It is a little known fact that one cannot simply go to the local lumberyard to purchase wood of turning quality. The desired wood must come from the log, be mostly blemish free, have impeccable color quality, and be large enough to compensate for the size of the finished product. It could be anywhere from four to twelve inches thick and even larger around. Therefore, the wood must come from a large log and be processed by hand.
Estes Park, Colorado produces mostly evergreens and aspens that are slender at best, which makes finding adequate wood species a challenge. Consequently, John makes many trips to the Midwest for hardwoods and to the West Coast for burl woods, such as big leaf maple. He also relies on the valley tree surgeons, whose quest to remove damaged, dead or unwanted trees often results in his procurement of unique and exceptional woods. With the raw materials in hand, John heads home to Estes Park to begin the process of turning a full-size log into an artful piece of fine craftsmanship.
The logs are chain-sawed into large sections.
Then they are rough-sawn round.
The hart, or pith, of the wood is removed to help eliminate cracking.
The pieces are hauled to the shop, ready for the lathe.
Once on the lathe, the wood is rough-turned to different shapes. Then, by using a bowl saving tool, which removes the interior portion of the bowl, John cuts a number of concentric bowls from the same section of wood. However, the walls of each ‘blank,’ or rough-sawn bowl, are left thick to allow for movement within the wood while it dries.
The yield from an eight-foot log is twenty to thirty bowl blanks. Each blank is coated with wax for six months to one year in order to dry. A roughed-out bowl weighing thirteen pounds will lose approximately four pounds, or eight cups, of water as it dries. A blank is ready for final turning when the moisture content reaches 7%. Then it is taken back to the lathe to be turned to its final shape and size and appropriately finished as either art or a utilitarian bowl.
After sawing, turning, and the time to dry, John adds the final touches. He decorates his work with various materials including paint and turquoise inlay. Then finishes with USDA approved mineral oils and waxes.