Les’ Approach to Woodturning
When I started turning, early in 2013, I was strongly influenced by current trends in woodturning and was very inquisitive about the practice of using pieces of timber that would formerly have been discarded because of what was once referred to as “defects”. Nowadays we have a much more responsible attitude towards the use of a precious, natural material and this fact, coupled with a growing desire among people in general to own decorative pieces made from natural, organic materials, led me along the route that I have followed for five years.
Perhaps my earliest success was in choosing a round of ash log which had been cut for firewood, and which was still green. From this short piece of log I produced my first natural edge, green turned bowl and I sat back, nervously, as I waited for it to dry, in the knowledge that a fairly high percentage of green-turned bowls will crack. As luck had it, the bowl stayed intact and the result was delightful; I gained more pleasure from that bowl than I have from any item since.
From Log to Bowl
That bowl confirmed in my mind, both that the future lay in using natural materials that I could preferably find close to home, and that timber was too valuable a resource to be wasteful with.
I soon learned to identify logs that had special features hidden within, especially things like cankers growing on ash or fungi growing on the bark, each of which heralded treasures within.
Two bowls cut from ash cankers
A tall pot cut from spalted beech, the discolouration being caused by fungal attack.
Gradually, my taste developed and I started to use other materials in my turnings, especially semi-precious stones, leather and metals, like silver and copper. This opened up a wealth of possibilities to use badly cracked pieces of timber, by repairing the cracks with staples or with leather thong.
A spalted beech bowl with leather thong and an apple-wood bowl with copper bindings
A yew vase with Sterling Silver stitches and a cherry-wood bowl with leather and copper
After working on so many bowl with cracks and splits, I also began to develop an interest in using timber with large voids in it, sometimes designing my work to give an interesting shape to the void, as much as to the bowl or pot itself.