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Hidden Beauty of Reclaimed Wood

It was just a bit over a year ago that I added some pieces of recycled/reclaimed Florida Live Oak and Eucalyptus to my wood selection. A lot has happened in that year. From the Oak, I turned some small live edge bowls. With the Eucalyptus, I turned bowls and bowls that are also tea light holders, as well as a few other items like shaving kits and pens. What I thought was just a passing fancy, using what would have been discarded wood, has now turned into a passion.

Reclaimed Eucalyptus wood bowl
Eucalyptus Bowl with tea light candle holder in the center.
Reclaimed Florida Live Oak Natural Edge Bowl
Live edge Florida Live Oak Bowl (Bark retained on the wood)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since those early days, I have expanded my search for reclaimed and recycled wood to work with. I call it Urban Harvesting. Wood that is otherwise headed for the dump or even the burn pile is what I seek out. Even wood that has outlived its purpose in one form or another, I look for and seek ways to transform it on my lathe. Random logs and planks that to most would seem unsightly and even ugly are what I find. The only drawback is that my storage space is limited.

 

Currently around my work area I have a number of different species: Florida Red Maple, Sycamore, Slash Pine, Australian Pine, Florida Live Oak, and Eucalyptus. I even have some Northern Birch from my home state of (upstate) New York that had fallen during the winter. And some of my new wood was gathered from Hurricane Irma this past September.

Recalimed wood wating to be used
Various woods in my shop

Inside each piece of wood is a secret waiting to be revealed. It is hidden away beneath the bark just waiting to be exposed.

What makes this wood even more spectacular is that it isn’t perfect. The hidden beauty that lies beneath has flaws and imperfections which add to the character of the finished piece. Yes I could go to a local lumber yard and buy a perfectly milled piece of wood. And it, too, has beauty in it; from the grain, the color, and the texture of the wood. Just like life isn’t always perfect, neither is this wood. From discolorations, inclusions, crotch wood where several branches met in the trunk, to spalting where bacteria in the wood left unusual patterns and grain in the wood.

All this forms to tell the story of years where the rain fell in plenty. It speaks of years when there was little to no rainfall. Winds that blew and did its best to bend branches as the tree battled the elements. It speaks of lightning, heat, freezing temperatures, and insects and disease.

Reclaimed bowl blanks
Portions of the logs cut and ready for the lathe.

Once I put the wood on my lathe and begin turning it, slowly but surely removing the rough exterior, what lies beneath is exposed to the light of day. All the hidden beauty that lies beneath is brought out. As I work with my chisels and the shavings fly and the wood transforms like a butterfly that was once a caterpillar.
There are times I have a clear vision of what I want the wood to be when I am done. Other times the wood seems to have its own idea of how it wants to look.

Regardless of that, in the end what is born of it, is something unique.

I have found a passion in this wood that others would discard. My limitations are only bound at this point to the amount of wood I can store at a time and the size of the wood I can turn on my midi lathe.

 

In these series of pictures you can see the evolution from a rough log and how a portion of the wood becomes two bowls.
Click on the first image to view a full sized gallery.

 

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The Summer Heat is on in the Shop

It’s summer time here in Florida, and it’s hot, hot, hot, and oh yeah a bit humid to boot.

I’ve tried to not let it slow me down with regards to working in the shop, but I do have to work around the heat. During the month of July I got out early in the morning and worked till around noon. By that time of the day in July, the sun is high in the sky and the heat and humidity hangs from you. From the looks of it, August will be no different so it will be more early morning work in the shop till it gets too hot.

Still I have managed to turn out (no pun intended) some new items. In addition to trying to sneak in some summer turning in the shop, I have also spent some time cleaning and tuning up my lathe and other tools in preparation for fall.

The Eucalyptus by far has been my favorite wood to work with, both the ability to turn it as well as the color and grain of the wood which never ceases to amaze me. The colors of the wood range from a light brown along the outside to a deep reddish brown as you get deeper into the wood. Thus far I’ve been mainly making bowls with the Eucalyptus and even some bowls with candle holders in the center. They have been coming out very nicely.

I do have some of the Eucalyptus set aside that will be cut into spindles for other items such as pens, shaving sets, and even a bottle opener or two.

The Birch has been a pleasure to work with as well, and I have made some of that wood into tea light candle holders. While the Birch is a light colored wood, the spalting (coloring appearing in cut wood as it ages) has brought out some beautiful variations in the grain.

wooden bowls, bowls, candle holders
Eucalyptus bowls and candle holders

Also I have been playing around with making pen blanks. Using colored pencils I have set them into blanks and then turned them into pens. The effect is a splash of polka dots and color on the pens. It’s also another way to recycle something old and turn (pun completely intended) into something new.

Eucalyptus bowl and click pens
Eucalyptus Bowl and Slimline Pro click pens w/ colored pencils

Some planks of Cypress have also made their way into the shop that have been recovered from the local ship yard. I’ve cut a few into pieces that will be made into shallow bowls, and the rest of it is waiting to be cut either into spindles for magic wands and wine bottle toppers. I’ve really taken a liking to working with recovered and reclaimed wood as once you start digging into what looks like a tired old piece of wood you can uncover some hidden beauty.

Cypress planks
Cypress planks
Cypress bowl
Cypress bowl

In between that I have been lining up craft shows for the near future; including the August 4th First Friday in Tarpon Springs. Right on the heels of that I will be at Hippie Fest in Tarpon Springs on August 12th. These are both fun family craft shows with lots of great vendors, food, music, and crafts.

Other events in the Pinellas/Pasco area are also in the works and will be announced here and on my FaceBook page as they get closer.

Even though it has been a hot summer, I’ve been plugging away in the shop and look forward to seeing some of you out at the upcoming shows.

 

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In the Shop: Birch Tealights

As all good things in the shop do, my latest project started with an idea. Could I make candle holders? What would they look like?

For my first few attempts, I’m sticking with tealights, and I’m spending time with the birch I got in December. I love the grain in general, but right now that it’s spalted, I find it more beautiful than before.

With the weather warming up as the Florida summer looms, I’m not sure how much more time I’ll get in the shop to play around with new ideas. For now, I’ll enjoy the outcome of my latest endeavor.

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This set has a natural edge to it and is meant to look like a couple of mushrooms. Tell me you see it. The other set I’ve done reminds me of upside down flower pots. I’ve got video of me making them – actually, stripping the bark from the birch – but no real pictures yet. I may have to fix that.

I’ve enjoyed making them, but (for now) it’s labor intensive and a set can take me most of the day out in the shop. Of course, that’s a part I enjoy so I’m definitely not complaining.

So that’s what I’m doing in the shop right now. In case you’re curious, yes, a tealight really does fit in the holder.

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The Beginning

It started one day with a passing comment while driving past a local wood shop: “I’ve always enjoyed wood working, just never had the opportunity to do much with it.”

A couple of months later I was given a gift card to a local Woodcraft store as a gift.

Not sure what to do with it I set it aside until I had some time on my hands and looked up their website. I was in awe of the tools, wood, and accessories but at that time I lived in an apartment and setting up any kind of shop was nothing but a dream.

As I poured over their website I saw they offered different woodworking classes. bowl making, band saw box making, salt and pepper mills, and pens.

Pens that caught my eye.

Looking at the different times they offered the class for pen making I made up my mind and signed up for a class.

A month and a half later I showed up to learn how to make a pen. The instructor asked me if I had any experience using a wood lathe, and I told him it had been many years; since high school wood shop.

He had me look over the display and pick out a pen and wood. After deciding on a pen style, I looked over the wood blanks. There were so many to choose from. How could I ever decide? Finally one caught my eye – a blank of Palm Red. I plucked it off the shelf and headed off to the classroom.

As I made the pen I lost track of time. Everything else around me faded and all that existed was that room, the lathe and the tools.

When class was over I had a fully functional pen that I had made.

I was hooked!

It was many months before I was able to do anything with what I had learned. The lease was coming up on the apartment and I needed to make a decision of what to do, resign the lease or look for something else.

The increase in the rent made my decision easy, and I started looking for a home to buy. I made sure the Realtor understood that a garage was a must for me.

Find a place we did and after doing some renovating and getting moved in I began putting together a shop, first came the midi-lathe, then bit by bit other tools, both hand and power.

That was just about two years ago now and what fun it has been. I learned so much along the way and am still learning but most of all having a great time doing it.

Here it is, the pen that tarted it all.
Here it is, the pen that started it all.