Like everything else, the more you turn, the better you get! There is an old story told about a famous South African golfer who achieved an unusually high amount of hole-in-ones. A reporter said to him something like; "Wow, you get so many hole-in-ones, you are so lucky!" His response was; "The more I practice, the luckier I get!" A little pithy, but so true!


Hence the title of this blog, keep turning, designing and creating. Keep at it, the more you practice the better you get! Luckily, this practice is rather fun and it does just get easier and easier. Everything becomes more fluid and good decisions more instinctive.


I generally start off with a chunk of wood that I have chainsawed and sometimes bandsawed into a workable shape. I then mount this onto the lathe and begin to turn it into a roughly rounded shape that is balanced and workable. #turning #designing #creating


Once in this format, you then get to assess the piece of wood and start making #DesignDecisions. Sometimes you have a fairly predictable piece that makes the design options really easy or obvious. Like this piece of #Ginko wood that I turned recently, clearly it was going to be a platter. There were no surprises inside and it turned into a very plain, for me, uninteresting flat wood platter without any real figuring or interesting marks in the wood. So, I had to make some #creative design decisions. As you can see from the pics below, I ended up ridging the wood to enable me to draw in spokes and color a pattern on the wood using archival india ink pens.

I am not sure that the platter is practical for food presentation, in spite of several layers of lacquer, but it is much prettier and can be used to display non-food items. It works for me!




Of course the bigger challenges are the unpredictable chunks of wood where you initially have to struggle to turn a large, uneven, unwieldy chunk of wood into a manageable form and then you have no idea what you are going to find inside once you get going.



This was a big lump of #SugarMaple wood. I have a really big lathe, it has a "swing" of 22 inches, this means that in theory you can mount a piece of wood close to that size on your lathe. In practice, certainly for me, just getting a piece of wood that big up onto the lathe is a challenge! But I got it there and with the help of physics and some wood blocks to hold things up. I got it safely mounted and ready to turn without any critical incidents!


This piece of wood presented many new challenges for me. I had never #turned Sugar Maple, a new experience and learning curve for me, as all wood has it own turning characteristics that one needs to learn. This was a piece of wood that had been lying about my workshop for a while, so it was fairly dry and had just begun some natural #spalting, which made it really interesting. I like to turn #WetWood. It is easier to turn and it makes nice manageable shavings without much dust, but I was ready to give this one a try. Unfortunately as I started to round it up it developed some significant cracks. Decision time, dump it or give it several squirts of super glue and see what happens. Of course I went with option 2! On the design decision side of things I wanted to maximize the size and shape of the wood so stuck with a simple big bowl shape. Nothing innovative, basically a more practical option to give me experience with turning Sugar Maple. I have a lot more of it in my wood pile, so I can get more #artistic with future pieces once I have more information and experience with this wood.




As you can see, it ended up as quite a pretty big bowl with some interesting wood figure, the crack fix worked well, but we will see how it holds up as the drying process continues. Of course I can always add some other interesting fixes should that become necessary, but we will wait and see what happens next!


Yesterday afternoon I picked up a small #AppleWood #Burl and mounted it on the lathe, I like to keep things varied and interesting! Short attention span??

Check back in a day or two to see how that one went!




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Updated: Sep 5

As I have continued removing surplus interior wood from the Maple bowl that I started in the previous blog, I began thinking about dealing with boredom during slow moments. Removing the unwanted center of a bowl is a slow and pretty boring, but essential step in creating a finished bowl. It occurred to me that even the most exciting and creative processes generally contain some boring elements and it is necessary to develop a technique to deal with this and turn it into something positive.

#boringbits #Maplewood


I remember well when, in my previous life, I ran a busy consulting laboratory practice, I was frequently heard to say that I had the best job in the world. It was constantly exciting and challenging. I had no idea what I would be called upon to do the next day, or even where, as we worked all over the country as well as internationally. But thinking about it, I realized, like everything else, that it did contain some boring and repetitive bits. There were essential tasks that simply had to get done. Rather like eating your vegetables so that you can get to the chocolate dessert!


So, I got to thinking about how to turn the boring bits into something more interesting. Gardeners will recognize how, during the weeding process, one can gain some satisfaction and actual therapy from weeding. A boring but essential task. Of course one can release or transfer a great deal of frustration in the yanking of the weeds from the ground or one can simply slip into a zen-like trance. One can, of course, let your mind wander and think about other things, plot and plan. (How to take over the world if you remember the charming lab mouse from Pinky and the Brain!) As a gardener, clearing an area of weeds is very satisfying in itself, but as a woodturner, it is essential, even when doing the boring bits, to be fully engaged and aware of what you are doing every second of the time, as a careless, inattentive nano-second can result in chaos and disaster. You can destroy your bowl or vessel in a heart-beat or even suffer serious injury, so "zoning out" is out!


Perhaps this is one of the things that I really like about #woodturning, the necessity to be totally focused, it is wonderful to be able to "block out" virtually everything else and simply focus of a very creative and satisfying task that has a tangible result.


I recognize that, for me, a fairly fast creative process that produces a beautiful and pleasing article pretty quickly is a definite plus. I find that woodturning is a very "instantly creative" process. Every tiny move that you make with a tool results in an instant and tangible result. Sometimes not quite what you were expecting and sometimes not particularly pleasing and some fixing is required, but all in all, very satisfying. #instantlycreative



Of course the other part of the pleasure, for me, is the unknown bits. When one is working with something organic like a chunk of wood, you never really know what you are going to find. Sure, there are large lumps of wood that do exactly what you expect, you can pre-plan the outcome fairly accurately, as long as you don't do anything weird and wonderful. But the fun comes when you find unexpected lumps and bumps inside you chunk of wood, or, of course, you start off with a really challenging piece! It could be super tiny or gigantic. It could be really dense and hard to work, but for me, the most fun is the #spalted wood that is ready to fall apart and the challenge is keeping it together long enough to turn it into something beautiful.


For the uninitiated, #spalting is an organic process that basically rots the wood if left too long. Fungal growth lays down lines and patterns in the wood and turning it at just the right moment where it has rotted enough that the wood is beautiful but not enough to shatter and turn to dust, is the trick! In the "turned wood" section of this website I have several Spalted Maple pieces where I say: "Finding spalted maple is like discovering truffles in a forest! Spalted maple is born when fungus transforms maple wood by creating unique lace patterns. The wood is extremely challenging to turn making a large Spalted Maple piece rare and very special indeed!"





But, back to the beginning of this blog, I have now finished my huge Maple wood bowl, it cracked badly during the process which meant that I had to be very liberal with the repair glue, which of course, results in rather unsightly lines. I could spend hours and hours sanding, but they will still be there. But, for me, the glue lines are actually OK. They force me to find creative ways of decorating the bowl in order to produce something beautiful. I would be happy to read your comments on how you deal with boredom and, of course, interested to hear how you would finish this bowl! I will put pics of the final project into a future blog so you can see the end result.




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I was out at my lathe, working on my latest project when it occurred to me that the topics of my blog did not necessarily only have to be about big, earth-shattering, complicated subjects, I think that blogs were originally about what what happening in your life on a day to day level and perhaps people would actually be interested in the little things too! I looked at what I was working on, turning a large chunk of fairly dry Maple wood into a big, pretty bowl and thought, right, this may actually be worth talking about. The creativity level is up there. This could turn out to be pretty interesting.


I did not start off thinking that this could turn into a blog subject, otherwise I would have taken some pics of the original, big and fairly ugly chunk of wood. I didn't, so I will simply tell you that it was large, not super heavy because the wood had been sitting out there under the carport for a while and so was relatively dry. I say relatively dry as this is the Pacific North West and the dryness of anything can only be measured in points of relativity!


Was this my dream chunk of wood, no. Turning this piece of wood was rather more of a duty. It had been sitting on our green wagon for ages and I needed to get that clear as I thought we were going to need it in order to move some large stone sculptures from our van to the walkway. I could have simply moved the wood out to my wood storage stash, but the wagon was only a few feet from my lathe and it seemed like it would be easier to move it in that direction rather than fight it onto the storage shelves and then have to move it again to the lathe at a later date. That was the theory, move it the shortest distance, once!


Using wedges and other assorted magic tricks of the physics variety, I got it onto the lathe and started rounding it up to a manageable level. My husband came out fairly early in this process and the look on his face gave skeptical a whole new meaning! Later on he came out again and said something along the lines of "Wow, you did a good job of getting that one cleaned up!" It must have looked pretty rough!


Now I am at the point where I am tempted to take it off the lathe and come back to it later, but I know that it will just form another layer in the "lying about waiting" pile. It is at that stage where the challenge of getting it roundish is over and the boring part of hollowing it out is upon us! It may all fall apart, there are lots and lots of cracks, I considered taking inches of wood from the outside and top in an attempt to solve the crack problem, but I can see that is not going to work, so....., we will simply keep going and see what we end up dealing with. Sometimes the challenge of fixing something is super fun and causes you to get really creative! But for now, we have a half-formed Maple wood bowl, about 14.5" wide and 7.5" deep. I am going to attach the few pics that I have just shot with my phone so perhaps this will make more sense to you, Dear Reader. The one pic shows a little patch of bark, more exterior wood really, that I am attempting to keep intact. This will probably end up being worked and sanded down into regular, smooth wood, but it is worth a try!


I will keep going with updates on this project, please let me have your thoughts and comments!











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