Bowled over!

Published by Les on

Lots of bowls being turned recently. Sally and I have been working on the garden again and one of the log stores, for dry firewood, had a few interesting lumps of timber in it, so they made their way to the workshop door instead of the log-burner.

This first bowl was made from a lump of Hornbeam, a timber I’d not seen, let alone turned before. It was a joy to work, dense, close grained, giving streaming ribbons of shavings which are now being used as bedding by my neighbour’s pony. A single scorched bead was worked into the outer wall, just for interest.

Next, a pair of big, deep bowls worked from spalted beech which had developed numerous minor splits and cracks while it dried and really wasn’t suited to traditional bowl turning, so scorching was the answer. The process of scorching and lime-waxing highlights the cracks rather than trying to hide them. It celebrates the patterns that nature builds into our timber, but therein lies a problem. If turned at a normal speed, these bowls explode on the lathe because they cannot withstand the centrifugal forces, so a slow speed is used and once the outside is finished, the whole bowl is tightly wrapped with cling-film and gaffer tape as a precaution. With care, though, the rewards are enormous.

….and this is the other bowl from that same piece of timber; it has one bead enhanced with copper gilt-cream and it’s big!

This one’s in oak which had a few minor surface cracks on the top edge. I could have skimmed the top off and made a perfectly clean bowl out of it, but I prefer to add a little texture and interest by creating a bark-effect and scorching it.

This is flowering cherry and was cut from a trunk that a local picture-framer brought to the gallery in Bala for me. As I recall, this was the crown of a small trunk and had a few bark inclusions and a wayward branch cutting through it, so it made for being an interesting piece to work with.

This bowl came from the centre of the cherry trunk and has been given to the picture framer to thank him for giving us the wood. It turns out that he loves boats, so he chose this over the other bowls that I made from his wood.

…and here’s the third of the three cherry bowls. Somewhat smaller than the other two, but with some very attractive grain which beading helps to emphasize. If you look closely at the rim, you’ll see how the bowl disorted a little when it dried.

A few years ago I bought a laburnum tree which had been felled in a Cheshire garden because it posed a danger to a near-by house. Sure enough, the heart of the trunk showed the usual rotting pith with lots of areas of stain associated with decay in this wood. This is why laburnum is rarely available in any decent size for bowl turning, but in my mind, the faults are well worth tolerating as the grain is a masterpiece of nature.

…and this is the second piece of laburnum. Notice the main area of decay which has had its voids filled with copper bound in resin. Another feature of this bowl, on the side opposite to the decay, is the cambium layer (the inner bark).

This is a tall piece of ash which was rescued from a very damp old garage in Chirk. It had been lying on the ground and where it contacted the concrete it was in the early stages of decay and had a lot of worm in it; scorching was the only way forward for this and the verdigris wax and copper gilt help to give the impression of age.

The next two bowls (or pots, perhaps) came from a heavily weathered piece of oak burr which had a lot of decay in its sapwood, much of which had rotted away. I recall looking at this piece of wood a few years ago and deciding to leave it until I had a little more experience before I tackled it. The little pot (above) didn’t last long! I was building some display/book shelves for Sally and she nabbed it for her display.

…and this was the most testing piece that I worked. Almost one whole side of the block of timber had rotted away and the rest was riddled with little splits and cracks, but I held my nerve and it held together. Glad it did!

Finally, a delicately turned and very thin bowl made from a piece of greengage, which I suspect was felled whilst or immediately after fruiting. The colours are amazing!

I can’t emphasize enough, the privilege of working with a material as beautiful as timber and I never take it for granted; I trust that you can see why!

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