cedar bowl, and I just posted a smaller bowl made from the same burl on the Burl Bowls for Sale Page.  I also just completed a special project that took a lot of time and thought.  I was commissioned to make a cremation urn for a family in Minneapolis.  I took on this project because the deceased was a special person with a connection to Hovland.  The family wanted the urn made of birch from Hovland and they had specific design ideas. I learned a lot about the person and had her in mind during the entire process.  I always think of the people while turning any commissioned piece.  That is part of the fun of turning a bowl or other piece.  I generally only think about the tree and how to best represent it, so this added thought is nice.  An image of the urn is shown below, but please be aware that I am not in the business of making urns and do not intend to make another one.  I am not set up for deep hollowing and it took me a very long time to hollow out this deep piece! The necklace draped on the urn was a favorite of the person who will have this urn as their final resting place. The urn was made from local birch and the top from a local birch burl.

 

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An Amazing Red Cedar Burl (7/5/12)
I just turned an old red cedar burl that I got from people in Minneapolis who commissioned a bowl from their beautiful burl.  The bowl is a gift from a friend for their wedding this coming weekend. I picked up the burl in Minneapolis several weeks ago.  It is really large, at least 2 x 3 ft, and heavy with a beautiful outer skin and a nice patina from over 20 years serving as the base of a table. Here is a photo of the burl.

It is always tricky cutting such a burl since you do not know what lies inside.  Sometimes their are decayed areas or just punky wood.  Cedar is also a difficult wood to turn as the end grain easily tears and no amount of sanding will repair the tears. I cut it into a large piece, I think the hemisphere on the right.  I could immediately see the wood was beautiful with lots of flame (chatoyant glow). The bowl was turned extra thick, with enthusiastic support of the bride and groom, to preserve the amazing outer skin of the burl. They clearly wanted a form that contained as much of the burly skin as possible since they had been admiring it for years.  The following photos show the completed bowl.  It is heavy and massive and shows the wood grain with all its flame as well as the gnarly skin of the burl.  The best view showing the wood grain is the bottom view. This bowl will be a great center to a large table!












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An Freshly Turned Aspen Burl (4/29/12)
We just returned from two weeks exploring the canyons in Utah and Arizona. A day before we left I got five new aspen burls from local loggers in Hovland. You can imagine that these were on my mind during our entire trip. I love turning new burls, and some of these were large and well shaped. I selected the second largest one and cut the burl off the log.  The burl is shown in the first image below. The burl is about 15" in diameter. It is always tricky to decide how to turn one of these burls. Which part of the burl should be the top of the bowl? A wrong choice can be costly. You do not know what is inside the burl so there is always a gamble. A rotten spot in the base of a bowl will not be good, but OK if in the hollowed out part. I also like to have a bark edge all the way around the rim of the bowl. I decided to locate the base of the bowl on the top (top part in burl image) of the burl.  The most interesting grain is usually located near the gnarly part of the burl, and the soft rotten spots are often found near where the burl emerges from the main log (but not always). I made the right choice with this burl, although I hate losing wood trying to cut a good solid base. A beautiful bowl started to emerge.  I don't usually show images of freshly turned bowls, since the real beauty of the wood grain generally only comes out after sanding and oiling, but this bowl looked great right away.  I can only imagine how this one will look after it is finished. The images below show the bowl right after turning.  It now needs to dry for several months (it is very wet) under close observation to make sure no cracking happens. Burls usually do not crack while drying since their grain is wild and random. I can't wait to turn more of the these burls.  The largest one is around 18" in diameter and nicely shaped. (addition on May 1, 2012): I turned the larger aspen burl yesterday.  The bowl came out nicely (about 14" diameter, 3" ht) but the grain is not as amazing as the one shown below. There were also some voids inside the burl resulting in a different shape. I have a few more smaller aspen burls that will be turned soon. 


This bowl is about 12 " in diameter and about 3 " high
 


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Koa wood from Hawaii (4/5/12)
My woodturning roots are in Hawaii. That is where I first learned wood turning and it is where I still get a lot of my motivation and ideas for bowl shapes. Several years ago I met a guy who worked at a Koa mill on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Koa is a very special wood in Hawaii and in great demand.  Koa evolved in the Hawaiian islands and is not naturally occurring any where else.  It is protected today and only available from private lands and mostly only harvested from dead trees on the ground. Koa wood is beautiful with interesting curly grain and rich colors.  I got a piece of Koa from the mill, had it cut to fit in one of those USPS flat rate boxes, and shipped it to Minnesota to turn a classic, flat rimmed bowl.  The old time wood turners in Hawaii did not make bark edged bowls, they made beautiful perfectly shaped useful bowls from Koa and other rich tropical woods. You will see these bowls in galleries and exhibits all over Hawaii.  So I turned my chunk of Koa into a bowl of this style. This requires turning the wet wood into the desired shape but extra thick, letting it dry, and re-turning it to remove any warping.  The following images show the story of this bowl.


My Koa bowl (wood from Hawaii and turned in Minnesota



     Koa wood being measured and cut for shipping                                    A magnificant Koa tree

I use only local wood in my small wood turning business in Minnesota. My Koa bowl is a keeper and not for sale. It reminds me of my connection to Hawaii where I have spent a lot of time camping on beaches and enjoying all the wonderful tropical trees. The trees in Hawaii have amazing shapes that lend them selves to the type of unsymmetrical bark edged bowls I love to make. Hawaii is a wood turners paradise. Minnesota trees seldom offer these wild shapes, but we do have beautiful burls.


   A typical tree in Hawaii that excites a wood turner       A lathe turned bowl at the Big Island Woodturners Show

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Finishing Flat Rimmed Tamarack Salad Bowls (3/27/12)

I have standing orders for salad bowls so I often get motivated to make a few. The main problem is finding a nice piece of large wood. I want a bowl that has beautiful wood and is large enough for displaying creative salads for dinner. My neighbor cut down a few tamarack trees and I know how beautiful this wood can be.  Best to find a tree that is almost starting to decay so the amazing yellow, brown, red, and green colors develop, and a bit of spalting would not hurt.  I just finished one of these bowls from this tree.  Although I would like to have had a larger tree, I managed to get bowls that are 10 - 11 inches in diameter.  The beautiful grain and colors make up for the small size.  Here are a few images of this bowl.

 


I turned this bowl green and let it warp during drying. The finished product is slightly warped, giving a natural charm.  The dark red-brown areas are unusual and spectacular. The grain of tamarack also has a nice texture.  Tamarack wood is very strong when dry so this will make an excellent utility bowl that will last for ever.  I finish salad bowls with several coats of 100% pure tung oil mixed with citrus solvent to aid drying. This finish is water resistant and tough, and completely food safe. The tung oil and citrus solvent come from the Real Milk Paint Company












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Wood Turning Lesson for 98 year old Art (2/20/12)
I enjoy teaching wood turning at the North House Folk School and have a class coming up in a few weeks. Last year I met an older gentleman who wanted to learn how to turn bark edged bowls.  He already was an experienced wood worker but only had a little wood turning experience. Art is 98 years old and excited about life and especially learning new things.  Yesterday he came to my wood shop in Hovland for the third time to learn how to turn a burl.  We selected an aspen burl I had in the shop and decided how to mount it on the lathe.  The burl had an unsymmetrical shape with many nodules.  Here is a photo of the burl still on the log.


We mounted it on the Vega bowl lathe and Art started turning it.  It is wonderful to work with Art.  He is so excited about learning and fearless in trying new things.  It is not easy to turn such an unsymmetrical burl, but Art just attacked it and, with a little guidance, made progress quickly.  Here are a series of photos showing Art turning the burl into a beautiful bowl.
 






Art with his aspen burl bowl

It is always rewarding to see a student happy to learn and proud of their accomplishment.  I have spent most of my life teaching (chemistry) and got a lot of my motivation from witnessing student's accomplishments.  A teacher can only guide and motivate.  The student is 100% responsible for learning. Art is certainly the oldest student I have guided, but his excitement rivals that of the youngest. It is great to be part of this and I expect Art to be back in a few months for another "lesson".  He lives in North Dakota. Sharing in Art's excitement about learning certainly gives one a strong motivation for life long learning.  He certainly has figured out what life is all about and clearly enjoys every second of it.

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How to Turn an Aspen Burl (1/27/12)
Yesterday I turned the aspen burl described in the previous post. Each burl presents a different challenge.  This one took about 3 hours to turn.  The images and descriptions below will give you a good idea of what is involved.  The burl was cut recently so it is green and very wet. It is easier to turn green wood and generally green wood is not split or checked as much as dry wood. The first image shows the burl cut away from its log and the second shows the burl mounted on the lathe.  The rounded (top in image) part of the burl will be the foot or bottom of the bowl.



   The aspen burl ready to mount on lathe                           The burl mounted on the lathe




               Side view of burl on the lathe

                                                         



                                                                                                       The foot of the bowl is marked         

I mounted the burl using an Elio drive on the head-stock part of the lathe and a rotating drive on the tail-stock end. This permits the burl to be easily adjusted on the lathe.  It is important that the burl is correctly positioned and this is a judgement call.  I actually removed and remounted the burl several times to get this right.  The above right image shows the bottom of the bowl smoothed and the foot marked with a black circle.  The foot will be used to reverse mount the burl so its size is important.  The next images show the outside (profile) of the bowl being shaped.  The shape is dictated by the wood.  My goal is to keep the outside of the bowl as close as possible to the nodules of the burl to preserve the swirling grain figuring, but holes and splits sometimes mess things up. You will see later that this burl was full of worm holes and some soft decayed areas.
 

These images show the profile of the bowl being developed. Note the long worm holes at the bottom.

The profile is completed and the bowl is removed and re-mounted in a four-center chuck.  The chuck grabs on to the foot and centers the bowl in preparation for hollowing.  I am using the Oneway Stronghold chuck with number 3 profiled jaws which will hold the bowl very securely. The top edge of the bowl preserves some of the outer bark of the burl, but I could not maintain bark on the entire rim due to the shape of the burl.  If I kept bark all the way around rim, the bowl would not be very deep.  This would waste about half of the burl and I hate to do that.  The next two images show the completed profile with its foot and the reverse mounted bowl ready for hollowing.


          The completed profile with its foot                     The reverse mounted bowl ready for hollowing    

I am using a Vega 2400 bowl lathe that has a removable tail-stock.  This makes hollowing much easier than with a lathe with a long bed.  The hollowing is easier than turning the profile.  The only decision is the thickness of the bowl. I generally aim for about 3/8 " thickness with such burls.  The wood had lots of worm holes, soft areas, and split grain boundaries which would cause problems with a thinner wall.  The bark edge also is more impressive with a thicker wall.  The next images show the hollowing process and the completed bowl. 


             The start of the hollowing                         Top view of the bowl.  Note the worm holes to the left.


 
 The completed Bowl on the lathe                     The bowl removed from its chuck and all the turnings


The bowl came out nicely with dimensions of 12" diameter and 5" depth.  It has a good feel and lots of wonderful figuring typical of aspen burls.  The worm holes add charm.  This bowl will be wonderful once it is dried, sanded, and oiled.  It already shows some nice flame and spectacular figuring.  The final image below shows a close up of some of this, but sanding and oiling will really add a depth and glow.  I have omitted one aspect of turning this piece.  I used a lot of wood stabilizer (super thin cyanoacrylate glue).  This is absolutely necessary to keep the wood in tact and to keep the bark on the bowl.  This glue hardens the soft areas, prevents the grain boundaries from splitting, and keeps the bark on the rim while drying.  It is also does not clog sand paper! Drying a turned bowl, especially in the dry winter months, is problematic.  Wood turners have many methods including kiln drying, slow drying in a bag or box with added humidity, drying rapidly in a microwave oven, drying very slowly in a computer controlled microwave oven, or just letting it dry out in the open.  I use the last method but keep a very close watch on the bowl.  If a small crack starts, a little thin cyanoacrylate glue will stop it.  I sometimes let the bowl dry in a paper bag but still observe it several times a day.  I have learned to predict where cracks may appear (and each type of wood is different) and saturate these areas with the glue.  I have very few cracked bowls, and if a crack does happen, I work it into the beauty of the bowl.  Drilling small holes for spruce root sutures can be a nice touch, or actually inlaying wood butterflies looks classy but very time consuming.  There is always a way to save a bowl and this is the fun and challenge of wood turning.  Wood is so beautiful - how can one not have a good result!



Note the flame and figuring near the top, and the worm holes to the right and center

This bowl will dry for several months and then be sanded. The foot also has to be re-turned for a proper size and shape. Sanding is the dark side of bowl making.  I will spend 2 to 3 hours sanding this bowl to a final grit of 800.  It is a tedious process but well worth it.  I am always amazed how the wood grain, colors, flame, and beauty are brought out at the first application of oil to a sanded bowl. The down side here is that the oil also shows sanding errors, those tiny or not so tiny sanding swirls and marks. I have re-sanded bowls quite often, and you need to do at least three grits and waste expensive sand paper due to gumming up from the oil. Most people will never see these small sanding marks, but I strangely feel that by leaving them I have compromised my goal of best showing off the amazing beauty of the wood.
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Good and Bad Things are Happening - truck crash (1/24/12)
Life is full of surprises.  A few days ago I got a bunch of beautiful aspen burls from local loggers.  I always love getting new burls.  Here is a photo of one of these burls.


Aspen Burl of approx dimensions 15 x 12 inches

The burl is nicely shaped and has lots of small nodules, which usually give a spectacular grain figuring with lots of swirling rings.  I have not turned this one yet and will take some photos of the process and put them in a later post. I suspect this burl will give a great bowl.  I will cut this burl from the log and smooth a small area on the near the center of the burl as you are seeing it above.  This position is where the foot or bottom of the bowl will be.  That should maximize the tiny swirling effect.  The top of the bowl will be the part of the burl nearest the log.  I plan to carve in (once on the lathe) toward the center and then carve down along the shape of the burl toward the foot.  This will keep a nice bark edge.  The burl is already roughly shaped like a bowl so I will follow its shape, trying to maximize the the figuring of the grain.  My goal is to shape the bowl to best show off the beauty of the burl.  My next post will hopefully show all this in pictures.  One never knows what is inside a burl, maybe a large decayed void or a big crack that makes the burl fly apart on the lathe.  I think this one is sound (by tapping on it and feeling its weight) but this is unknown at this point.

Now for the bad news.  I was driving my truck down to Duluth and the Scenic Cafe to add a black walnut bowl to the display there.  My wife was with me.  It was snowing and icy and we hit an icy spot and lost control, spun around a few times, rolled over as we entered the ditch on the north side of highway 61 right near the Carabou river.  We slid down the ditch toward the river but a large aspen tree stopped the truck on the edge of a deep drop off toward the river.  I think the tree knew how I feel about trees, and made sure we did not drop down into the river.  Anyway, I will be thinking about this tree every time I turn and preserve a piece of aspen, especially burls.  It is also worth mentioning that we had one of the aspen burls in the truck for a wood turner friend in Minneapolis. We were very lucky to escape this accident with only a few scratches and bruises but the truck is a total loss.  The black walnut bowl was flying around the cab during this slow motion event and of course I grabbed it and kept it from being damaged.  It is now back home in Hovland.  We were trapped in the truck after accident dangling from the shoulder belts (truck was on its side), but people came by to help us out very quickly.  These very nice folks waited with us for 45 min for any help to arrive.  They took photos and will send them to us soon.  I will post some here when they arrive. This entire adventure gives me a new respect for the icy roads on the north shore (especially hills and curves) and for aspen trees.  Now to replace the truck! It was a 2004 Toyota Tundra with only 36,000 miles, rated the safest truck that year for side impacts, and I will agree with that. 

The following slide show has photos of the crashed truck.  Photos provided by the people who helped us escape from the truck.
Pause Stop Previous Next View full-sized photos




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Details on Turning Bark Edged Bowls (1/6/12)
I teach a class at the North House Folk School on turning bark edged bowls.  I wrote up a rather detailed document for this class.  You can download this as a PDF file. It contains a lot of tips and tricks.  I strongly recommend this for students taking my class, or for anyone interested in turning natural and bark edged bowls. There is more information on this website about my class.

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Preserving Historic Trees (1/5/12)
One of the students in my wood turning class was from Minnetonka and discovered that one of the really old Bur Oak trees that grew near the historic Burwell House was taken down and pieces left lying on the ground.  He collected some of the more interesting pieces, especially crotches, and gave them to me for turning.  We agreed that it was important to preserve some of this historic tree.  I have sold several of these bowls but have a few more drying.  One may still be at the Scenic Cafe.  Here are a few images of one that sold.  It is 11 x 10 x 4 inches in size and clearly shows the crotch grain pattern.

Bur Oak (mossycup white oak) from the old Minnetonka Mill historic area, not far from the old grist mill.

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Turning Air (1/1/12)

One of the more challenging techniques in wood turning is turning a very unsymmetrical piece.  The turning tool is in contact with the wood only part of the time, and you are just cutting air or empty space part of the time.  This is a bit scary the first time and requires a very steady hand.  You could get a spectacular catch if you jerk the gouge around.  I was amazed by the very unsymmetrical bowls (more like wings) that I frequently saw in Hawaii.  Don Albrecht, a wood turner on the Big Island, is noted for turning such pieces.  A few years ago I experimented with turning very unsymmetrical bowls.  Here is an example of one of one of my first efforts from a very unsymmetrical piece of red elm from Grand Marais, Minnesota. The edge of this bowl is the natural outer edge of the log.



I remember this bowl well since the spinning piece was like a dagger whirling around ready to cut off my hand.  It even made a loud noise as it spun around, like an airplane propeller, and it was scary to turn.  As with most things, a bit of experience leads to confidence.  I now have no problem turning unsymmetrical bowls or pieces and even decided to try turning a wing like piece.  Here is an image of the wing I turned some time ago.



I asked Don how he turns pieces like this and he told me he starts with a curved branch, which he attaches to the headstock of the lathe in the center of the curve, and just starts turning it into a flat wing like object.  The above wing was turned from a curved birch branch. This is not really a bowl, but it can be a wonderful artistic piece.  I never sold this and gave it to the Scenic Cafe for display or maybe for serving a piece of sushi.  Turning this wing was a great training exercise and gave me lots of confidence for turning air. I am always looking for a special piece of wood with multiple wing like branches.  The root of a big tree could be perfect for this.  I am still looking.  Meanwhile, I love turning unsymmetrical "bowl like" pieces from beautiful wood.  Here are two images of a recent one from a large maple burl with spectacular wood grain and figuring.




top view:


This piece has been at the Scenic Cafe for over a year.  It is for sale but since it does not look like a bowl, it has not sold.  This one is for a person who really appreciates beautiful wood.  If you get to the restaurant, take a look at it.  This would be perfect for display on a shelf.UPDATE (2/12): This bowl has sold so someone got a real collectors piece. I can see this bowl sitting on a shelf in a home where unusual art is displayed.

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