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Lou Pignolet Bowls

Artistic and useful lathe-turned wooden bowls.

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This web site will be retired within several months so please to go to the new improved one. You can still use this site as I will keep it up to date until is is removed. I would appreciate feedback on the new site!  Thanks,  Lou



This page contains information about my current wood turning activities and ideas, sort of a blog, but not updated every day.  Check back often as this page will change. I would love to correspond with anyone interested in my bowls, ideas, classes or wood turning in general, so please feel free to contact me.


Most Recent Posts  (Click here for Older Posts page)

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

A Lidded Cherry Burl Bowl with Bark (11/21/16)
Ironwood Burls (8/13/16)
Ironwood Burls (8/13/16)Black Walnut Bowls (11/7/15)
Lots of Pre-Ordered Bowls (10/11/15)Cherry Burls (6/25/15)
Update on Activities (1/30/15)
New Bowls on the Way  (8/30/14)
Bowl at the North House Auction and Turning Update (7/26/13)
Awe-Inspiring Large Aspen Burl Bowl (6/9/13)
Art Begins Turning a Birthday Bowl for His 100th Birthday Party (5/11/13)
Several Interesting Burl Bowls  (4/21/13)

New Aspen Burls  (3/26/13)
Another Unusual Aspen Burl Bowl  (9/11/12)



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Ironwood Burls (8/13/16)
A Lidded Cherry Burl Bowl with Bark (11/21/16)
A customer ordered this unusual bowl shown in the images below. I do not usually make bowls like this one but it turned out nicely.






This bowl is 6.5" in diameter and about 6" high with the lid.


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Ironwood Burls (8/13/16)
I have a new source of burls on the south shore of Lake Superior not far from Ironwood Michigan, and I got a very rare ironwood burl from a logger in that area. I had never seen an ironwood burl before so I was excited to give it a try. The burl is about 14" in diameter and wrapped most of the way around the small log. I cut the burl down the center, perpendicular to the axis of the log, to give two pieces for turning end grain bowls. The burl and the trimmed right half mounted on the lathe is shown below along with the rough turned bowl.


Below are some images of the completed burl bowl. It has amazing grain figuring (curly flame, bird's eye, and interesting networks of curly figuring with lots of chatoyance. One of the best. This bowl has already been sold along with its twin, site unseen. You never know what beauty lurks inside a burl!




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Black Walnut Bowls (11/7/15)Black Walnut Burls (11/7/15)
I have been mostly turning commissioned pieces during the late Summer and Fall. One of these projects involved a large black walnut burl provided by a customer in southern Minnesota. The burl was about 18" in diameter and nicely shaped. Here are a few images of the burl and the result of cutting it into a bowl blanks.


The image on the left is the large burl in the tree, and the image in the center shows a deep crack running through the center of the burl. I decided to cut the burl exactly in half through this crack and the resulting halves are shown to the right. The decision to cut this burl in half was made to minimize the chance the burl would fly apart during turning. The cross sections of the burl halves are interesting since you can see the exact point of origin of the burl and how it grew from the main log. The following bowl was turned from the half on the right. This bowl was dried, sanded to 600 grit, oiled with tung oil, dried, sanded to 800 grit, and buffed after applying a thin coat of beeswax in walnut oil.



This bowl is about 12" in diameter and 5" high. I will soon be sanding and finishing the second similar sized bowl from this burl.

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Lots of Pre-Ordered Bowls (10/11/15)
It has been a busy summer with a lot of sales and lots of new burl bowls. I can never predict bowl sales and interest in my work. There are just too many unknown factors in play, so I just continue turning and getting new wood. At this point I mostly turn the type of bowls I like from burls, always aiming for something different, and always trying to bring out the beauty of new types of wood. I love the challenge of turning an oddly shaped piece of wood. Near the end of this summer I got calls from three different families from the Minneapolis area and south asking me to make bowls from their downed oak and black walnut trees and from a large black walnut burl. I drove south with my truck and loaded up lots of wood, and there is still more that would not fit in the truck. Some of the wood is shown in the photo below. All together I will be making around 16 pre-ordered bowls. It is nice to preserve wood from these old trees and to help people save some pieces of those special trees. It is also a bit stressful to make all the desired  bowls from a limited supply of special wood. No room for error, and sometime a nice looking piece of wood has decay lurking deep inside.




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Cherry Burls (6/25/15)
A friend has land south of Superior Wisconsin and his forest is full of cherry trees and every one has burls. This is an amazing sight. Here are images of two of the trees.


The following images are of a beach ball sized cherry burl from this forest, an end-grain bowl blank cut and mounted on the lathe, and the bowl turned and finished. The bowl is about 12 inches in diameter and 5 inches high. A similar bowl has been turned from the other half of this burl but not finished yet. Note the cut in the burl on the left that will give the two bowl blanks.









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Update on Activities (1/30/15)

It is already mid winter and I have been turning lots of burls. It seems that burls come in spurts, usually just when I am getting desperate for interesting wood to turn. I am careful where I get burls and make sure they are from a person's private land or harvested legally. In August a friend in Grand Rapids, MN, invited me to see his very large black ash burl. This burl cluster was about 6 ft long and 4 ft in diameter and took all day to cut into bowl blanks. I was given this burl in exchange for several black ash bowls.


Several months after getting about 15 bowl blanks from this large burl, I was offered a downed black ash tree that was full of burls. I cut a few of these in November and will return in the Spring for the rest. The images show the amazing number of burls on this tree. So far I have a dozen of these burls in my shop.


A month ago I got a call from a guy from the cities who has land in northern Minnesota with lots of burls. He brought me some of these which I bought out right. These were two large burl clusters that were about 3.5 ft long and 2.5 ft in diameter. I have cut one of these up into blanks for large burls. I turned one of these last week and it was about 23" in diameter. Below it is shown mounted on my Vega lathe. This lathe has a 26" swing and it just fits. Several images of the burl that I turned from this burl are shown. This will be a beauty with lots of bird's eye figuring, curly flame, and great colors. I turn most of my bowls from green wood so this one has to dry for several months before finishing. The bowl is 22" in diameter and 5" high.


I also have purchased several large cherry burls. These came from private land in Wisconsin and central Minnesota.  The one shown below is very large (4 ft long and 18 inches diameter) and the burl wrapped around the entire log. I turned four bowls from this piece, all end-grain so the outer rim of the bowl (the top) shows the contours and bark of the outer part of the burl. The images below show the burl and several shots of the final bowl, which is about 18" in diameter and 5" high.





You can see I have been busy. I am building up an inventory and as they dry and are finished they will be posted on the For Sale pages of the web site.
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New Bowls on the Way  (8/30/14)
Finally I am getting back to the shop after several months of recovery from knee replacement surgery. I am turning and sanding so things are looking up. I just purchased some beautiful cherry burls and have started turning them. Some black ash burls will also soon be obtained, plus I have lots of new non-burl wood. Here are some images of the cherry burls and the first one I turned.

Large cherry burls in my garage waiting to be cut and turned. I first selected the one in the front and cut it into four end-grain bowl blanks. Here is one of the blanks from the left end of this large burl. It is mounted on the lathe and ready for turning:












 








The following images show the turned bowl, first the profile still on the lathe and several of the rough turned bowl.


This cherry burl bowl is 19 inches in diameter and 8 inches high. It already shows great grain figuring with lots of swirls and small eyes, and the colors are amazing. I can only imagine its beauty when dry, sanded and oiled. It now has about 30% moisture content and needs to dry to around 12% before sanding.











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Awe-Inspiring Large Aspen Burl Bowl (6/9/13)
I just finished my most impressive bowl so far. It is large, 22.5" diameter and 4" high, has amazing grain figuring, earthy colors, and all of its natural bark edge. The rough turning of this burl was described in a previous post 4/21/13. The finished bowl shows wild swirling grain figuring with many eyes, dark areas from spalting, lots of shimmering flame figuring, and interesting worm tracks and holes. The bark edge provides a dramatic jagged boundary. The following top view is in high resolution so you can zoom in using your browser view menu to see the delicate beauty of the grain figuring. Following this image is a slide show with several more views including the burl from which it was carved. Note the image of the bowl sitting on our full size dining room table and you will appreciate how large this bowl is.


 I will have this bowl (above) at the Hovland Arts Festival on July 6-7 so come and see it. It is a lot more impressive in person but it was of course sold soon after this post.





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Art Begins Turning a Birthday Bowl for His 100th Birthday Party (5/11/13)
Art has been taking wood turning lessons with me for the past two years. He wanted to learn wood turning at the young age of 98. We have had some great times in my shop as he learned and has become an accomplished wood turner. He will have his 100th birthday in October, 2013, and we decided to turn a large bowl for the party. His grandson will inscribe some appropriate words and drawings on this bowl (at least that is the plan). A few weeks ago we started turning the bowl. I had a large piece of spalted box elder that seemed suitable for this purpose, so we began the birthday bowl turning process. Images of the rough turning are shown below and you can see that the bowl is indeed large, almost as large as Art. We turned it extra thick in case it warps during the drying (it was turned green). We will re-turn the bowl to remove the warp, but keep it quite thick. Stay tuned to see the progress.



The bowl blank was cut with a chain saw. It was mounted on my Vega lathe that has a 26 inch swing. I was concerned that the lathe may not have enough power to spin this very heavy piece, but no problem.


















I turned the outer profile of the bowl since Art was a bit intimidated by the enormous size of the bowl blank, but he got totally into the action during the hollowing process. The diameter of the bowl came out at 17 inches. We lost some due to decay in the bowl blank, but this is actually quite a large bowl.















The hollowing is nearly complete as the turnings fly into Art's face.  It has some nice red coloring due to the spalting. It is now drying in my wood shop. We will re-turn it true in about another month. Stay tuned for progress.







I get amazing inspiration working with Art. I used to think that teaching chemistry to freshmen at the University of Minnesota kept me feeling young and energized. I now realize that working with an enthusiastic guy soon to be 100 years old provides me with much more than those young students (who mainly complained how difficult learning chemistry is). Art is so excited about life and learning new things that I get caught up in believing I can turn wood for many more years. He certainly makes me feel a young 70, as I look forward to at least 30 years of wood turning. I will not be planning my 100th birthday bowl for a long time!


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Several Interesting Burl Bowls  (4/21/13)

It is supposed to be spring but we are still in the realm of winter with several feet of snow on the ground and morning temperatures in the single digits. This is a great time to do some wood turning. I have been fortunate to get some nice burls. One was a very large aspen burl that I had to cut up in the field. I managed to cut one large piece from it that measured 25 inches in diameter, and several smaller pieces. The large one was nicely shaped and by far the largest aspen burl I have worked with. The following images shows this burl cut and mounted on my Vega lathe, ready for turning. The Vega lathe has a 26 inch swing so this burl is about the

                                                Aspen Burl on the Lathe Ready for Turning

maximum size piece this lathe can handle. I had to run the lathe a low speeds until the piece became a bit more round. The foot of the bowl will be made in the center of the top of the burl which should give the best grain figuring. I have found the the best figuring lies just below the gnarled top part of the burl. It took an entire day to get this turned. The images below show the completed bowl just before I removed it from the lathe. Note that the bowl was remounted with a chuck that grabbed onto the foot of the bowl so it could be hollowed out.



                   Top View of Hollowed out Bowl                                          Side View of bowl on the Lathe

I try very hard to keep the outer bark of the burl in tact and in the final bowl. This creates limitations for the size and shape of the bowl, but the bark is beautiful and an important natural feature of the burl. This bowl now needs to dry for a couple of months and be sanded and oiled which will bring out the grain patterns and colors, although the roughly turned bowl already looks very nice.

I was given a small maple burl from one of the students in my last wood turning class. It had a very unsymmetrical shape and it took me a long time to figure out how to turn it into a bowl. The following images show the burl mounted on the lathe ready for turning. The extreme unsymmetrical nature of the burl is very clear in these images, and you can understand the difficulty deciding how to mount it on the lathe.



















  Images of the Maple Burl Mounted on the Lathe
 
 





I visualize the top edge of the final bowl with bark. The foot of the bowl will be turned at the top of the burl, as shown in the image to the right. The blue circle indicates where the foot will be located. The profile of the bowl is turned as far as possible to keep the natural edge. Try to visualize the top edge of the final bowl in the image to the right, and then look at the images below that show the bowl hollowed out. Hollowing is done by reverse mounting the bowl using a chuck and carving out the inside of the bowl.







               The Burl Ready for turning















             Top View of Hollowed Out Bowl on the Lathe


Side View of Hollowed Out Bowl
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New Aspen Burls  (3/26/13)
Some new aspen burls became available just after I returned from a month camping in Hawaii. Several of these are very large, around 2 ft in diameter. It is great having some new burls to work with. Aspen burls are my favorite since they have great grain figuring, unusual colors, and spectacular natural bark edges. They are also gnarly and wormy, and always present a challenge. It often takes me an entire day to turn one into a bowl. Here are some burls and the resulting freshly turned bowls, which of course must dry for several months before sanding and oiling to bring out the spectacular grain and colors. I use a chain saw to cut the burls into the pieces shown below and ready for turning. This is very tricky and requires a lot of planning. It is important to visualize how a bowl will emerge from the burl. The foot of the bowl can be on either side of the burl. An incorrect choice can result in no bowl. I probe the burl with a pick to see where the soft places are. Ideally you want the soft areas to be located in the hollowed out part of the bowl. There is no substitute for experience in making this decision!

This burl is about 19" in diameter and the resulting bowl about 14" in diameter. This is a good example of the interesting figuring and coloring of an aspen burl. Also note that a nicely shaped burl gives a similarly shaped bowl. The next example shows how an unsymmetrical gnarly burl gives a very differently shaped bowl.



Note that the foot or bottom of the bowl will come from the left side (tail stock side) of the burl. The gnarly shape of the burl naturally gives the uneven edge of the bowl. I really like this bowl.  Great grain figuring and colors combined with an interesting shape that will attract attention. The only thing missing here are worm holes. Many aspen burls are decayed and wormy, sometimes making them impossible to turn. They tend to fly apart while spinning on the lathe. The next burl and bowl was decayed and wormy. I turned it on my 70th birthday. I should have known that a wormy old decayed bowl would appear to remind me of my age. Never the less, I love the rustic appearance of this bowl. The worm holes add charm and character.


Note that the burl shown on the left does not indicate what lies inside. It appears solid, but as soon as the carving started the worms and worm holes appeared. Some areas were so decayed that the burl was close to falling apart. I had to screw in small boards to stabilize the burl during the hollowing process. Lots of cyanoacrylate glue was required to keep the bowl in tact. The result is much better that I expected. I love the worm holes and the nicely shaped natural edge. I have several more aspen burls to turn, one is a 2 ft diameter giant that I can hardly lift.

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Another Unusual Aspen Burl Bowl  (9/11/12)
I have made another large aspen burl bowl similar to the one in the following post, but a little smaller. It is shown in the following slide show.  Dimensions are 11.5" diameter and 7" high. This bowl has been selected for a special Royal display as described in the above post of 9/14/12.  An image of the large burl is included in the following slide show. This bowl has been sold.

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North Shore Aspen Burl Bowl – Unusually Large with Amazing Figuring

 

dimensions: 13 x 8 “        Donated to North House Folk School Unplugged 2012 on-line Auction

 

     This bowl was made from an aspen burl I purchased from local loggers in Hovland during the late spring of 2012 (see above for image of the burl). The burl is the largest I have worked with and was solid with few decayed areas. The bowl is large with wild swirling grain figuring, unusual earthy colors, lots of shimmering flame, and all of its natural bark edge. The bark is quite dramatic and with imagination you can visualize the outer part of the burl. Note the light patch on the bottom of the bowl. It is part of the main straight grain log from which the burl grew. You can actually see how the burl emerged from the tree, an unusual feature of this burl. This bowl is a spectacular example of a North Shore aspen burl, a rare collectors piece demanding the center of attention of a special room.